Here at InkFactory.com we, like many others, have been following the growing trend of 3D printing with some interest. You have probably seen the news articles talking about the world’s first 3D printed hand gun, evening dress, sports shoe, etc.
N.A.S.A has just tested a new space engine built with 3D printed parts and are currently testing a 3D printer for making pizza on the international Space Station. And a US hospital lab has just printed a replacement trachea (airway) that saved a baby’s life…
3D printing is now becoming part of our lives in 2013, so it was only a matter of time before the conversation at InkFactory.com turned from look at what other folks are creating to “what could we create?”
As a leading UK print supplies retailer we asked ourselves some simple questions:
- Would it be possible for the home user to print their own ink cartridges and so save money?
- Would it ever be possible in the future to produce some sort of “print your own” inkjet cartridge kit?
So we decided to test the idea of creating the world’s first working 3D printed Inkjet cartridge!
Creating A Working 3D Printed Ink Cartridge
In June we purchased a MakerBot Replicator 2 desktop 3D printer, along with a selection of coloured PLA plastics, and a plan was drawn up to execute the project over the coming weeks.
Step One – Choose an Ink Cartridge
Top of the list was choosing a suitable inkjet cartridge and inkjet printer. Fortunately here at InkFactory.com we have been supplying inkjet cartridges to both the public and businesses for more than decade. So armed with that level of industry knowledge a pair of KODAK ink cartridges (Kodak 30C and Kodak 30B) were quickly chosen for this 3D printing project.
Step Two – Create a 3D Model
To print an object in 3D you need to have an accurate scaled 3D drawing of the object. So using SolidWorks, a leading CAD software package that can be used to create 3D objects, we were able to replicate the KODAK 30C and KODAK 30B ink cartridges and export them as industry standard .STL files.
The KODAK 30B Ink Cartridge CAD File in SolidWorks
Step Three – Import 3D Objects into MakerWare Software
Now we had our 3D models in an industry standard file format the next step was to use the free software that came with our MakerBot Replicator 2 desktop 3D printer, and create a file that could be sent to the 3D printer for printing.
The free software is called MakerWare and contains a “slicing engine” a special algorithm that tells the MakerBot 3D printer what to make and how to make it.
Our 3D Objects Imported Into MakerBot MakerWare
Step Four – Print The 3D Ink Cartridges
The next step was to export our 3D ink cartridges, using MakerWare, into the 3D printer and start printing the 3D ink cartridges! During the process several modifications had to be made to the 3D drawings, but we soon had a working inkjet cartridge printed on our 3D printer!
(You can watch our video at the end of the page to see the printing process in more detail…)
Printing one of the 3D Ink Cartridges on the MakerBot Replicator 2
Original and Our 3D Printed KODAK 30 Black Ink Cartridges
Original and Our 3D Printed KODAK 30 Black & Colour Ink Cartridges
Step Five – Using The 3D Printed Ink Cartridges
Once the ink cartridges had been printed the next step was to place them in an inkjet printer and attempt to print a test page. We achieved this by purchasing a KODAK ESP C110 colour inkjet and then replacing the original KODAK ink cartridges with our own 3D printed versions that had been filled with the appropriate ink refill.
Our 3D Printed KODAK 30 Black & Colour Ink Cartridges with a Test Print
You can see the results in our video below.
We have learnt a lot about 3D printing during this project and will be passing that knowledge on in the form of more blog articles. The first has already been posted and is called The 10 Commandments of 3D Printing
During this project news was released that in the forthcoming Microsoft Windows 8.1 update, 3D printing technology developed by MakerBot Industries will be included. A validation from Microsoft that 3D printing is fast becoming a part of everyday technology as we move forward. As a technologist and a Microsoft MVP (2004-2007) I agree that we could see 3D printing in the home of the future.
In the following video you can see the results of our project. From the design, 3D printing of the ink cartridges, to the actual printing of a colour test page in the KODAK inkjet printer…
Creating the World’s First Working 3D Printed Ink Cartridges
For us, as a company, printing a 3D Ink Cartridge was a logical step to take. But what would you print in 3D? What is your passion and/or hobby etc? Share your thoughts in the comments section below or let us know at Facebook or Twitter.