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September 13, 2007

Homemade Parallax Propeller Flatbed Printer

at 11:21 am. Filed under Computer Hacks, Electronic Hacks


This DIY flatbed printer uses the new Parallax Propeller chip as the brains, this new microcontroller is very powerful and has many uses.

“First step towards a homemade 3D printer. This is the insides of an HP1360, the paper feed encoder is being used to drive a stepper motor to move the gantry. The encoder is decoded and divided by a parallax propeller microcontroller that also detects the paper feed and ignores other paper feed motor rotations. The gantry is moved by a cable drive to be replaced by a belt.”


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37 Responses to “Homemade Parallax Propeller Flatbed Printer”

  1. Dale Says:

    I wonder how hard this will be to port to an Amega128 or multiple Mega128’s and have it use a ‘laser cutter’ instead of plotting?

  2. feki00 Says:

    Its not hard, if u got a laser cutter wich is really expensive. Its cool idea to build it ur own because u can develope a plotter a cnc or even a laser cutter as mentioned before. Btw i dont like only-youtube stuff i like if there is some schematic or some picture.

  3. Martin Says:

    Why port to ATMega’s? The Propeller is a more capable controller with 8 cores instead of 1, and having programmed both, about a thousand times easier.

  4. chris noto Says:

    very cool for homemade. Works better than my Lexmark!

  5. joe Says:

    So let me understand this he disassembled an ink jet printer and made an ink jet printer with the parts??? Truly incrediable, man must be a genius!!!

  6. lwr Says:

    @Joe: Sure ‘all’ he’s done is turned an inkjet printer into a flatbed printer, but even that allows you to do cool stuff like this:

    (printing etch resist direct onto copper PCBs as an alternative to toner transfer or photo-lithography).

    And as he says in the article, this is the first step on his journey to building a 3D printer.

  7. Alexander Says:

    Still think a CNC milling machine would make more reliable circuits. no etch == no broken traces.

  8. joe Says:

    Yes if he does more then it might be interesting but as I’ve sure you’ve seen there are thousands of projects with lofty goals and then nothing.

  9. Shadyman Says:

    You guys must have missed part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOT8bHff80k

  10. Graham Says:


    As the “genius” who did the conversion I can tell you that it takes more than disassembly and reassembly, try that and you have a printer that destroys itself pretty easily because the same motor that drives the paper also cleans the print head. Sure it’s not rocket science but did anyone say it was.


  11. Robert Says:

    do you know of any inkjet heads that will print in the vertical positon. i have seen this and the other project at the parallax site. but i need one to go 90 degrees and put a mark on paper. I run an RFID lab and need a cleaner solution than magic markers or air spray gun markers this looks like i would work if i can find the right ink jet cartridge.

    can you help.

    this is way cool, and you could possibley do posters with it or even larger work.

  12. Graham Says:

    No specifically but I would not be suprized if most would work like this as long as the were returned to horizontal on a regular basis.

  13. Robert Says:

    i thought of that, but wonder if i just put the nozzles on the bottom side so most ink runs down. i do not know if pick up tubes are used if they are then i would have to add ink to the reservior to keep it above the tubes to keep it fed.

    i may just cut open a cart and find out what is going on.

  14. Robert Says:

    ok just cut open a lexmark print cart, its just foam, and a pickup hole in the bottom. If i can figure out the pinouts on the cart i should be able to use it. Could also add a permanent reservoir supply above it like an iv, and not worry about the positioning. as the cart would be full at all times.

  15. Doug Says:

    Who wants to make some $$?? I have a project if anyone is interested. I need to have a flatbed printer built that will print on grains of rice!!! If you can do it I will pay.

  16. chan Says:

    Just want to know if you can do this for a Epson printer?

    I want to to convert a Epson 4400 into a flat plate printer like yours. I want to print directly on T-shirt.

  17. Graham Says:

    It is possible. I have converted an epson to a moving platen printer as have others, search DTG on youtube.

  18. Alan Parekh Says:

    Hi Chan,

    I agree with Graham, You should have no problem since all scanners use the same principle for movement. Find the stepper motor and connect it to your own circuit.

  19. schuldes Says:

    Hi Graham,

    i am also thinking about converting an Epson. For me, the mechanics isnt the problem, but the electronics – is there any documentation about the conversion for an epson?
    Or do you sell something like a kit for that?

    Best Regards,

  20. Graham Says:

    Sorry no documentation of plans etc and at the moment no time to do either. You can get an Epson working as a platen printer with no electronics by making the paper roller drive the platen and this is how the DTG printers on ebay seem to work. You push the platen into the back of the printer and it is driven out of front. I used a stepper motor to make a platen I could control and synced this using the paper feed encoder, it’s not trivial.

