Laser printers today are cheap and readily available. But in 1976, they were the height of printing technology. The IBM 3800 was the $175,000 printer to have in that year. (Video, embedded below.) But you couldn’t have one on your desktop. Even if you could afford it, the thing is the size of a car, and we don’t even want to guess what it weighs. The printer took tractor-fed continuous form paper and could do 167 pages a minute at about 150 dots per inch (actually 180 x 144). For the record, that was as much as 1.7 miles of paper an hour!
In those days, people who would use this printer traditionally had massive banks of noisy impact printers. We imagine this device saved many data processing person’s hearing. Compared to a modern laser printer, though, it needed a lot of maintenance. For example, the initial models needed a xenon flash lamp replaced every month, although later models could go years on one bulb. Looking at some of the hardware in the video, it was probably made closer to the end of life for these printers which were made through 1999.
Toner transfer is a commonly-used technique for applying text and images to flat surfaces such as PCBs, but anybody who has considered using the same method on 3D prints will have realized that the heat from the iron would be a problem. [Coverton] has a solution that literally turns the concept on its head, by 3D printing directly onto the transparency sheet.
The method is remarkably straightforward, and could represent a game-changer for hobbyists trying to achieve professional-looking full-color images on their prints.
First, the mirrored image is printed onto a piece of transparency film with a laser printer. Then, once the 3D printer has laid down the first layer of the object, you align the transparency over it and tape it down so it doesn’t move around. The plastic that’s been deposited already is then removed, and a little water is placed on the center of the bed. Using a paper towel, the transparency gets smoothed out until the bubbles are pushed off to the edges.
Another few pieces of tape hold the transparency down on all corners, and the hotend height is adjusted to take into account the transparency thickness. From there, the print can continue on as normal. When finished, the image should be fused with the plastic. If it’s hard to visualize, check out the video after the break for a step-by-step guide.
There are, of course, some caveats. Aligning the transfer and the print looks a little fiddly at the moment, the transparency material used (obviously) has to be rated for use in laser printers, and it only works on flat surfaces. But on the other hand, there will be some readers who already have everything they need to try this out at home right now — and we’d love to see the results!
We’ve covered some other ways to get color and images onto 3D prints in the past, such as this hydrographic technique or by using an inkjet printhead, but [Coverton]’s idea looks much simpler than either of those. If you’re interested in toner transfer for less heat-sensitive materials, then check out this guide from a few years back, or see what other Hackaday readers have been doing on wood or brass.
The watermarks in question have been investigated by the EFF, and often, but not always, consist of tiny yellow dots printed on the page. They can store data such as the name of the computer that printed the document, as well as the serial number and model of the printer used. With this functionality baked into the firmware, all prints made on such a printer are compromised.
The easiest way to see these watermarks is with blue light, which is reflected by the white paper, but causes yellow dots to show up as dark spots. To make scanning affected documents quick and easy, [bunnie] whipped up a linear LED light array, installing it in a spare slot in his scanner’s light assembly, next to the stock white CCFL. Usage is a little more complex, with the scanner’s automatic calibration getting confused if the blue LEDs are left on at the start of a scan. Instead, the LEDs must be turned off initially, and then powered up once the calibration is complete.
Form Labs recently announced the launch of the Fuse 1, a desktop SLS printer that will print all your parts using nylon powder and a laser. This a fundamentally different method of 3D printing as compared to filament-based machines, and the best way to use a Fuse 1 is to fill the entire volume of the machine with 3D printed parts. [Michael Fogelman] decided to investigate the 3D packing problem, and managed to fill this printer with the maximum number of 3D printed tugboats. If you’re wondering, it’s 113, as compared with 82 tiny Benchies using naive bin packing.
The formal definition of this sort of problem is the bin packing problem, or simply calculating the maximum number of items can be packed into a finite volume. There is no general solution to this problem, and it’s probably impossible to create an algorithm that will solve this problem for any collection of 3D models. Nevertheless, it’s possible to create a solution that shows marked improvement over a naive solution.
[Michael]’s solution involves simulated annealing. This algorithm begins by randomly placing tugboats, then mutating the position or rotation of one of the boats for each iteration. The code is less than 1000 lines of Go and is available on GitHub if you already have an SLS printer at your disposal.
