Over the last two decades 3D printing has evolved from an innovative concept to a soon-to-be staple on both small and large scales. In the years to come, as these 3D printers develop further, our homes, cars and offices may be equipped with a 3D printer. We may even be able to print our own medication. Today, there are a variety of products being created by 3D printers, such as eyeglasses and furniture.
At this point, 3D printing is used primarily for rapid prototyping. This means parts for cars, for instance, are being designed on a computer and printed by a 3D printer to serve as a prototype for the actual car parts, which are then manufactured in more traditional ways. Many experts compare the current status of 3D printing to the development of Apple computers when they were still being produced in Steve Jobs’ garage. In that context, it feels a bit like standing on the edge of an entirely new way of life.
Here is how 3D printing works: Cartridges hold a mixture of substances, often polymer, plastics and metals, rather than the ink or toner of a traditional printer. Extremely thin layers are printed on top of each other and mold together as they harden. The printhead moves upwards as the object is created. Basically, 2D slices are cut and stacked to make a 3D object. Just about any object can be designed using specialty computer software, and that design is sent to the printer. This will not only allow for more options as far as customization, but also overcomes the limitations that come with non-digitized designs.
Click here for a list of 3D printers and manufacturers – both for personal and industrial use.
Desktop 3D printers are on course to be perfected and on the market for only a few hundred dollars in the next 3 or 4 years. What does this mean? Imagine this: Homecoming is this weekend and your daughter has the perfect dress, the perfect jewelry, and even the perfect date. The only thing she is missing is the perfect pair of shoes. If you have a 3D printer, your daughter can use the internet to design every inch of the shoes she wants. You can get the material, and send the design to your printer. In hours, those one-of-a-kind shoes could be sitting on your desk.
Can’t afford to have a 3D printer in your home? No worries. As this type of self-sustaining production grows in popularity, expect to see specialty shops where you can either go to print your designed product or email your design and pick up the product at a later date. The possibilities are nearly endless.
Watch this video to get a visual concept of 3D printing technology and the interesting things that can be created:
Ink has been used for centuries to create art, define law, document history and customize homes. From the early days of making ink from ground plants and minerals to the first fountain ink pen all the way to inkjet printers, ink has developed into something we use every day. The use of printer ink, especially, is present everywhere- the pictures hanging on the walls, the books collected on the shelves, the labels on medicine bottles and produce.
At Ink Technologies, we work exclusively with printer ink manufacturers that believe in the same high quality standard as we do. We take pride in our compatible and remanufactured ink products and strive to provide only the best. We also know how important it is to understand the history of ink and to prepare for the future of ink.
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Did you know there is printer ink available that is edible? The concept of edible ink may seem unusual, but chances are you have seen it (and maybe even eaten it) before. Have you ever been to a kid’s birthday party that had a cake with a picture of Buzz Lightyear on it? Though cake designers are talented artists, many of the incredible images you see on these cakes are not intricately drawn on by hand with a bag of icing, but are actually printed with edible ink.
Weddings are another perfect occasion for edible ink. Images on cakes are not limited to cartoon characters and clipart. Photographs can be scanned and turned into cake decorations. The images can be shrunk down and put on smaller treats too, like little cupcakes or cookies.
So how does it work?
Edible ink comes in cartridges, which are installed into the inkjet printer, just like standard inkjet cartridges. Laser printers are not yet able to print edible images because they require powder toner and a fuser. It is strongly recommended to have a printer used exclusively for edible printing, as using a machine that has previously had standard ink installed could be toxic. If you cannot purchase a printer specifically for printing edible images, make sure you clean your inkjet printer very thoroughly.
Frosting sheets or rice paper can be fed through just like plain paper. The art or image will print on the edible paper with vivid colors and accurate detail. That edible paper must then be applied to the top of the tasty treat, which can be adhered using icing or a spray. Be sure to be gentle when applying the paper to the cake and tap lightly to get rid of any air bubbles.
This is not the only use for edible ink, though. In Chicago, a chef created an innovative way to use the edible ink in his restaurant. First of all, instead of using the edible ink cartridges that can be purchased from various manufacturers, this chef created his own liquid ink using fruit and vegetables. The edible paper he used was made from potato starch and soybeans. He would print his menus using these ingredients. His idea was to allow diners to break off pieces of the menu to flavor the soups, but his eventual goal was much bigger, according to Wikinews.org: “Just imagine going through a magazine and looking at an ad for pizza. You wonder what it tastes like, so you rip a page out and eat it.”
