Emulating ink cartridges

[Smartie_on_computer] wanted to do some experimenting with an epson printer.  After getting a somewhat disassembled one, the first step was to simply get it running. Unfortunately, one of the ink cartridges was missing and these printers refuse to do pretty much anything without all the cartridges installed.  Rather than go purchase a costly cartridge that they didn’t intend to actually use, [Smartie_on_computer], chose to emulate the cartridge using a microcontroller. After some searching for the protocol used on the cartridge, the info ended up being in the patent. [Smartie_on_computer] now has a functional printer that is destined to be a 3d printer in the near future. You can see a video breakdown after the break.


  1. Gdogg says:

    Not something I’d waste my time on, but he did great work reverse engineering it (and smart move checking the patent) and his documentation/tutorial is great.

  2. B says:

    Nice job. This would be great for printers that wont let you print when one of the color carts is out. WTF!!!!

  3. nes says:

    Genuinely useful info and well done sleuthing the serial protocol from a patent. AFAIK Epson printers are unique with their piezo heads and the ink in them has some special properties too, like the yellow can be used as a bake on etch resist.

  4. Robot says:

    Praise be to uspto.gov, I can spend hours on that site. I’m very interested to see what comes of the 3D printer project.

    – Robot

  5. Roman Vaughan says:

    Hey guys, Thanks for posting my instructable, Sorry for the poor video, camera had died on me so I used my phone. I’ll get a better video posted soon and with more explanation. :P


  6. blue carbuncle says:

    Due diligence :) Nice research and nice job :)

  7. rasz says:

    @Roman Vaughan

    Just wanted to let you know that your site is unusable due to this weird ?dynamic?ajax? script you have there. All it does is display “loading” for me when trying to read “Interfacing a Touchpad via PS/2 on a PIC16F628A”. Galleries also look fubared.

  8. Smartie says:


    Sorry about that, the site was made two years ago while I was experimenting with jQuery. It is also seriously getting out of date. I’ll have a go at updating it, or moving to a wordpress site when I find the time.

  9. Drone says:

    Whoa… Lawyer bait!

  10. jaqen says:

    @Drone: unless he starts selling it, I can’t see this costing epson any lost profit. They may even be able sell some more to the HaD enthusiasts.

  11. strider_mt2k says:

    lawyer bait?


    Sure you don’t want to bring the TSA in on it too while you are imagineering?

  12. ColinB says:

    Smartie_on_computer: Good work on the hack.

    Epson: Seriously?! They obtained a patent for THAT? Look at the PDF from freepatentsonline.com (free login required, but MUCH better than uspto web site–you can view full document with images).

    The “invention” is essentially an SPI EEPROM protocol, (2-wire half-duplex variant) that includes a device address in the header of each access. A reset (RST) line acts to indicate the start of an access, so devices can look for an address match. Nothing fancy!

    The patent claims are silly, obvious to anyone who has done any data communications before, and the invention is not novel in any way. I am outraged!! You should be too.

  13. or just obtain a chip reflasher, they are on ebay.
    the newer chips aren’t reprogrammable but the old ones usually are, so I save them and reuse.

  14. @zeropointmodule But what’s the fun in that :P

  15. God says:

    MUCH better to dump the FW then hacking to works w/o any IC at all.

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