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back to article If you think 3D printing is just firing blanks, just you wait

This week I met a gun nut. I knew this immediately because he was an American with a moustache. Americans with moustaches are always gun nuts. Don’t blame me, I don’t make the rules. It is simply the way of things. Youtube Video Sitting down at a gala dinner, I found myself sharing a table with an amiable group of US citizens …

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Something for the weekend?

The weekend is almost over sir.

But I agree, for anything reasonably useful 3d printing as it is, would be fairly useless. The only thing I've seen it used for personally is rapid prototyping (even though the slow printing speed could hardly be considered rapid)

£10,000 per prototype, or £500 per prototpe. Makes a big difference, and is still much faster. Sure when it comes to the final prototype, we still splash out on the expensive 10k one, it's all the failed prototypes we've saved the money on.

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Re: Something for the weekend?

>> The weekend is almost over sir

I am aware of this. We may change the name of this column to: "Something That No-one Will Read, Sir?"

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Mushroom

Re: Something for the weekend?

In the interests of the global community that read this excellent publication, the weekend is not yet over and will not be until Monday has come to its inevitable conclusion in Baker Island in the Pacific Ocean (UTC-12).

For the mystified, this weekend in the almighty, gun-toting, US of A is Labor Day weekend and Baker Island is a US territory. Now if you want the last inhabited piece of America then that would be Midway at UTC-11.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Something for the weekend?

"The weekend is almost over sir"

When there was a deadline of Friday then it focussed the mind. Now there is the whole weekend in which to hit the press. So cutting the lawn, washing the dishes, another coffee etc are all welcome distractions - time in which to consider yet another refinement of the text. When does the weekend deadline technically end - midnight or just before the London offices open their doors?

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Rol
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Re: Something for the weekend?

I have a cunning plan.

Using your totally inadequate 3D printer. create your widget, but with one slight adjustment, reduce its dimensions by 5mm all round for solid objects or 5mm bigger for hollow objects. Oh, and replace that corn starch with candle wax if poss.

Now spray the outside or inside or I suppose both sides with a suitably conductive material.

Take this and immerse it in a bath of whatever metallic based solution you desire and apply some volts.

After a few years have passed (yes, yes, it is blue sky off the cuff thinking after all) and 5mm of metal has been deposited on the artefact, remove and melt away the wax or corn starch.

Hey prestoish you have a copper coat hook or other such invaluable trinket to swank in front of your friends.

If I don't respond to critique, it's because I'm on the phone to the Texas patenting office.

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Re: Something for the weekend?

"Now spray the outside or inside or I suppose both sides with a suitably conductive material.

Take this and immerse it in a bath of whatever metallic based solution you desire and apply some volts."

Try investment casting. It's much quicker.

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Re: Something for the weekend?

^ what he said + on a mobile device.

And off to the patent office for me too.

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Re: Something for the weekend?

> Try investment casting. It's much quicker.

And more than one 3D printing service does already offer wax printing for exactly that.

(As well as various laser sintered metal options.)

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The File

Where are the decent CAD models, 3D scanners etc even if a home 3D printer produced better than kitch nik-naks?

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Re: The File

CAD is as old as gods dog - make your own models ffs.

Or you can download 1000's of stl files, you just have to look. (there's even a strandbeeste model you can d/l for nothing)

There are plenty of 'cheap' 3d scanners about with the same form factor as the hobbyist printers. Plus the nature of the community is such that I am sure a replacement hot end that contains a laser, that can scan, is minutes away from market as we speak.

Thus spake the bloke getting a 3d printer next payday.

I don't make claims that I will be able to print a working suspension bridge or anything 'structural' any time soon... or at all really, for me it's just a really cool toy.

On the whole I sort of agree with dabbsy the current state of the art is not great just like the early digi cams, but people didnt buy them cos they took great pictures, they bought them cos they were digital!

and if they had not bought them, then we would all still be taking pictures on little slivers of plastic... or actually not taking pictures at all, cos it was such a pain in the arse.

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Re: The File

I don't make claims that I will be able to print a working suspension bridge or anything 'structural' any time soon

For me, I fear it would have to be strandbeeste or nothing. What more noble purpose could a 3D printer serve?

