Submitted by jennyschuttle on Mon, 01/26/2009 - 20:08
We have some good news about the printer! We have successfully printed new substrates!
First of all, for those of you that don't know, we went back to an HP printer (D5460). It has 5 cartridges - Black, Light Black, Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow and retails for $99.99 on www.staples.com. I was able to pick up a couple at the store when they were on sale for around $70. It has a detachable printerhead that has yet (keep your fingers crossed) to clog on me and I have printed (with metal solutions) over 15 plates so far. Just in case, we have searched for a replacement printerhead, but no one carries that part yet.
As for the actual printing process, we cut a square out of the CD/DVD tray using a dremel, inserted the substrate into the hole, and then used the tray to print on the substrate. We found that the printer looks for something similar to the CD when it is trying to print, so to make the printer correctly print on the substrate we had to cover the areas of the substrate and remaining holes in the tray where a CD would be with aluminum foil. This is not the final version of how we would like to be able to print these substrates, just one that I have been able to get work. We have other ideas that we will be trying to see if we can make it a little neater and easier to use, but so far this one has worked nicely.
The cartridges on this printer have sponges in them, so it is not as simple as refilling the internal bags like with the Epson printers. To date, we have not been able to find replacement cartridges, but we did find a company that supplies a "refill" system. This company is supposed to be in the process of making the refillable cartridges (HP 564), but in the mean time they have developed an external refill system that we have been able to get working to print the metal solutions (http://www.inkproducts.com/HP%20photosmart%20564%20cartridges.htm or www.inkproducts.com and look for the line "We are the first company to build a CIS system for HP's new Photosmart D5460-D7560-C6380-B8550 printers."). The system is $25 if you ask for it without ink (with ink it is $60), and it comes with step-by-step instructions that are very easy to follow. I found that the instructions were also helpful in understanding exactly how these cartridges work, as it uses the original cartridges that come with the printer that are full of ink. We tried to empty out the ink by printing off many colorful things before we were able to get to the metal printing. We also used this method to practice printing substrates with ink in order to make sure that the printer/template is working properly.
Another advantage of using an HP printer is that we were able to go back to the formulation used in the earlier methods published by the Parkinson Group in 2005 (Woodhouse, et al. Chem. Mater. 2005). This formula contains the appropriate metal nitrate salt (0.35 M), with ammonium nitrate (0.6 M) and nitric acid (0.015 M). To date, this combination has worked fine, though we do still have some ink remaining in the original cartridges. We may need to make slight modifications after the ink has run out.
Another option of refilling these cartridges has recently come to my attention courtesy of Thanh Do at Gonzaga University. For this method, a hole is punctured into the top of the cartridge and the metal solution could then be injected into the cartridge. The specific instructions for are available at http://www.uni-kit.com/support.htm in a downloadable version. I have not tried this method, but I do think that it could be a possibility. I have found that the sponges in these cartridges come fairly clean with water, consequently either water could be injected to clean out the cartridge or you could just try it with the metal nitrate solution and see what happens. It is nice to have a little ink remaining so you can tell if something is printing on the substrate and the ink should burn off when the substrate is fired. This method does require that the cartridge be "re-sealed". I think that the Plumbing Goop (we bought this at ACE Hardware) that is used in the external system would work well for this. This Plumbing Goop seems to reseal the areas of the cartridges nicely that were opened to refill them.
Finally, with all of this work being done on the new printer, we have had to develop a new template. This had to be done since there is no hack for the printer driver which causes the printer to only print where it would for a CD. As a result, there is a big hole in the middle of the template where the holder would be on the tray. We have used the same concept as before but now we have adjusted the standards to be just a slice of what they were before. I have attached the template we are currently using with this post.
There are a few problems with the template that need to be addressed now that we know we can print with this HP printer. Previously, we just wanted a template that would allow us to test if the system was even working, but now that we know we can print with it, we need to focus in on optimizing it. Since this printer only has 5 cartridges (technically only 4 with two blacks), that would allow us to only print 3 metal combinations at a time with the standards, unless we were printing with the standards as part of the combinations. Therefore, we have thought about mass producing substrates with standards, firing them, and then re-printing with the metals that are of interest. We also need to get a more definite feel of what metal solution is being printed by what cartridge. This was controlled with the QTR program before, but since the printer driver isn't hacked we are unable to use this program. The HP program has been working to print this template, but does not allow us to have control over the composition.
In addition to the printing, we will also be working on a pipetting method this semester. We have a new member to the SHArK group, Craig Markum, a UW undergrad, who will be working on this as well as many other aspects of the SHArK project with me. We would still like to pursue this as an option, especially for high school students.
As you can see, we have made some big strides, but this method still has some flaws. We need to work on the template and also fine tuning the printer, BUT it is working! I will provide you with more updates as we get farther into this or if the refillable cartridges become available, but please feel free to expand on what we have accomplished so far! If you would like to work on the template, please do so! If you want to try the refill method provided by www.uni-kit.com, please try! We are really excited about the progress that has been made and we are hoping to continue on this momentum!
How are all of you doing? Do any of you have new and exciting results? If so, we would all love to hear about them. I apologize for not getting this information to you all sooner and for the length of this post. I will do better to keep you all informed about the exciting developments here at UW. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me: email@example.com.