#FreeDMO Gets Rid Of DYMO Label Printer DRM

The BluePill board used for this hack, wired to the DYMO RFID reader, after all the wires for this hack have been soldered onto the BluePill board.

DYMO 550 series printer marketing blurb says “The DYMO® LabelWriter® 550 Turbo label printer comes with unique Automatic Label Recognition™”, which, once translated from marketing-ese, means “this printer has DRM in its goshdarn thermal stickers”. Yes, DRM in the stickers that you typically buy in generic rolls. [FREEPDK] didn’t like that, either, and documents a #FreeDMO device to rid us of yet another consumer freedom limitation, the true hacker way.

The generic BluePill board and two resistors are all you need, and a few extra cables make the install clean and reversible – you could definitely solder to the DYMO printer’s PCBs if you needed, too. Essentially, you intercept the RFID reader connections, where the BluePill acts as an I2C peripheral and a controller at the same time, forwarding the data from an RFID reader and modifying it – but it can also absolutely emulate a predetermined label and skip the reader altogether. If you can benefit from this project’s discoveries, you should also take a bit of your time and, with help of your Android NFC-enabled phone, share your cartridge data in a separate repository to make thwarting future DRM improvements easier for all of us.

The wiring instructions are quite clear and easy to follow provided you get the cable with the same color pinout, but a bit of pin rewiring with a needle never hurt anyone. From there, just complete a few usual steps to flash the firmware into the BluePill board, recompiling the code if you’d like to make the wiring simpler or hardcode an already existing type of label. With that, you get label counter rewinding and spoofing, circumventing the restriction that should have never been there in the first place.

True ownership of the devices we get is of utmost importance, helping us get rid of limitations and constraints that make our days worse as they become a trend, and this step in our journey isn’t all too different from the way Keurig coffee pod reuse restrictions were circumvented. If we had a nickel for every time someone tried to add DRM into 3D printer filament in the same way Dymo did, we’d have two nickels – which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it happened twice. EFF reported about the Dymo DRM just last month, and a month later, we are glad to see it broken.

Wonder why this is even a problem? It’s a complex one and there’s too much to talk about for this paragraph, but we have have talked about our justifications and gave some examples for you, as we keep fighting these trends with our tool-assisted protests. As Apple, Lenovo, Xiaomi, BluRay, Nintendo and others try to stop us, we invent new ways and tools to get there anyway.

34 thoughts on “#FreeDMO Gets Rid Of DYMO Label Printer DRM

  1. I’ve been using Brother PC label makers for over a decade and they’re good — not great, since I don’t know what that could be yet. Brother’s big problem is their funky editor that doesn’t auto-anything without a lot of coaxing. The trouble with a lot of the software that comes with products is that it’s done my product engineers that “know” the product up and down, left and right, but give that tool to someone who only uses it occasionally to really find out how well the interface design is.

    1. Zebra’s non-consumer models are great. The most direct comparison to Dymo is the ZD220d, which is $300 new; but for $200 or less you can have a used ZD420d, which is the last-generation model but still in support and has Bluetooth and WiFi built in. If you want serial, that’s a $20 card and can be installed in a minute or two. Any of their desktop printers use rolls with a 1″ core, so Dymo labels work out of the box.

      You can use a standard driver and treat one of these printers the same you would a Dymo, but there’s also a command language you can use to write label definitions that are rendered on the printer, so if you want to have an Arduino print Data Matrix barcodes, you can.

      1. I switched to zebra a while back and have not looked back. with this latest development dymo is dead to me and everyone i talk to that is looking for a label printer or any printer for that matter

  2. I’m glad i have an older Dymo model that only uses a bar pattern on the back of the label roll to identify the labels. These bars are easily copied by third party suppliers and the cost savings are quite considerable.

  3. Yes, I knew the hacker community would come through! If it’s just acting as an i2c slave and modifying packets along the way it should be possible to port to even lower spec micros to make much smaller/cheaper.

