When asked to help with making a space themed set for the kid’s Autumn Half-Term Holiday Club, naturally I started thinking about what we could print.
When a Google search turned up an ultra high-resolution photograph of the Star Wars Millennium Falcon cockpit (posted on Reddit a year earlier), I knew I had found the perfect answer.
The image was 8k, being 8192 x 2096 pixels, which is more than enough to be blown up to a large size and still be visually pleasing.
I needed a printout around 3m wide but I only had access to an A4 inkjet printer (Canon Pixma MX925). Undeterred by the lack of a specialist wide-format printer, I set about accomplishing my objective.
First, the image had to be edited to cut out just the front or forward view, I also increased the brightness of the image slightly.
In the above image, section ‘B’ was cut and pasted adjacent to section ‘A’ and section ‘C’ was discarded.
Using Microsoft Paint (simple tools are sometimes the best!) I was able to specify to print the image in Landscape, across 11 x 12 sheets of A4 paper. I chose this number based on a rough calculation that a sheet of A4 is 297mm x 210mm making a approximate dimensions before trimming margins of 3267mm x 22520mm.
I printed to a PDF file first rather than directly to the printer; this turned out to be very helpful as it meant I could re-print specific tiles (A4 sheets) from the print job if I messed up when trimming or sticking one.
It took about five hours to finish printing, the printer stopped several times because of an empty ink cartridge, or out of paper. So I can’t be sure how quickly the job would have completed had I been fully attentive and changed cartridges immediately.
I use compatible ink cartridges rather than the ‘big brand’ ink because they’re so much cheaper and the quality is almost the same. The printer used up three sets, which includes the cartridges that were already in the printer when the print job started, and of course 132 sheets of A4 photo paper that comprise the finished output.
At our current prices, the MX925 ink cost was around £30 (or $40 USD) for the entire print job.
Each A4 printed sheet had a white border, which would need to be trimmed on the left, and top edges to be glued to the previous tile. Fortunately I had a large guillotine paper trimmer for cutting the edges straight, and I found Pritt Stick to be a good choice of glue because it allows for re-positioning to get the tiles aligned.
After about 3 hours of cutting and gluing I was finished and I left the glue to dry. The next day I gently (and nervously) turned the whole 3m x 2m artwork over trying not to split any of the glued edges. I then used what I estimate is about 30m of duct tape to secure all the horizontal joins on the back of the artwork to make it more durable, it was then easy to roll it up ready for use.
Sadly I didn’t think to take a good photograph of the artwork before it went to be used at the Holiday Club, but afterwards (one week later) it was still in pretty good shape (considering more than 60 kids had played with it). It looked like this.
It’s hard to see from this image, but the top edge has four or five layers of duct tape one on top of another, which was then hole-punched at roughly 150mm intervals and we used cable ties looped through the holes to hang the artwork (like a curtain) on horizontal garden canes rested between some 8′ garden cane wigwams! Pictured here from behind:
This had the added benefit that we could curve the artwork slightly to match the 360 degree fish-eye perspective of the original image.
It was a time-consuming process, but very worthwhile. The finished “life-sized” print was visually stunning, and all of the kids were excited to see it!
The finished artwork, it’s been rolled up since November, but it’ll soon flatten if left out for a while:
UPDATE: December, 2017 – the artwork sold in an eBay Charity auction, ALL proceeds went to Barnado’s Children’s Charity.
(Star Wars – TM & © Lucasfilm Ltd. This artwork was created for non-commercial use. This project was not in anyway endorsed by Lucasfilm Ltd.)
If you enjoyed reading about this ambitious printing effort, you might also enjoy reading about how we made the World’s first (and last?) 3D printed inkjet printer cartridges!