Dot Matrix Printer Gets An Epson Ribbon Transplant

What do you do when your dot matrix printer’s ribbon is torn to shreds after decades of use, and no new cartridges are available? You might like to attempt a ribbon transplant from another printer’s cartridge, and that’s just what [Chris Jones] did.

[Chris] was hoping to find a new ribbon for his Canon PW-1080A after the 33-year-old ribbon had been hammered to bits. With replacements unavailable, he instead turned to the more popular Epson FX80, for which new ribbons can still be found. Thankfully, the FX80’s ribbon is the same width as the one used in the Canon printer, even if the cartridge is of a completely different design.

The first step was to crack open the Canon cartridge to dump out the old ribbon. With that done, the Epson ribbon could be looped into the Canon cartridge and wound in using the built-in winder. With this done, [Chris] attempted a test print, but found results to be poor. The ribbon wasn’t advancing properly and there was a rather horrible noise.

The problem was that the Epson ribbon was significantly longer than the Canon part, and thus was getting jammed inside the cartridge housing. [Chris] was able to fix this by cutting out a slice of the Epson ribbon and sticking the two ends back together with superglue. With that done, the printer was happily up and running once more.

If you’ve got a dot matrix printer ribbon that’s dried up but not yet falling apart, you can always try reinking it. Video after the break.

19 thoughts on “Dot Matrix Printer Gets An Epson Ribbon Transplant

    1. Wasn’t the FX-80 like the first 80 column 7 pin wedge shaped beige printer with both a tractor attachment and sheet feed? I think I had one in 80’s and used it on a Amstrad CPC 6128.

      But anyway if you get a ribbon of the same fabric height then you chances of a “Ribbon Cassette” transplant are pretty good. Just wear gloves in an ink proof environment and don’t go Mobius or you will learn of a frustration slightly less then an exploding toner cartridge.

      Wonderful to the a FX-80 make it to the FDM era by kind of fusing old fabric to the paper with inc as a binder and a hammered pin as en end effector.

    1. The drive wheel that pulls the ribbon (left). Most often there is a drive below the drive wheel that looks like the end of a positive (Philips like) screwdriver that turns the drive wheel and this external mechanism is a part of the printer and has a directional clutch.

      On top is a little knurled plastic cylinder protruding out of the case that is parts of the drive wheel (left) which you can turn in one direction because of the direction clutch in the drive under the cartridge that is part of the printer.

      There is also a flat piece of spring steel at the opposite end of the cartridge (right) to provide tension on the ribbon and to keep it flat.

      The additionally on some more advanced ribbons there is a foam wheel that you can add ink to to make it last much longer before needing to be re-inked. If it is places on the left side then it inks the ribbon as it comes in so it takes forever before that part of the ribbon is exiting so it is best placed closer to the exit but them you can’t use too much ink or it will smear the print.

      So 3D printing is perfect for everything except the flat spring steel but you may have a solution to they. A curved piece of plastic may compensate with surface area but would wear.

      The ink is the same as stamp pad ink but has oil added to lubricate the pins of the head or the pins will wear and jam. Print heads are very difficult repair – being extra careful and patient will get you through the first journey. It’s otherwise a lost skill.

  1. That brings back memories. I made a gizmo that let me spin my ribbon with a drill. One of my buddies had a ribbon re-inker and it looked kind of slick but I found you could do just as good a job getting the same ink as the re inker used and just squirting it on the ribbon where was was all bunched up in the case. Of course we also found out that you could get away with a couple cycles of spraying the ribbon with WD-40 too. We did not replace ribbons until they were warn in half lengthwise.

  2. Ahhh yes…that sound brings back memories…my first “real” printer was a venerable MX-80. Before that could only afford a crummy 4 inch wide thermal printer. The mx-80 was half the price of a low end Centronics 737, and was better

    1. That takes me back. For many years I used a MX-100 printer. The poor thing wore out its print head, which they stopped making before they stopped making ribbons. I still use Epson printers here, I have one who turns out spending printouts, using inkjet functions.

      1. They continued forever as receipt printers for Point Of Sale (checkout) especially where there was only one checkout like a fuel station. You can still buy them as far as I know. It’s a MX-10 or LX-10 or something like that and the print head will fit many other printers of the same brand. They are near indestructible and hence being used where there is only one checkout.

  3. I had an Epson LX-800 and a Star NX MultiType. The Star had an LX-800 emulation mode that was a better LX-800 than the real Epson.

    The real Epson didn’t work exactly as the manual said it did, but the Star’s LX-800 mode did everything by the book. The proof was in a drawing program (remember when every program needed its own printer drivers?) that had a LX-800 printer selection. Printing to the real Epson produced very wrong results but printing to the Star emulating the Epson worked correctly.

    Why would Epson do that? Anyone using the technical information in the LX-800 manual to write support for it would end up with a buggy mess – but only with a genuine Epson printer.

    Remember when printer manuals included all the information you’d need to write software to print to them? (Whether or not some of that information was wrong.)

    1. Oh yes, I remember.

      I wrote a graphics converter/text layout program for some sort of 9-pin Epson-compatible with a 24-pin-like resolution achieved by feeding the paper 1/3 of a dot height and “interlacing”. It used BGI graphics in Turbo Pascal (this was 1990 or ’91). Because the screen (CGA) was much smaller (in terms of pixels) than the printer page, I rendered the same scene multiple times, offset with different displacements, to generate the pixel data for text. Images I grabbed straight from the respective bitmap files (PCX? Definitely not GIF yet) and half-toned them in code (proper half-tone with dot gain adjustment and dithering of very light tones, to make up for the impact dots much larger than the resolution). The end product was a great-looking, almost newspaper-like page. I could have done the same in minutes in WordPerfect 5.1, but the school had not ponied up for that. What fun!

      We did have WordStar on the CP/M machine, which was limited to what the printer could do natively: normal, narrow, and double-wide characters, regular, slanted, bold, underlined and double-stroked in various combinations, all the same height. And I think some of those needed you to edit its config files to enter the escape sequences from the printer’s manual.

    2. ROMs

      Epson probably licensed a different company to see the same printer with their own branding and firmware and both were made in the same factory and yours (and likely many) eneded up with the wrong ROMs and Firmware.

  4. Here in Brazil they still produce these cartridge ribbons for old printers, in mercadolibre you find with description “impressora matricial” ou “fita impressora matricial” mostly models from epson

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