3D Printing: The Technology of Tomorrow?

Technology has really made a difference to the lives of people since the industrial revolution and the pace of change is speeding up each year. New discoveries are allowing us to explore untouched realms of technology that should improve the lives of everyone in the future. The normal method of building a desk would be to cut wood up into the shape of all the components. Then you’d assemble the individual parts of into the completed desk. Today, with the advent of 3d printer technology, you could print out a desk, with a fully functioning drawer in one pass!

Additive manufacturing is more commercially referred to as 3D printing and it makes the aforementioned printing of a desk possible. This new technology enables the users of these printers to create actual three-dimensional objects from a digital plan or scan of an object, which in this case is a desk. This is a highly advanced technology because it moves away from the traditional building or manufacturing methods and towards producing finished goods without cutting, drilling, molding and other ‘normal’ construction methods. 3D printing is considered to be a “what you see is what you get” process, because the finished product and the plan or template held in the printers’ memory are both virtually the same.

Basically, the 3D printer processes the digital file or template and converts this electronically held copy into an actual object inside of the restricted printing/manufacturing space. In order to create the finished object, the printer keeps building minute layers on top of each other in order to replicate the template or plan. It will deposit a layer where it needs to build up the object and won’t deposit anything where the template tells it not to. Over a long period of time the printer will build up the entire object, but at this point the object won’t have any strength.

Depending on the raw materials used, these layers piled on top of each other will be strengthened from exposure to an activating liquid or light process. The whole process is a lot like the creation of stalactites and stalagmites in caves, where the minerals dissolved in the water are slowly deposited on top of each other over hundreds or even thousands of years. The difference with 3d printing is that this process has been infinitely refined and the printer knows where each layer needs to be placed to re-create the finished product.

Up to now 3D printers have been able to create toys, jewellery, furniture, footwear and even bicycles. Scientists and engineers are still researching and investigating how these printers can be developed further to create advanced engineering components in the future. They are predicting that 3D printing can be refined and enhanced in the future so that they can be used for large-scale projects such as the manufacture of cars and buildings, or at least large parts of them. This type of printing is also seen to be of use in the creation of intelligent roof tiles and bricks that could have photo cells printed onto their surface that could be connected to the buildings electric supply, making it much more self sufficient and greener. If this technology does develop into this advanced state, then construction and assembly will certainly be much quicker and efficient in the future.

Imagine if you had a personal 3D printer at home, you would be able to design and personalise your own furniture! You would be able to print and create whatever you have in your imagination and make them into reality for use in your own home. This would be great for people who are into fashion and interior design. Although, I would imagine that the raw materials and agents needed to strengthen the creations will prove be quite expensive, making this sort of technology only available to the wealthy. Whereas you need to be wealthy to buy printer cartridges for your home printer.

Despite being considered a new technology, there are many different related white papers and studies that can be found that document the concepts used in additive manufacturing. There are also different instructional videos that can be streamed to show how useful this process could be to different industries. The ideas and methods used in this type of printing revolve around this basic concept: you have the possibility to create any different types of objects if you have the necessary materials, designs and software.

Because these printers have only recently been developed, most of them are currently relatively undersized when you compare them to other manufacturing equipment and machines. They can also only cater to a limited number of designs. Another drawback of 3D printing, which is currently being worked on relates to the length of time it takes to produce and strengthen the finished object.

However, despite the excellent potential this type of printing offers to the different industries, there are still quite a few drawbacks that’ll need to be overcome before the technology is seen everywhere. Although the use of 3D printing could improve efficiency for manufacturing companies, this would of course also equate to a loss of many jobs for factory workers. This would also have a negative effect on the economies of most western countries because carpentry, masonry and factory jobs will become more difficult to find, but this will hopefully be offset by with the creation of new types of employment from the new technology.

3D printing could also have a significant effect on the handmade crafts industry. Although each of these types of handmade items will be unique, 3d printers could also create a potential threat for the crafts industry. If the technology is ever developed to mass build household items in the future, then this too would have a significant negative impact on furniture manufacturing companies. However, in the early life cycle of this technology it is anticipated that it will be used for bespoke and high end types of furniture.

