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The Laser Unprinter

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the does-it-work-on-tattoos? dept.

Printer 168

MrSeb writes "You've heard of laser printers — and now a team of researchers from the University of Cambridge in England has created a laser unprinter that can remove ink without damaging the paper. Despite both methods using lasers, their (un)printing approaches are fundamentally very different. In a laser printer, a laser is used to give individual 'pixels' on a piece of paper a positive charge (a separate heat source is used to fuse toner). In the laser unprinter, picosecond pulses of green laser light are used to vaporize the toner, or ablate in scientific terms. The primary goal of unprinting is to cut down on the carbon footprint of the paper and printing industries. Manufacturing paper is incredibly messy business, with a huge carbon footprint. Recycling paper is a good step in the right direction, but it still pales in comparison to unprinting. In a worst-case scenario, The University of Cambridge unprinting method has half the carbon emissions of recycling; best-case, unprinting is almost 20 times as efficient."

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168 comments

Fraud (5, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358193)

I wonder what protections the banks will have to put in place to prevent fraud.
And make sure you have a copy of any contracts you sign. Who knows what shenanigans someone can get up to by modifying the original.

Re:Fraud (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358355)

How is this any worse than high-precision scanners+photoshop+ high-precision printers?

Re:Fraud (4, Informative)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358489)

It's fairly easy to tell the difference between a signature that was printed with an inkjet and an actual pen being held by a human (forget using a laser, that's even more obvious). Quite aside from the ink having a different composition for a printer than it does for a pen, there's the actual physical indent on the paper caused by the pen.

If they can take the paper you actually signed, and remove the original printing without affecting your signature, it becomes a lot harder to tell.

Re:Fraud (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358707)

Not only the indent, but under a half decent magnifying glass you can spot several tell tale signs. Ballpoint pens have a ridiculous amount of bleed compared to an inkjet. Most of the time with a ballpoint signature, you can spot hook shapes caused by a piece of hair, and sometimes the piece of hair is dried into the ink (talking small hairs off the back of your hand or even eyebrowls/lashes).

Re:Fraud (2)

Hes Nikke (237581) | more than 2 years ago | (#39359571)

It's fairly easy to tell the difference between a signature that was printed with an inkjet and an actual pen being held by a human (forget using a laser, that's even more obvious).

At this point, the signature on paper is just symbolic [wikipedia.org].

On May 27, 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama became the first president to use an autopen to sign a bill into law.[4] While visiting France, he authorized the use of an autopen to create his signature which signed into law an extension of three key provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act

Re:Fraud (4, Interesting)

DittoBox (978894) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358509)

Infinitely worse.

Many companies buy check paper (complete with anti-fraud holographs, watermarks etc.), and then print on top of that using a regular laser printer. Being able to remove just the laser overprint.

That having been said, it wouldn't take long for the check paper companies to begin making check paper that will fail upon being introduced to the green laser field.

Re:Fraud (1)

ahecht (567934) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358543)

It isn't actually regular laser toner, however. Checks are printed with Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) toner which allows the routing number to be detected by a magnetic scanner.

Re:Fraud (2)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358617)

He wasn't talking about the ink used to create the check, he was talking about the ink used to print the name and amount on the check. I'm sure you can see the potential issues with that...

Re:Fraud (3, Insightful)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358687)

It isn't actually regular laser toner, however. Checks are printed with Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) toner which allows the routing number to be detected by a magnetic scanner.

I think you mist the GP's point... most companies don't print the MICR -- that's done by their bank. They use a regular laser printer to print the date, value and the recipient. If the unprinter doesn't scrub the magnetic toner, that increases the risk of being able to just re-use someone else's cheques with a new date, value and recipient, but keep the signatures and MICR.

Re:Fraud (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39359775)

"Mist"??? Seriously, what the FUCK?!

Re:Fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358911)

No, generally the check stock is pre-printed with the MICR codes using MICR ink, as well as check numbers, etc.

Most normal companies sending out checks like this also send to the bank a "positive pay" file - has check numbers and the amounts for the checks in the file. If a check number is presented to the bank with a different amount than they received in the positive pay file, the check is not honored by the bank (and the company is not on the hook for the amount).