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Steel Panther

Don't care about 3D printing, but Steel Panther were well worth checking out.

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Like an 8 pin dot matrix printer...

I think (and tell people who can remember them) that 2014 3D printing is like 1982 dot matrix printing. Noisy, slow, bumpy, feint, fanfold fed (didnt fit A4 folders) monochrome etc.

I used it to print program listings. I tried to print graphics. I had an old moveable type press for crisper output. Other people used linotype? systems to produce blocks of text that were pasted up and rephotographed to make print plates. I had a pen plotter for linear stuff. Horses for courses.

But I too hate the media hype around 3D printing - and I do remember massive media hype around 'desktop publishing'.

Like the dot matrix printing dumped the pins...3D printing will probably dump the squirty plastic nozzle of curent designs in order to move on. But it is the software that is also driving this revolution. Slicing CAD models for printing is like the screen dump printer driver I wrote : part of the system that can make a useless lump of mechanism perform better, and the basic ideas of rasterising/slicing form the basis for newer mechanics to perform better.

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Re: Like an 8 pin dot matrix printer...

The media only hype because that's what the numpty readers read. People like hype and buzz.

Don't blame McDonalds for not making lentil burgers. Don't blame the media for serving their readers what they want.

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Coffee/keyboard

Title goes here

Now now Alistair, be kind to the Americans. Haven't you noticed that the Good Ole Blighty El Reg has been becoming more and more Americanised in the last couple of years, so you need to be kind to your future bosses or you will be first against the wall when the co.uk is finally dropped for .com

I have seen plenty of 3D printers in my line of work, I'm glad I'm not the only one who currently considers them a bit shit (Permission to use your "Hideous Ornaments section in Poundland" it's a cracking good description) The initial idea of 3D printers has always seemed a bit flawed, it reminds me of someone trying to print on the same piece of slowly fattening A4 paper thousands of times over and over (Does that make sense?) If 3D printing to going to become a device for mass production then the whole idea needs to move away from printing in layers to someone a bit more, well, 3D really.

Yep, something for the weekend, and it's Sunday. Instead of slacking off at work to type this crap I'm slacking off from doing housework, *Sigh* where did it all go wrong...

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Devil

Re: Title goes here

"be kind to your future bosses or you will be first against the wall..."

Great Caesar's ghost, don't be silly! Dabbsy would make a much better decoy than target.

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Re: Title goes here

3D Printers aren't for mass production, in the same way that books and newspapers aren't printed on desktop printers.

They're for limited runs of objects printed on a whim.

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Go

Re: Title goes here: "[something] a bit more, well, 3D really"

Actually, even 2D is only 1D most of the time. And, in a CRT, it's only 0D in some sense.

I suppose something like a Star Trek transporter would be truly 3D? Assuming that the info wasn't transmitted serially...

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Re: Title goes here

I don't think the technology will ever go away from, as you accurately describe it, "printing in layers". That's the nature of digital versus analog ... there's nothing between 0 and 1 to smooth out the result, just a quantum leap from point A to point B. Just as with digital photography, digital audio, and digital "fill-in-the-blank", the trick is to make the increments so small that the normal human cannot differentiate between digital and analog. Although you can always zoom in to a point where you can see the difference, at normal consumption levels the two types of product are essentially the same.

Disclaimer: Yes I have a (relatively) new 3D printer (ALS plastic type). And yes, so far its more of a toy than a tool ... but its a really fun tool to play with, and that's the whole point!

2nd Disclaimer: I'm an American. I have a Bachelors in Physics and Masters in CS. I own and shoot guns. And there's no way in hell I would ever fire a weapon that included (even in low-pressure areas) printed components outside of an isolated safety chamber. I'm nuts, but not stupid.

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@ phoenixat44 Re: Title goes here

I think you missed Alice Dobb's point.

Outside of the plastic printers, there are metal 3D printers who can produce metal components (think aerospace industrial grade).

One company did produce a 1911 made from such a printer. (Not sure how many rounds were actually fired.) They did it just to show that it can be done and that you can produce parts that can withstand the pressure.

Of course the company didn't say how much this gun costs, other than one could purchase several regular guns combined, far cheaper.

Where the 3D printing can be interesting isn't producing the gun itself, but in producing the silencer/suppressor. (Again metal printer. Not plastic)

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"Fuck yeah!"

