WO2015027229A1 - Apparatus and method for low cost custom printing on objects - Google Patents

Apparatus and method for low cost custom printing on objects Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2015027229A1
WO2015027229A1 PCT/US2014/052419 US2014052419W WO2015027229A1 WO 2015027229 A1 WO2015027229 A1 WO 2015027229A1 US 2014052419 W US2014052419 W US 2014052419W WO 2015027229 A1 WO2015027229 A1 WO 2015027229A1
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
toothbrush
printer
mating element
method
ink
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2014/052419
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Robert Mcdonald
Rebecca L. MCDONALD
David SCHAUMANN
Original Assignee
Robert B Mcdonald Dmd Pc
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority to US201361869056P priority Critical
Priority to US61/869,056 priority
Application filed by Robert B Mcdonald Dmd Pc filed Critical Robert B Mcdonald Dmd Pc
Publication of WO2015027229A1 publication Critical patent/WO2015027229A1/en

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Classifications

    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B41PRINTING; LINING MACHINES; TYPEWRITERS; STAMPS
    • B41JTYPEWRITERS; SELECTIVE PRINTING MECHANISMS, e.g. INK-JET PRINTERS, THERMAL PRINTERS, i.e. MECHANISMS PRINTING OTHERWISE THAN FROM A FORME; CORRECTION OF TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS
    • B41J3/00Typewriters or selective printing or marking mechanisms, e.g. ink-jet printers, thermal printers characterised by the purpose for which they are constructed
    • B41J3/407Typewriters or selective printing or marking mechanisms, e.g. ink-jet printers, thermal printers characterised by the purpose for which they are constructed for marking on special material
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B41PRINTING; LINING MACHINES; TYPEWRITERS; STAMPS
    • B41MPRINTING, DUPLICATING, MARKING, OR COPYING PROCESSES; COLOUR PRINTING
    • B41M5/00Duplicating or marking methods; Sheet materials for use therein
    • B41M5/0041Digital printing on surfaces other than ordinary paper
    • B41M5/0047Digital printing on surfaces other than ordinary paper by ink-jet printing
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B41PRINTING; LINING MACHINES; TYPEWRITERS; STAMPS
    • B41MPRINTING, DUPLICATING, MARKING, OR COPYING PROCESSES; COLOUR PRINTING
    • B41M5/00Duplicating or marking methods; Sheet materials for use therein
    • B41M5/0041Digital printing on surfaces other than ordinary paper
    • B41M5/0052Digital printing on surfaces other than ordinary paper by thermal printing
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B41PRINTING; LINING MACHINES; TYPEWRITERS; STAMPS
    • B41MPRINTING, DUPLICATING, MARKING, OR COPYING PROCESSES; COLOUR PRINTING
    • B41M5/00Duplicating or marking methods; Sheet materials for use therein
    • B41M5/0082Digital printing on bodies of particular shapes
    • B41M5/0088Digital printing on bodies of particular shapes by ink-jet printing
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B41PRINTING; LINING MACHINES; TYPEWRITERS; STAMPS
    • B41MPRINTING, DUPLICATING, MARKING, OR COPYING PROCESSES; COLOUR PRINTING
    • B41M5/00Duplicating or marking methods; Sheet materials for use therein
    • B41M5/0082Digital printing on bodies of particular shapes
    • B41M5/0094Digital printing on bodies of particular shapes by thermal printing

Abstract

This disclosure describes a novel printer for a non-uniformly shaped item, a novel printable item, and a method of printing. The printer is customized for a line of products, allowing for small batch use for the end user. The item is shaped so that it can be inexpensively printed by the custom printer. A custom tray can be used with the item and printer to facilitate printing.

Description

Description

Apparatus and Method for Low Cost Custom Printing on Objects

Background

[0001 ] The present application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent

Application Ser. No. 61/869,056, filed Aug. 22, 2013.

[0002] In many service type industries, such as dentistry, it is common for a

service provider to supply a product give-away to the client after service is performed. In dentistry, for example, this is often a toothbrush, a packet of floss, a tube of lip moisturizer, or something similar. In other industries, this could include items such as pens, pencils, balls, key chains, memory sticks, tins, personal electronic items, etc. When a toothbrush is discussed herein, it should be understood, that any one of these items could be substituted for the toothbrush. Frequently, the service provider would like to personalize the toothbrush, either to advertise the services offered, to make the item more fun and entertaining, or both. Currently, the ways to do such personalization are inadequate.