Re:Fraud (2)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358369)

I can't see how this would be an issue. You can already modify stuff in Photoshop to change things like terms, this "unprinter" wouldn't change anything. It might be a bit easier to change the terms (assuming the original paper was printed with a laser printer in the first place--this won't work for ye standarde inkjet as far as I know; after actually RTFA, it provides no more or more accurate information than the /. synposis, and the full thing is behind a paywall), but the cost would be expensive even if they become mainstream (only groups that would need one would be offices that have a laser printer, so likely not something you'd just swing by Best Buy and grab), so a cracked copy of Photoshop it is.

Even without this, people need to keep copies of contracts (banks do, after all.)

Re:Fraud (3, Funny)

Nutria (679911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358529)

You can already modify stuff in Photoshop to change things

Except that you must scan in and then print back out your the document, in which signatures would instantly be detected as fraudulent.

the cost would be expensive even if they become mainstream

Like computing power and capacity (and laser printers, for that matter) are as expensive as they were 20 years ago?

only groups that would need one would be offices that have a laser printer

ROTFLMAO.

Re:Fraud (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358683)

offices that have a laser printer, so likely not something you'd just swing by Best Buy and grab

I take it you haven't swung by a Best Buy lately to check out laser printer prices. I bought one for 100 bucks. I get a scanner and copy machine at no extra cost. If you don't need color, go laser.

Re:Fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358821)

I can't see how this would be an issue.

Then you've never heard of check washing [wikipedia.org].

Re:Fraud (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 2 years ago | (#39360091)

> It might be a bit easier to change the terms
Well photoshopping (and printing back on the original, i guess?) can only add, this can subtract, it's a huge step forward. I guess the ablated portions will be detectable though.

The big thing will be intelligent toner nanoparticles :)

Re:Fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358487)

Just stop using paper! Just as soon as a simple 8.5x11 epaper-pads is available at the right price that has wifi and nfc I'm going to either get fired or get those deployed. Paper is a horrible waste as is maintaining printers and storing the crap and all of that. We use paper for trivial bullshit that then gets thrown away. Paper and printing are costing us 12 million over the last 10 years though costs have decreased some it's leveled off and my prediction is it will cost 9 million for the next ten. I want us weened off paper for the trivial bullshit NOW. Hell I could by sixty thousand of the damn things for 150 each with 9 million. Several 'paper is god' dinosaurs will by gone soon so I may have a shot. Dunno.

Re:Fraud (4, Funny)

miknix (1047580) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358615)

Just stop using paper! Just as soon as a simple 8.5x11 epaper-pads is available at the right price that has wifi and nfc I'm going to either get fired or get those deployed. Paper is a horrible waste as is maintaining printers and storing the crap and all of that. We use paper for trivial bullshit that then gets thrown away. Paper and printing are costing us 12 million over the last 10 years though costs have decreased some it's leveled off and my prediction is it will cost 9 million for the next ten. I want us weened off paper for the trivial bullshit NOW. Hell I could by sixty thousand of the damn things for 150 each with 9 million. Several 'paper is god' dinosaurs will by gone soon so I may have a shot. Dunno.

I don’t believe you, continue.

Signed - Dwight Schrute

Re:Fraud (3, Funny)

LinuxIsGarbage (1658307) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358931)

Just stop using paper! Just as soon as a simple 8.5x11 epaper-pads is available at the right price that has wifi and nfc I'm going to either get fired or get those deployed. Paper is a horrible waste as is maintaining printers and storing the crap and all of that. We use paper for trivial bullshit that then gets thrown away. Paper and printing are costing us 12 million over the last 10 years though costs have decreased some it's leveled off and my prediction is it will cost 9 million for the next ten. I want us weened off paper for the trivial bullshit NOW. Hell I could by sixty thousand of the damn things for 150 each with 9 million. Several 'paper is god' dinosaurs will by gone soon so I may have a shot. Dunno.

I truly believe 2012 will be the year of the paperless office. That and the Linux Desktop.

In other news at some point we DID get the year of the Linux(ish) Mobile.

Re:Fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39359265)

Wow, you almost have command of the English grammar. Sadly, almost is not nearly enough.

Re:Fraud (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39359617)

I'm sorry, you put an extraneous "the" into your comment and I couldn't understand what you were trying to say.

Re:Fraud (1)

caitsith2 (773099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358519)

Yeah, lots of cheques are commonly printed with a laser printer. If somehow the area to be unprinted could be selectively chosen, then one could modify the "pay to the order of" line, and possibly the amount to pay lines. Banks are going to have to add something that reacts to the high powered picosecond laser pulses, to show that the check has been tampered with in that manner.

