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Modular Printer

Buy features individually.
  (+14, -2)(+14, -2)
(+14, -2)
  [vote for,

With your average desktop computer you can choose whatever features you desire, upgrade them individually and easily (with a bit of know-how) replace the bad parts.

If you want to buy a printer, however, you buy it all as one. Something inside breaks and it’s normally cheaper to buy a new one than to fix it. If you want something like a flash card reader or a built-in stapling function, you have to purchase the $Gazillion model.

I would like to see a modular printer. The base unit would be a very simple plug-and-play printer capable of holding 10 or so blank sheets in an in chute. Simple and small, it would be ideal for students, though it would have a few holes and notches for additions.

If you want a stapler (admittedly only capable of about 20 sheets) it snaps on to the output tray. Firmware within tells the stapler to engage once a printing job is complete if the option was selected..

A flashcard reader could be docked onto the top, with a simple input slot push button to print version or a more expensive one with a built-in LCD. If you want more paper capacity the printer has a small slot in the bottom that lines up perfectly with a docking paper tray. Once the tray is attached the paper feeds from the bottom instead of the top. Different capacity and sized paper trays (for longer sheets) could be added.

This is why I want this printer to be slightly different and have the base unit feed the paper sideways instead of the normal way (by the 11 in. side instead of the 8 in.). In this way it could easily print tabloid sized paper (11x17) for flyers, newsletters, etc.

Specific docking stations for various brands of camera could be implemented, a CD drive and a simple file manager so one could print a document right off a CD without even turning on the computer, wireless card or various “future” slots to support changes and innovations. If the base ever becomes outdated, by a new base unit with completely backwards-compatible slots, so that you just snap on your paper tray and stapler.

An optional shield could be placed over the output tray, extending it. This would give the printer more apparent depth, but hide the attachments. Open-source development would enable all kinds of whimsical additions, from one of those electric aquariums on top to a battery pack and wheels for the bottom, so you would have a mobile, printing RC car.

The only really confining decision a purchaser would have to make is “Laser or inkjet?”

JeremiahBritt, Jan 25 2005

(?) Templates http://www.stocklay...efault.aspx?adwords
[JeremiahBritt, Jan 28 2005]

Plugins http://www.alienskin.com/
[JeremiahBritt, Jan 28 2005]


       I've been wanting something like this for a while. Thing is, it is kind of baked. High-end printing systems are modular like this, but it hasn't been brought to the home-market just yet.
ironfroggy, Jan 26 2005

       That was kind of what I was going for; a lot of computer technology starts off as business only and trickles down into home use. The difference here is that it is made to be inexpensive for a single user ($50 ($5-$25 an upgrade) instead of a business ($2,000 now, $3,000 for upgrades).
JeremiahBritt, Jan 27 2005

       One problem I see is that there would be additional engineering, design and parts required to create interfaces to the modules that you may never buy. The low price point you seek might be difficult to achieve.
half, Jan 27 2005

       If it had the 'see the paper on the monitor' feature available, so that printers could be used to fill in a form, that'd be worth buying, too.
ceruleanbill, Jan 27 2005

       Half: Open source engineering lets third parties assume some cost to break into market. Enginering interfaces for addons would not be overly hard, as standards could be used, just as USB is the standard for PCs (nearly limitless possibilities) and, for the physical connection, look at any childrens toy from transformer to Legos.
JeremiahBritt, Jan 27 2005

       I didn't say it would be hard. It would just cost more than doing the basic piece of equipment without it.   

       I wonder how the market for this would really work. People don't have the money to buy the higher end features that they want, but they would buy a modular base unit that costs more than a plain simple unit with the same functionality? I don't know nuthin' about this stuff. I'm just thinkin' out loud. I'd guess that a modular printer built up with a given feature set would cost more than a printer built with those features, possibly more, native to the unit. The way the consumer market looks to me, people might just borrow the money (credit card) to buy the higher end feature set in the non-modular design.   

       I'm not voting against this. It just seems that price point is a driving factor and I was wondering if it really would be achievable.   

       "Open source engineering lets third parties assume some cost to break into market", would you mind elaborating on that statement a little, solely for my edification? Maybe there are some links that you feel describe a similar scenario under which open source engineering has been employed.
half, Jan 27 2005


       I'm sorry if I sounded snide in my response, I did not mean it to appear that way.   

       As for your questions:   

       I think the market for this would reflect the market for computers: basically, most people want to buy a Dell, premade and complete, but in order to get a good system you normally have to shell out a lot of cash. The option (as I and my friends took) is to build the thing yourself, saving a little bit of money if you want to risk OEM parts and ending up with a computer you know inside and out that meets your criteria pretty darn closely.   

       The difference is that If you buy a dell you can upgrade. With a printer you cannot; it's more like a laptop that way.   

       The modular process I (hope) would mirror that of software; you can get a barebones program/game for one price and add all the expansion packs you want. There are small companies that make Microsoft Office/Adobe templates and macros their bread and butter (See link) and Adobe also has some high-end, third party plugins (see link).   

       I would assume the company would be willing to take a slight hit for the barebones unit, making it much cheaper than a regular printer, in order to make a profit on the add-ons. Yes, if you did a buy-a-function-at-a-time modular printer, it would end up being more expensive than a printer with all the same functions, but you could buy them as you need them, as you find out what you really use it for. And if you need another feature, or if a new feature enters the market (some new media, new camera format) you can buy a small addon instead of a brand new printer.   

       I think it may be viable, though it will obviously have a very specific market. It used to be the only people that had computers were those that could afford them, but as they become more of a staple people are forced to buy them in order to keep up with the Joneses.   

       The kind of people that don't buy a new car until the old one dies completely, that don't need the GeForce Trimblebumble 5000 and the 50' plasmawangle display, just a computer that lets them check their email, print photos of their nephew and play Freecell.
JeremiahBritt, Jan 28 2005

       And some way of extending it to take A3 and possibly even A2 paper. That would be v. useful.
moomintroll, Jan 28 2005

       Baked. I have an HP Deskjet that comes with an optional and removeable sheet feeder. Take off the bulky sheet feeder, drop in a Sony Handycam battery pack, and you have a portable single-sheet printer.
BunsenHoneydew, Jan 07 2006


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