[0003] The service provider can, for example, buy a large supply of toothbrushes from a wholesale supplier who imprints the items with a logo, or some other personalization. This adds cost to the item, requires significant advance planning, and provides minimal flexibility to the service provider to individualize the items. Alternatively, the service provider can mail order individual or small quantity promotional items. This also adds significant cost to the item, and requires the service provider to plan ahead for future needs.

[0004] There are also object printers that can print on three dimensional objects with permanent ink. These printers add flexibility to the service provider, allowing the provider to print individual items as needed. These printers are able to print on a broad range of products, and consequently, are very expensive. Additionally, the ink which allows the printer to print permanently on a broad variety of products is expensive. [0005] Additionally, standard toothbrushes are not amenable to economical printing for a number of reasons, including shape, size and material.

These printers are typically used for high volume printing. These printers are often off-site, and not readily available for custom use by a customer.

Disclosure of Invention

[0006] In order to allow service providers, such as dentists, to customize products more conveniently and cheaply, a dedicated object printer may be used with a specialized toothbrush that is optimized for printing.

Brief Description of Drawings

[0007] Fig. 1 is a back view of a toothbrush in accordance with various

embodiments of the invention.

[0008] Fig. 2 is a front view of a toothbrush in accordance with various

embodiments of the invention.

[0009] Fig. 3 is view of a toothbrush together with a cartridge in accordance with various embodiments of the invention.

[0010] Fig. 4 is an end view of a toothbrush together with a cartridge in

accordance with various embodiments of the invention.

[001 1 ] Fig. 5 is a schematic view of a printer in accordance with various

embodiments of the invention.

Description of Embodiments

[0012] This description will describe a specialized printer and toothbrush

combination in order to effectively communicate the details and benefits of this invention. In no way should this invention be limited only to a toothbrush and accompanying printer. The same ideas could be used to provide an economical customizable printing technique for a variety of items, and this description should be read with that in mind.

[0013] According to Figures 1 and 2, in an embodiment, a toothbrush 100 is

manufactured in such a way as to facilitate customizable printing. The toothbrush 100 may include a handle 300, a neck 250 and a head 200. The handle 300 may be designed in order to facilitate printing. For example, the handle 300 may have a printable area 320 on the front and/or a printable area 330 on the back of the toothbrush. The printable areas 320 and 330 could be a flat surface, a cylindrical surface that curves evenly in one dimension, or a spherical surface that curves evenly in two dimensions. The spherical surface could curve evenly at the same rate in each of two normal dimensions, or it could curve evenly at two different rates in each of two dimensions normal to each other. The dimensions of the handle 300, and the printable areas 320 and 330 may be adjusted as desired. By making the handle 300 and the printable area 320 wider, for instance, a larger printable surface could be accommodated. By way of example, the printable area 320 could be approximately 1 centimeter in width by 3 centimeters in length. The width and length could be adjusted to ½ centimeter, 1 ½ centimeters, or 2 centimeters by 2, 4 or 5

centimeters, for example. Clearly, other sizes could also be used.

[0014] In order to provide a printable area 320 or 330 that will readily

accommodate printing, a variety of materials and/or surface textures can be used. In an embodiment, PET-G or PVC could be used to

accommodate printing by a dye sublimation process. Alternatively, PP, PT, TPE, nylon, polyester, wood, metal, rubber, acrylic, or any other suitable material may be used. Particularly in the case of a toothbrush 100, it should be understood that the material should be carefully selected to provide for clear printing, and ensuring the safety of users in whose mouths the toothbrushes will be placed. In an embodiment, in order to facilitate adhesion of ink or dye, the surface of the printable area 320 or 330 may be prepared with a matte finish, either by molding, etching, abrading, or some other technique as is known in the art.