You're being ironic about irony...?

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Re: "Fuck yeah!"

Never question irony.

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Re: "Fuck yeah!"

You haven't seen the movie then? I thought it was a spot-on response. Most amusing.

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Anonymous Coward

Other uses for 3D Printers

Where I worked they acquired a 3d printer because someone was throwing it away (It was expensive and I don't think the original purchaser got much use out of it) and they have managed to put it to great advantage to allow improvements to be explored on container handling automation, especially around predefined failure points since printed components are cheap (ignoring printer cost) compared to fixing automation after collisions. I doubt they'll ever do anything more than print these components as these are now obsolete – but it has enabled them to save replacing the systems and improve them.

I have seen where a 3D printer has been used to build a model of a human throat and lungs from medical scan to understand where inhaled drugs are going - something that would have been difficult and expensive using conventional methodologies.

Like a lot of things, the real use advantages for 3D printers will take time to develop and probably not resemble what was hyped for them.

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3D printing definitely has more development to undergo before it's particularly useful to the masses. But even then it will never replace mass production outright as the economies of scale just can't be matched.

So it will pretty much always be used for niche items such as: replacement parts for things now out of mass production (like car engine parts); small runs of bits for satellites (I believe NASA already do this); one-off body parts like prosthetics and other medical uses (bio printing of organs for replacement is already being done); hobbies (like the food printing mentioned, or any other art or craft); or prototyping, as already mentioned.

The biggest thing yet to be sorted out is the 'finishing' of parts. There needs to be some kind of addition to the process that cleans up the final printed part so that it feels like it's been mass-produced. Currently that finishing still has to be done by hand.

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Car engine parts, yes - and in my experience, laptop parts. All those weird little plastic bits that are never quite the same between models.

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mky

I wouldn't sell industrial additive manufacturing short.

http://inthecapital.streetwise.co/2014/08/01/spacex-secret-3d-print-rocket/

SpaceX are printing parts for their Merlin engines.

For home use, yeah they're just toys. This is just the snowball starting its journey down the hill.

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Pint

SpaceX are printing parts for their Merlin engines.

When they grow up, they will 3D print a mold and start cranking them out much cheaper.

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mky

Re: SpaceX are printing parts for their Merlin engines.

Not sure if you read the linked article. In house turn around of days as apposed to months from outside sources. I'm pretty sure local control of production is one of Elon's goals. He considered starting an aluminum processing plant, rather than deal with whims of Americas aluminum producers. In the future if it makes sense to add traditional casting techniques to the mix, it will happen, somehow I don't see that happening.

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Re: SpaceX are printing parts for their Merlin engines.

"When they grow up, they will 3D print a mold and start cranking them out much cheaper."

I thought SpaceX were going for re-usability, so why would they need to mass produce?

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Pint

Re: SpaceX are printing parts for their Merlin engines.

"...SpaceX were going for re-usability..."

Oh. So they'll need just two complete sets then. One set on the launch pad, another set out for cleaning.

Sometimes it's difficult to tell if Musk is joking or not. He's only a small step away from 3D printing my long-delayed (solar powered?) flying car.

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Actually... for once... I disagree

Kitchen printing is one useful application for a domestic 3D printer. For once.

There is no requirement for robustness, as long as it hold together until it is moved to the dining table it is OK and at the end of the day it will be eaten anyway. That is a much better scope/niche for 3D printiing compared to people trying to do DIY and print spare parts. Printed replacement for a gear sprocket? Printed replacement for a gear level? Printed replacement for a valve? No thanks. Rather not.

Printed "To the best mum" on a cake for mum's birthday? Why not if you have the money to waste, end of the day it costs less than a full set of celebrity cook endorsed kitchen tools.

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Re: Actually... for once... I disagree

Bakers might have a use for it. People who can decorate cakes properly are hard to come by; if you can download a design off the internet and get a local baker to print it onto a cake that might be something some people would be interested in.

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Pint

"...3D printing is an over-hyped, steaming pile of crap."

EXACTLY correct...

Mostly. There are niche applications where it's highly useful and cost effective. The other 99% is crap plastic junk.