Re:Fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358965)

Signatures have been imitable for centuries. It is time that cryptographic signing becomes the norm...

Re:Fraud (1)

ArundelCastle (1581543) | more than 2 years ago | (#39359837)

Who knows what shenanigans someone can get up to by modifying the original.

This happens now. And before. The technology doesn't matter.
Two perfectly modified copies to both appear authentic won't do either of you much good in court. If nothing else it's another great way for lawyers to get rich and get you out of a contract.

Even more efficient (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358197)

...is avoiding paper in the first place, and instead using digital methods to distribute information.

Re:Even more efficient (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358255)

I doubt that this is always the case. It's not like digital distribution methods have no carbon footprint -- they often have much greater power requirements.

Re:Even more efficient (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358289)

Yes, the day man first put stylus to papyrus our environment was almost doomed. Thank heavens for the industrial and electronic revolutions, bringing us lower energy usage than ever.

Comparisons (-1, Flamebait)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358205)

Manufacturing paper is incredibly messy business, with a huge carbon footprint.

It's rather small compared to the carbon footprint created by having children. Just sayin'.

Recycling paper is a good step in the right direction, but it still pales in comparison to unprinting.

Yes, but your technique depends on prestine, unfolded, or slightly folded paper. Current recycling technologies can be used where you just dump the paper in a large vat, add water and microbes, and stir. It may not be as glorious and technologically sophisticated, but it has the benefit of being almost ridiculously simple. Also... as a method of mass recycling, it's probably more efficient: Less electricity is needed to stir a large vat of paper goo than to zap it a few thousand times with a laser.

I would bet that if you compared the carbon foot print of "Laser the sh*t out of it" with "Stuff it in a vat and let the microbes have a party", the current technology would win... it doesn't need much (if any) electricity.

Re:Comparisons (3, Insightful)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358283)

I would bet that if you compared the carbon foot print of "Laser the sh*t out of it" with "Stuff it in a vat and let the microbes have a party", the current technology would win... it doesn't need much (if any) electricity.

If you care about which particular microbes party, and that they party the way you want, I'm curious how you accomplish this without the electricity usually required to create and maintain the required controlled environment. I suspect you're vastly underestimating the effort required to do this, as well as vastly overestimating the power requirements of your typical laser.

Re:Comparisons (4, Insightful)

MLCT (1148749) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358343)

the current technology would win... it doesn't need much (if any) electricity

Electricity isn't the major factor - total energy is what matters.

Collecting tonnes of paper and transporting it to recycling centres, pulping, cleaning, processing, re-bleaching (we don't like blue-brown paper, we want white paper) and then transporting the finished paper back to where it is used. Calculate the energy in that.

At work we almost exclusively use reams of recycled paper. Print something on it and then sometime later (occasionally minutes later) it goes into a recycling bin. That bin is emptied once a week and the paper will travel 20 miles to a local depot. Where it is recycled and turned into new paper I don't know - but what I do know is that the reams of recycled paper we buy will come from at least 400 miles away (and will have travelled that via a circuitous route involving suppliers, buyers and distribution warehouses). Taking the same bit of paper and running it through a unprinter for 20 seconds and then reuse. Energy wise I don't think there will be any contest, but the numbers would have to be crunched to prove it.

Re:Comparisons (1, Insightful)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358597)

Taking the same bit of paper and running it through a unprinter for 20 seconds and then reuse. Energy wise I don't think there will be any contest,

Cost of making laser. Cost of maintenance on unprinter to keep the optical system aligned. Cost of "that unprinted paper looks like crap, I want this document reprinted on fresh paper". Cost of recycling entire unprinter when it wears out. Cost of eyepatches for office staff that try to unjam the unprinter. Cost of disability payments to retired office staff who tried to unjam it twice. Cost of fire department that shows up when someone tries to unprint an inkjet page and paper bursts into flame. Cost of disposing of unprinted toner (you can't just let the vapor out into the room, you know.)

Re:Comparisons (-1, Redundant)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358379)

good idea. let's all stop having children. maybe we'll start up again when we're down to 10 million people worldwide, and maybe by then we'll have lost our parenting instincts, but we'll worry about that when the next natural disaster threatens a final extinction. genius. we'll cut out your uterus and castrate your relatives first, in honor.