[0015] The toothbrush 100 may also be formed with and orientation feature 310 in order to facilitate the printing process. The orientation feature 310 could be a single feature, or a plurality of features that will help with alignment in the printer and/or cartridge. The orientation feature 310 could be a protrusion, for example, that mates with an indentation in the cartridge in order to hold the toothbrush 100 in a fixed orientation. The orientation feature 310 could be an indentation in the toothbrush that mates with a protrusion in the cartridge or printer in order to hold the toothbrush 100 in a fixed orientation. The orientation feature 310 could be an annular protrusion or indentation on the toothbrush 100 that mates with an annular indentation or protrusion in the cartridge or printer in order to hold the toothbrush 100 in a fixed orientation, while allowing rotation with respect to the printer. The orientation feature 310 could take another form as is known in the art.

[0016] According to an embodiment, the toothbrush 100 may be sealed for

reasons of sterility or cleanliness. In order to facilitate printing, the toothbrush 100 may have the head 200, or head 200 and neck 250 sealed separately from the handle 300. In this way, a user could remove the sealing from the handle 300 without risking that the head 200 and/or neck 250 would become soiled during the printing process. In an embodiment, the handle 300 may not have a sealing at all, and only the head 200 and/or neck 250 may be sealed for cleanliness.

[0017] In Fig. 3, the toothbrush 100 can be seen together with a cartridge 500 according to an embodiment. The cartridge 500 may be made to snugly accommodate the toothbrush 100 in an opening 510. In an embodiment, a cartridge 500 may hold the toothbrush 100 snugly by a plurality of protrusions from the cartridge 500. Alternatively, a cartridge 500 may hold the toothbrush 100 snugly by mating the handle 300 with the cartridge 500 throughout most or all of the handle 300. Some combination of these two approaches could also be used. The cartridge 500 could accept the toothbrush 100 into the opening 510 with a snap fit or press-fit from a single side or in another way as in known in the art. In an embodiment, the cartridge 500 could close over the toothbrush 100 as a clam-shell, or in some other method as known in the art.

[0018] Orientation feature 520 can be included in cartridge 500 in such a way as to hold toothbrush 100 in position during the printing process. The orientation feature 520 could be a protrusion, for example, that mates with an indentation in the toothbrush 100 in order to hold the toothbrush 100 in a fixed orientation. The orientation feature 520 could be an indentation in the cartridge opening 510 that mates with a protrusion in the toothbrush 100 in order to hold the toothbrush 100 in a fixed orientation. The orientation feature 520 could be an annular protrusion or indentation on the cartridge opening 510 that mates with an annular indentation or protrusion in the toothbrush 100 in order to hold the toothbrush 100 in a fixed orientation, while allowing rotation with respect to the printer. The orientation feature 520 could take another form as is known in the art.

[0019] The cartridge 500 may have additional features in order to facilitate

interaction with the printer. By way of example, the cartridge 500 could include a guide feature 540 that allows insertion into the printer. The guide feature 540 may additionally assist the printer in retaining or aligning the cartridge 500. The cartridge 500 may also include a handle or grip 530 that assists a user to hold, insert, or extract the cartridge 500. Other features may be included as is known in the art.

[0020] In an embodiment, cartridge 500 may be removable from the printer. In this way, a user could extract cartridge 500 from the printer, insert a toothbrush 100, and re-insert the full cartridge 500 into the printer for printing. In an embodiment, the cartridge may be eliminated, and similar functionality may be included directly in the printer. By way of example, the printer may have a hole or slot that can function as the opening 510. In an embodiment, the opening 510 within the printer could include an alignment feature 520 in order to hold the toothbrush 100 for printing. In an embodiment, the printer may have an opening 510 that mates with a handle 300 of the toothbrush 100, and allows for a press-fit or snap fit, or a clam-shell type opening. Other types of securing could be used as is known in the art.

