This Printer Prints in Coffee Drips

I don’t think I’m making a controversial claim when I say most of us use coffee for drinking. Of course, I could think of other uses: scalding your enemies, killing your plants, some sort of bizarre bath. But a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology has found another unique use for the caffeinated beverage: printing.

The site Peta Pixel recently spoke to Ted Kinsman, an assistant professor of photographic arts and sciences, about his Coffee Drip Printer which substitutes your standard ink for plain old coffee. The printer achieves its effect by placing different sized droplets onto paper, using the halftone method to create images. The final results are 80-pixel by 100-pixel prints, meaning a rectangle of up to 8,000 different drips varying between 53 different shades.

As simple as the concept may sound, Kinsman says there are a lot of variables. “The machine allows experimentation with drip height, drip size, drip chemistry, spacing of drips, and especially the paper that the drips fall on – all of these affect the image results,” he told Peta Pixel. Additionally, each photograph or image needs to be tweaked before printing to make sure the results look right. And all those little liquid dots take time too: An image needs an hour to print and a day to dry.

Though Kinsman says his printer can use any liquid, he likes to show it off with coffee. “Just about everyone can relate to coffee and this medium is often used to get people interested in what the machine can do,” he said. Plus if you have leftover ink, you can drink it in the morning.

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