A Teeny 3D-Printed Printing Press, Thanks Gutenberg

The printing press was first invented in 1440 AD by Johannes Gutenberg. It’s not so relevant to our day to day lives today, but it’s a technology that forever changed the path of human history. Now you can whip one up yourself using this teeny design from the [3DPrintingEnthusiast]!

Don’t expect to be making broadsheets with this thing—it’s a strictly table-top sized unit made on a 3D printer. Still, it does the job! The bed, frame, paper holder, and clamps are all 3D-printed. However, you will need some minor additional supplies to complete the carriage and inkballs.

As for your printing plates, you could go out and source some ancient lead type—or you could just 3D print some instead. The latter is probably easier if you’re living in 2024 like yours truly. Who knows, though. 2028 could be a banner year where printing presses roar back to prominence. Try not to think about the global scale disasters that would make that a reality.

In any case, there’s got to be some kind of irony about 3D-printing a printing press on a 3D printer? Perhaps, perhaps not. Debate it below!

A small 3D-printed printing press with a print that says THE QUICK BROWN FOX JUMPED OVER THE LAZY BROWN DOG.

Mini 3D-Printed Press Is Sure To Make An Impression

Making stamps out of potatoes that have been cut in half is always a fun activity with the kids. But if you’ve got a 3D printer, you could really step up your printing game by building a mini relief printing press.

To create the gear bed/rack, [Kevr102] used a Fusion 360 add-in called GF Gear Generator. At first this was the most finicky part of the process, but then it was time to design the roller gears. However, [Kevr102] got through it with some clever thinking and a little bit of good, old-fashioned eyeballing.

Per [Kevr102], this press is aimed at the younger generation of printers in that the roller mechanism is spring-loaded to avoid pinched fingers. [Kevr102] 3D-printed some of the printing tablets, which is a cool idea. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that well for some styles of text, but most things came out looking great. You could always use a regular linocut linoleum tile, too.

This isn’t the first 3D-printed printing press to grace these pages. Here’s one that works like a giant rubber stamp.

3D Printed Printing Press Turns You Into Gutenberg

A few machines have truly changed the world, such as the wheel, steam engines, or the printing press. Maybe 3D printers will be on that list one day too. But for today, you can use your 3D printer to produce a working printing press by following plans from [Ian Mackay]. The machine, Hi-Bred, allows you to place printed blocks in a chase — that’s the technical term — run a brayer laden with ink over the type blocks and hand press a piece of paper with the platen.

The idea is more or less like a giant rubber stamp. As [Ian] points out, one way to think about it is that white pixels are 0mm high and black pixels are 3mm high. He suggests looking at old woodcuts for inspiration.

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The Haunting Last Day Of Hot Metal Typesetting At The New York Times

The short film, Farewell — ETAOIN SHRDLU, produced in 1978 covers the very last day the New York Times was set for printing in the old way, using hot metal typesetting.

We’ve covered the magic of linotype machines before, but to see them used as they were in their prime is something else. They saw nearly a hundred years of complete industry dominance. Linotype machines had entire guilds dedicated to their use. Tradesmen built their lives around them. For some of us we see the rise and fall of technology as an expected thing. Something that happens normally, sometimes within spans that cover only a few short years. Yet it’s still a strange thing to see a technology so widely used shut down so completely and relatively rapidly.

To make it even stranger, the computer that replaced the linotype machines is so alien to the technology used today that even it is an oddity. In the end only the shadow of the ‘new’ technologies — showcased as state of the art in this video — are still in use. Nonetheless it’s important to see where we came from and to understand what it means to innovate. Plus, you never know when you see an old idea that’s ready for a bit of refurbishment. Who knows, maybe part of the linotype’s spirit is ready to be reborn, and all it takes is a clever hacker to see it.

Oh, and that title — ‘etaoin shrdlu‘ — is the linotype equivalent of ‘qwerty’. The first two columns of keys on the linotype machine make up those two words.

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Retrotechtacular: Linotype Machines, Mechanical Marvels

For this week’s Retrotechtacular we’re looking at Linotype Machines; mechanical marvels that brought about the mass production of printed media.

It was a cold dreary day in 1876, when a German inventor living in America named [Ottmar Mergenthaler] was approached by [James O. Clephane], who required a faster way of producing legal briefs. Various patents existed for newspaper typewriters but they did not work very well, so [Mergenthaler] set to work on a new design. Traditionally type sets were cast on one machine, and stamped on another to create the text. On a train [Mergenthaler] thought, why not just combine the machines? And with that the idea for a revolutionary machine was born.

The Linotype Machine has a library of matrices, which are character molds that create the slug — the name for a cast line-of-type. The operator uses a keyboard to input the line of text, which then releases the matrices of the corresponding letters. These are then transferred to the casting station, where type metal is cast into the matrices in a process called hot metal typesetting. The matrices are then returned to the library, and the cast lines of text are cooled, removed, and used for stamping in the mass production of printed media. It sounds simple enough, but now realize the entire machine is mechanically automated; as long as you keep filling it with type metal, you can continue producing slugs simply by typing on the keyboard.

The machines were used from the late 19th century all the way up to the 60’s and 70’s until they were replaced by more efficient offset lithography and computer typesetting.

After the break, check out the fascinating documentary from the 1960’s, you will marvel at the mechanical workings of the machine. If you don’t have 35 minutes to blow, at least check out 1:30 to 6:45 for the basic overview. But you probably won’t be able to stop watching.

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Printing Press Made From Ikea Furniture

Those planning to get married take note: real hackers print their own invitations on a press which they built. [Jenny] and [Charles] actually did this for printing the cover pages of their ceremony programs. They built their press using a chest of drawers from Ikea.

If you look closely you’ll see the printing plate is mounted on the back wall of the chest behind the drawer. This back wall has been reinforced with some plywood, and a second piece of plywood has been attached to the back side of the drawer. This second piece is actually hinged using steel pipe and a collection of fittings. When the six-foot tall hoop of pipe is drawn down it closes the drawer, hinging the piece of plywood holding the paper until it comes in contact with the printing plate. The size of the lever ensures the press will have enough force to produce a quality print.

They didn’t make a video of this process but after the break we have embedded a clip of the press on which this one was modeled.

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