The further development of this printing technology will definitely have a dramatic impact on the commercial, industrial and personal lives of people in the future. Despite being a potentially great technology, society should safeguard itself in order to curtail any potentially negative effects of 3D printing on the wider economy. However, I remember reading in the 1980’s that offices would be paperless and computers would take away the need for employee’s…



Epson inkjet cartridges are ink tanks that supply ink to the print head. Epson uses technology called the ‘piezoelectric crystal’ method or technique, rather than other inkjet manufacturers who use an entirely different technology from the (easier to pronounce) ‘thermal’ type of printer. The print head for these cartridges is built into the cartridge itself.

The essence of the difference, and indeed the similarities, of the piezoelectric and the thermal methods differ only in the technologies used for the same purpose, that is getting the ink onto the paper in the right quantities and right colours. To be able to do this effectively the ink has to be forced down onto the paper.

To force the ink correctly down the miniscule nozzles Epson and the other main manufacturers in the world went their different scientific ways. Canon, Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark opted for the ‘steam type of method, whilst Epson developed new technology along the lines of electrifying crystals.

‘Thermal’ type of printer cartridges will contain the necessary heating elements inside each ink cartridge to vaporise the ink into a bubble. An electric current is used to fit in with the printer’s circuitry which vaporise the ink, pushing it down the nozzle, whilst the remaining steam in the bubbles pushes the other unused inks back in place ready for the next signal. This is, of course, why it’s called a ‘bubble-jet’ printer, the bubbles being located above the nozzles.

Epson printer cartridges, on the other hand are based on a very different technology, which is that of the ‘piezoelectric’ crystal. In this case the method of forcing the ink onto the paper also uses electric currents, the major and important difference being that the piezoelectric method uses crystals which move upon electronic impulses, the unused ink is returned to the reservoir by a sort of electronic magnetic effect ready for the next firing.

It has been found that this method does have distinct advantages over the other ‘big 3’ manufacturers in the variety of inks that can be used by this method, certainly this is used by commercial and professional printers as they tend to give more precise (or smaller) drops of ink than the ‘thermal’ printers.

Epson printer cartridges, as you can see from the above ‘techno-babble’, have to provide a full range of ink cartridges to suite all types of printing needs. The research undertaken to provide these different inks and cartridges to satisfy each individual’s requirements and needs is vast, and so therefore a large number of different types of ink cartridges are available.

The eezytrade catalogue of Epson printer cartridges shows the range and it’s applicability to each specific printer. Because the Epson printer’s head is fixed in the printer and the cartridge is basically an ink tank, they are normally cheaper than cartridges with heads that are fixed on the cartridge itself, like HP and Lexmark ones.

I wonder whether the other manufacturers may follow Epson’s lead in reducing prices.

Your Dirty Little Inkjet Printer!

Don’t you just feel cheated buying Ink? I do and that’s why I started to look for cheaper alternatives like, compatibles, refills, recycled.Take a look at what another angry and dissatisfied UK printer user did when an error message came up, asking him to take his printer to the service centre…

Problem is that all the little inkjet blighter’s do this, so if you mainly print text letters consider buying a plain cheap mono laser printer.

Full article here

HP's Less Bang for your Buck..

Dreadful HP Ink Value over time?


I use a desktop inkjet printer, mostly because of their ease of use, convenience and speed. I’ve been watching how the manufacturer’s have been filling cartridges with less and less ink – below are my own personal views and experiences with Hewlett Packard.

I would say I’m a typical user, printing off every day reports, invoices and so on. I’ve changed printers every few years and the cartridges I use mostly are black ones.

Below are the cartridge codes and the corresponding ink volumes they contain:-

Year’s used     Cartridge Code         Ink Volume
1998-2002             No.45 (51645)             42ml
to 2005                   No.15 (C6615)             15ml
to 2007                   No.21 (c9351a)              5ml

Looking at the wholesale price of each of these cartridges, today (17th December, 2007) from a UK supplier:-

graph2.jpg Cartridge     Total Cost     Cost/ml
No 45                 £13.48             £0.32
No 15                 £12.65             £0.84
No 21                 £6.64               £1.33

I’ve also noticed that the printers themselves aren’t built as well as they used to be and don’t last as long 🙁

I’m starting to think that I need to move away from using an inkjet printer, or at least the HP offerings.

Lexmark Printers deserve a Special Kind of Loathing

Lexmark Printer Loathing

Lexmark’s US patent # 6099101 – which describes their method of rendering inkjet cartridges useless by frying its own brain or head out, once it senses that the ink has ran dry. It’s a fully self contained process that will work even when the cartridge is out of the printer, powered by its own miniature battery.

The cartridges that come supplied with Lexmark printers are special ones… they only have a dribble of ink in them to get you started; you’ll maybe print three sheets of A4.

