At some point, the world of 3D printing had to fold back onto itself, leaving us all slack-jawed and wondering when 3D printers will start printing things for printers themselves? That moment is now.
InkFactory, a British printing supplies company, recently showed off the capability to 3D print inkjet printer cartridges. It was as easy as loading the dimensions of a Kodak inkjet cartridge into a Makerbot Replicator 2. The 3D printer works its magic and out pops the cartridge. All it took to make it fully operational was installing the standard ink bladder. This means that you could refill your inkjet printer virtually for free without the messy mess and hassle of those weird refill kits you buy on TV.
It almost goes without saying that this is not a universal solution. Kodak is unique for having very simple cartridge designs. Other printer manufacturers cram all kinds of extra things into the hardware like circuitry and delivery systems. For now, the 3D printed solution cannot handle implanting microchips into the cartridge, though it's certainly possible to invent another hack for adding the circuitry after fabrication.
More than anything, these 3D printed inkjet printers are a good party trick. Can you imagine a friend runs out of ink at a party (for some reason) and you swoop in to the rescue: "Your printer is out of ink? Let me just print you some more ink!" Of course, you can't actually print the ink itself, but you get the joke. [TechCrunch]