Edible ink cartridges can be purchased from a number of small vendors as well as a few major vendors, such as Amazon.com. Most major manufacturers produce edible ink, including HP, Canon and Epson. There are a number of inkjet printers on the market that support edible printing, such as the Canon ip3600, which is recommended by edible ink specialty stores. For other models, you should consult your manual or contact customer service to find out if your machine is able to print with edible ink.
The majority of people in the world will never have a need to use this fun and unique technology. However, if you are running a cake shop, changing the face of restaurant menus, or simply looking for a way to make your kid’s birthday extra special, all it takes is an inkjet printer and some edible ink to create something very unique and memorable.
Though a waste toner bottle is not needed in every printer, it serves an important purpose for many laser machines. Like the brake pads on a car, waste toner bottles are not often talked about but sure do cause problems when they stop functioning.
The bottom line is that not every single piece of toner powder is going to be used to create a finished product. The toner is pulled from the cartridge and adheres to a roller, known as an imaging drum. This drum is charged to attract the toner, which is how they come together. The drum continues circulating until it meets the paper that has a stronger charge, pulling the toner from the drum and bonding it with the fibers of the paper.
However, the extra laser toner particles continue turning with the imaging drum. If the waste bottle wasn’t present, the toner powder would eventually just fall freely into the machine, creating a mess and sometimes compromising the quality of future prints. The waste toner bottle catches that extra toner that has technically been used but not applied to the paper. Regardless of whether the unit is monochrome or color, only one waste bottle is used. For those wondering why a waste toner bottle is not an included part of their printer, many models have larger cartridges that are two-fold, with a section that holds the toner powder and a compartment to catch the excess toner.
Models that require a waste toner bottle will have a sensor that informs the printer when the bottle is full. Some units have an error message show up on an LCD screen while others use an LED light system that may require users to refer to the manual to figure out what the issue actually is.
When removing the full waste toner bottle, do so carefully and slowly, trying to avoid getting any toner on clothes or skin. Once the bottle has been extracted from the machine, it is imperative that the openings are closed with the plugs attached to the outside of the bottle. If this step is skipped, an absolute mess is sure to ensue.
It is highly recommended to replace the full waste toner bottle with a new one, though some would argue that each bottle can work for more than one cycle if thoroughly cleaned out. Considering how long each bottle lasts and how inexpensive a new one is, it is clearly a better option to just replace it. How to dispose of the bottle or the toner is another dilemma, as areas have different sanitation regulations. The best option is to contact local waste disposal facilities to find out specific policies for products of this nature.
The waste toner bottle is an essential part of many laser printers, but most users will not have to worry about the maintenance it requires. A waste toner bottle will most likely only need to be replaced once during the life of the printer, if at all.
It is a common concern when consumers are deciding whether or not to use remanufactured or compatible cartridges for a printer if the warranty implemented by the manufacturer upon purchase will be voided. Though customer service representatives at these major companies may try to bully consumers into believing the warranty only covers the use of brand-name products, in fact it is illegal.
In 1975, a law was passed by the United States Congress that deems it against the law to revoke a warranty or disclaimer agreement based on the consumer’s preference for replacement cartridges or moving parts. Referred to as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act, named after the Democratic representatives that proposed the Act, once a machine has been purchased and a warranty is implemented, the stipulations cannot be altered or voided.
Another purpose of this Act was to make warranties detailed in a more understandable way, providing the Federal Trade Commission with clear terms and better means to protect the consumers of the United States of America.
Some manufacturers will try to threaten a void of warranty for using cartridges that are not OEM in hopes that the consumer is unaware of the law. They may even say remanufactured or compatible ink or toner is inferior to the brand-name when in reality, the off-brand products have a similar chemical composition as the original.
IBM, a major manufacturer of office equipment battled the United States Supreme Court after being reported for threatening customers with warranty termination for using third party products. IBM lost and has since changed warranty policies.
It is important to read the warranty clearly and understand the extent and stipulations of it. Some manufacturers offer limited warranties, which are not held to the same standard and are not in violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act if clearly advertised as a limited warranty.
Technology is advancing so rapidly that most consumers do not even realize some of the exciting things that are happening behind the scenes. Since the turn of the millennium, our Christmas trees have been surrounded with handheld gaming systems, portable printers, digital cameras, cell phones, and music players. But did you know that a technique or making printable circuits could one day allow us to design and print our own small computer parts at home?
So, how does it work?
The printable circuit process works much like an inkjet printer, but the ink is nanoparticle-based. This is made by suspending nano-sized semiconductor particles in liquid. These flexible ink-like circuits are applied to plastic substrates in specific patterns to create printed microchips based on a custom design. In the future, this could be as simple as downloading a design of a microchip from the Web and printing a functioning microchip with a desktop fabrication machine.