[0021 ] As shown in Fig. 4, in an embodiment, the cartridge 500 could be

cylindrical. The cartridge would thus allow for rotation within the printer, while still holding the toothbrush firmly for printing. As is known in the art, the cartridge 500 could take many shapes. According to an embodiment, the cartridge 500 could be made to be disposable. The cartridge 500 could be made as a single piece with the toothbrush 100, and configured to be detached from the toothbrush 100 after the printing process in complete. [0022] In an embodiment, the printer 600 could be a dye sublimation type printer, as shown in Fig. 5. The printer 600 could comprise a thermal print head with a motor 640 and cam mechanism 630 as in known in the art. The motor 640, cam mechanism 630 and thermal print head 610 may all be controlled by a controller 615, which can receive instruction from an onboard processor 670 and/or an external computer 700 as is known in the art. The printer could further comprise an ink or dye ribbon

[0023] A general description of printer 100 in accordance with various

embodiments is provided with reference to FIG. 5. FIG. 5 is a schematic diagram of printer 600. In general, printer 600 includes a toothbrush (or other item) input 615, a cartridge (or other item transport) 625, and a printhead 610. Items for printing, such as a toothbrush 100 are received by toothbrush transport 625 at toothbrush input 615. Toothbrush transport 625 feeds toothbrushes individually along a print path 635. In an embodiment, toothbrush input 615 and/or toothbrush transport 625 may be designed to accept an item, such as a toothbrush 100 held by a cartridge 500. The cartridge 500 may be designed to hold a single toothbrush or multiple toothbrushes at the same time. In such a case, toothbrush transport 625 may feed the cartridge 500 individually along the print path 635, consequently transporting a plurality of toothbrushes 100 along the print path 635 at the same time. In an embodiment, print path 635 is preferably substantially flat along its length to avoid substantially bending the toothbrush 100 or cartridge 500 such that the toothbrush 100 or cartridge 500 could be damaged. Toothbrush transport 625 may include feed rollers 645 that are driven by a motor 655 through gear and pulley arrangements. It should be understood that separate motors can be used in different stages of the print path 625. For example, one motor 655 can be used to drive the feeding of toothbrush 100 or cartridge 500 through input 615, and another motor 655 can be used to drive the feeding of the toothbrush 100 or cartridge 500 thereafter along print path 635. Feed rollers 645 drive the toothbrush 100 or cartridge 500 along print path 635. Support plates or rails (not shown) can also be used to provide support to toothbrush 100 or cartridge 500 during transport along print path 635 by toothbrush transport 625.

[0024] According to an embodiment, printhead 610 is positioned below print path 635 and includes upwardly facing print elements 665. A supply of thermal print ribbon 620 extends between a supply spool 675 and a take-up spool 685, across a gap, in which printhead 610 is positioned, and over print elements 665. Supply and take-up spools 675 and 685 are preferably positioned adjacent opposite sides of printhead 610 and below print path 635. According to an embodiment, print ribbon 620 can be contained in a removable ribbon cartridge.

[0025] In an embodiment, printhead 610 may be positioned above print path 635 and may include downwardly facing print elements 665. Additionally, printhead 610 may be positioned to the side of print path 635 and may include opposingly facing print elements 665. The remaining elements of printer 600 could be adjusted as would be understood in the art.

[0026] During a printing operation, a toothbrush 100 or cartridge 500 is fed by toothbrush transport 625 against print ribbon 620. Pressurized contact is made between print ribbon 620 and toothbrush 100 by means of a roller, press, or the cartridge 500, or by some other means. In an embodiment, the pressure applied may be intermittent, such that the pressure may be lessened when, for example, the print ribbon 620 is fed between the spools 675 and 685. Print elements 665 are selectively energized to heat portions of print ribbon 620 in contact therewith to cause print material or dye from print ribbon 620 to transfer to surface of toothbrush 100 to form the desired image thereon.

[0027] The printed toothbrush 100 and/or the cartridge 500 can then be removed from the printer 600.

[0028] Printer 600 includes a controller 615 that is configured to control the

operations of printer 600 including one or more motors 655 driving feed rollers 645 of toothbrush transport 625, one or more motors 650 controlling feeding of print ribbon 620 between supply and take-up spools 675 and 685, the selective energization of print elements 665 of printhead 610, and other components of printer 600, in response to a print job provided by a toothbrush producing application 695. It should be understood that motors 650 and 655 of FIG. 5 provide a simplified illustration of the means by which toothbrush transport 625 and supply and take-up rolls 675 and 685 are driven. Fewer or additional motors can be used as desired.

Additionally, motors 650 and 655 can operate to drive different

components other than those depicted in FIG. 5. For example, motor 650 can be configured to drive take-up roll

[0029] 685 rather than supply roll 675.

