The world’s first printer of ink to print on celluloid, the brother-laser printer, was born in the early 1980s in a village in Ethiopia.
But it has been making the world’s fastest ink-jet printing paper since then, and it is being used in Africa to print books, magazines, film, music and more.
With its sleek design, its patented ink-sensing technology and its ability to produce a thick layer of paper without breaking it down, the ink-printing brothers printer is proving to be an important technology for the African continent, as it expands into areas where the print industry is already struggling.
“The brother laser printers have helped us greatly in terms of expanding our industry,” says Lulu, the printer’s owner.
“They’re a game changer.”
The brothers brothers are making ink for a variety of projects including the BBC Africa series, African Print, which ran from April to November.
But the brothers printer also has the ability to print films and TV, which they have now adapted for the web.
Lulu says the printer can produce high-quality films in seconds, but he says it takes a lot of time and skill to print movies and TV in high quality.
“It takes quite a bit of time, it’s quite expensive,” he says.
“If you want to print a film, you need a laser printer and a scanner, and the brother printers have that capability.”
Lulu was originally trained as a printer, but eventually found his passion for printmaking after reading about the technology on a magazine.
“I was fascinated by the idea of printing paper and the ink that is produced by that paper, so I decided to try it out,” he explains.
Luba, who works for the BBC as a photographer, has been experimenting with the brothers’ printer.
“When I first started printing films I was very disappointed,” he recalls.
“My first print was quite blurry, so when I saw that the brothers had the capability to print something that was much better I just went for it.”
The printer works by scanning the ink in the printer, which then creates a layer of ink that can be printed on paper.
“You need a lot more ink to produce it in that thickness, so that’s what the ink is printed on,” says Mr Lulu.
“So you need to print it in this very thin layer, and you then get to apply that layer of the ink.”
Once the ink layer has been printed, the two brothers then take a picture and then send it back to the printer to print the film.
“What we have done is take the image of the film and turn it into an image on the printer,” he said.
The brothers print the image onto a special plastic film, which is then cut to a perfect thickness, and then the brothers take a photo of the image on a mobile phone and upload it to their site, where it is printed.
The film is then sent back to Africa to be sold on to retailers and publishers, who use it to create content and books.
“This is how we are able to produce content for publishers and authors and to make it available to consumers,” says Ms Lulu with a smile.
“We are really making an impact on the industry here.”
The brother printers first print in Africa came into existence in 2009, and are now spreading to dozens of other countries, including India, China, South Africa and Ghana.
Lula, who is also the father of the brothers printers son, has travelled to many African countries to teach the brothers how to make the ink.
“There’s this whole ecosystem in Africa that’s making printing more accessible to the rest of the world,” he laughs.
“These are guys who have grown up with ink and are printing their own material, and I want to encourage them to do the same.”
For Mr Luba and Ms Lula there is more to the brothers than just technology.
“Lulu and Luba are like brothers,” Mr Lula says.
“When I started working with them they were not the only brothers,” Ms Luba adds.
“But they are really good brothers.”