3D Printed Letter Press

by @edent | # # # # | 1 comment | Read ~1,004 times.

Rewired State have just announced “End Of The World Hack

We know the earth is about to be bombarded with solar flares and magnetic storms of varying ferocity on July 4th, 5th and 6th 2014, by which time the infrastructure of the energy and communications networks will have been completely decimated across the entire planet.

You have 48 hours to best prepare the human race for survival, through the chaos, and on to a successful future. After which time there will be no electricity and no electronic technologies available.

That’s such a cool idea for a hackathon! It got me thinking what I would do in that situation.

Well, obviously, printing out survival manuals and important parts of Wikipedia would be a good way to prep. Ok, but what do you do when that printed copy gets damaged or destroyed? How do you print out another one?


I have the square-root of naff-all experience in building a letter press, so I thought I’d do some experiments before attending the hackday and making an idiot of myself 🙂

Firstly, I created a spreadsheet containing capital letters, numbers, and punctuation. No chance of Unicode – this barely covers ASCII!

The end result looks something like this:

Letter Press Thick Darker Reversed

The font is OCR-A – so that future computers can read our printed documents more easily.

The thick black borders give us nice separation when printing out.

Finally, the image is flipped horizontally.

I used png23d to convert the image into an .STL file

png23d -v -f surface -t 0 -l 32 -w 100 -d 5 -O 1 -o stl Letters.png Letters.stl

That ensures the black is “don’t print”, the white is the highest physical print point, and the greys are proportional in between.

After a few failed attempts, things started to take shape…

Printing the letters

Leading to this lovely collection of letters:

Printed Letters

As you can see – a few of them moved during printing, so it might be an idea to print it as a single bed and then snap the letters out.

You can download the .STL file from Thingiverse.

To Do

I’m not usually a fan of massive preparation before a hackday – but given the time involved in printing out these test pieces (3 hours including warm-up / down) I thought it prudent to experiment.

Still to do at the actual event (and do come along to help!)

  • Build scaffolds / trays for the letters to fit into.
  • Create ink. (Blueberries? Beetroot? Soot? How?!)
  • Actually put ink on the letters, then paper, then see if it works 🙂
  • Work out how many of each letter is needed.
  • How small / large should they be to cover a sheet of A6?
  • Which fonts look best?
  • Are they durable enough? How much physical impact can they take?
  • Would it be better to create individual stamps rather than sets of letters?

Lots of work to do! Hope to see many of you at End Of The World Hack on 4 – 6 July 2014.

One thought on “3D Printed Letter Press

  1. rachelc says:

    Oh, that looks like fun! Some of my OU courses covered great ‘tech’ that you’d need for this scenario – sewage treatment 🙂 Will see if I can come along!

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