[0030] Toothbrush producing application 695 can run on an external computer 700, or be contained on printer memory 670 for execution by controller 615. The print job typically includes processing instructions, such as print instructions, data writing instructions, data reading instructions, and other processing instructions in accordance with normal methods.

[0031 ] Additional instructions and input signals can be provided to controller 615 from input 705, which can be input controls in the form of buttons or other input device. Controller 615 can also provide information to a user on a display of a control panel.

[0032] Firmware for printer 600 may be stored in memory 670 of printer 600, such as flash memory, and may be executed by controller 615 to operate printer 600. Firmware can be upgraded periodically with revised versions. In accordance with an embodiment of the invention, encrypted firmware upgrades may be downloaded into memory

[0033] 670 of printer 600 through, for example, computer 700. A loader program stored in memory 670 of printer 600, such as flash memory, may be configured to decrypt the encrypted firmware upgrade and load the decrypted firmware upgrade into memory 670 of printer 600 to complete the upgrade of firmware.

[0034] In an embodiment, the item, such as a toothbrush 100, or the cartridge 500 could be held in a substantially fixed position in relation to the printer 600. Items for printing, such as a toothbrush 100 are received by toothbrush transport 625 at toothbrush input 615. Toothbrush transport 625 may hold toothbrushes individually in a print path 635 in a

substantially fixed position in relation to the printer 600. In an embodiment, toothbrush input 615 and/or toothbrush transport 625 may be designed to accept an item, such as a toothbrush 100 held by a cartridge 500. The cartridge 500 may be designed to hold a single toothbrush or multiple toothbrushes at the same time. In such a case, toothbrush transport 625 may hold the cartridge 500 individually in the print path 635, in a substantially fixed position in relation to the printer 600, consequently holding a plurality of toothbrushes 100 in the print path 635 at the same time for printing. According to an embodiment, feed rollers 645 that are driven by a motor 655 through gear and pulley arrangements may be arranged to drive printer elements, such as printhead 610, print ribbon 620, and/or spools 675 and 685. It should be understood that separate motors can be used for different printer elements. For example, one motor 655 can be used to drive the feeding of printhead 610, and another motor 655 can be used to drive the feeding of the spools 675 and 685 and/or the printer ribbon 620 along print path 635. Support plates or rails (not shown) can also be used to provide support to printer elements during transport along print path 635 by toothbrush transport 625.

[0035] In an embodiment, support plates or rails may not be straight, but rather curves to match the even curve of the printable area 320. Consequently, the printhead 610 can maintain contact and relatively consistent pressure between toothbrush 100 and print ribbon 620 without the need for extensive pressure monitoring.

[0036] According to embodiments, either the printer elements, the toothbrush 100 or the cartridge 500 can be moved along an even arc in order to keep the printer ribbon 620 in substantially constant contact with the toothbrush over the entire printable area 320. This can be accomplished through the use of curved rails or support plates, rotating supports, grooves or some other means.

[0037] According to embodiments, the printhead 610 and the print elements may be formed in the shape of an even curve to mate with the even curve of the printable area 320 of the toothbrush 100. By applying pressure between the printer ribbon 620 and the print elements 665, the printer ribbon 620 can be made to match the even curve of the print elements. In this way, the printer ribbon 620 and print elements 665 can maintain a relatively constant pressure against the printable area 320 of the toothbrush 100. In an embodiment, both a curved print path 635 as described above and a curved printhead 610 and print elements 665 can be utilized in order to maintain a relatively constant pressure between the printable area 320 of a toothbrush 100 and the printer ribbon 620 over the entire printable area 320 of a toothbrush 100 with a printable area 320 that curves evenly in two different dimensions that are normal to each other.

[0038] According to an embodiment, printhead 610 is positioned below print path 635 and includes upwardly facing print elements 665. A supply of thermal print ribbon 620 extends between a supply spool 675 and a take-up spool 685, across a gap, in which printhead 610 is positioned, and over print elements 665. Supply and take-up spools 675 and 685 are preferably positioned adjacent opposite sides of printhead 610 and below print path 635. According to an embodiment, print ribbon 620 can be contained in a removable ribbon cartridge.

