Re: Printing applications for the blind

From: Jim McMahon <>
Date: Tue, 6 Dec 2016 05:40:32 -0500

The Pixelmaster was a dream product of the late Robert Howard. He formed a
company of previous Centronics and previous Exxon Office Systems employees.
From Exxon there were 5 members who moved up to join R .H. Research,
Hudson, NH from the late 1983 to early 1984 period to develop the inkjets
and printer product and became founders in the new company named Howtek,
Inc when it formed in 1984. Three or more other members came from
Centronics, Hudson, NH. (but had little inkjet experience) By 1987 the
Pixelmaster Inkjet printer as described in Robert Howard's book,
"Connecting the Dots" was over priced and not competitive in the newly
emerging printer market for personal computers. Howtek, Inc was a publicly
traded stock company and this helped fund it along with investments from
Robert Howard according to the book.
The connection to 3D printing was from the magic in the Steve Zoltan style
inkjets originally invented (1972-73) and first print with a glycol/water
based fluid and then were used with wax(solid at room temperature and water
like viscosity at about 80C) at Exxon Office Systems (Steve Zoltan was an
employee) and finally with a Thermoplastic material produced by Howtek,
Inc. in 1984 in the Pixelmaster. This Thermoplastic (solid at room
temperature) and water like viscosity and surface tension at 120C proved to
be Howtek's best product but seldom referenced these days. At Exxon in the
late 1970's with wax ink and again around 1986-87 with Thermoplastic ink,
one founding member of Howtek produced "Alphabet Soup" print that build up
into three dimensional alpha/numeric characters as it over printed on
itself on paper on an XY scribe printer table used in the shop for testing
print quality and character 'font" designs. This accidental discovery was
shown to Howtek management as a good investment casting idea and the world
of three dimension printing began for inkjet with an important patent of
two materials (one for support and one for the model). Looking back at
these events, I barely knew this patent activity occurred until years later
when I moved on to Sanders Prototype, Inc., Wilton, NH as a service manager
(1994) and maintained the first 3D printer installation at the Hitchner
Corporation in where I learned the early experiments were tested with three
dimensional models of auto parts. I was assigned there to keep the Zoltan
style jets now mounted in a custom vertical position structure to work 24
hours a day. The Thermoplastic material may have flaked off paper when
printing Braille years earlier but it forms good 3D models. It is still in
use today with the Zoltan style nozzle technology.

On Sun, Dec 4, 2016 at 4:06 PM, rjaquiss <> wrote:

> Hello:
> It may be of interest to the RP community to know of the Pixel
> Master. This printer used heads to deposit wax on paper to create raised
> lines and braille. Regretably, the heads tended to jam and the wax would
> come off the paper. In 1997 Tektronix show that their Phaser 600 printer
> could produce raised images readable by the blind. Regretably, the wax
> tended to flake off. A Phaser 600 could bond the wax to media by using a
> hot roller. This however flattened the lines and the blind couldn’t feel
> them.
> Regasds,
> Robert Jaquiss
> Email:
Received on Tue Dec 06 2016 - 12:41:00 EET

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