  4. I don’t mind the idea of RFID tags to identify type etc, even though it makes it harder and more expensive for 3rd party to replicate – its great for idiot proofing and convenience in setup, while not really all that challenging to get around (as this shows really).

    Its when it crosses that line and becomes the DRM ‘you shall not do anything other than what we decree’ game of constant dancing just to get your own damn hardware you paid for to work anymore – all the many examples of utterly pointless anti consumer anti repair bollocks, rather than just making it easy for your less technically minded staff/family member to operate a machine because it does the basic setup for them based on what they loaded it with…

  5. Indeed, if people voted with their feet and refused to use these services, they’d soon follow the money and change their products to suit the market. Sadly most seem happy with the lesser of two evils, if the good guys aren’t the loudest ones in the room and so the game of cat and mouse continues.

    1. The problem is that in order to be a rational actor in a free market the consumer must have all information available to them. If they are not explicitly aware that the printers require DRM when buying them, how can they know not to purchase them? This is kind of like saying that people should not buy the one brand of poisoned milk when the labels all just say ‘Milk’.

      1. This is why free markets don’t exist. Humans will NEVER be honest. They will Never tell you that the used car was in an accident. They will never tell you how much it really costs to clean up after their mess. Humans are charlatans, cheats and frauds. How you expect rational behavior is a mystery to me.

        1. Blame the consumer for an unfair marketplace? Corporations have the law on their side — they have things like the DMCA in the USA which makes it a crime punishable by years in prison for circumventing DRM on a product they own, but when a person buys the crippled product, it is their fault for not researching the thing to the point where they can decipher identical product pages with changed SKUs?

  6. We have 20 Dymo label printers used in our production and was really upset with the new DRM printers. Wanting to just buy more for future needs, the older non-DRM printers are not unavailable anywhere for the $80 we were paying.
    Back 6 years ago when we needed on-demand ‘mini-travelers’ in our production, Dymo had an SDK and cheap 3rd party labels were available. Been very pleased with the printers – rock solid and never an issue with any label.
    However, now with Dymo’s move to DRM, I am evaluating switching to a Brother QL1100 and QL800 for the same reasons: SDK available for our applications and 3rd party labels available.
    Its a nice feature to have the printer report the label size back to the app and could be worth the extra money for some.
    But just like the ink for ink-jet printer, total cost of ownership must be considered.

  7. Would be nice if Dymo made a Twin Turbo model that paired a 6″ wide with a 4″ wide. But the only dual models they make are a dual 4″ or a 4″ with the narrow plastic or paper ribbon labels.

    I have an older Turbo 400. Just bought a 6″ wide Brother because it was lower cost than even used 6″ Dymo printers.

  8. “If we had a nickel for every time , we’d have two nickels – which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it happened twice.”

    Nice Heinz Doofenshmirtz reference!

    1. If they wanted to help consumer with automatic label identification, yes. But their goal is to lock in their own “original” labels, a barcode is too easy to copy for 3rd party label factories.

  9. I thought about getting one of these but I decided instead to bypass the whole mess. I got pages of stickers to run through the laser printer for super cheap. I got my labels done and you’re still waiting for the soldering iron to warm up. Sometimes the low tech option is the best.

  10. One of the more egregious cash grabs I’ve seen. My company primarily used Dymo, but with 3rd party labels as that’s all our supplier has. We were going to switch to the 550s as the Ethernet port is pretty convenient, but the RFID tag pretty much ruins everything. The worst part about it aside from the ethernet port, the 550 is pretty much functionally the same as the 450. the label feed and print head are the same and I was able to swap it from a 550 to a 450 with no issues. Now the boxes of 550s we have are being used for parts to fix the existing 450s we have, and eventually we’re switching to Zebra.

  11. We only use one size label so we bought one Dymo roll of labels for each printer we have and when that roll was used up we kept the rfid tag and taped it to the left side of the printer below the top about even with the roll core and all is well for us.
    Happy printing.

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