Printer that uses coffee as ink and other concepts from the Greener Gadgets Design Competition

The Green Gadgets Design Competition is underway, and frankly just about every submission in the list would be worth contemplating by itself, but I'd rather suggest you pop over to the site and browse around and vote for your own favorites. But here's one concept device that gives you a taste: the "RITI" Coffee Printer, which uses old coffee grounds to create an inexpensive form of ink. Not only does it appeal to my sense of frugality, it would please me no end to give the middle finger to the ink vendors who masquerade as printer manufacturers. It probably wouldn't work terribly well as a permanent document solution, but for throwaway items—sorry, recycleaway items—it would probably be just fine.
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13 Responses to Printer that uses coffee as ink and other concepts from the Greener Gadgets Design Competition

  1. graphicsman says:

    This incredible concept gadget is “COMPETING” for a $5000 prize?? This idea has GOT to be worth $5000 outright, without competing. I love this Sustainable Resource concept! Be sure to add a new link when it’s available for sale!

  2. dainel says:

    It’s easy enough to remove the need to move the container left and right a million times. Just make it wide enough to cover the entire width of the paper.

    The bigger problem is this is a *DESIGN* competition. In other words, things that look great, but does not actually work. Not being an art student, I’m not really motivated to vote for any of these stuff seeing as nobody has any idea how to make them.

  3. zuzu says:

    How about just an open-source hardware (patent-free, DIY) inkjet printer that uses continuous ink and a modular design that makes repairs and upgrades easy?

    Makers, are you listening? ^_^

  4. techdeviant says:

    Seems like using a special printer that you must move by hand to print with would get old, even if it’s green. I like either zuzu’s suggestion of continuous ink or a system to take coffee grounds, tea, whatever and turn it into ink that goes in the printers we already have.

  5. Alan says:

    With this, I can see using coffee for the outline of an image, and then using something like hibiscus tea to add color within it, maybe other herbal teas for other colors.

  6. gabrielm says:

    I see no reason that this wouldn’t work. Will have to give it a try with my empty inkjet cartridge.

  7. Takuan says:

    does it print on old coffee filters?

  8. Paul Coleman says:

    I think I’d be sniffing my printouts almost as much as I did with mimeo sheets in high school.

  9. SamSam says:

    @ graphicsman: The problem with concept designs are just that: they are concepts. No one has yet given them the money to see how practical the real idea would be, work out how to build the thing, work out what the materials would cost, and actually build a prototype.

    People can have amazing ideas and Adobe Illustrator skills combined, but some more elbow grease is required before it’s actually worth something. That’s why these prizes are good.

  10. SamSam says:

    The hand motion to print the document does seems a little silly — fun if you only have to print a page once it a while, but doing that frequently, 10-20 times a day?

    BUT: What if this ran off of an old Singer sewing machine treadle?? That would be fantastic. Or any other mechanism (pedals, for instance) that could efficiently transform work into a back-and-forth motion. Plus, of course, it should have a DC plug for optional (right…) mains power.

  11. Anonymous says:


    i have a new website to offer.
    it concerns saving printing paper.
    i developed a software which tracks the printings and alerts the user
    every time he tries to print too much papers.
    the software is totaly free.
    you can read all about it in the following website :



  12. things says:

    genius, zuzu. A rep rap for 2D printing. Why has this not happened yet?

  13. GregLondon says:

    the latest printers have totally integrated designs. All the logic is in a single ASIC. that ASIC might contain a processor for control, digital signal processors for PDL translation and enhancements, as well as motor controllers, head controllers, and inputs for detecting paper feeds, margin edges, ink levels, etc. Not to mention interfaces for dealing with USB, firewire, wifi, and various memory cards like secure digital. These chips can sell for $20 in volume, but they cost millions to design.

    I find it highly unlikely that an open hardware project could design something on par with a four-in-one printer that you can buy on the market now for around $100 for equal money.

    The only issue is the cost of ink becomes a subscription process, and you can get kits now to reload many cartridges with bulk ink.

    open hardware has to deal with something that open software does not. Namely that the price of hardware is massively dependent on volume, where the price of software is really nothing more than the cost of labor to write it. Until someone can come up with a matter replicator, I think you’d be better off finding an existing printer that does pretty much what you want and then dissect it and create a list of hacks for it.

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