Re:Comparisons (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358399)

ITs a lot more then that, especially in by any practical measure.

It's not just dumping in the vat. You have pt process it again, you need equipment to move it around, some of the chemicals are nasty, you need to ship the paper to and from the plant.

"I would bet that if you compared the carbon foot print of "Laser the sh*t out of it" with "Stuff it in a vat and let the microbes have a party", the current technology would win... it doesn't need much (if any) electricity."

And I would bet you never worked in recycling plant, not read the article or no how much energy this laser would use.

I would also bet you can' look at anything but the most simplest of diagrams without getting a head ache.

Re:Comparisons (-1, Troll)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358735)

I would also bet you can' look at anything but the most simplest of diagrams without getting a head ache.

I followed the one with the word douchebag and an arrow pointing at a picture of you pretty well....

Carbon footprint of green laser? (1, Insightful)

ard (115977) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358227)

So what is the carbon footprint for powering the laser?

Ah, electricity from nuclear power. Zero emissions. Unless for the Germans, who are dismantling their nuclear power stations and burn coal instead.

Re:Carbon footprint of green laser? (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358291)

Well, I guess power from those coal plants is the worst case that produces 50% less CO2 than produciong new paper.

Re:Carbon footprint of green laser? (4, Interesting)

HyperQuantum (1032422) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358349)

What about the environmental impact of vaporizing toner? Isn't that some kind of air pollution?

Re:Carbon footprint of green laser? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358363)

That's the wrong question.

This is the correct question:

So what is the carbon footprint for powering the laser compared to recycling or throwing out the paper?

And it will be less.

Re:Carbon footprint of green laser? (2, Interesting)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358803)

Does that include the carbon footprint of building and maintaining the laser unprinters?

Re:Carbon footprint of green laser? (1)

rtaylor (70602) | more than 2 years ago | (#39359389)

Still has to be less than transporting waste paper, recycling (large cities will have multiple plants; unprinters may mean fewer plants), transporting to a store, then delivery to the office.

Re:Carbon footprint of green laser? (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39359703)

Your mileage may vary, but there is an effort at my company to capture non-private documents and print on the other side. I wonder how that enters into the equation.

Re:Carbon footprint of green laser? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358461)

We use polish coal because we get it at half the price thanks to our people in polish government. And our government wants to use as much of it as it can, that's why we are closing nuclear power stations. If not the current unstable political situation in poland, we would have already closed down all of them.

Re:Carbon footprint of green laser? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358517)

Fission does generate emissions, although most are indirect. (Moving fuel rods in and out, for example.) Fusion would not, but governments are adverse to funding real power systems.

Re:Carbon footprint of green laser? (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358739)

I can already tell you that picosecond flashes of a green laser that could be used in household appliances takes less power than the heavy duty recycling machines required for taking the paper, removing the ink and recreating new recycled paper from it. The environmental impact should also be lower since you're not using rather dangerous chemicals to remove the ink from the paper paste.

Remember, you'd need one trillion pulses lasting one picosecond each from a 1W laser to expend one Joule.

Re:Carbon footprint of green laser? (1)

izomiac (815208) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358983)

I imagine the laser's carbon footprint is going to be larger than burying the paper in a landfill. Everyone knows the cycle - tree absorbs CO2, gets turned into paper, doesn't get recycled/burned/composted, goes into a landfill, and in a few million years turns into fossil fuel.

Re:Carbon footprint of green laser? (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 2 years ago | (#39360087)

The part many people like you are not understanding is that within a century or two, the landfills will all be stripped and their contents re-used. Landfill land right now is low-value, but eventually we'll have our act together enough that there will be 'valuable' landfills from before all the recycling crap, with plastic and copper and aluminum, and the 'shit' landfills with the automotive parts made out of pressed corn-starch. They may curse the fucks who came out with 'biodegradable' and facilitated more/most of the oil being burned and not stored in landfills.

Also, the 'save a tree' meme is garbage. The way to increase the number of trees growing is to use more paper and wood products. Trees are a renewable resource and land doesn't get planted with trees unless their wood is being harvested and utilized. It will be wasted for something else.

may work well for office paper (1)

sgrover (1167171) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358237)

This may work well for office paper. What about the spam mail I get in the mailbox every day? If it works for that, AND it becomes expected that we 'unprint' all paper, what do we do with all the excess household paper? (no, did not RTFA)

Re:may work well for office paper (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358315)

This may work well for office paper. What about the spam mail I get in the mailbox every day? If it works for that, AND it becomes expected that we 'unprint' all paper, what do we do with all the excess household paper?

