Sunday Science: Printer that erases ink - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Sunday Science: Printer that erases ink

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Here at Channel 3 we go through a lot of paper each day to print our news scripts.

Sheet after sheet of paper that thanks to a new machine can now be reused.

"Basically when you're using a pencil and erasing, someone designed that in a machine. It's kind-of amazing," says Jeff Remillard with Office Systems of Vermont.

The Environmental Protection Agency says about 70 million tons of paper and paperboard are used in the United States each year. These machines could reduce that total by reusing the paper instead of just recycling it.

This technology has only been in the United States about a year. WCAX is the only place in the state with one, and we are using one on a trial basis.

When the show is over and we're ready to reuse the paper, we can take it over to the erasing machine, put it in the top, press start. The machine will feed it through, erase it, and then spit it down in the first tray here to reuse.

But what may seem like magic is all about science.

"Then it goes to a fusing section again like where it was printed. And then it heats it and it removes the ink from the paper," Remillard says.

The toner is then absorbed onto a cleaning roller that picks it up. Paper that can't be used again is separated out into a second tray. The main difference is the ink is blue, not black, so people can tell the erasable ink apart. But it is also a bit harder to read.

Reporter: "Black and white is a very good contrast. Whereas blue and white -- not as stark. Is there a way to make it black?"

Remillard: "Today there isn't. But tomorrow -- we don't know."

There are a couple other caveats. If you write on the printed page, you have to use erasable pens so the ink will come off. And the manufacturers only recommend reusing sheets six times to maintain the quality of the print. The used paper comes back white but not flawless. There's a bit of a shadow from the previous print.

And this isn't for every workplace. Companies are unlikely to send out business letters in this blue ink, so it's for printouts intended to stay at work.

"You've got to look at the applications internally, what you're doing, and find a way to eliminate recycling. This way you can reuse instead of recycling," Remillard says.

As for print speed, he says it's about the same as our other multi-function printer at 30 pages a minute. Remillard estimates the cost is comparable too. It's around $10-thousand dollars, maybe 10 to 15 percent more. So with the added cost, you'd probably need to save about 40 cases of paper.

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