Can You Print With Highlighter Ink?

With huge swathes of people either out of work or working from home, many are now attempting all manner of exciting or silly projects in their downtime. [Emily Velasco] is no exception. She decided to explore the feasability of printing with highlighter ink.

It’s a messy business. Wear gloves.

The hack starts with a rather ancient inkjet printer, so old that it works with tractor feed paper. [Emily] set about gutting several highlighter pens and squeezed out the ink reservoirs into a ladle. The printer’s ink cartridge was then filled with the fluid, and a test print was fired off. Upon initial extraction, it appears blank. However, with the aid of a UV light, the printed pattern is revealed. It appears that the inkjet is printing a very faint image, such that the system almost works as an “invisible ink”.

It’s a fun little hack with an old printer, made easier as it lacks the DRM of newer models. It’d probably be quite achievable with a dot-matrix, too. If you’re similarly tinkering in the innards of your peripherals, be sure to let us know. Video after the break.

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Inkjet Printing On The Cheap With A Continuous Ink System

Inkjet printers are cheap to buy, but expensive to run. Replacement cartridges can easily cost double the price of the hardware itself, leading many to decry the technology entirely. However, the hackers of the world have the problem licked – enter the continuous ink system.

[cprossu] wanted an affordable color printing solution for the hackerspace. A cheap printer was sourced from a thrift store. The model chosen was selected for its lack of cartridge DRM and the availability of kits on eBay for conversion to a continuous ink system. This involves running large refillable tanks of ink instead of small individual cartridges which must be thrown away when empty.

[cprossu] discusses both the challenges you’ll likely face in a general build, as well as the specific work required to handle the conversion on an Epson Artisan 725. There’s also excessive label-maker abuse, which always brings a smile to our face. It’s a conversion well worth considering if you find yourself regularly purchasing expensive cartridges. We’ve even seen similar builds as far back as 2009, right from the ground up!

Print From The ESP8266, Courtesy Of Google

The ESP8266 has become the hacker’s microcontroller of choice because it’s exceptionally easy to get the chip connected to the network and talking to other devices. The fact that it’s also absurdly cheap is just a bonus. Since nearly every piece of electronics you buy today is “smart” enough to include some form of Internet control, that means there’s no shortage of gadgets these MCUs can potentially poke and prod.

In their latest tip, [TecnoProfesor] shows how you can interface the ESP8266 with Google’s Cloud Print, a service that enables simple remote printing over the web without having to worry about having the proper device drivers. Remote printing from the ESP8266 might seem like little more than a gag at first glance, but if you’re the kind of person who likes to have hard copies of data, adding the capability to generate a daily printed report to your weather station could be a nice weekend project.

[TecnoProfesor] provides explanations and source code for printing documents of various sizes from both the ESP8266’s internal flash storage and an SPI-attached SD card. Towards the end of the write-up, there’s even some explanation of how the setPrintDocument() function of the Cloud Print API can be used in more advanced scenarios, such as printing web pages or documents stored in Google Drive.

When we see microcontrollers connected to printers, they’re usually of the small thermal kind. Being able to access “real” printers with such a simple technique offers some interesting possibilities, though like most technology, there’s potential for it to be misused.

[Thanks to Andrew for the tip.]

Watch A 3D Printer Get Designed From The Ground Up

Too often when you see a build video, you only get to see the final product. Even if there’s footage of the build itself, it’s usually only the highlights as a major component is completed. But thankfully that’s not the case with the “V-Baby” CoreXY 3D printer that [Roy Berntsen] has been working on.

Watching through his playlist of videos, you’re able to see him tackle his various design goals. For example he’d like the final design to be both machinable and printable, which is possible, but it certainly adds complexity and time. He also transitions from a triangular base to a rectangular one at some point. These decisions, and the reasons behind them, are all documented and discussed.

Towards the end of the series we can see the final testing and torturing process as he ramps up to a final design release. This should definitely demystify the process for anyone attempting their first 3D printer design from scratch.

Another Way To Make PCBs At Home

One of the more popular ways of rolling out your own custom PCB is to simply create the model in your CAD program of choice and send it off to a board manufacturer who will take care of the dirty work for you. This way there is no need to deal with things like chemicals, copper dust, or maintaining expensive tools. A middle ground between the board manufacturer and a home etching system though might be what [igorfonseca83] has been doing: using an inexpensive laser engraver to make PCBs for him.

A laser engraver is basically a low-power laser CNC machine that’s just slightly too weak to cut most things that would typically go in a laser cutter. It turns out that the 10W system is the perfect amount of energy to remove a mask from a standard PCB blank, though. This in effect takes the place of the printer in the old toner transfer method, and the copper still has to be dissolved in a chemical solution, but the results are a lot more robust than trying to modify a printer for this task.

If you aren’t familiar with the days of yore when homebrew PCBs involved a standard desktop printer, many people still use this method, although the results can be mixed based on printer reliability. If you want to skip the middleman, and the need for a chemical bath, a more powerful laser actually can cut the traces for you, too.

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A Real All-In-One Printer Should Have A Computer In It, Too

With printers generally being cheaper to replace than re-ink, there are plenty of cast-offs around to play with. They’re a great source for parts, but they’re also tempting targets for repurposing for entirely new uses. Sure, you could make a printer into a planter, but slightly more useful is this computer built into a printer that still prints.

This build is [Mason Stooksbury]’s earlier and admittedly useless laptop-in-a-printer build, which we covered a few months back. It’s easy to see where he got his inspiration, since the donor printer’s flip-up lid is a natural for mounting a display, and the capacious, glass-topped scanner bed made a great place to show off the hybrid machine’s guts. But having a printer that doesn’t print didn’t sit well with [Mason], so Comprinter II was born. This one follows the same basic approach, with a Toshiba Netbook stuffed into an H-P ENVY all-in-one. The laptop’s screen was liberated and installed in the printer’s lid, the motherboard went into the scanner bay along with a fair number of LEDs. This killed the scanner but left the printer operational, after relocating a power brick that was causing a paper jam error.

[Mason]’s Comprinter II might not be the next must-have item, but it certainly outranks the original Comprinter on the utility spectrum. Uselessness has a charm of its own, though; from a 3D-printed rotary dial number pad to a useless book scanner, keep the pointless projects coming, please.

3D Printer Meets CNC Router To Make Wood Prints

We’ve seen plenty of plywood 3D printers before; after all, many early hobbyist machines were made from laser-cut plywood. But this plywood 3D-printer isn’t made from plywood – it prints plywood. Well, sort of.

Yes, we know – that’s not plywood the printer is using, but rather particleboard, the same material that fills the flatpack warehouse of every IKEA store. And calling it a printer is a bit of a stretch, too. This creation, by [Shane Whigton] and his Formlabs Hackathon team, is more of a hybrid additive-subtractive CNC machine. A gantry-mounted router carves each layer of the print from a fresh square of material – which could just as easily be plywood as particleboard. Once a layer is cut, the gantry applies glue to it, puts a fresh sheet of material on top, and clamps it down tight. The router then carves the next layer, and so on up the stack. The layer height is limited to the thickness of the material – a nominal 3/4″ (19 mm) in this case – and there’s a remarkable amount of waste, but that’s not really the point. Check out the printer in action and the resulting giant Benchy in the video below.

Seeing all that particleboard dust and glue got us thinking: what about a 3D-printer that extrudes a paste of sawdust mixed with glue? We imagine that would be a bit like those giant printers that extrude concrete to build houses.
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