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Biotech Hardware Hacking Printer Build Hardware

Old Inkjet Becomes New Bio-Materials Printer 39

MikeChino writes "Instructables member Patrik has successfully transformed an old HP5150 inkjet printer into a DIY bioprinter. To do this he removed the plastic covers and panels and rewired the paper handling mechanism. Then he prepped ink cartridges to be able to handle biological materials by opening the lid, removing the ink, and washing it out with deionized water. For his first experiment, he printed a simple solution of arabinose onto filter paper."
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Old Inkjet Becomes New Bio-Materials Printer

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  • Thermal or Piezo? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday January 25, 2013 @08:03PM (#42697107) Journal

    Aside from the ugly business of working around all the annoying interlocks that inkjets have for atypical paper feed/consumables condition/problems that exist only in their own imagination/etc. which generally stop the printer dead, regardless of how mechanically healthy it is; a problem that is annoying, but solvable with sufficient electronics hackery skill, I'd be curious to know how well biological 'inks', or any other not-formulated-for-the-purpose materials deal with the inkjet mechanism.

    In piezolelectric inkjet printers, an electrically actuated piezo element provides the slight expansion necessary to shove a droplet of ink out of the nozzle. I'd assume that anything that is tolerant of small(but high frequency, a piezo head can shove out some tens of thousands of droplets per second, and at fair speed, so there are probably stresses that particularly whiny and structurally complex organic molecules can't handle) pressure waves should be fine.

    However, particularly among consumer cheapies, thermal inkjets have become quite common: these use a pulse of current across a resistive element to vaporize part of the ink, the expansion of which drives the remaining ink out of the chamber and toward the target. The amount of heat is small in absolute terms(the vaporization chambers are constructed by photolithiographic techniques, to give a sense of scale; but enough heat to flash-vaporize ink is quite probably enough heat to denature common proteins and/or turn common biological materials into a layer of gooey carbon gunk that clogs the print head in short order.

    Any word on whether piezo printers are best for this application, or does thermal work much better than I would naively expect?

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