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Printers, the 2D kind are remarkable because they are
immune to Moore's law. This is because the EvilCorp
manufacturers aren't in the business of selling printers,
they like continuous income from overpriced ink cartridges
and obsolescence of the printer itself.
A quick look at any supplier
of printer consumables will
show you that there are THOUSANDS of slightly different
printers from each manufacturer, such a frenzied pace of
innovation must lead to a remarkable improvement in
performance? No, the 2 monochrome printers from about
2009 perform similarly to a recently bought model. In fact,
close inspection reveals that inside the plastic case with
pointless swoopy lines and tiltable screen, it looks the
same. The cartridges look very very similar, same
manufacturer... it would make everyone's life simpler if
they fit... no, some soulless engineer added a plastic lump
so it doesn't fit. You can cut it off, but they thoughtfully
added a chip... To protect me from the inferior print
performance I assume.
In an attempt to curtail the ranty tone, I'll summarize. The
company that makes a reliable printer with minimal
maintenance and running costs is negatively incentivized.
Instead, rebadging the same-ish hardware under a new
model number every year or two seems the only way to
The solution might be an open source hardware project.
Open source 3D printers exist, which demonstrates the
feasibility of 2D equivalent nicely, in fact it's more
achievable. Similar projects, like the modular mobile/cell
phone by "Phonebloks" are a bit silly. When hardware
changes as fast as smartphone hardware does, a fully
integrated design is likely to win. Printers, however, are
easy. No one cares if a printer takes up +/-39 cubic cm,
weighs +/-2000g, has a chrome bezel & a 4k UHD front
facing camera. Even the price isn't that important,
everyone I asked today ONLY knows you don't buy a cheap
all in one. It's there for the taking as long as it ABSOLUTELY
1. Prints. No 4min calibration and no, you're not getting a
new cyan cartridge, I want my boarding pass now.
2. Stops printing. Every printer I've ever used, when asked
to stop by software or hardware, doesn't. Stop now, not in
3 pages time. "Right, I'll yank your power cord, that'll teach
you.... wait, why does this printer take longer to boot than
my pc... and now its calibrating.."
3. Has very very much ink. I used to have a little
monochrome laser Samsung, it coped with all my
monochrome printing in my whole PhD on one cartridge.
Samsung don't make printers anymore because they clearly
violated the code. Anyhow, point is it would be trivial to
increase the toner 3-10 fold for a decade of printing.
4. Has a stable, reliable available driver. This should be
downloadable from the printer. It should be gettable via
USB from the printer, it should have "Driver available at
www.openprinterproject.com" printed on it. It should have
a list of drivers from other companies that will also work to
various levels. The driver code should be embossed into
the printer surface, or perhaps be derivable from basic
5. Hold a whole ream of paper. I have two printers, both
over a foot tall that don't. Why are they doing this? It also
takes guesswork on how many pages they CAN hold. That
should be written in the tray, the minimum # being "500".
On top of that basic platform people are free to add stuff.
A duplex module here, Wifi there, GPS for no reason
whatever. Also none of those yellow dots the government
uses. Maybe it could have laser/inkjet combo. Go wild.
DIY inkjet printer video
Video of open source single page printer [caspian, Oct 30 2018]
DIY inkjet printer project page
Project page for the printer in the video [caspian, Oct 30 2018]
A wiki where they want to do this [caspian, Oct 30 2018]
|We should be able to do the print head positioning
- it's like a 3D printer. And it should be easy to get
ink for it - ink suppliers are happy to inter-
operate, it's the printer manufacturers who don't.
Paper sheet handling might be difficult - paper
rolls would be more similar to what 3D printers are
already handling, can you get standard paper in
rolls? But I think it's doable with a combination of
3D printed parts, simple motors, springs or
magnets, and simple rubber rollers, all of which
are probably easily available.
|It's the print head that's probably the hard part.
But I've heard that for some ink jets, the ink
cartridge includes the print head. So maybe you
could find some type of ink cartridge with a print
head that's been cloned by multiple third party ink
cartridge suppliers, and use that.
|If the project needs to be useful before the print
head part is ready, the paper handling part could
be used for multi-page scanning just by adding a
camera (either at the print head or viewing the
whole sheet at once) or smart-phone mount.
Maybe a multi-page laser cutter for paper would
also be useful. Or a multi-page pen-based plotter.
Or a multi-page pen-based plotter than uses
conductive ink pens (I think there are pens
available for that).
|I found and linked one. Looks like they managed to
do the print head. It didn't have paper handling to
do multiple pages by itself though.
|ETA: it had the paper taped down. I reckon a good
next step before handling multiple pages would be
having a roller to take in a sheet of paper, and
another to pull it out again. Then either improve it
so it can take just one sheet if you put several into
the rollers, or go straight to designing a large
paper tray and feeder (which needs to handle the
variable height and weight of the paper stack).
|It could be motorised to raise or lower the top of
the paper to the correct height. Or the mechanism
could sit on top of the paper, with enough of it's
weight counterbalanced to leave the correct
pressure between the rollers and the top sheet.
|If you base it on a 3D printer, you could have the
bottom of the paper stack on the level of the bed,
and the mechanism to get some paper from it at
the level of the print head.
|ETA: maybe easiest if the 3D printer had the bed
move up and down, rather than the print head.
There are some that do.
|This is a problem particular to printers sold to the consumer market. Buyers of office printers for the corporate market don't stand for this nonsense and so office printers don't have this kind of obsolescence. For example, I bought a printer made for big corporations, the HP LaserJet 5M, which dates from the mid-1990's. It cost me £6 (including a full toner cartridge) from eBay, still works fine, and you can still buy 'compatible' (i.e. not HP) toner cartridges for it.
|Cheese, if you get finely ground cheese and use that
|Admittedly the aroma would fade over time, but old
print-outs could still be read by specially trained mice.
|Alternatively, we could all learn braille, end of ink