Another technique calls for a carbon-based chemical to be added to the specialized ink which can change the properties of the material being printed on. This expands the variety of substrates that can be used and allows for more versatility in material selection.
Universities around the world, such as MIT and Cambridge, have made leaps and bounds in this research and development. In fact, certain components have already been printed and tested, such as thermal actuators, linear-drive motors and Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), which are important components for a variety of electronics. For instance, MEMS are commonly found in pacemakers.
The ability to print computer components and circuits at home with a desktop fabrication machine could be right around the corner. This technology is developing at a fast rate and major companies are trying to find ways to make it more affordable so it is marketable for personal use. Soon, we could become the creators of our own small computing systems.
There is little question that fax machines are losing popularity as they continue to be replaced by email and other forms of communication. Still, some offices rely on faxing every day, and manufacturers continue to add new features to entice these users to upgrade on a regular basis. Here is a look at some of the most useful and interesting features offered in modern fax machines.
Super G3 Transmission – With Super G3 transmission speeds, faxes can be transmitted in as little as 3 seconds, which is essential in a fast-paced office environment.
Auto-Redial – Automatically redials the number and tries to send the fax again when a busy signal is received.
One-Touch Dialing – Offers multiple buttons that can be assigned to the most important numbers. Users then press a single button to send the document to that number instead of entering it manually or browsing through a large phone list.
Junk Fax Blocking – Uses Caller ID to block faxes from a specific number, which is very useful for blocking junk faxes.
Battery Backup – Some faxes include a battery that can keep the machine running during a power outage, ensuring that important faxes aren’t missed.
Fax Memory – Incoming faxes can be stored in memory so that they aren’t lost when the unit runs out of paper.
PC Faxing – This feature allows users to send a fax from the computer, much as they would send a document to a printer. This eliminates the need to walk up to the machine, and can help reduce paper usage as well. Some models allows users to receive faxes directly to their computer as well.
Automatic Document Feeder/Flatbed Scanner – An ADF can help users scan many pages quickly, while a flatbed scanner provides more versatility in the types of material that can be scanned. Choosing a device with both offers the best of both worlds.
Fax Forwarding – Forwards incoming faxes to another number. This can be useful when traveling or working from home.
Remote Fax Retrieval – Allows users to log in remotely to retrieve their faxes from the unit’s memory.
Auto Fax Reduction – Reduces the information to a single page for easier faxing.
Delayed Transmission – Faxes can be scheduled for transmission at a specific time, such as when the office is empty.
While this isn’t an exhaustive list of all fax features, it gives you an idea of some of the most important features to consider. By understanding what these features do, you can make a more informed decision as to whether or not to upgrade your fax machine to take advantage of them.
The design and durability of printers has advanced over time, with most machines capable of handling high-volume printing and lasting for many years. Whether you use a laser printer or inkjet printer, there are a few simple maintenance tasks that can be performed to ensure the unit will give the best quality for the longest amount of time.
Use the printer on a regular basis, at least once a week
When printers are left untouched for extended periods of time, the print heads can become dry and clogged, so they will not work as well the next time a print job is sent. Printing at least once a week can help resist clogging.
Use high-quality paper (and the proper type)
It can be tempting to use the least expensive paper possible, but high-quality paper has a tendency to jam less often and roll more smoothly. Also, be sure you use paper designed for your type of printer, such as laser paper for a laser printer and inkjet paper for an inkjet printer.
Some units have an automatic cleaning cycle while others require users to open the panel and wipe of the print head with a slightly dampened cloth. Consult your printer’s user manual or the manufacturer’s website for specific instructions for cleaning print heads for your model.
Clean the printer’s interior and exterior
Open the printer’s lid and trays and use a can of compressed air to displace any dust that has settled. Don’t overuse the compressed air, however, as it could blow dirt and dust further into the printer. You can then gently wipe away any visible dust on the interior and exterior surfaces with a lint-free cloth. Dust buildup can eventually cause problems for moving parts. Consider cleaning the printer at least once a month. Here is a video demonstrating the cleaning process:
Cover the printer when not being used
If you use your printer infrequently, consider a dust cover. Covers can be purchased at standard office supplies store or online. This will simply keep dirt and dust from accumulating on the printer. Just remember to use the printer at least once a week for best results!
