Technology Education and the Strataprinter


    One goal of the new Technology Education standard is to give students at the middle school level quality hands-on process implementation experiences to provide a foundation for the technological and scientific literacy they will need in high school and beyond. The following is:

    1. an argument to use Industrial Printing in the Technology Education curriculum to provide this foundation, and
    2. an introduction to a new patented printing system, the Strataprinter, whose recent availability makes it practical to integrate process-oriented Technology Education projects into the middle school level Industrial Arts and Art curriculums.

    Why teach printing technology?

    Desktop publishing and computer graphics cover paper and electronic-based printing in the high school Technology Education curriculum. However, Printing is found in more than the book, newspaper, magazine and mail advertising worlds of this technology. There are "other" Printing applications and these are far more appealing to the imagination of the middle school student.

    This "other" Printing is found in packaging; for instance on soda cans, plastic bottles, cereal boxes and grocery bags. It is found on cars and appliance: for instrument panels, instructional plaques and nameplates. It is found on everyday items like the facial features and clothing on the toys children play with and as the decorative images on the collectibles and souvenirs we buy at concerts or on vacation. It is also vital as a part of the electronics of things such as microwaves, televisions and computers because it is used for the printed circuit boards of these devices. Printing is also found on the clothing we wear, the dishes we eat on, the sheets we sleep under and the CD we get our music from. This Printing is called Industrial Printing and it is incredibly important to almost every aspect of the technological world around us. Without it some things simply would not work and others would not be bought.

    As our technological world makes it possible to replace print-based publishing with internet or CD-based electronic publishing it becomes increasingly more difficult for students to differentiate conceptually between the macrotechnology of the printed page and the microtechnology of communications. Recognizing the value of process-based Industrial Printing as a component of the manufacturing process is one way of bringing a technology that we see and feel everyday into an educational perspective.

    The sense of achievement realized from making a durable product has long been recognized as a strong influence on concept retention. This is the most compelling reason for Industrial Printing to be in every school's Technology Education curriculum. Designing and making a printed end-product involves the student directly in the process approach to problem-solving. The student that has printed finds it easier to recognize process as a component of design and can more effectively integrate this broader understanding of technology into every day experience. This fulfills the primary goal of the Technology Education curriculum.

    Why use the Strataprinter?

    The Strataprinter is the first new printing technology in decades. It has the unique distinction of being the only traditional printing technology invented for the age of electronic technology. By design it incorporates an extensive range of contemporary resources for its function. This fact alone allows the Strataprinter to offer many unique benefits to the education environment.

    • First, it is the only traditional (non-electronic) printing process today that is appropriate for workshop learning. Unlike printing equipment available in the past, the Strataprinter is totally a benchtop system and requires no permanent installation or special wiring. It is compact and designed for quick setup use in a lab setting. A demonstration or project can be done almost anywhere.
    • Second, it is an application medium for computer generated graphic designs. Laser output images are used for its photo-based platemaking. It is a platform for understanding the practical applications of computer-based design programs like CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator.
    • Third, it is a screen printing process used to produce durable printed products (imaged glass, metal and plastics). Products made with the Strataprinter are lasting and can have marketable value. Many projects suggest design and production of fundraising products such as keychains and refrigerator magnets.
    • Fourth, the operational characteristics of the Strataprinter incorporate concepts of physics (fluid dynamics, constants). This, along with the fact that the Strataprinter is a new patented process permits discussion on uniqueness and novelty of design and function, encouraging interdisciplinary thinking.
    • And finally, the Strataprinter is a technology with a totally contemporary support base. This internet web page allows students to learn to communicate questions and knowledge on Strataprinter technology and to use information technology in a productive way.

    The Strataprinter is unique among printing processes because it centralizes all basic printing procedures as one process control system. It is essentially a macrotechnology design based on the microtechnology concepts of instant photography and the copier. Other printing processes require separate platemaking technologies and press control technologies with their respective equipment and dedicated floor space for installation. The Strataprinter supports all of this within the same system. It therefore provides the educational experience with less equipment to buy and install, less operations to learn and less materials to handle than any other printing process could.

    Supplies for the Strataprinter are specifically designed for efficient, economical and safe use. The Strataprinter applies photosensitive screen cartridges supplied in light and humidity-safe packaging to make platemaking easy and chemical-free. It uses high quality epoxy inks packaged in syringes for clean, precise and efficient application to the printing screen. For safety these inks are formulated to cure only by baking. They never dry in the screen eliminating the need for excessive use of solvents. Special packaging is supplied for returning inked screens for disposal.

    Most projects for the Strataprinter use materials such as glazed tiles that are readily available locally. Others use materials fabricated in another school shop as a cooperative activity. For small and medium production runs, for fundraising product projects, inexpensive dog tag and luggage tag blanks and accessories are available as supplies. Adhesive magnet material is also available for printed mosaic tile refrigerator magnets.

    The Strataprinter's cost of $9,995 US is far less than most Technology Education process equipment. There are no hidden costs because the Strataprinter is easily installed by the course instructor, alone, and no special training is necessary to become proficient in its use.

    DiaStrata, Inc., maker of the Strataprinter, is a small company whose sole mission is to manufacture and support just one innovative product. "Support" goes far beyond the basics at DiaStrata. DiaStrata's web page is an example. It is a major resource for gaining insights into the process of invention on the net. At this site the invention, development and application of the Strataprinter are described in detail. Also links to other web pages on technological innovation and inventing are continuously maintained. Instructors, students and would be inventors and entrepreneurs can always communicate with the inventor of the Strataprinter at DiaStrata's web site. The web site is also a showcase for student projects. DiaStrata maintains a special device specifically designed to digitize the images printed with the Strataprinter. Student products sent to DiaStrata are inserted into the student gallery web page to inspire Technology Education students around the world.

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