  21. amy Says:

    This is amazing! I’d like to talk to the “genius” behind this project to see if he could come up with a similar type of flatbed printer that has an additional functionality specific to my line of business. I’d prefer to speak offline about the specifics. Please send me an email or phone number and i’ll contact you directly. Thanks! Amy

  22. pjjns Says:

    Cool, as a diy I am very interested in learning about this also.

  23. KenW Says:

    Is it possible to adjust the Horizontal maximum Vertical maximum printing on any printer?

    You would be adjusting “paper size” in the software and could it be say 10’x10′

    As in this video:

    I am attempting the same application with any desktop printer ( converting them into flatbed printers ), but then how would I adjust the Horizontal maximum Vertical maximum printing on any printer? ( beyond its current printing parameters )

  24. Graham Says:

    You can’t increase it only decrease it, the printer firmware is set up for the specific printer. The only way you could would be to build all of the printer electronics from scratch, not an easy task. Although in the video the gantry moves beyond the paper the printable limits are still A4


  25. Graham Says:

    Thanks for the spam, I’ll be sure never to buy one.

  26. Jeremy Says:

    I’m interested in converting a 42″ inkjet into a platen/flatbed printer. Is motor that typically advances the paper strong enough to move the print unit?

  27. Graham Says:

    Impossible to say for sure but my guess would be no at least for higher print speeds. But for a light weight platen and work piece it might work.

  28. amy Says:

    As i posted before, i would really like to find someone to make one of these for me. I’m in New York. Ideally, it would be a 42″ as Jeremy is looking to do so Jeremy, if you figure it out, please let me know if you can make a second one.

  29. Graham Says:

    Amy, to give you some idea, the time it would take me to develop a reliable one including the cost of probably two 42″ printers (one for experiments) would make it as expensive as buying a commercial unit I would have thought. This printer was cheap but only because my time was free to me and I had a lot of the parts to hand.

  30. Jeremy Says:

    For my needs, the platen would actually need to be a stationary vacuum table with the print unit moving above the secured piece. A motor is $60-$100, is it as easy as adding a second motor- one on each side of the print unit?

  31. Graham Says:

    It will never be as simple as that because for one the driver for the motor will only drive one motor, these are servo motors with feedback generally and second even if a single motor was up to the job you still have to deal with the fact that the printer still thinks it is a normal printer so may want to move your gantry off the end of the rails. This is why I have used my own motor to move the gantry and allow the old paper feed motor to spin as it wants to, it keeps the printer happy and supplies me with a train of pulses with which I can sync my own motor.

  32. Copier Toner Says:

    I think this is new kind of printer to be first time im seeing here and I like that printer working style great and thanks for sharing your beautiful thoughts to us..

  33. Richard Says:

    Hi Graham. I find your idea very exciting and I’d love to have a go at building a 3D printer myself. I know that a big challenge is getting the printer to print without generating errors, by feeding it the right signals at the right time. I have already experimented with getting a HP print head to print without any hardware attached (I ran the motor PWM signals into my PC, and sent fake return signals back into where the optical sensors go, while the print head was just spitting ink out into a cup). I haven’t had a go at building any hardware though. What would you say are the biggest challenges regarding the actual construction of a printer? Your account ends by saying that you will continue to try some better plaster and to sieve it. Did you ever get to do this? Could I use ordinary plaster by ensuring that it is well sieved or does the process require specialised plaster? When you tried printing onto the plaster, what was successful and what was unsuccessful about the resulting prints? If you did continue work on this project, I’d love to get an update on how it’s going. Richard.

  34. Graham Says:

    Richard, probably best if you drop me an email at grezmos hat goolemail not com (I am sure you can translate that).

    The project has stalled for no good reason other than work and other distractions, powder spreading was something I was finding tricky. The actual powder would probably be best as cornstarch mixed with a binder.


  35. Jonathan S. Says:

    Graham, great job on creating a seemingly simple task, that no one else was able to do at the time from home. I am hot on your trial here in building my own 3D printing machine using the chassis and logic of CandyFab’s creation for the powder bed, and a moving roller to distribute new media. Hopefully I can use my time and efforts to help you get this project finished up! Look forward to hearing back from you, thanks!
    Jonathan S.
    stlouistechy hat gmail not com

  36. chris nobleza Says:

    hi, i am very much excited in converting some epson equipment for small business. is there any software needed to change epson t10 to diy? thanks

  37. sanjay Says:

    Hi, i need a cheap printer for printing on cakes. is there any concept printer that u can provide me. please reply or call on.09822903908.pune.

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