Mile of Pi for Numberphile


posted by on Latest News

Comments Off on Mile of Pi for Numberphile>

HSA Systems, inkjet printer manufacturers, were able to demonstrate their capabilities when they were asked if they could print the calculation of the value Pi (Л) to a million decimal places, on one sheet of paper.

The bizarre request came from video journalist Brady Haran, who videos for the YouTube channel, Numberphile. To celebrate reaching one million subscribers to Numberphile, and in keeping with the mathematical theme of the channel, Brady decided to print Pi to a million places. He then wanted to unfurl the reel of paper, totalling more than a mile in length, along a runway.

Various problems had to be overcome before the print run could take place. Project manager, HSA’s UK representative, Hugh McPartlan based in Andover, initially had to select a print cartridge which would run continuously, then have software modified to enable the number to be printed on a single page length of over a mile. Numberphile also wanted the printing to be in the style of the channel i.e. on brown paper.  This had to be strong enough to withstand roll out, even in wet and windy weather. Two 2000 metre reels of  brown 70gsm craft paper were supplied by Millingtons Paper.

These problems solved the printing was done at HSA in Odense, Denmark, on a vertical reel-to-reel paper transport unit using HSAJET HP2.5 TIJ technology. HP Durable Black Ink was selected because of its blackness, clarity, and permanence.

Partner and manager of HSA, Jesper Hyldager said: “This was an unusual request for our company as a lot of the work our print systems are used for printing a lot of small numbers such as PINs for banks, and for bar coding, not huge numbers.”

“At HSA we are always ready for a challenge and felt very pleased with the results we achieved on this unusual project.”

The print system ran at 50 metres a minute, taking 48 minutes to print the number which was formatted in 8pt. Courier New font.  Alongside the number, the distance in yards was printed and a number count every ten characters.

The next destination for the mile reel of paper was Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground, Leicestershire, where HSA assisted Brady, and helpers, to unroll the paper. Matt Parker, mathematician and stand-up comedian, talked through some of the significant points of the number during the unfurling of the paper.

Brady Haran said: “It was a crazy request, but the people at HSA were brilliant. They had an answer to every question and a solution to every obstacle.”

“But most importantly, I think we all had fun. Many of the people at HSA are ‘Numberphiles’ at heart and it seemed like they enjoyed working with Pi, perhaps the most famous number of all.”

Brady and HSA are hoping that they have achieved a world record for the print run, (1851 yards 2 feet 6 ¾ inches) but feel sure they will have got a record at Bruntingthorpe for the slowest time of 4 hours 10 minutes on the track over a mile.