It should be noted this type of problem isn’t particularly new to the world of 3D printers. There have been a few tools to solve the bin-packing problem for filament-based printers, but the solutions to these problems are two-dimensional; since filling a bed is a problem that only uses the ‘shadow’ of the Z-axis of each part, it’s a slightly easier problem to solve.
Now that Form Labs’ Fuse 1 SLS printer has been announced, there is a new application for this type of problem in the space of 3D printers. It’s not a perfect solution — and it’s doubtful there will ever be a perfect solution — but if you’re looking for a way to fill the volume of your powder printer with parts, this is the best you’re going to do.
We’ve done a lot of PCBs with the toner transfer method over the years. The idea is simple: print a pattern using toner (which is just ground up black plastic) and then use an iron or other heat and pressure device to transfer the toner to a copper-clad board. It works and it works well. But getting just the right combination of heat, pressure, release paper, and toner is sometimes tricky.
Some people hack their printers to turn off the fuser wire (to make the toner not stick to the paper) or to run a PCB directly through it. If you have a big expensive laser printer, though, you might not want to chop it up just to run PCBs. Have you looked at laser printer prices lately? We aren’t sure if it is cheap units flooding the market, or the overwhelming popularity of color printers, but you can pick up a Pantum P2500 for about $25 or $30–and probably get WiFi printing at that price. [Mlermen] picked one of these up and shows you how to convert it to a PCB printer.
It seems hard to imagine, but in the early part of the 20th century, there weren’t a lot of great options for creating copies of documents. The most common method was to use carbon paper to create multiple copies at once from a typewriter or a line printer. All that changed with a company called Haloid. Never heard of them? They later became the Xerox company.
The underlying technology dates back to 1938 (invented by a physicist who was also a lawyer). In 1944, they produced a practical copier and shortly thereafter sold the rights to Haloid. The Haloid company originally made photographic copy machines that used wet chemistry.
In 1959, the Xerox 914 (so called because it could copy a 9″ x 14″ document) came on the scene (that’s it, below). The 650 pound copier could make seven copies per minute and came with a fire extinguisher because it had a tendency to burst into flames. If you didn’t want to spend the $27,500 price tag, you could rent for only $25/month (keep in mind that in 1959, $25 would buy about 25 pounds of T-bone steaks). You can see a commercial for the 914 in the video below.
In the commercial, you’ll see them make a big deal out of the fact that the print was dry. That’s because a lot of previous machines used actual photographic processes with wet chemistry. Obviously, that also took special paper.
Even Further Back
If the copier didn’t exist until recently, how did people make copies before? Turns out there were lots of ways to make copies of varying degrees of bad quality or extreme trouble. In some sense, the best copies were made by scribes just writing down a second copy of things. There were a variety of machines that would capture what you wrote and make a copy by mechanical or other means. A polygraph (not the lie detecting kind) allowed Thomas Jefferson to write letters and make a copy. The machine moved a pen to match the movements of the author’s pen, thus making a near perfect copy. With a few adjustments, this became the pantograph which not only does the same job, but also can shrink or enlarge the copy. Carbon paper was widely used to make multiple copies of handwritten and typewritten documents.
Members of the Rabbit Hole hackerspace spent the last weekend competing in The Deconstruction, a 48 hour hackathon competition. The hackerspace’s theme was “Light it up!”, so members created some awesome projects involving light. The star of the show was their bacon cooking machine. The Rabbit hole made the “Push Button. Receive Bacon” meme real.
A broken laser printer was gutted for its drive train and fuser assembly. Laser printer fusers are essentially hot rollers. The rollers melt toner and fuse it with paper as it passes through the printer. The heat in this case comes from a lamp inside the roller. That lamp also puts out plenty of light, which fit perfectly with the team’s theme.
The Rabbit Hole members wasn’t done though, they also built a pocket-sized infinity mirror from an empty Altoids tin. The bottom of the tin was cut out, and a mirror glued in. A filter from a broken projector made a perfect half silver mirror, and some LEDs completed the project.
The members also built a fandom art piece, consisting of 25 fans connected together in a skull shape. The eye and nose fans were lighted. When the fans were plugged in, they kicked for a few seconds before spinning up. Once they did spin though – there was a mighty wind in the Rabbit Hole.
Click past the break for The Rabbit Hole’s Deconstruction video!