Friday, April 6, 2012

One Printer, One Company, One City

This one is a bit of a long story, and by the end I won't have created anything. However, it is a segue into a few things that I have built with the parts. Which I will cover in future posts.

The company I used to work for was throwing out this all-in-one laser printer. It needed fixed; kept saying there was a paper jam despite the fact there was none. We tried to reason with it, but to no avail. Since repairs tend to cost more than printers and this was the third time it needed repaired, it was determined it was more cost effective (financially, that is to say it doesn't speak for the environmental cost) to just get a new one. The Brother printer was going to be tossed.

My fiance, hoping to save it from the landfill, decided to try and sell it on Craigslist. That failing, I decided to take a few parts off of it before recycling it. I wanted some screws, springs, small motors, etc for my work shop. So I grabbed my drill and set about taking it apart.

At first, I thought "Hmm... there are way more screws and springs here than I need." After about an hour I thought "This thing is an engineering marvel! So many tiny screws and springs and gears working together perfectly. Who comes up with this? Must be some brainy mugs." 8.5 hrs later (and no paper jam, BTdub) I was surrounded by two heaping crates of plastic stuff, one heaping crate of metal things, a box full of motherboards, wires and motors, a large pill bottle full of screws, plus hundreds of gears, rods, springs, clips, and optics. By then I was thinking "This was all headed for a landfill. I'm not even sure that recycling it is sufficient." The amount of material contained within was astonishing.

Here's the laundry list:

~550 tiny screws weighing one pound.

172 springs. This one on my pinky nail is so small it's hard to comprehend (no comments necessary on my need for a mani). I'm thinking about using the printer optics to fashion some real small glasses.

Motherboards, wires, motors, fans, lights, etc.

Glass, mirrors, optics, prolly some kinda laser

Rods, pins, rollers, &c.
142 plastic gears

The table wasn't big enough for all the plastic so I had to lay it out on this table cloth on the lawn. The large open areas are covered with transparent plastic.

So that's it. One printer, from one (small) business, in one city. There are literally millions of these out there and they're "disposable." If I hadn't torn this one apart, I'd have had no idea.

Anyway, on to my high horse. I started to make stuff outta this printer. So far I've used two screws to attach a light switch cover in my shop, built a wind chime (it sounds very nice) and I'm working on a gourd shaker that uses the springs for the shaky noise things on the skirt. But those will be separate posts. I'd also like to make a picture frame using the motherboards and the scanner glass. If anyone has any ideas leave a comment and we'll see what we can come up with!


  1. Are you kidding me??!! Wow, I had no idea: 1)that there were that many parts, how come you didn't count them? 2)that you had the tenacity to stick with that; and 3) how come you didn't try and put it back together again. :=)

    Any aluminum is saleable to the scrap metal yards, as is the sheet metal, and the plastic can be recycled. Can't wait to see your next project. Have you given any thought to taking a car completely apart? Q

    1. I counted some of the parts. The screws, gears, and springs. Actually, I counted 50 screws, weighed them and did the math. Too many to count. But there were so many plastic and metal pieces that are so small you can't even see them in the pictures. There are hundreds of parts that are as small as a finger nail.

      I already recycled most of the plastic. I'm hanging on to the metal to see if I can do something clever with it. I used some of it to make a wind chime.

      I did try to take the Impala apart once, but then I lost interest and had to pay someone to put it back together. :)

  2. Pretty crazy to think that across the United States alone, there is literally millions of tons of this "disposable" office equipment.

    1. And think about companies like HP and Micron (I'm using them because they are local). They have hundreds of these and the are replaced every couple of years. It's a bit mind numbing.

  3. You do realize that you're probably taking $0.20 out of the pocket of some poor kid in Bangladesh by recycling this printer yourself? Seriously, the amount of specially made parts that are in that printer is awe-inspiring. Who figured out the first one and how many prototypes were required before they got it right? Makes me, as a consumer but not a creator, very humble indeed. Can't wait to see what you make from these remnants of a once mighty printer :-) sharon

  4. Fortunately HP recycles. If Andy hadn't wanted to take the printer apart, I would have taken it to HP. The nice thing is, Andy's creativity seems to have blossomed. A few years ago, he would have taken the printer to the desert for target practice.

    1. Oh my gosh, you're so right. What has happened to me? I used to collect crap like this, take it to the desert and poke holes in it with my guns. Now I'm eating beets, begging pardons when I fart, and going to bed by 9p (on the weekends). I can't seem to pin all those changes to any particular thing. I wonder what it could be?