Printing has long been synonymous with paper. Trillions of plain white sheets are fed through home and office printers around the globe every year. Paper is used to print magazines, newspapers, advertisements, books, reports and more.
But what if we could use our printers to print onto other materials, such as fabrics, organic circuit boards and even ice? Some people are doing their best to find out – using their printers to explore a range of creative possibilities. And the results are brilliant.
Keep it On Ice
When British printing company Willows Graphics was asked by a London ice bar to create menus, artwork and advertisements capable of withstanding extreme cold, the company came up with a novel idea – printing on ice.
Although in principle the idea of printing on ice sounds exceptionally problematic, Willows staff found a way to make it work – developing the world’s first printed artwork and advertisements made from a specially oxygenated form of ice.
Print.it writer John Peters explains, “Multiple layers of white ink and varnish were used to seal in the design and protect against year-round temperatures of -5°C.” This was achieved by using a large-format UV printer. The final product was magnificent, and has led many to think about other unusual materials they might be able to print on.
Printing Goes Organic
As print experts and creatives continue to explore printers’ capabilities – and as printer technology keeps advancing – new doors open. People are starting to explore and push the limits of conventional printing.
In another example, a group of electrical engineers from Korea’s Pohang University of Science and Technology recently began testing to see if they could print functioning networks of organic transistors – using a common inkjet printer.
The engineers wanted to find a cheaper and more effective way to print arrays of transistors, the key components of flexible consumer electronics goods like smartwatches and heart monitors.
However, instead of using silicon, the new circuit boards were fashioned using carbon-based organic material. Although some scientists have previously tried using inkjet printers for circuit printing, this marks the first time anyone has attempted to use an inkjet printer for the entire process.
Office printers may not have been designed with organic-material printing in mind, but it seems that some inventive thinkers are finding was to make these machines go way beyond their ordinary functionality – with sometimes incredible consequences.
Interior designers have also found new uses for printers, using them to add color to living spaces. Customizing floors, wallpaper and even curtains is now possible with digital printing – the same technology used by your home or office printer.
A recent article in the Washington Post outlined the ways digital printing is now used in fabric production, utilizing what is “essentially a modified version of your home office printer.”
With these printers, designers are now printing on drapes and floor tiles, customizing them with complex motifs – and even householders’ own photographs.
New Era of Braille Printing
Samsung innovators are continuously pushing the boundaries of what can be accomplished with printing. In partnership with the Thailand Association of the Blind and J Walter Thompson Bangkok, Samsung has taken a major step forward – in the form of the Samsung Touchable Ink project.
Touchable Ink uses laser printers to print braille documents using innovative new cartridges. Printing in braille typically requires using very large, specialized printers, which can be extremely expensive.
Touchable Ink, however, has the potential to bring braille printing into the home. Removing the need for specialized braille printers could significantly reduce the cost of braille printers, providing more reading opportunities for the visually impaired.
All users need to do is simply replace their standard ink cartridges with a Touchable Ink cartridge and switch to braille font type. Once they have printed the document out, they need to heat it with a household heating device, such as a microwave or hair dryer.
The process allows the visually impaired to enjoy access to a wider range of printed materials.
Although Samsung Touchable Ink is still in the early stages of development, it promises much for the future. Using a chemical process that adds embossing powder to laser printer ink, Touchable Ink print jobs currently have a 90 percent success rate. Users say that it is perfectly readable, and no different from the kind of materials produced by large-scale braille embossers.
The Future of Printing?
Printer usage is constantly being reimagined, resulting in new and creative developments – changing lives for the better around the world.
And Samsung Printing Solutions is continuously developing new ways for its printers, products and solutions to help foster business growth, reduce costs – and bring the power of printing to a wider audience.
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