[0039] In an embodiment, printhead 610 may be positioned above print path 635 and may include downwardly facing print elements 665. Additionally, printhead 610 may be positioned to the side of print path 635 and may include opposingly facing print elements 665. The remaining elements of printer 600 could be adjusted as would be understood in the art.

[0040] While this description has been made with particularity describing the

printing of a toothbrush by a dye sublimation technique, the same concepts would apply both to other items and to other methods of printing. Many items, such as golf balls, drinking glasses, sunglasses, reading glasses, computer mice, flash memory drives, protective cases for electronics, toys, and toiletry bottles, among a myriad of others could be inserted in the above description in place of toothbrushes. Similarly, the print mechanism above could be replaced with an ink-jet print mechanism, a laser printer mechanism, or a dot matrix print mechanism with any variety of ink or toner, such as water-solvent, eco-solvent, and food grade, among others. [0041 ] By way of example, the toothbrush may be designed with a flat surface area that can be printed with a standard low-cost inkjet printer.

Alternatively, the item may be convex in only one direction, allowing for a low cost inkjet printer to be adapted with curved rails for the print head. In this example, since the printer is designed specifically for use with these items, the curved rails can track the curvature of the item, allowing the controlling circuitry to remain simple, and consequently, inexpensive.

[0042] In another embodiment, the printer may print on a sheet of material (i.e. plastic, or other material as would be known to one of ordinary skill in the art). The sheet of material may then be adhered to the toothbrush to create a finished product. This could be carried out by use of an adhesive, heat, ultraviolet light or some other method. The material may be adhered to the toothbrush with the printed image facing the toothbrush, or with the printed surface exposed to the environment. In an embodiment, this entire process (the printing and attachment of the material to the toothbrush) can be carried out within a single desktop unit.

[0043] Any of the printers from the previous embodiments could be set up to use one or more of a variety of ink types, for instance eco solvent inks, UV curable inks, heat curable inks, or standard ink jet inks. Alternatively, this printer could be set up to use a dye sublimation process. Any other permanent ink could also be used, as would be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art. Similarly, the printer could be configured to print at one or more of a variety of resolutions. In one embodiment, the printer could print at 300 dpi, 600 dpi, 900 dpi, 1200 dpi or higher, such that a color or black and white photograph could be printed on the toothbrush. In another embodiment, a lower resolution may be used. The printer could also be configured to prepare the surface of the toothbrush for printing. This preparation could include application of heat or EM waves of some frequency (i.e. UV light waves, sound waves, visible light waves, IR light waves etc.) The preparation could alternatively, or additionally, include surface grinding, sanding, polishing, washing (with water or some other solvent), waxing, stretching, compressing, or some other preparation. [0044] In an embodiment, the printer may include post processing after the printing process. This could include, for example, over-molding, lacquering, lamination, application of heat or EM waves, sanding, grinding, polishing, washing, etc.

[0045] In an embodiment, the dedicated printer may have a custom made tray that accepts the toothbrushes, and holds them uniformly, such that a low cost tracking system may be used for printing. In this way, a printer that is made for printing on paper could be easily modified to print on a toothbrush. The tray and the item may be designed specifically to fit together, for example with alignment points. An example of this could be a hole or indentation in the handle of the toothbrush which can align with a protuberance in the printer tray. Alternatively, or additionally, this could include a protuberance on the toothbrush that fits into an indentation in the printer tray. Similarly, the printer tray could be specially sized to fit the toothbrush in one or a limited number of orientations. Further, the toothbrush could include wireless or wired electronic identification chip in order to communicate with the printer. This communication could be used to identify a type of toothbrush, manufacturer of the toothbrush, type of material, etc. The printer could then use this information to select a type of ink or printing to use, to select a location to print, or to enable or disable printing, for example.

[0046] Any of the listed embodiments could be used in a dental or other office.