Turn it off with the power button
Always shut down the unit via the power button. Unplugging from the wall, turning off the power strip or flipping the switch that controls the outlet to off can be harmful to the printer’s power supply or other electrical components. Many printers also run a print head cleaning cycle or diagnostic while shutting down. Turning them off abruptly means these processes are skipped.
Use a maintenance kit
Laser printers often utilize printer maintenance kits, which include replacements for some of the moving parts that wear out over time. Consult your manual for the proper replacement interval and follow it to keep your printer running smoothly.
By following these few simple guidelines, you will likely extend the life of your machine and keep its print quality at the highest level. You may even consider adding steps like cleaning and using maintenance kits to your calendar so that you will remember them at the proper time.
Basic printing tasks tend to be pretty straightforward. Most users can handle their essential printing without knowing too much about their printer or the printing process, but having a little advanced knowledge can help you produce better prints at higher quality. With a few advanced options, you can even tailor the output to your specific needs. Most of these terms are those you will see in the printing dialog box on your computer, or on the control panel of your printer.
Here are a few of the most important terms to know when printing:
Collating sorts multiple copies into their proper order. For example, when making 4 copies of a 4-page document, collating keeps each 4-page document sorted instead of printing multiple copies of the first page first.
Cropping is an option in most image editing software, and involved cutting away less important parts of the image so that the most important parts can be printed larger on the page.
Printing in “Draft Mode” uses less ink or toner, and also prints more quickly. It is a great way to preview a page or two to check the formatting before printing a large document. It is also one of the best ways to reduce printing costs.
Duplexing involves printing on both sides of a page. While this isn’t supported by all printers, enabling this feature on supported models can reduce paper costs by as much as 50%, and opens up more options for customized output.
Color inkjet printers often use “composite black” which combines each of the color inks to make black. Printing in grayscale mode ensures that the printer is only using black ink, which is generally much less expensive to replace. Laser printers often use the term “monochrome” instead.
The margin is the unprinted area around your image or text. If you find that the margins are often too big or too small, change the setting in your word processor or image editing program.
This option allows you to choose between portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) orientation. Landscape is often useful for printing signs or wide images, while portrait is most common for text. Click between the two options to see a preview of the output in order to choose the best option.
The resolution is measured in dots per inch (DPI) and controls the quality level of the output. For some printers, these settings may simply be labeled “High Quality”, “Fast”, “Draft”, etc. The lowest quality settings generally use less ink or toner, and are usually the fastest, but the quality is reduced.
This option allows you to print your image or text larger or smaller on the page. Setting it too high may result in some of the material being printed on a second page, while setting it too low could mean wasted space. Choosing 100% or the “Fit to Page” option is often the best. Experiment with different choices and view the preview box to see what affect it will have.
By understanding the terms listed here, you will have a better idea of how the major printing options may apply to your project. By utilizing options such as duplexing and quality settings, you can actually save money on supplies, and options like orientation and cropping can help you produce better images and text.
The printer statistics page (sometimes referred to as a printer status page, supplies status page, or printer test page) can be a useful tool for providing information about your machine. Not only does it provide statistics about usage that can help you estimate costs, but some statistics pages can even help you determine which cartridge needs to be replaced.
The main thing you will usually find on a printer statistics page is information about your usage of the machine. This often includes a count of the total pages printed, the pages printed with a certain cartridge, and other metrics. These stats can be especially useful when trying to estimate whether you are getting the rated number of pages from your supplies. For multifunction devices, you may see statistics for the number of pages scanned, faxed, copied, etc. This could be helpful when deciding if your next printer needs to have faxing capabilities, for example. If you find that the number of pages faxed is very low, this may not be an essential feature in the future.
Some statistics pages also include information about certain errors that have occurred. You may see a count of the number of paper jams, misfeeds, and other problems. This can give you an indication of the most common problems your unit encounters, and you might be able use this information to improve reliability. If your printer is experiencing a lot of misfeeds, for example, you should consider cleaning the printer rollers. By printing another statistics page later, you can compare to see if reliability has improved.
Perhaps the most useful aspect of the statistics page is the specific information provided about each cartridge. For a color model, you will usually see a breakdown of each individual color. If the printer is telling you a certain color is empty, but only a small number of pages have been printed with that supply, you can confirm this with the statistics page, which might mean you have a defective cartridge.
The printer statistics page can be a very useful tool for gleaning important information about your printer. By regularly printing and saving these pages, you can track any trends such as increased errors, and address them when necessary. The process for printing a test page varies for each device, so you should consult your manual for specific instructions.
This video demonstrates how to print a statistics page for many common HP models by simply holding the green button for a few seconds until the page begins to print: