Arduino based thermal printer

[Manuel] built his own thermal printer based around an Arduino. We’re a bit confused about the parts, his webpage specifies an EFA-1019HW2 print head but the bill of materials on his github shows EPT-1019W2. We can’t find a source for either product number, but we did find similar thermal line printers for as low as $32.00. The controller boards on the other hand look to be around $150 so building your own is a definite win. [Manuel's] version can print 96 points and has a font set that prints 32 characters per line. Check out the video after the break and let us know if the noise of the print head is a deal killer for you.

Comments

  1. coreyl says:

    a) You could use it to do the opposite of the previous project, and make a miniature typewriter.

    b) Is there a way to use that kind of printing/paper as a PCB mask?

  2. mosheen says:

    That is made of pure awesome. That would be awesome for some of my data logging projects.

  3. Nomad says:

    The noise is fine…IMHO it’s the close-up microphone that makes it louder.

    But that thing is slow like hell. Only usable if you have plenty of time to print things. Is it the printer module or the arduino that is slowing things down?

  4. osgeld says:

    “b) Is there a way to use that kind of printing/paper as a PCB mask?”

    I dont think so, but there are thermal transfer printers (i am eyeing an old one at work) where they use a wax or plastic like substance on a ribbon

  5. jtl3 says:

    So…why is this so slow? And what are the varieties of thermal printers?

    I know regular receipt printers, like those in stores, often operate on a far more linear fashion rather than with a print head (so all columns are printed at once row-by-row, allowing continuous feed–silently.)

  6. svofski says:

    This appears to be a prining unit from a cash register or a similar device?

  7. zeropointmodule says:

    i have a thermal head here liberated from a skip-destined epson thermal/dot matrix receipt printer..

    will have to check the part number, this could be very useful for some applications such as printing a onetime wifi key when buying a coffee from a cafe or something..

  8. Hello,

    The module is an EPT-1019W2 from Panasonic… I just double check my documentation but can’t find the source of the confusion… please tell me more about it!

    I bought the module from ag electronica http://www.agelectronica.com (a local electronic supplier from Mexico City) labeled as “recovered thermal printer module”, about $17 USD.

    Yes.. it’s slow, but is because to print that patterns (some very dark, some very alternating) you can’t go fast… is a thermal printer, the darkness depends on the time you spend heating the paper. With some software tweaks you can go much much faster!

  9. svofski says:

    Yes.. it’s slow, but is because to print that patterns (some very dark, some very alternating) you can’t go fast… is a thermal printer, the darkness depends on the time you spend heating the paper. With some software tweaks you can go much much faster!

    Can you print in grayscale by modulating the on-time of individual dots?

  10. slippyslap says:

    Expense report fraud anyone?

  11. Mark Shasha says:

    epic

  12. Nightstar says:

    I like this project. Reminded me of the old SWTP PR-40.

    There are these old battery thermal printers.

  13. therian says:

    “based around an Arduino”
    No its not, stop calling uC Ardublabla it annoying and lame

  14. Pedro says:

    “Construí una impresora térmica controlada por un Arduino alrededor del módulo Panasonic EPT-1019HW2, reimplementación del proyecto final de mi curso Sistemas Embebidos con el Ing.”

    therian, yes, it does in fact use an Arduino.

  15. zerth says:

    @therian

    You can’t see it in the photo, but there is an Arduino on the other end of those grey ribbon cables.

    I suppose you could say it is “based besides an Arduino” if that will make you feel better:)

  16. svofski says:

    I’m sure someone like Jeri could make a printhead directly from an arduino, by selectively applying high voltages to its pins. I’d love to see that.

  17. vonskippy says:

    I can order a cheap USB thermal receipt printer – have it shipped – unbox it – install the drivers – and print the same exact demo out before the homemade printer finishes in the video.

    Painfully slow. Can’t imagine the speed not killing any useful application of that device.

  18. @nomad

    Is not slow, maybe you are faster this week and you just haven’t realized it yet…

    @svofski

    Yes, you can play with the time that the thermal head is on and alter the intensity but it be like brownscale… I could done that but the name sounds like shitscale, ugh, volunteers? :-)

    And I too would love to see Jeri doing that… and other stuff!

    @therian

    Hey dude, where do you saw the *duino suffix? I said “controlled by”… relax! drink a beer, get laid and don’t be lame deciding what is lame and what is not.

    @vonskippy

    maybe you are lost man! let me help you: this is not http://www.nextag.com

  19. svofski says:

    Brownscale be it!

  20. Steve says:

    Ahh, brings back memories of late nights using an old TI Silent 700 acoustic modem terminal! Made a very similar rewind, then fast buzz, then slower buzz (repeat) noise, except it was more of a humm and less of a farting noise.

    I don’t care what anyone else says, it’s a project I’d be proud of! (Otherwise, I wouldn’t have built the darn thing, or taken the time to put it on the web!)

  21. svofski says:

    A perfect tool to print one’s shitlist, too.

  22. aggaz says:

    I want one only for his noise!

  23. pdrift says:

    this reminds me of the gameboy printer… I got one of ebay cheap but coukdn’t find the paper for it so I bought reciept paper at staples and trimmed it. Worked like a charm but i got bored of it fast and now itsin the basement somewhere.
    Anybody have an idea on what project a gameboy printer would be good for?

  24. Taylor Alexander says:

    Seiko makes some nice and very fast thermal printers.
    I’ve also heard that the good ones don’t fade if used with good thermal paper – stores use cheap paper because of all the receipts they print. Supposedly.

    But I saw the seiko printers at the embedded systems conference and they were nice and fast. Controller boards were annoyingly expensive though, and it was never clear to me if you *needed* them or not. Guess not!
    -Taylor

  25. Alfred says:

    Cool! And now I can print…. fake receipts?

    Manuel, did you create just to learn something? Nothing wrong with that, but I can’t think a practical applications for home use of a receipt printer. Given that thermal paper images fade over time, did you have a specific use for this at home?

  26. Osgeld says:

    they make great party banners

  27. pascal says:

    These printers are fascinating, using a single motor and special axis to move slowly forward and fast backwards while transporting the paper — I wonder why larger-scale (inkjet) printers don’t do this? (they could be very compact that way…)

    It seems like these things /can/ go faster by just applying more voltage to the “pixels” on the head, mine takes just 1sec per line, but that may depend on the paper as well.

    These are also available as add-ons for kid’s “laptops”, mine cost $3 and came with some H-bridges, motor drivers and voltage regulators

  28. Hitek146 says:

    Props on the awesomely(is that a word?) clean build. Nice work!

  29. Steve says:

    Very cool. It’s not really that slow, especially on regular characters. It’s only on those super dark patterns that it takes longer.

    I’m not really use of what use it is but it’s pretty sweet looking and does *something*, so it’s cool!

  30. Watch this for real applications (fast forward at 4:58):

    @svofski

    Great suggestion! I would like to call it the “shit(ty) printer” but well… just to get mad some people i will call it printaduino or something like that!

    @pdrift

    Same history here! after printing some funny tickets i stored it in a brown box next to the guitar that i never learn to play…

    @Taylor Alexander

    i think this printing module was popular in the 90s… here in mexico when they say “recovered product” they mean from back in the time!

    @Alfred

    glad you ask! no practical applications… it was just part of the final project of my embebbed systems course, i just reimplement some parts, write some documentation and replace the (ugly) pic dev board i used at school with an arduino.

    i think is a very didactic project: you learn to control step motors, how to power the thermal head, implement serial to parallel converters and write firmware.

  31. @Steve

    Another great suggestion! “the fart(ty) printer”, thanks dude! I am used to deal with bitter people.. very proud of all that farts and shitty tickets :-)

  32. Reikaze says:

    What will happen if you make two pass over the same line?
    Will get darker than one pass in the same time? or it would be the same or worst?

    If there’s the possibility that with two passes you can make it darker in the same time. You could make it faster, isn’t?

    Nice project. btw I recommend you mexican newark. Has more diversity than AG and the shipping is free, but you have to place a 50 USDlls least part list. Surely maybe you won’t find recovered products there, though.

  33. fireraisr says:

    it probably would be a lot quieter if a smaller step size were used with the motor. I’m no expert but the only drawback would be lower torque and a printer this size probably doesn’t need much.

    sure it’s slow but that’s only because the print head being used has to travel along the entire piece of paper. Modern printers have a print head that is the length of the paper so there isn’t a moving head, that makes them much faster.

  34. jay says:

    Can we use a old fax machine printer? I have a bunch of the old thermal fax machines

  35. GeekMan says:

    this is a great idea i would love to build one of these printers. if i knew how i would use it for printing things like status updates on social sites or for printing quick notes (like someones phone/contact info they give me on a chat). also it would be a cool tool to use for calander updates. like prints the date and the things planned for today and if theres anything for the next day.

    i wouldnt be turned away from buying because the printer sounds nostalgic in a way and the way i would use it (updates) would acually alert me to whats printing.

    really cool love it

  36. draeath says:

    AFAIK the Seiko’s don’t have any moving parts besides the paper feeder. The thermal head is actually a strip, and various parts of it can be heated independently as the paper runs by.

    This is why they are so fast and quiet. And expensive – there’s a lot of IO to that “printhead”

    • Per Jensen says:

      The strip-type thermal printers, that actually sits in everything with thermal printing today (the mechanical model is too expensive to make) are run by an serial interface. See the print head as one big serial shift register. You clock in the bits of data (that’s 1728 bits for a full Fax page fyi.) latch the data to the output drivers and flip on a strobe signal for around 10 uS to heat the paper. Move the paper a step, rinse and repeat – Easy!

  37. Cat says:

    I heard two or three in all these. Thanks for information. I was stunned after reading Chernobyl, Ukraine and Linfen, China.

  38. Tony says:

    Modern printers have a print head that is the length of the paper so there isn’t a moving head, that makes them much faster.
    sure it’s slow but that’s only because the print head being used has to travel along the entire piece of paper.

  39. If you learn how to automate the process that makes it even easier. Like prints the date and the things planned for today and if theres anything for the next day. If i knew how I would use it for printing things like status updates on social sites or for printing quick notes. also it would be a cool tool to use for calander updates.

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