That said... Every damn lie about technology eventually comes true. Facial recognition was a damn lie ten years ago, maybe even five. Now it's almost true. And just like Fermat's Last Theorum, once it is finally demonstrated to be true then we can appreciate what a damn lie the original claim really was.

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Re:get with the times

Fermat's last Theorum/Theorem has been proved. Rather famously I thought.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiles'_proof_of_Fermat's_Last_Theorem

Thoroughly nice bloke and incredibly unassuming man.

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Re: "...3D printing is an over-hyped, steaming pile of crap."

Well yes.

a really decent advance in precision machinery useful for production and with a great deal of development potential has been marketed as a panacea and thousands of pieces of utter junk have been used to make things that don't actually really work.

I do think that in the end it will be used a lot though.

And for structural stuff. Imagine chopped carbon fibre and resin going down, and setting..

and maybe the result IS porous with some materials. That in itself ins no bad thing. Porosity makes for light weight and high stiffness.

Totally agree that right now, it ain't worth it. BUT give it time.

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Re: Re:get with the times

I think the point being made was that once a claim (like Fermat's conjecture) had actually been proven true, then we can appreciate just how much of a lie (or self-delusion) the original claim was. (“Cubem autem in duos cubos, aut quadratoquadratum in duos quadratoquadratos, et generaliter nullam in infinitum ultra quadratum potestatem in duos eiusdem nominis fas est dividere ... Cuius rei demonstrationem mirabilem sane detexi hanc marginis exguitas non caperet.”)

Oh all right (you'd think no one understood latin any more!): “It is impossible for a cube to be written as a sum of two cubes, or a fourth power to be written as the sum of two fourth powers, or, in general, for any number which is a power greater than the second to be written as the sum of two like powers ... I have a truly marvellous demonstration of this proposition which this margin is too narrow to contain.”

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Alien

Re: Re:get with the times

The original claim for Fermats Last Theorem was that he had produced a " I have discovered a truly marvellous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain".

Andrew Wiles proof runs to around 150 pages of very complex math, and shows that Fermat was likely to have been incorrect in his statement, which I think is what the OP was was referrring to

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Pint

Re: Re:get with the times

@BadPony

Hmmm.. "...like Fermat's Last Theorum, once it **is/was** finally demonstrated to be true...". It's a complex tense, applying to both the past and future examples. Perhaps more "was" than "is".

Others above have explained the rest perfectly.

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Aw yeah, I remember my crappy Sony Mavica that did 320x480 to floppy disk. And my Epson MX-80 with Graftrax PLUS. And my TRS-80. Man... none of those technologies went anywhere.

I have color prints of Kerbals from Kerbal Space Program that Shapeways printed. They're in full color and I have no idea how they're done, but the color is really impressive.

I'd like to make some complex brackets but I don't have the CAD skills, and doing iterations at Shapeways is too slow and too expensive.

There some things that need to happen:

1. Printers need to be cheaper. Getting there.

2. We need color. It makes a huge difference for anything other than a pure structural part. I can't paint worth a damn.

3. We need metal. When we do make the structural parts, they need to last more than 20 minutes without snapping.

4. We need some way of making items other than drawing them from scratch in CAD. That's an artistic talent very very few people have. Current 3D digitizers need to get an order of magnitude better, and digitizing things is always going to run into IP issues.

There's one application right now that I'm surprised no one's captured:

You know all those blokes that make Airfix Spitfires? No? Because the kit's been discontinued? How about those guys that make motorcycle kits? No? Because too few people buy them to make motorcycle kits a thing? Imagine if you could print the kits. Most kits are flimsy monochrome plastic anyways. It'd be like e-books, a company'd never need to discontinue a kit because they no longer take up space in a warehouse. And if you could do them in color, you'd get the jackanapes like me that like models but can't paint.

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couple of points..

2 - done and done! multi coloured/multi headed machines available now. Im sure i have seen one with 4 reels somewhere.

4 - what you are basically saying is along the lines of you want to write poetry but can't be arsed to learn grammar or spelling!

CAD is the easy part, autocad is no more or less complex than word, but FEA, which is what you really need, that can be a bit more complex. While the tech is fascinating, what you are trying to do is inherently complicated. if you can't stand the heat...

