Why I wrote BigPrint

BigPrint is a program to facilitate making large and accurate multi-page printouts on ordinary ink jet or laser printers.

When I originally wrote my online gear template generator, I realized that paper templates are a surprisingly good way to make accurate layouts for gears. I later wrote a more sophisticated gear generator which added a grid of diagonal lines that could be overlaid to help align printouts. This feature turned out to be really helpful for aligning the pages of a large printout when gluing them together.

I had the idea for a multi-page printout when I made my bandsaw plans. It worked out well, so I wrote BigPrint to automate the process
When I designed my second homemade bandsaw, I made several 1:1 scale templates, including a full size one of the frame, which I printed over several sheets of paper — with diagonal grids to help line things up. The full size image of the frame made getting the frame dimensions right much easier. More importantly, it turned out to be a good way to verify the design. As soon as I saw the shape 1:1 on paper, I realized some pieces were a little bulkier than they seemed looking at the CAD model on the screen, so I made a few alterations.

But dividing a large bitmap into smaller bitmaps to fit on individual sheets of paper turned out to be fairly laborious. I wrote a small program to help with the basic segmenting, but it wasn't at all "easy to use".

I used BigPrint to check the design of my Pantorouter
Having gained some experience selling Windows applications with my gear program, I figured, this might be another cool Windows app to try to sell. So in mid October 2010, I started working on BigPrint. I started with one of the key features of the program: The mathematically interesting and challenging ink saver feature, which fades out solid areas of colour that aren't near any edges. But I also started working on my Pantorouter machine at about the same time. I used the beginnings of my BigPrint program to print some 1:1 profiles of the machine and parts to get a better sense of scale and tweak the design. Building the Pantorouter didn't take that much time, but putting together a good set of plans, documentation, and web articles was hugely time consuming. So I put BigPrint aside for a while so I could focus my energies on documenting the Pantorouter.

By January, I got back to working on BigPrint, but it wasn't until mid-February that I got it ready. What added to the time was writing a tutorial, with lots of pictures, and documentation. But even while documenting it, I still came up with more improvements - such as the ability to make measurements, or making it easy to only print a subset of the pages.

I'm not actually planning on building a guitar, but it was an interesting shape to test BigPrint with
I'm really looking forward to using this program with my next CAD design. Though so far, I have only used an unfinished version of it for the Pantorouter. I have simply been too busy finishing BigPrint to tackle any projects of any complexity.

So that's what's been taking up my time for the last little while.

Play around with the free evaluation version of BigPrint. It can do everything the full version can do, but it prints a big "Eval" over everything. Still, the eval is useful for making measurements on drawings. You can also use it to check the accuracy of your printer. You'll be surprised how accurate cheap ink jet printers are!

Go to the BigPrint page.

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