This question is based on an absurd assumption. Why would you need to unprint everything? If you have no use for your junk mail just recycle it. Same as always.

Re:may work well for office paper (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358639)

This question is based on an absurd assumption. Why would you need to unprint everything? If you have no use for your junk mail just recycle it. Same as always.

The absurd question is why would you want to unprint anything? If you've already got to deal with recycling junk mail that is printed using any of a number of different processes that aren't laser printing, why not just throw in the laser printed sheets?

Wow (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358243)

No more damn toner! Just change the paper. And, presumably, any paper that is standard size would work in one of these printers, there wouldn't be any propriatary paper. You'd be able to keep using the same printer until it mechanically fails, could probably keep using the same printer for a decade.

Re:Wow (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358547)

I've been using the same printer for a decade. It's not that hard as long as you don't buy an Ink Jet. My previous printer, a laserjet 6L, also lasted 10 years.

Even more efficient (2)

theycallmeB (606963) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358257)

Unless they also developed a way to make paper that can not be unprinted without damage, I imagine that unprinting a signed contract that is just a little too fair and replacing everything but the signature with something more to your liking will be far more efficient than regular forgery.

Re:Even more efficient (3, Insightful)

TarMil (1623915) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358295)

Which is why both parties receive a copy of the contract...

Re:Even more efficient (1)

theycallmeB (606963) | more than 2 years ago | (#39359645)

Which means it becomes a case of one printed, signed and dated document and another printed, signed and dated document. It is just like having two differing files with the same checksum and same digital signature. But I bet buying an unprinter won't require as smart a crook as producing a good MD5 hash collision.

Unless there is a clear way to tell which has been unprinted and then reprinted it simply devolves into a case of who has more lawyers on speed dial.

And to build on another poster's reply to my first comment, with a little malice aforethought, the unscrupulous could print the originals on paper that has already been unprinted a few times as an 'eco-friendly' feature. If this tech really works as summarized then the only truly safe document is one that can't be unprinted cleanly.

Re:Even more efficient (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358321)

I would imagine that the process is not 100% perfect, and there would be some forensic method to tell if this process had been used on a piece of paper..maybe not what the original content was, just that the process was used - that should be enough to cast doubt on the contents of a contract if it were ever disputed.

Re:Even more efficient (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358405)

Unless every contract is printed on "fresh" paper, one could argue that the contract they recieved was printed on unprinted paper and that there was no foul play on their part.

Re:Even more efficient (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358361)

I suspect it will be fairly easy to tell that something has been unprinted if it is examined under an electron microscope.

Re:Even more efficient (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358713)

...but the entire idea with the unprinter is that you can reuse the paper. Can an electron microscope tell if the paper has been unprinted 12 times instead of just 11? Can it tell the date that the paper was unprinted?

Only if you're not printing in green... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358275)

Since the laser is green, green ink will reflect the laser and render the device useless. If this were a corporation rather than a university, I'd fully expect them to raise the price on green ink as it's now unerasable/more secure/whatever.
 
And back to work I go to make some green of my own...
 
Captcha: Overly

Re:Only if you're not printing in green... (0)

meow27 (1526173) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358313)

the standard printer colors are Red, Yellow and Blue

the pigment world is different than the active light world

Re:Only if you're not printing in green... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358391)

Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK, actually.
If you're going to be pedantic, you have to be right too.

Re:Only if you're not printing in green... (4, Insightful)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358419)

The standard printer colors are cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. CMYK. CRT/LCD colors are RGB -- red, green, blue.

The standard laser printer does not put a charge on paper, it puts a charge on a transfer roller that then transfers the toner to the paper. That toner is then melted onto the paper.

Kodak (and others), used to make dye sublimation printers, where a sheet of plastic with dye on it was whacked with a laser to sublimate the dye directly onto the paper. This had the advantage of being something more than the typical "yes/no" "is there toner there" question, and thus resulted in much better color reproductions. No dithering was required. The major downside, besides cost of supplies, was that you were left with a negative image on the dye sheet, just like the old plastic film typewriters had.

