Best printer for hardware experiments?

winston_smith

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I'm interested in experimenting with inkjet print heads: mounting them on a CNC machine to make a flatbed printer, alternative inks (eg., bioprinting or UV-curing inks), building my own electronics to control the print head, that sort of thing. Could you help me choose a good place to start? For example:

- I hear print heads are typically either thermal or piezoelectric. Sounds like piezo would be more versatile for alternative inks
- A line of print heads that's been around a while, so that I'll still be able to find parts a few years from now
- No DRM shenanigans where they're working against the owner
- Bonus points if there's pre-existing work where people have already documented interfaces or built driver boards. I've found a few, but they're for pretty old heads.

My plan would be to buy a (hopefully inexpensive, but doesn't have to be) printer and start experimenting. If it turns out that heads for real flatbed UV printers are also available then that's interesting too, but my guess is that they'll be prohibitively expensive.
 

PeterBJ

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........- I hear print heads are typically either thermal or piezoelectric. Sounds like piezo would be more versatile for alternative inks.......
For modifying an inkjet printer to Direct To Garment or Printed Circuit Board flatbed printers Epson is the preferred brand as their piezoelectric print heads can handle the special inks used for these purposes. Thermal print heads as used in for instance Canon and HP printers cannot handle the special inks.

I don't know if the Epson print heads can handle UV curable inks.

Some also modify 3D printers so they don't have to build a CNC machine from scratch. Here a 3D printer is converted into a milling machine by replacing the 3D print head with a Dremel or similar. I think an Epson print head could be attached in stead of the Dremel making a CNC printer.

Good luck with the project and please report your results.
 

soysauce

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I'm interested in experimenting with inkjet print heads: mounting them on a CNC machine to make a flatbed printer, alternative inks (eg., bioprinting or UV-curing inks), building my own electronics to control the print head, that sort of thing.
Here is a very interesting talk by a guy that might help you with the electronics aspect of your project: https://hackaday.com/2018/11/12/sprite_tms-magic-paintbrush/
What kind of resolution do you need (dots per inch)? There are industrial print heads available which have the disadvantages of lower resolution, and higher cost, but the advantages of durability and documentation from the manufacturer on the electronics needed to drive them and viscosity and surface tension recommendations for the ink.
 

Stuart21

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I'm interested in experimenting with inkjet print heads: mounting them on a CNC machine to make a flatbed printer, alternative inks (eg., bioprinting or UV-curing inks), building my own electronics to control the print head, that sort of thing. Could you help me choose a good place to start? For example:

- I hear print heads are typically either thermal or piezoelectric. Sounds like piezo would be more versatile for alternative inks
- A line of print heads that's been around a while, so that I'll still be able to find parts a few years from now
- No DRM shenanigans where they're working against the owner
- Bonus points if there's pre-existing work where people have already documented interfaces or built driver boards. I've found a few, but they're for pretty old heads.

My plan would be to buy a (hopefully inexpensive, but doesn't have to be) printer and start experimenting. If it turns out that heads for real flatbed UV printers are also available then that's interesting too, but my guess is that they'll be prohibitively expensive.
This lot (http://ufoprinter.com) make a flatbed base for the A3+ Epsons like the L1800. I have a similar base made by another Co which I think has 'gone'. ;-( Epsons seem to be pretty versatile - I use an ecosolvent ink in mine which prints quite well on hard (white) plastics such as ABS. But good luck if you think you are getting into the software -

Preheating the substrate is necessary to avoid orange peel. Printheads last up to 12 months -
Good luck.
Or you can search alibaba or aliexpress for A3 flatbed printer
 

winston_smith

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Thanks everyone for the pointers. @soysauce, I'd probably be fine with anything over 100dpi. Any pointers to industrial heads or ballpark guesses on price?
 
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