Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Flatbed printer

Baked, i expect
  [vote for,

Printers are relatively fussy about paper and ink. This leads to dependence on industry to produce particular kinds of ink and cartridges/toner and fairly flat paper or card of a particular weight.

It didn't used to be like this. There was a time when a nib from a quill or reed pen would accept any fluid or mixture which was relatively uncorrosive and flowed evenly and could apply it to a relatively rough and uneven surface. Such principles could be applied to a printer.

There is a flat bed on which a fairly flat surface can be placed and fixed. This could be a piece of paper, leather, cloth, plastic or the likes of cake icing. The nib is a tube, which is regularly dipped in an ink well and applied in lines scanning the surface, while a photocell assesses coverage by comparing the colour of the ink well with that of the nib. The liquid applied is versatile. It could be traditionally-produced ink, paint, food colouring, dye or other substances intended to mark the surface or perhaps liquids corrosive to the surface to create a flat object of some kind, like rapid prototyping in two dimensions. The nib can also be cleaned manually and exchanged for other nibs for different purposes, as can the inkwell.

The device has several advantages over conventional printers. The user doesn't rely on mass-produced or proprietary ink, avoiding the vendor lock-in which occurs with inkjet printers (and of course makes them affordable), but can produce their own ink or other pigment to less exacting requirements. The same applies to the surface on which the printing takes place. It can be used on any kind of paper, including hand made paper, or card, on wood, for large signs on plastic surfaces or on T-shirts or fabric for making clothes later. With corrosive substances, it can be used to cut stencils. Basically, the idea is for a versatile printer which can be relatively easily maintained by the user and which is not fussy about consumables.

nineteenthly, Jun 18 2008


       This is a variation on devices such as the Hewlett-Packard flatbed pen plotter of the 1980's and 1990's. But [+] for making the device flexible enough to use a quill.   

       "Hey ! Have you done that damn report yet ? The client is waiting !"   

       "Sorry boss, I've just been chasing a swan along the riverbank so I could get a fresh quill for the printer......"
8th of 7, Jun 18 2008

       Well, we have crayon plotters and calligraphy plotters on the site. If it is not too much of an echo, I suppose quill/reed plotters are fine.
4whom, Jun 18 2008

       I like that this could print your [nineteenthly] herbal medicines as lines of dosage, with different herbal fluids to create a prescription; this would be newoldfangled way to apply traditional medicine
beanangel, Jun 18 2008

       Absolutely, yes, i have to say that was in my mind, particularly with the likes of tormentil and oak galls, and for that matter the ones which could be used as dyes in other ways, such as madder. Thanks, [beanangel].
nineteenthly, Jun 18 2008


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