An All-In-One Serial Printer Playground

One of the peripherals of most desire for a microcomputer-obsessed youth in the 1980s was a printer, probably a dot-matrix device. In the decades since, printers have passed into being almost a piece of discardable junk as cheap inkjets can be found in any garage sale. That’s not to say that there’s not plenty of fun to be had hacking older types though, and there are plenty of small thermal printers out there to play with. [Tanmoydutta] has provided a platform that may help, in the form of an ESP32-C3-based serial printer controller.

On board is a level shifter for the 5 volt printer electronics and all the appropriate connectors for the printer, as well as the ESP and onboard USB interface. It’s a networked print server, but one which is entirely and completely hackable. We think the printer in question is this one sold by Adafruit.

So this board makes easier a whole host of printer-related projects, and should you try it you will no doubt finding yourself ankle-deep in little curly pieces of paper. This printer’s not the only one in town though, don’t forget the cheap Bluetooth printers!

10 thoughts on “An All-In-One Serial Printer Playground

  1. I had bought a serial based Epson POS grade thermal printer from a thrift store and got it working with a Raspberry Pi Zero W in CUPs. Use to use it in Home Assistant to print out my daily calendar.

    1. Thermal paper.. That reminds me of my dad!
      He hacked an old thermal printer/typewriter to accept srrial signals.
      I used this thing in my childhood as a cheap printer.
      Also worked for outputting DOS console information to AUX.

    2. I worked at NCR in the 80s and 90s. We had a 4 solenoid impact printer that was faster than this. It was called the Alpha Numeric Single Wire Electronic Recorder or ANSWER printer. It printed a 7×9 dot pattern using four single printing pins arranged side by side in a head that would shuttle back and forth to print 40 columns and required an ink cassette. This was in the day when receipts had to be longer lasting than the throwaway wasteful heat sensitive thermal receipts. You can find the NCR ANSWER printers on ebay as NCR 2561/2567 but sellers think they are thermal.

  2. I don’t know why thermal paper projects bother me so much considering how many other toxic chemicals we’re exposed to via 3D printing, soldering, painting, plating, and pretty much every other fun hobby; but it does.

    I know that they make BPA free thermal paper but how prevalent is it? One of the BPA free papers uses BPS, which seems like replacing gun powder with flash powder.

  3. Printers? We still use them. We have a Laser B/W printer, and an Ink Tank printer. Still very useful devices.

    I also recently bought a thermal printer from Adafruit and several rolls of paper. I guess I need to fire it up and see it work!

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