This system sounds like an incredibly wasteful and complicated process. You have to scan the paper to determine where there is toner and sublimate only those spots. If you miss by just that much, you'll char the paper and miss toner. If you put in a sheet of inkjet-printed paper, you'll burn the paper anyway.

Making/recycling paper isn't that hard. This is silly.

Re:Only if you're not printing in green... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358969)

Your obviously expert offhand number crunching (oh wait, you don't have any numbers, but oh well. The implication is there, and that's enough!) is truly informative.

Please, do go on about how much of a waste of time and effort this is.

The paper ususally IS charged. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39359749)

I hate to nitpick, but in copiers at least, there's a corona wire to place a stronger charge on the paper than there is on the drum, thus transferring the toner from the drum to the paper before it's fused. The higher-end laser printers use a transfer roller on the back-side of the paper to accomplish the same thing.

Re:Only if you're not printing in green... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358471)

the standard printer colors are Red, Yellow and Blue

Actually they are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (the latter because mixing black from the other colors tends to give suboptimal results).

Re:Only if you're not printing in green... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358769)

Since the laser is green, green ink will reflect the laser and render the device useless.

Seriously, have you ever seen a table of reflectivity of common materials and pigments? Did any green pigment you have ever seen look like a perfect mirror or what?

Toxic vapor? (4, Interesting)

jimshatt (1002452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358305)

So, how unhealthy would the vaporized toner be? I really don't know. Somebody care to enlighten me?

Re:Toxic vapor? (1)

Sooner Boomer (96864) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358345)

So, how unhealthy would the vaporized toner be? I really don't know. Somebody care to enlighten me?

Probably just as safe/toxic as the ozone made when the original was laser printed...

Re:Toxic vapor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358437)

could cause cancer, aids, or even cause a pollution into the system. On the bright side, we have created a weapon that causes these kinds..oh happy days!

Re:Toxic vapor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39359899)

active charcoal filter and a fan. On the other hand: "the US National Toxicology Program has described styrene as `reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen'"

great idea, stupid article. (0)

HBI (604924) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358333)

The process sounds interesting but the writer is an idiot.

"we could cut down on electricity usage, CO2 output, and most importantly fresh water, which is growing more scarce by the year."

We're just shooting it all into space, right? It's not the water getting more scarce. It's TOO MANY PEOPLE vying for the same water that causes the issue. Instead of citing the actual problem, overpopulation, writers like this one refer to one of its symptoms, water shortage. As if conservation would do anything but encourage more overpopulation.

Re:great idea, stupid article. (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358443)

No, the problem clearly is that all the non-nerds are so obsessed with cleanness. If all people just stopped bathing and showering, the water consumption would go down considerably! :-)

Re:great idea, stupid article. (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358775)

The process sounds interesting but the writer is an idiot.

"we could cut down on electricity usage, CO2 output, and most importantly fresh water, which is growing more scarce by the year."

We're just shooting it all into space, right? It's not the water getting more scarce. It's TOO MANY PEOPLE vying for the same water that causes the issue. Instead of citing the actual problem, overpopulation, writers like this one refer to one of its symptoms, water shortage. As if conservation would do anything but encourage more overpopulation.

Actually, the problem is just like the writer says... fresh water is growing more scarce by the year. Polluted water (water mixed with stuff that's not potable) is increasing by the year. Added to this, we're also space shifting our water reserves from aquifers to rivers and oceans, draining them faster than they can replenish.

We've got a long way to go before the world is overpopulated; however, the current population is doing a great job of making the resources available harder to access. Conservation allows for a HIGHER population; it's not overpopulation unless the population can no longer live within its means (eg, conservation measures can't keep up with demand).

Unless you're really saying that you want to destroy the current ecostructure and get rid of all but a few people, who, even with their machines, are too few to have a lasting impact on the environment.

I can not (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358341)

wait for this to be built into printers. It detected text, zaps it, then prints.

The real issue is wrinkled papers.

Re:I can not (1)

sixtyeight (844265) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358699)

I can, actually.

The big supposed value behind this is supposed to be that it will cut down on paper use. But it would be far more efficient to use e-paper for that. Not to mention less time-consuming, and regular paper suffers from wear and tear.

