If you own a business then you are well aware of how much printing can cost. At a claimed $4,731 per gallon, printer ink is more expensive than vintage Champagne, rare whiskey or Russian caviar so saving money on printing costs has become an issue that has to be dealt with. This has been a fact for over ten years and instead of this commodity going down over time like everything else does in consumer electronics, ink prices are going up, some reports say as much as 30 percent since 2009. You can easily pay $20 to $35 per ink cartridge that may yield any where from 200 to 1000 pages, if your lucky. It’s easy to see how printing can become very expensive very quickly for business. Continue reading
Most people know that you can store and retrieve documents from the cloud, but did you know you can have your documents printed via the cloud, also? Thanks to the increased functionality of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, these devices have managed to become an important tool for business users. The ability to print documents from these devices is a useful feature that many users would love to have. However, most smartphones and tablets don’t come with any printing system of their own and the ones that do barely support most current printers.
Cloud printing works by giving smartphone and tablet users a way to print important documents from devices that otherwise lack the ability to print. Without any print drivers to worry about, there’s less concern about how to accommodate a multitude of mobile devices or enable support for legacy printers. Business users don’t have to be anywhere near a printer to initiate printing jobs – they can either pick up their documents at a later date or have them printed directly onto a client or associate’s printer for expediency’s sake.
How It Works
Cloud printing is an amazingly straightforward affair that’s being pioneered by efforts like Google Cloud Print. The major search engine giant has been hard at work for years pushing this technology to fruition, leading up to its launch back in late January 2011. Similar to other solutions that are soon to follow, it works on all mobile devices and it utilizes APIs (Application Programming Interfaces, like when you share something on Facebook without being on Facebook’s site) to collect data on custom print options.
The key to this technology’s potential success lies in its simplicity:
- Files to be printed are uploaded via an Internet connection onto a cloud computing service that facilitates printing (such as Google Cloud Print).
- Using a web-based application, the user initiates a new printing job for documents pushed through that cloud service. A wide assortment of options and special features are available, depending on the API.
- The printing job is sent from the cloud service to a cloud aware printer, where the printing job is completed. Non-cloud printers must rely on information sent via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or wired LAN connection to a print server or the printer itself. Jobs can also be sent through a desktop properly connected to a printer.
The technology works best with cloud-aware printers, a new breed of printers that would make it much simpler to print documents directly from cloud share, if they currently existed. In the meantime, users must send their printing jobs through ordinary printers connected to a Wi-Fi connection or an on-location desktop networked to a printer. That means your printer has to be configured correctly for reliable, guaranteed printing.
Some people wonder why business users simply can’t fire off an email and let the recipients on the other end handle the printing. Time is of the essence and every minute counts in intense business situations, so having a quick and sensible solution to common issues is the key to enjoying success. Cloud printing promises to help make it easier and more convenient for business users to get things done even when they’re away from the office.
For an average home user, you can bet this will change our thinking about when we can print something. Haven’t you been somewhere and you find something on your smartphone that you wish you could print so you don’t forget about it? Instead of doing that you’ve waited until you got home instead and looked it up a second time just so you could print it out? Those days may be gone, with this new technology printing anywhere in the world has become a reality.
What if there was a technological device that, when connected to your computer, could actually print out solid objects? If it sounds like something out of Star Trek – guess again! Although we’re not quite to the level of “Beam me up, Scottie!”, 3D printing is still very much a reality, and has the potential to completely re-shape the world as we know it.
What is 3D printing?
If you haven’t ever heard of 3D printing, it’s not surprising. Although the technology has been utilized within industrial settings for over 30 years, 3D printers for consumers and small businesses are just now beginning to take off. In a nutshell, 3D printing is an additive manufacturing technique which is used to build up objects in multiple layers. After one layer is printed and created, it is hardened, another layer is added, and so-forth. The process can take several hours to complete, however, the end result is a tangible 3D object.
What is 3D printing used for?
The most common use of this technology is to create rapid prototypes within the industrial field. These prototypes prove to be very useful for architects, automakers, etc. It is possible, though, for industrial 3D printers to create final products – especially in the case of metal objects. Traditionally, machining of metal componets would start with a piece of metal larger than the finished part. From this material metal would be removed on all surface’s and interiors such as cavity’s and holes. Imagine using a 3D printer that would lay down your part one layer at a time with all holes, cavities, contours and surfaces finished! The savings in time and materials that can be realized are tremendous.
Consumer-oriented 3D printers, on the other hand, are typically used for hobbies and personal interests. This type of 3D printing is more for enjoyment in seeing what you can do with this new technology. Even a small desk top 3D printer will set you back over $2,000 but if you want to be the first guy on the block to have a 3D printer and you love to tinker with new stuff the price could be worth it to you.
What methods are used in 3D printing?
There are several different methods of printing 3D objects to choose from. These options are based upon the material used for printing, the number of colors desired, the preferred resolution, and price. Here are several of the more common techniques used for printing in 3D:
- Fused deposition modeling – This is the most common method used in 3D printing. Fused deposition modeling (FDM) utilizes a spool of either plastic or metal wire which is melted and placed by the nozzle of the printer. The material will quickly harden before the next layer is added.
- Inkjet printing – These models are the most similar to the devices that are already used within homes and offices for standard 2D printing. By using special inks (such as resins and binders), an inkjet 3D printer will build up an object through layering. These printers are the only one of their kind that allow for custom coloring.
- Selective laser sintering – Sintering is a process that is used to create solid objects from powders. With selective laser sintering (SLS), this powder may be in the form of metal, plastic, ceramic, or glass. SLS makes use of a pulsed laser to “draw” a cross-section of the object to be printed. Once the powder fuses, another layer is formed on top. This method is typically used within the industrial sector, as it requires the usage of a powerful laser.
- Digital light processing – Most often referred to as DLP, this method of printing converts a vat of polymer into a strong solid via exposure to light. By utilizing this method, a very high accuracy and resolution can be achieved. Like SLS, this is generally a method utilized in the industrial field.
What is the future of 3D printing?
It will take some time, but the goal for 3D printing is to change the way the world does business and interacts. One day, the technology may allow us to craft just about anything – from tools to toys and everything in-between. Perhaps in the future we will be able to fax tangible objects, eliminating the need for postal services mail packages. Only time will tell what all this technology can achieve for us, but the future may be closer than you think!