An individual user could use a digital camera to take a photograph of an individual. The digital photograph could then be uploaded to a computer, or to the printer. The user could then manipulate the photograph either on the computer, or directly on the printer through a display, such as a touch screen display, or through buttons on the printer. Alternatively, the user could control the printer using a personal electronic device, such as a personal phone. When the photograph is ready, the user could then insert a toothbrush into the print tray, and send a print command to the printer. The printer could then automatically run through the preprocessing, printing, and post-processing steps. Following the printer activity, the user could extract the toothbrush from the print tray. The toothbrush could now be decorated with the photograph, for example, of an individual patient. This toothbrush could then be presented to the patient as the patient leaves the office. As one of ordinary skill in the art would understand, the printing does not need to include a photograph; rather, it could include a short message, a logo, a design, or some combination of these elements. As would be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art, the printer could also be upsized so that it could print multiple toothbrushes at once, or so that it could hold ready multiple blank toothbrushes, obviating the need for the user to insert each toothbrush as needed.

Claims

Claims
Claim 1 . A toothbrush personalization apparatus, comprising: a printer,
comprising: a heater element with multiple individually activated heat locations, and a ribbon, in contact with the heater element, wherein said ribbon comprises ink configured to be transferred to a toothbrush; a mating element configured to accept the toothbrush and hold the toothbrush while the ink is transferred to the toothbrush; and wherein the toothbrush has a predetermined shape, and comprises a printable area of a predefined size and shape.
Claim 2. The toothbrush personalization apparatus of claim 1 , wherein the heater element is not straight.
Claim 3. The toothbrush personalization apparatus of claim 1 , wherein the mating element is configured to hold the toothbrush so that the toothbrush will not move significantly in relation to the mating element while the ink is transferred to the toothbrush.
Claim 4. The toothbrush personalization apparatus of claim 1 , wherein the mating element allows access to the toothbrush from a plurality of orientations.
Claim 5. The toothbrush personalization apparatus of claim 1 , wherein the mating element is removable from the printer.
Claim 6. The toothbrush personalization apparatus of claim 5, wherein the printer is configured to accept the mating element in a plurality of orientations.
Claim 7. The toothbrush personalization apparatus of claim 1 , wherein the mating element is fixed within the printer.
Claim 8. The toothbrush personalization apparatus of claim 1 , wherein the mating element is comprised of the same material as the toothbrush.
Claim 9. The toothbrush personalization apparatus of claim 1 , wherein the mating element is comprised of a material with a higher melting point than that of the printable area.
Claim 10. The toothbrush personalization apparatus of claim 1 , wherein the mating element is manufactured together with the toothbrush as a single unit.
Claim 1 1 . The toothbrush personalization apparatus of claim 1 , wherein the mating element is configured to reinforce the shape of the toothbrush. Claim 12. A method of personalizing a toothbrush, comprising: receiving a toothbrush and a mating element configured to accept the toothbrush and hold the toothbrush while ink is transferred to the toothbrush, the toothbrush having a printable area of predetermined size and shape, contacting the printable area with a ribbon, comprising the ink to be transferred to the printable area, heating the ribbon in a predetermined pattern to selectively transfer the ink to the printable area.
Claim 13. The method of claim 12, wherein the mating element is configured to hold the toothbrush so that the toothbrush will not move significantly in relation to the mating element while the ink is transferred to the toothbrush.
Claim 14. The method of claim 12, wherein the mating element allows access to the toothbrush from a plurality of orientations.
Claim 15. The method of claim 12, wherein the mating element is comprised of the same material as the toothbrush.
Claim 16. The method of claim 12, wherein the mating element is comprised of a material with a higher melting point than that of the printable area.
Claim 17. The method of claim 12, wherein the mating element is configured to reinforce the shape of the toothbrush.
Claim 18. The method of claim 12, further comprising applying a sealing layer over the ink after it has transferred to the toothbrush.
Claim 19. The method of claim 12, wherein the printable area is located on the front of the toothbrush.
Claim 20. The method of claim 12, wherein the printable area is located on the back of the toothbrush.
PCT/US2014/052419 2013-08-22 2014-08-22 Apparatus and method for low cost custom printing on objects WO2015027229A1 (en)

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US61/869,056 2013-08-22

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Cited By (3)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
EP3121014A1 (en) 2015-07-23 2017-01-25 JT International S.A. Handheld printer
FR3043014A1 (en) * 2015-10-08 2017-05-05 Prolaser System and method for customized printing on the surface of an object
EP3272540A1 (en) 2016-07-19 2018-01-24 JT International S.A. Handheld printer

Citations (4)

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