It's nice to see people researching conservation technologies, but unless this has other applications as well I really can't see much value in it compared to what we already have. Perhaps it could be used to scan-and-remove graffiti? (amusing visual of someone with a portable device scanning an advertisement QR code... and removing it)

Re:I can not (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358819)

I just recently went through a license contract negotiation, which went back and forth with many different versions of the contract before we got one we could sign.

I can't wait for this to be built into printers either. No need to negotiate ahead of time, we could alter the contract *after* we signed it.

Re:I can not (1)

rtaylor (70602) | more than 2 years ago | (#39359323)

[b]we could alter the contract *after* we signed it.[/b]

This is done now. Take page 23 from the final copy with signatures and a modified page 21 from an earlier copy when you submit it to the judge.

Having watched this, I've become much better at ensuring my files are complete and keep offsite copies when warranted.

Re:I can not (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39359747)

Right, but the counter-argument might be that with malice aforethought, you altered *your* copy before putting it in offsite storage.

I wonder if we eventually see some kind of sealed (either electronic or physical) container approach, overseen by a notary.

Re:I can not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39359149)

It seems like a new way to avoid the paper shredder. Perhaps unprinting before shredding is the best way to avoid document security problems.

any paper? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358367)

Can they unprint used toilet paper?

*hands in 20 stapled blank pages* (4, Funny)

DSS11Q13 (1853164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358537)

Professor, I totally had my paper finished but I accidentally unprinted it!

Ablation (2)

KhabaLox (1906148) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358585)

picosecond pulses of green laser light are used to vaporize the toner, or ablate in scientific terms

So all that toner gets vaporized and is now floating around in the air of your office? What could go wrong?

Re:Ablation (1)

nprz (1210658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39359173)

It isn't as if all that toner makes it to the page when you are printing either.
I'd refuse to be in an office anywhere close to where a printer is frequently used

watch out fingers (1)

lopaka1998 (1352441) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358659)

What happens if you get your fingers stuck in the machine when it's "unprinting"! I can imagine it now. office employee: "Hey xerox guy... I was taking care of this paper jam when all of a sudden half my finger disappeared! What do I do?" The xerox guy raises his three fingered hand. "yep, been there - done that. next time unplug it and wait 20 minutes... I found this out the hard way." office employee: "are you giving me the finger?" zeros guy: does a half grin, and unplugs the printer.

Except it's based on... (5, Informative)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358665)

one major flawed assumption: that the "unprinted' paper will be used in printers instead of recycled paper. As a professional laser printer repair tech, I can tell you right now that won't happen. Even paper that has just been run through the printer once and left on a neat pile is significantly more likely to cause printer jams than fresh paper that's never been used. Any "savings" (whether carbon footprint, money, or otherwise) over using recyled paper will be quickly consumed by the extra repair trips.

If Enron had those... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358693)

Imagine the entire forests that could have been saved ; )

Shrinters are better than unprinters, however. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358755)

Shrinters are even more efficient than unprinters at reducing carbon footpoints
Thinkgeek even sells them.
  http://www.thinkgeek.com/stuff/looflirpa/shrinter.shtml

Paper is not robust (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39358893)

This will not work because plain paper is not robust. To be twice or even twenty times more efficient each sheet of paper must last several printing and unprinting cycles. How effectively will unprinters handle ink that is on creased paper, miscellanious stains, staple/binder holes and tears etc? Not well I'd wager.

Carbon footprint (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39359021)

Spouse in the forest sciences here,

A minor point, but the huge carbon footprint of paper manufacturing is (at least in Scandinavia) deceptive. While paper factories do burn large amounts of wood to boil the fibres into pulp, the emitted carbon is a part of the natural cycle: it gets picked up again by the trees in the mandatory-by-law reforesting step. As long as the forest is kept at a constant size, the net carbon emission is pretty much zero.

(The sulphite and nitrogen emissions are another story, however.)

Generic spelling Nazi complaint (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39359117)

"Unprint" violates the phonotactic constraints of Latin. Unpossible! Clearly, the antonym of "print" should be "imprint". (Wait. Oh noooooo...)

http://www.younow.com/shows Vote this chick up! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39359365)

http://www.younow.com/shows Vote this chick up!

positive charge left by original printer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39360111)

how long does the "positive charge" from the original printing last?

or to put it another way, can an unprinted document still be read by looking for the charge patterns left by the original laser printing process? or is the positive charge applied by the laser printer transitory in nature, or likely to obliterated as a side effect of the unprinting process?

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