Print a High Definition Hero Pattern #4
The most special part of a hero communicator is the spinning moiré pattern, created from overlapping #4 patterns from an Edmund Scientific kit. Conventional laser and inkjet printers cannot faithfully reproduce the radiating lines as they merge clean and distinct into the small center dot like on the originals that Wah Chang used. Rather, you end up there with a big grey smudge. A completely different method is needed to create a fully accurate HD version, and we have one for you.
What you see to the right is an image of - and link to - an EPS ("Encapsulate Postscript") vector file, sized at 8.5x11 with thirty five central #4 patterns, that you can bring to a commercial printer for outputting on an old-fashion imagesetter device. What results is a thin film transparency with the patterns at a razor-sharp 3000-ish dpi, perfect for use in both top and bottom (once painted white) layers. This is finally what will make that gorgeous spinning moire pattern, virtually identical to what you see in the actual heroes.
The file can be manipulated in Adobe Illustrator (not Photoshop). It is colored as required by the printer with no tints or gradations, and has been tested to precisely match the original look. Note - the file may download as an Adobe .PS file, so open it in Illustrator and resave as an .EPS file.
Imagesetters are not common anymore, so you'll have to call around to locate a industrial print shop that still has one. First ask if they can print a "Film Positive" from an EPS file. This is not a "Minuteman Press" kind of job. Think of places that would have a loading dock and huge presses and rollers. Bring the file in on a flash drive for them to download. Unless you find a real antique still in operation, it will not be possible for them to print on white film or paper - only on clear film, but you should at least ask (to save yourself the below steps to make one layer white). You might expect to pay $15-20 per sheet (in 2012 dollars). That's about a dollar a set! At 0.005" thick, the film stock is pretty flimsy (though very durable), so to best replicate the original top transparency (at 0.020") you could back it with an additional .015" clear acetate sheet. This is important when inserting into an accurately-lathed set of Alpha bezel rings.
The very center, where so much of the rotation "action" takes place, has the 120 radiating lines remaining clear and separate right down to the black dot. However, in the reproduction on the left, you will see some random assorted spacing imperfections; minute clumping and gaps as the imagesetter best tries to render the precision file. These imperfections can be seen with effort when right up close. However, once two are stacked and rotating, they for all intensive purposes completely disappear (see comparison pic below).
It is possible a particular imagesetter you find will produce superior results, or inferior for that matter. Our method must still be considered to be new, and this page will be revised should large discrepancies be seen in other people's efforts. So far none have been reported.
The underside of the bottom layer will need to be made white to simulate the Kromokote (the actual cardboard type the original is printed on) layer. Several methods can be employed, but we have found spray-painting to be extremely effective. What works with great success is Rust-Oleum Gloss White Enamel. Once completely dry, it adheres to the plastic as if part of the material, resisting even scraping with a fingernail. Krylon's "Fusion for plastics" spray paint reads like it should do just as well. We suggest painting the surface that has the black ink on it to create the absolute sharpest image. Kromokote's white tint leans towards the warm side, and we have found fortuitously the white-painted film has nearly the same cream-like hue. Gluing to the painted side a piece of white cardstock or even Kromokote (using an art spray-mount or photo glue stick) completes the item. All products mentioned here are designed to endure years without discoloration individually, so we assume they will do so in combination. We did place a sample on an exterior south-facing wall, and it took months of solid sun exposure to show any UV-related discoloration. Again, this page will be revised should any product be found to not adequately hold up its end of the deal. At the very least, your 8.5x11 sheet will come with some excess around the edges to experiment with before you commit.
As mentioned above, while the real Alpha's transparency is 0.020" thick - and many replica moiré rings are now made for this specific thickness, the acetate from the printer will only be 0.005." If you need to add the extra .015, we recommend an inexpensive durable clear material called "Dura-Lar" from Grafix. Available easily on the web; for instance at DickBlick.com in an 18"x24" size.
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