Posted here because I couldn't find a 2D printing or printing category.

My question is:

Is there a printer that can print on ordinary A4 paper without the use of ink/toners/thermal paper or anything you have to keep buying?

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to 3D Printing Stack Exchange. This question doesn't seem to be about 3D printing, though I'm not sure what other Stack Exchange site it might fit (seems like you're after a pen that never runs out of ink more or less, which makes a nice science fiction Maguffin, but can't actually exist). Please read over the FAQ and take the site tour to better understand how our site (and Stack Exchange in general) works. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Aug 30, 2021 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ Well... you need something that will make a permanent mark. If you want a printer that doesn't need expensive consumables, look at pen plotters. They are not made any more, but you can always build one. You can probably find DIY projects that use ordinary pens. Even better, they use the same technology as 3D printers. The only real drawback is that they are slow. An older technology is the humble typewriter, and it is possible to convert some electric typewriters into printers. One possible problem is the availability of ribbons. $\endgroup$
    – Mick
    Aug 30, 2021 at 19:52
  • $\begingroup$ Also, look at dot-matrix printers. You can probably pick up used ones very cheap, but ribbon availability may be a problem. $\endgroup$
    – Mick
    Aug 30, 2021 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Mick: Doesn't the pen count as consumable ink? Re: slow, now that 3d printers have gotten so fast, I imagine the same could be applied to 2d plotters for some extreme speeds (no need for motors, fans, heat blocks, etc. on the toolhead). $\endgroup$ Aug 30, 2021 at 20:13
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    $\begingroup$ @R..GitHubSTOPHELPINGICE For sure, but ball-point are a lot cheaper than ink cartridges (which is why mentioned "expensive consumables". $\endgroup$
    – Mick
    Aug 30, 2021 at 21:55

1 Answer 1


In theory it could print by scorching the paper. A laser cutting CNC machine can probably be tuned to do this. However, I'm not sure the result would be exactly what you're asked for. Aside from burning, there's little you can do to paper that will make easily visible marks on it that does not require some additional consumable.

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    $\begingroup$ I actually did this once. Didn’t have a printer, did have a laser cutter. It is possible, but incredibly difficult. White paper reflects most light, so the laser needs to output quite a bit of energy to even lightly scorch the paper. However, once a thin top layer has darkened it will suddenly absorb a lot more light, making the laser cut all the way through. There is a very thin line between no visible marks on the paper and cutting all the way through. $\endgroup$
    – Ezra
    Sep 3, 2021 at 0:00

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