Don't know where you are getting your info on scanners from but +- 50 microns seems pretty accurate to me. and kinda the point of the current 3d printing enthusiast scene is actually making stuff you have designed, not replicating something that some other bloke/bloke-ess designed. so i would say the need for scanners is not so great. (unless making prosthetic limbs, where a model of the stump would be important!)

Especially as the materials and construction methodology do not make 3d printing much of a candidate for replacing _any_ component. An injection moulded nylon doh-dah is going to be far stronger than it's ABS laminar print lookalike. and if the nylon doh-dah broke in the first place, then it dont look good for the printed replacement.

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the kit's been discontinued?

Where does the typical home user get the CAD model?

Also the car parts etc. Most people can't use CAD SW to draw anything much more than a cube or pyramid. If that.

Even if someone has a decent 3D scanner, it's not like scanning books.

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Imagine if you could print the kits

If you could print the kits, why not just print the finished object? In fact, why not print the finished object inside a sealed box, stick it on top of a wardrobe and have done with it?

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Paris Hilton

Ah, wait till you have a computer controlled CMYK micro spraygun..

that will take care of the camouflage ...

(Paris added because think of the applications to body painting).

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"How about those guys that make motorcycle kits? No? Because too few people buy them to make motorcycle kits a thing?"

Might I direct your attention to http://www.tamiya.com/english/products/list/12bike/kit14001.htm , a page with the title "1/12 Motorcycle Series". Plastic model kits of, um, motorbikes.

For a UK vendor of motorbike kits, try http://www.emodels.co.uk/plastic-kits/-c-173_192.html which includes 4 pages of kits including Tamiya and Hasegawa products.

http://www.modelhobbies.co.uk/shop/plastic-model-kits-motorbike-model-kits-c-27_44.html has at least one non-Japanese brand...

So no, I suggest you try again with a different subject area.

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Re: the kit's been discontinued?

"Where does the typical home user get the CAD model?"

- Same place they get everything else, Google.

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Stop

Re: Imagine if you could print the kits @ Alistair

Hang on: the fun is in assembling the kit into a model, and the benefit for the supplier is that he can "stock" everything ever supplied.

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Thumb Up

PROGRESS!

A cursory glance at my back catalogue of product reviews through the 1990s and 2000s reveals I was extremely critical of digital photography and inkjet printing in their early days, and look where they are today.

Yes, in the former, you have "professional" models which start at hundreds of pounds (or dollars) more than the "snapshot" models solely because they have interchangeable lenses (which themselves merit a second mortgage), and in the latter, you have cheap, efficient machines which work wonders provided you can put a third mortgage on your house to supply them with ink.

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Re: PROGRESS!

Without wishing to be that guy, there's a shitload more to an SLR than just having replaceable lenses.

Unless your snapshot camera can take shots ten times a second, correctly evaluated, at 16mp each, and fire them off to a storage device for 50 shots at a time in RAW format, natch (although I believe quite a few compacts can shoot in raw and have pretty wide/open lenses for shooting in darker scenes, too).

SLRs compared to a point n shoot are like a boutique gaming PC compared to a mid-range tablet in terms of power and scope for expansion. You don't have that power and scope for expansion without having more sophisticated internals, and that increases the cost.

Completely agree about inkjets though - most people would probably be better off with a cheap laser and using their local print shop/online service for the 1 in 1000 colour images/photos they need - or the once in every three months they print something only to find the heads have clogged up, and they have to use half a cartridge just to clean the damned thing out.

IME very few people actually need to be able to print off photos in high quality and those that do tend to do it often, and tend to a fairly high end printer for it, and so accept the cost of ink as part of the process.

Steven R

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Re: PROGRESS!

I actually did the sums.

On color lasers. They turn out to be excellent PROOF printers 'this is what the thing will look like sire, once printed' and cost effective in the sub 100 or thereabouts print runs. And even a bit higher once you factor in the cost of liasing with the printshop and collecting the results.

As far as photos go., nope, we take those to the color photo lab and get them done on proper photographic paper, if a 'hang on the wall' print is what we want.

Color inkjets should be banned on humanitarian grounds, as being a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

Even my old massive A1 inkjet which cost a fortune would still block and clog if it wasnt used on every color at least once a week.

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