What do you get when you combine software with a 3D printer and a classic Montblanc ink pen? You get Bond, a service which combines computer numerical control with ink and a mobile app that can translate your text into a “hand-written” note.  And that brings up an interesting question. What constitutes a hand-written note? Is it the idea that someone took the time to actually take up a pen and compose a thoughtful screed? Or is it “the idea that counts?”

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In the case of Bond, users can either submit a sample of their handwriting online for analysis and eventual snail-mailing, or they can select from some famous handwriting samples to feed to one of 11 printers to output a note or text. The system uses MakerBot 3D printers, Montblanc or ballpoint pens and the mobile app to output messages in cursive.

“Nobody has ever said, ‘You know what’s awesome? I had the best experience at American Greetings,’” says Sonny Caberwal, the founder and CEO of Bond in an interview with Fast Company. “We have really set out to reimagine what that would look like – how we can create a truly personal experience that lets people deliver that personal touch that is truly theirs, but let them do it from anywhere.”b2

The technology itself is rather more complicated than you might think. The printer and the software must be capable of recreating human-esque pressure and flourishes, and then transferring those subtleties of movement to a blank card. If you choose the option to have your handwriting analyzed, the Bond system takes spacing patterns, the angles common to various letter patterns and how they’re connected and even the standard distance of your writing from the margins of the paper, and matches all that data up with your handwriting.

The Bond process takes just a pair of paragraphs of sample text to arrive at a “personalized” version of your penmanship and then it sends a scanned copy to Bond for them to work their magic. The company says that to ensure the proper fidelity in the finished product, scans should be at a resolution of 300 dpi or better.

If your handwriting isn’t sufficiently lovely, flowing and legible, you can choose from one of five options of existing script like that of the scientist Nikola Tesla or graffitti artist Chino BYI. Bond says more famous penmanship – say, Button Gwinette – will be available soon.

261861DE00000578-0-image-a-78_1424908835106And as you’ve certainly seen “handwritten” missives from such thoughtful friends as your credit card company and the people trying to sell you timeshares in the Dominican Republic, fear not, your Bond missive won’t look like that. Your “handwritten” notes aren’t exact duplicates that Mom and Aunt Ida will compare before berating your deceptive practice on the holidays. Bond says the process includes adding a touch of variable output into each note.

After your 500 or so “handwritten” notes have been penned, at the rate of 500-700 per day, per machine, they’re out at the post office within 48 hours

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla

And the price? Each card will set you back $2.99, but if you’re that Dominican Timeshare Selling Guy, the price can drop down to $1.49 for bulk orders. As it stands now, having the system encode your penmanship for the ages will cost an additional $199.

“It’s a lot of work to make sure the thing looks perfect,” Caberwal says. “We thought about: what is the right kind of pen? What is the right kind of paper? How does the ink bleed into these things?”

According to Caberwal, the system is useful for its convenience “but you also want to feel things.”

“I don’t mean literally feel things, but the emotional context. Good communication elicits a response and an emotion for someone,” he adds. “Ultimately, people are about the human experience.”

Considering the Bond process, I was immediately struck by the idea that, in very short order, it will be possible to apply a very convincing “autograph” to a three-dimensional object like, say, a baseball or a football using a like technology. Progress. And what constitutes “the human experience” is changing apace.

What do you think of Bond and their handwritten notes? Can you imagine any other ways 3D printers could be used like this? Let us know in the Handwritten Notes With 3D Printers forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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