Lexmark cartridges cost two or three times as much as the actual printer. Lots of them get binned when owner’s find this out.

They actively discourage recycling, by employing a prebate scheme. Prebate is their system of selling cartridges at a discount, if you promise to either throw it away or send it back to Lexmark. The seal across the box says that by opening it, you agree to abide by their scheme. Yet another attempt at stopping recyclers getting their hands on the empties to remanufacture.

They’ve taken or threatened many small companies with court action.  They ‘win’ cases by either exhausting their funds or scaring them off with the thought of costs and perhaps losing the case, clearly they oppose people recycling their cartridges.

Lexmark make printers that take cartridges (#2 #3) that they exclusively supply to the Dixons group of companies. Price fixing by controlling who can sell them.

Their number 1 cartridge is a joke, it’s got three colours, cyan, magenta and yellow. When you print a letter (with black letters) it mixes all three colours to make black, obviously these don’t have a high page yield.

In some of their black inkjet cartridges – they mix ink with a chemical that reacts when it meets air to gunge up the printer head. Another attempt to sabotage empty ink cartridges from being re-used.

Their inkjet printers are really flimsy and designed to work just a day or two longer than the warranty period.

Canon Pixma ip4300 Printer Ink

Canon Pixma iP4300 Printer Review
The rise of the digital camera has seen much greater demand for inkjet printers that can create photo quality printouts while still being able to cope with the rigours of daily home office life. The Canon Pixma iP4300 printer is a budget photo printer that can easily hold its own as a home office printer as well. Print speeds are good in black and colour while print costs are kept to a minimum through the use of separate colour ink cartridges. Auto duplexing, or double sided printing, is a welcome and unusual addition to a printer in this price range and category.

Photo Printer Ideal For Home Office Use
PictBridge compatibility means that you can directly plug your PictBridge digital camera into the Canon iP4300 without even having to turn on the PC. Two paper feeds mean that you can add plain paper for text document printing and photo paper for photo printing. The Canon Pixma iP4300 printer is primarily targeted to media loving, regular photo printers but it is equally well suited to the home office user.

Canon IP4300 Inkjet Cartridges
Ink for the Canon iP4300 is carried in five cartridges – black, yellow, cyan, and magenta dye based inks and a black pigment ink. The separation of colours from the single cartridge design means that it costs you less to replace ink because you only need replace the colour you have actually used. It also means that you tend to get a better quality printing life over a longer period.

Compatibility And Design
PictBridge compatibility means that you can print directly from any PictBridge digital camera, and also from PictBridge compatible mobile phones and digital camcorders. The PictBridge socket is found at the front of the printer while the USB port is at the back. The overall design of the CanonPixma iP4300 printer is a light, although wide modern printer. All the features and designs are well thought out, though, and provide convenience and easy access whatever print job you are undertaking.

Canon Pixma iP4300 Printer Review
The Canon iP4300 printer comes with a healthy bundle of software to optimise your pictures and printouts. Included in this software is the EasyWeb feature. Once installed a button will appear on the toolbar of your browser and when clicked it will optimise the current web page for the best printing on your computer. This is another valuable time saving addition to the Pixma package.

Canon Ink Cartridges From Eezytrade
Canon Pixma Canon printers come with a full supply of ink cartridges to get you started. As each colour runs out it will need replacing before you can continue printing but the five separate cartridges only need placing as each one empties. We carry a full stock of Canon inkjet cartridges at very reasonable rates. We supply each of the required colours, including both black cartridges. Our genuine Canon ink cartridges provide the best possible quality for photo and other printing.

Inkjet Photo Paper – Bronzing

Bronzing ExampleThis picture shows you the effects of bronzing, basically the colours are all sitting on top of each other – on the surface of the inkjet photo paper.

This mostly happens with pigmented ink – where the particles of colourant are too large to be absorbed into the surface of the inkjet paper.

Another cause can be where two different types of ink are used in the printer at the same time. For example if you have the Canon Pixma IP 8500 (this printer uses eight different ink cartridges) and you use half original Canon cartridges (B/C/M/Y) and half compatible ink cartridges (Photo Cyan/Magenta, Red and Green) the different formulations of ink can cause problems. The ink mixes in the printer head and because different manufacturers of ink will produce different qualities they won’t always interact together properly. We always advise customers to use either a full set of original cartridges or a full set of compatibles, if this is the case then the ink will mix properly and avoid similar problems that happen if you try to mix oil and water!

