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Monotype Composition Caster Interface.

Started by Mechanic, October 31, 2014, 10:50:00 PM

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Monotype Composition Caster Interface. An interesting use of modern technology.
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

John Cornelisse

This is just one of the many interfaces that exist at this moment.

Some problem with this particular interface is the permanent change of the papertower.

Since 12 years at the Enkidu-pers an interface is used, that can be seen at

here not any change of the machine is needed.


This is a video of my MacTronic 2. Contrary to the statement by John Cornelisse, this is a very sophisticated unit that is not a permanent fixture, and can be readily clamped on or off. The software is exceptional and OpenOffice/LibreOffice can be used to generate Monotype hot-metal. Special hot-metal width fonts are used, but coded text can also be used. The beauty of the special fonts is that PDF 'proofs' can be generated to show how the page looks in hot-metal and any alterations can be done before commitment to the type caster. At the moment I'm working on MacTronic 3 which will be controlled by Raspberry Pi. Further enquiries are always welcome, but there's a lot on the internet -- look up Harry McIntosh, Speedspools, Edinburgh on Google.


George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

John Cornelisse

Dear Mr Harry McIntosh,

it is more than 12 years ago that I did meet you in Woubrugge, Holland, at the home of another (now extinct) Monotype
owner. At that time I did invite you to work together and share the programs.

This proofed not possible.

Two Dutch friends of mine did built a interface, and another one, when the first broke down. This interface is
still working under MSDos... Some ten years now, and maybe some years more.

Maybe I cannot see in pdf what it will be, But this was also not possible in the old hot-metal days. I rather spent
my time on casting and printing than on programming. All programs are in Quick-C (Microsoft copyright 1987!) but they work.

Actually it is as "ancient" and "obsolete" as all the other machines we work with.

At the moment a friend of mine at the BookArtMuseum in Lodz, is doing the same: develooping an interface
based on the Raspberry Pi. And the operating system will be Linux.

Within a few weeks the Matrix electronic valves will be available in Poland, and the complete setup will be tested in full.

This whole poject will be open source: we will share anything.

All the best wishes

John Cornelisse Enkidu-Pers

John Cornelisse

At this very moment, the 32-valve (4 times 8) set is delivered at the Book Art Museum in Lodz. Soon we hope to test the interface in full.

These Italian matrix-valves do cost around 800 euro, all electronics might add some 200-300 euro more. Than there is a clamp to attach the tubes to the papertower. - 100 euro more - and a little bridge for the light sensor to sens the movement of the machine. (30 euro ?) Besides this the electronics and the valves do need a power supply, 5 V DC & 24 V DC.

The software will be free and open source.

With 32 valves is is possible to use a traditional papertower of a keyboard, to produce a ribbon, because this balance mechanism needs to trip alse when there are less than 2 punches to be made in the ribbon.

The solution for this, is to count the bits, and when there is 1 bit or less, to activate the O-bit: after this vakve the air is split and conneted with the O and the 15- needle. These needles do not make a punch in the paper, but do activite the paper-transport.

Krzystzof promised me some pictures  those will posted here as soon as I have received them.

Those pictures of the prototype came in the form of a link:

In March I will probably visit the BookArt Museum, and see what has become of it. The next version will be a lot smaller I presume,

John Cornelisse

Here a photo of the valves at the composition caster in Lodz. The interface with the electronics can be seen at the back.


A clamp on the papertower is used to connect the valves to the machines.

The control of the air valve at the paper tower - in Monotype slang: the air bar clamping lever connecting rod - (see blade 23 of the book of parts) is used for the lightswitch.

Several routines have been made using different compilers. Including C. The computer is connected with the interface by wifi.

John Cornelisse

At this very moment we - Krzysztof and me - are very busy.

After the Lodz prototype the design has been altered a bit and is now based at
the Raspberry Pi 2B. Prints will arrive this week and two sets of Matrix-valves
were ordered a week ago.

Two metal enclosures are CNC-milled, in this the Matrix valves will fit, and the
electronics needed to switch the valves.

Here a little picture of it.

When all goes well, it all will be completed and tested at the end of this month July,
and at the next conference of the AEPM 2-3 October in Cornuda Italy, the interface
will be demonstrated to all members of the Association of European Printing Museums
present there.

More and more printing museums have become aware that the Monotype machines
in their collections would be perfect to produce new type with a minimum of costs.

And an affordable interface will be a great help with that.

For all who would like to know something about the AEPM and the coming conference
all is to be found at the AEPM-website:

John Cornelisse

Two new pieces of equipment are made for the two interfaces we are building:


These pieces will be clamped at the papertower. They can be taken away within munites without any change of the caster.

John Cornelisse

Slowly all parts come together.

We just received a board with 12 additional prints, 7 intergrated circuits on it,


besides this a lot of parts, to connect the valves to the compressed air supply,

Electronical components are ordered in Poland. The will be with us next week.

A 16 Gigabyte memorycard, added to the raspberry Pi, will add to its performance:


The other print will be situated above the raspberry Pi and this will make alle very compact.


John Cornelisse

This very day the matrix-valves arrived.

Each of them have 8 valve-units. 32 in total, for the caster 31 would be enough. But for the keyboard papertower 32 valves are needed: with zero or 1 bit activated, the very first valve need to put on, and sent its air to the O and the 0005 punch.

Here a photo of a proud Krzysztof with the package just after it arrived.


The valve blocks do fit perfectly inside the housing for them.


                                                             front view                                                                                                            back view

John Cornelisse

Presently Krzysztof has completed the first of this series of interfaces.

All electronics are located inside a closed metal box. The interface has been mounted on the machine.

                                                                                   inside the metal box


                                                                                   the metal box outside


                                                                        the interface mounted at the composition caster


                                                                      the 24 DCV powersupply before my old MSdos interface

John Cornelisse

Our interface is ready. Here two little films to show the control over the machine, and of the display on the computer screen:

John Cornelisse

A second rpi2caster interface has been installed at the Motomania atelier of Han Boordman at his large composition caster.

On the photo below Krzysztof is busy "hacking" the local network, to learn the computer to connect with the interface.


Here the interface mounted on the machine, the plate controlling the airsignal this might be redesigned, to add more control to it. This will be done soon.


Here the connection of the airsupply for the matrix-valves of the interface:


John Cornelisse

After all buiding, we have made quite some progress in building the software needed.

All will be done in Python, making it possible to run the programs on any platform, because all the
programs run inside a webbrowser. New updates can be optained with ease using the internet-connections.

We changed the sensor for the light switch. The former sensor was rather difficult to adjust, the
lever on the papertower moves in two directions.

Now it has been replaced by a metal bar, that only can get up and down,

at 145 degrees the air should be switched on, and  this can be controlled easily, with the
extra adjustment plate on the lever.


At this moment I still use my old software that runs under MSdos, on a windows-95 computer.
One of my programs "Dump" has been altered and now it also produces the readable text-files
Krzysztof uses for his modules.

With the help of a few old computer disks, the files can be transferred to my laptop, and
run on the caster.


This does give us  all the time we need to make all programs as perfect as possible.

Within a few weeks this all will be demonstrated at the Typoteca Museum in Cornuda, Italy. There
will be the yearly conference of the AEPM on 2-3 October.   

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