This technology is really far out when you consider all the
ramifications. While laser cutting is fairly quiet and the machine
can be much lighter, just think of the peripheral equipment you would
need to make it possible, and also safe, for the present thinking of
the transport system? Ugh!
With the present idea of an X scan across incrementing paper travel
(the Y direction) you would also need a fast scanning head to travel
the laser gun or its mirror, and that has to be very high precision and
powerful. Going back and forth that quickly over the years it would
have to make hundreds of millions of operations, travelling a
perforator step at a time to do what a metal punch could do just
sitting there and on occasion hitting the paper a lick. For my
tastes, the electronic version of a Leabarjan is just too Neanderthal.
The only way I can envision a laser to be cost effective is if the
head were to be driven in the Y axis while the mechanical scanner did
the X axis. Each pass across the note sheet represented preferably 6"
or more on its Y axis. The head would slide up and down the paper in
the Y direction to cut long notes and whatever was contained in the
given 'window" of that block of music.
At the end of the window, the scanner would stop. The paper would
advance another 6" and the head would cut in reverse, backwards. It
would increment itself this way, with each precise increment of roll
paper through the music. Such an X-Y head would last pretty well,
would not be as difficult to maintain, and could conceivably cut paper
rolls perhaps 10-20 times as fast as a standard mechanical perforator.
This, to my mind, is what Julie Porter could develop the software for,
and the main cost would be the transport.
As far as fires are concerned, my recollections of laser cutting is
that as long as the laser beam is deflected or absorbed after its
target has evaporated, there's nothing left to burn. It doesn't "burn"
its way through in the conventional sense, like a wood-burning iron,
but instead it vaporizes the paper in short bursts or pulses. Some
who know about this technology will hopefully enlighten us more about
it. I suspect that as long as the cutting area is not in contact with
something that could heat up eventually, that it will be clean-cut.
Laser cutting on a table like I have described would also have
the advantage of reading a roll to be copied, or checked, in the
same way. Using a CIS reader in the table itself, the roll can first
be transported through the machine using a take-up spool in the place
of a roll core. This is then converted by the software. Then the same
machine cuts the roll. There is another huge advantage to such an idea
and that is that it is able to cut any kind of a roll, and whatever
spacing you would want is achievable. Your only limitation is the
width of your paper and the width of the perforator. And of course,
the Duo-Art format using the snakebite holes can be done on such a
machine as well. The program might have to be told in what position
to look for a small pair of holes and zap it accordingly.
It also stands to reason that if a large roll of paper from the mill
is first spooled up as blanks on player roll size (supply) cores, the
lengths pre-determined by the tune or tunes to be cut, the perforator
could be built that could be portable after a fashion. It wouldn't
take several hours to cut a tune, and a series of rolls (6 or so) might
be cut by it in less than 20 minutes. They would be cut backwards,
from the end to the beginning of course, also trimmed width-wise by the
laser, and then finished by the roll leader software pattern, also cut
As soon as the paper exits the perforator, the operator stops the
program, which stops the machine temporarily, tapes the paper to the
6 roll cores on a light vertical carrier rack driven (and clutched) by
a simple multiple chain drive for paper take-up. He them restarts the
program and lets it finish the rolls. What you might end up with are
6 finished rolls that need labels, tabs, and boxes, but everything else
is done. I'm sure there are other ways to arrange this as well. At
least you wouldn't have to hang the heavy paper rolls and pull them
through the perforator. You could pre-spool it off with a foot counter
and be all ready with small supply cores.
The equally important process of getting words on the rolls is another
issue that someone needs to address seriously. I presently use the
words that are packaged with the new roll and transfer them to the roll
with a "Sharpie" pen. Crude perhaps, but makes the roll more useful
for reading or singing the words. The lyric contains the history, the
business, and the overall attitude of thought about a host of things
and the humor society recognized in those days.