ARC is the computer side control software designed for use with the Argentum Printer. ARC performs the function of 'slicing' an input image to generate the control code for the Argentum and then interfaces to the printer for movement control, Print-o-scope video feedback, web-interface control and monitoring of a prints progress.
ARC is currently under development using the Python coding language in order to assist in fostering an open-source development following.
There are many variables that can be modified for the 'slicing' process to alter the speed and quality of prints. These will often be tailor made to particular applications depending on required conductivity, flexibility, adhesion, speed, accuracy and the type of substrate being printed onto. Some standards will be provided with ARC but users will most likely yield better results after tuning these parameters.
The current version of ARC allows for variation in the following parameters:
- Speed - A higher speed will obviously result in a print being completed more quickly but can sometimes come at a small cost in resolution.
- Number of Layers - As the number of layers in a print increases, the print time increases proportionally but resistance and 'solderability' increase in a relationship entirely unique to each different substrate.
- Weaving - Horizontal rows are printed out of order and "weaved" together with subsequent passes of the print head. The weaving value controls how far across the print head moves after each pass. Reducing the weave step will increase the print time of an individual layer but will print over areas proportionally more, laying down more ink.
- Firings Per Pass - This parameter directly controls how much ink is released during the firing commands of the printer. Increasing the Firings Per Pass will release more ink over the whole print but this may come at the cost of over saturating the substrate in water or increasing ink 'bleed' which in turn reduces resolution.
How to Export Images for ARC
Any bitmap (.bmp) or Portable Networks Graphic (.png) is currently compatible with ARC (and more image file types will be added in the future). If the image is exported at 600DPI, then ARC will interpret the image to the correct proportions (ie. a 2mm square will print as a 2mm square, not smaller or larger). If you can't export at 600DPI for some reason, then it is preferable that you generate a higher resolution image so that the print does not come out pixellated. Current development is taking place on ARC to allow for automatic resizing of the image according to reference fiducials but in the interim, the input image must be set to the correct proportions (600DPI) before importing.