Printer Ink: is it just coloured water?

Maybe it used to be… go back in time five years or so, before photo printers were invented, your average everyday inkjet printer would just have used black ink. The printer was a lot like your fax machine – used to print off text pages and maybe a limited graphic. So before the advent of photo printer’s people’s expectations of their desk top printer was fairly simple: does it pick up paper, without screwing it up; is the text legible; does it dry quickly without smudging.

Moving forward now to the present day and because cheap printer’s aren’t renowned for their longevity and that they don’t cost a king’s ransom (loads of Lexmark one’s are free with a new computer) – loads of people have got a printer which is also a photo processing unit, which they expect to produce better results than Max Spielmann’s! So if the ink used in these new photo processing units was just ‘coloured water’ how would the user feel if they spent good time and money on glossy paper and the prints were just washed out and faded before you placed them into the photo album?

To cut a long story short, the technology used in ink is amazing, it just has to be.. otherwise imagine the force of complaints from all the users. The major inkjet companies either employ or outsource hundreds and scientists to invent and test only the best ink for use in their printers. In fact it is a rumour that HP has a group of 16 scientists based in South America (location unknown/secret) whose sole purpose is to test recycled cartridges and their ink to see if they infringe their own ink’s patents/copyrights. HP have actually won some cases against a few large companies who have re-filled cartridges with ink that has infringed their intellectual property. How the infringement is determined is beyond this blog, but suffice to say that the ink used in these recycled HP cartridges must be damn close to the original stuff.

Also, what this suggests to me is that Hewlett Packard must be are worried that the re-cyclers are getting close to achieving similar results to their own original cartridges. I have seen the printed results from recycled cartridges being just as good as the original’s and I have also seen awful results that have white lines across the page and either pink or green hue throughout the printout. The end quality of the print-out is a result of many things – but the main one’s being the recycling process and importantly the quality of the ink used to re-fill them.

Anyway back to the point, just a few qualities that the ink must have these days are:-
> Fade resistance or colourfastness
> Have correct colouring – pigmented or dye based
> Be smudge resistant
> Fast drying
> Remain uniform in colour through time i.e. keep the colour and solvent mixed in the same proportion from the first print to the last one
> Have the correct viscosity, PH level and surface tension

Add to this all the complexities involved with how the different ink interact with each other, the paper and the outer environment and you can see that even though ink makes up around 80% of the ink it is not just colour water. A more detailed report on inkjet ink can be read here.

Printer Ink – for the small / home business

From our experience we would always advise the small or home business to invest some time researching which printers are the most suitable for their use and above all most cost effective.

Canon have launched a new online tool that draws a parallel between convenience food, cost, health and printing – no they haven’t hired Gillian McKeith (is she allowed to call herself a doctor… but that’s another story). Basically, what they are saying is – yeah, it’s great to grab a burger every now and then and it won’t kill you on its own, but if you eat one every day or mealtime you’re going to grow into one unhealthy bloater.

Similarly, if you just use your nice and convenient little ink-jet printer perched at the end of your desk every now and then to print a pie chart (keeping up with the food style) – then no problem. But, use your inkjet printer for everything you just want to read once and throw away, your office stationery budget will bloat out – just like some channel 4 show about half ton people. 

Anyway, back to the point – take a quick look at Canon’s how much is your printer eating up your consumables budget guide here.

HP Edgeline

New technology – the result of a massive 1.4 billion US dollar investment – by market leading printer manufacturer Hewlett Packard: Edgeline series of multi-function ink based printers.

We’ve mentioned quite a few times already (in this young blog) how slow ink based printers usually are – but they give great benefits including, brilliant colour and clarity. HP has done a lot of market research and its conclusions were that business users that need high quality colour documents, pronto just can’t afford to wait. So HP opened their not very dusty wallet and pulled out over a billion dollars to create edgeline.

Edgeline is the new fancy name for what they have developed, or otherwise known as scalable printing technology. The new technology could revolutionise the future of printing in offices and eventually our homes. It has been used in recent HP devices to produce drops of ink onto paper or other media at up to 150 million drops per second – yes you read that right 150,000,000 minuscule drops of ink every second.

As the name of the new invention suggests – it is also scalable and they reckon that very soon their printers will be producing droplets of ink at 900 million and up to over 1.8 billion every second! Imagine the speed and quality that this would achieve – photo quality billboard size posters at lightning speed.