We recently received a large cache of older technology equipment from a very generous donor. While many of the items were put directly to use, there were a few pieces of equipment that didn't work. In particular, old printers, fax machines and copiers, which are incredible finds, and offer up a treasure trove of useful items. Here are some of the cool things I dug up:
Generally, there are two types of motors found in printers and copiers. Simple, inexpensive DC motors, which are powered to move in one direction or the other, are perfect for attaching to the wheels of a remote control car project. They can also be used in projects like Spinbots and any other activities that require some kind of constant rotation.
These same motors are also found in a different form, as cooling fans. I generally leave these motors inside their fan housing as they can be repurposed as propellers in vehicles, or installed in a DIY solder fume extractor, a project I did last summer.
The second type of motor is a stepper, which is digitally controlled to rotate in precise degrees and speeds. Think of these motors as the ones that feed paper into the printer, for example. They are the exact motors you find in 3D printers, controlling each axis (X, Y, Z) and the filament extruder.
NOTE: In addition to printers and copiers, I also took apart some old, but high end, remote control cars this year. These provided me with servo motors. Servos are terrific for robotics, where turning at specific angles is important. Picture a robotic arm bending, or hand grasping an object, and you get the idea.
This past year, one of our 8th grade groups in science created a water turbine to test how electrical energy could be generated through the motion of a wheel powered by running water. In doing their experiment, they designed and laser cut gears of varying sizes to capitalize on the gear ratio to increase rotational speed. While this project turned out wonderfully well, they could have used gears from old printers, as those I gathered here. I also saved some rods that can be used in coordination with the gears.
These little gems can be easily overlooked when tearing down an older printer. Bearings come in many shapes and sizes, and are designed to allow one object to rotate smoothly around or along another object. All 3D printers use bearings, generally along the X and Y axes to keep the action smooth even while moving fairly quickly. I incorporated bearings in a filament spool holder for the Printrbot Simple, as you can see in the third photo below.
All laser printers, copiers, and faxes have some kind of laser unit composed of a laser, various mirrors and lenses. Attach a lens to an iPhone and suddenly you have a camera with macro capabilities. Below are some shots of the lenses I removed, as well as what you see through them when connected to an iPhone. For pictures two and three, I used one of the larger lenses. For the remaining pics, I used the very small bubble lens (seen in the fourth picture) from the fax machine, which has a high degree of magnification. You can see the comparison on the bottom row between a normal shot of a USB drive and penny, and their respective close ups.
A number of other items can be had from these old devices, including LCD screens, speakers, switches, springs and extra screws. They are just waiting to become a part of the next project!
Finally, if you are willing to take the time to de-solder some components, you have a whole world in front of you; LEDs, capacitors, transistors, resistors, switches, and more. Personally, I can't find enough time in the day, but for anyone building a project on a tight budget, this is one way to obtain those components on the cheap.
What will you take apart today?