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.
Continue reading “Dot Matrix Printer Gets An Epson Ribbon Transplant”
We’ve all got one: a blank space somewhere in our home that we don’t know what to do with. [James Miller] had one above his kitchen cabinets, so he filled it with a giant LED matrix. The result is a large but surprisingly attractive LED screen that can send messages, provide illumination, or while away the idle hours of the night playing Conway’s Game of Life.
[James] built the matrix using the usual suspect for these builds: several strings of WS2812 lights . He initially ran this from a Raspberry Pi, but realized that there was no need for such a dizzying amount of computing power, so he switched to an ESP32 instead. The frame is built from wood and foam board.
The first version he built used a fabric diffuser, but after a close encounter with a flaming steak, he switched over to commercial ceiling light diffusers cut down to size. We might have been tempted to keep going and try an “egg crate” style ceiling light panel for a the smaller pixel size, but [James] thinks he has reached the “good enough” point of this project. It’s certainly a fun build, and it looks very cool with minimal materials.
Continue reading “Giant LED Matrix Fills Blank Space In The Kitchen”
[RyderCalmDown] was watching a road painting vehicle lay down fresh stripes on the road one day and started thinking about the mechanism that lets it paint stripes in such a precise way. Effectively the system that paints the interspersed lines acts as a dot matrix printer that can only print at a single frequency. With enough of these systems on the same vehicle, and a little bit more fine control of when the solenoids activate and deactivate, [RyderCalmDown] decided to build this device on the back of his truck which can paint words on a roadway as he drives by. (Video, embedded below.)
Of course, he’s not using actual paint for this one; that might be prohibitively expensive and likely violate a few laws. Instead he’s using a water-based system which only leaves temporary lettering on the pavement. To accomplish this he’s rigged up a series of solenoids attached to a hitch-mounted cargo rack. A pump delivers water to each of the solenoids, and a series of relays wired to a Raspberry Pi controls the precise timing needed to make sure the device can print readable letters in much the same way a dot matrix printer works. There’s an algorithm running that converts the inputted text to the pattern needed for the dot matrix, and after a little bit of troubleshooting it’s ready for print.
Even though the printer works fairly well, [RyderCalmDown] had a problem thinking of things to write out on the roadways using this system, but it’s an impressive build based around a unique idea nonetheless. Dot matrix printers, despite being mostly obsolete, have a somewhat vintage aesthetic that plenty of people still find desirable and recreate them in plenty of other ways as well, like this 3D printer that was modified to produce dot matrix artwork.
Continue reading “Is This The World’s Largest Dot Matrix Printer?”
The noise of a dot matrix printer is probably as synonymous with 1980s computing as the modem handshake would become with the desktop experience a decade or more later. But unlike the computers that would have driven it, a dot matrix printer can still be a very useful device here in 2023. And why not? They’re cheap to operate and can produce surprisingly good quality when paired with suitable drivers. There is a snag though; while cartridges for popular models can still be found, there are plenty whose consumables are long gone. [Drygol] had an Apple ImageWriter II with exactly that problem, and after finding all his cartridges were non-functional, took a look at how to bring them back.
Inside a dot matrix cartridge is a fabric ribbon similar to the one that might once have been found on a typewriter. It’s not on a roll but folded into the space, and it’s drawn through by a pair of rollers. Not only had the ink on the fabric dried out, but the foam on the rollers had also disintegrated. Some careful dismantling, and a solution presented itself in the form of O-rings to replace the rollers. Those and a bit of mineral oil to soften the ink had the vintage Apple printing again as though it was the ’80s once more.
It’s a subject we’ve looked at before, as it turns out WD-40 makes a good ink solvent.
Beep. We’ve come a long way since June 26, 1974 when the first bar code was scanned at a grocery store in Troy, Ohio. That legendary pack of Juicy Fruit proved that even the smallest of items could now carry numbers associated with inventory and price.
By now, we’re all too familiar with this sound as self-checkouts have become the norm. Whereas you yourself could at one time literally check out during the transaction, you must now be on your toes and play find the bar code on every item.
What does the consumer gain from the bar code today? Practically nothing, except the chance to purchase, and potentially return, the item without too much hassle. Well, the non-profit outfit that runs the bar code world — GS1 US — wants to change all that. By 2027, they are confident that all 1D bar codes will be replaced with 2D bar codes similar to QR codes. Why?
Continue reading “Barcodes Enter The Matrix In 2027”
Even if surface-mount skills aren’t in your repertoire, chances are pretty good that most of us are at least familiar with SMD stencils. These paper-thin laser-cut steel sheets are a handy way to apply a schmear of solder paste to the pads of a PCB before component placement and reflowing. But are stencils good for anything else?
It turns out they are, if you’ve got some plain old 8×8 LED matrix displays you want to jazz up a bit. In this case, [upir]’s displays were of the square pixel type, but this trick would work just as well for a matrix with circular elements. Most of the video below is a master class in Adobe Illustrator, which [upir] used to generate the artwork for his stencils. There are a lot of great tips here that make creating one simple shape and copying it over the whole array with the proper spacing a lot easier. He also details panelizing multiple stencils, as well as the workflow from Illustrator to manufacturing.
When lined up properly over the face of the LED matrix, the stencils have quite an effect. We really liked the narrow vertical bars, which make the LED display look a bit like a VFD. And just because [upir] chose to use the same simple shape over all the LEDs in a matrix doesn’t mean that there aren’t other options. We can see how you might use the same technique to create different icons or even alphanumeric characters to create custom LED displays. The possibilities are pretty much limited to your imagination.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen [upir] teaching old displays new tricks.
Continue reading “LED Matrix Displays Get New Look Thanks To SMD Stencils”
If you’re like us, you never get tired of retro game-inspired projects, and the dynamic duo, [monsely], seem to love them too. Their Temperature-Sensitive Pac-Man/Ghost LED Matrix would make a great desktop display for any gaming enthusiast.
First, they did a bit of sketching on good ol’ paper and pencil to organize all the LEDs they would need and work out the connections. With this many LEDs, coordination is pretty critical or you’ll quickly end up with a big mess on your hands. Luckily, WS2812/Neopixel-style LED strips minimize most of the necessary connections, so that was a relief. These LED strips only need a single GPIO for control, making it easy to get this project going with a pretty basic microcontroller.
Just displaying an animated graphic was a bit too simple for [monsely]. They decided to make the Ghost temperature-sensitive, changing to blue if it’s cold outside and red if it’s warm. Of course, you’ll probably want to tweak the thresholds based on where you live or how your HVAC system is doing. Pac-Man stays the classic yellow, which we would expect.
Of course, no good desktop display would be complete without a proper enclosure. [monsely] opted for a cardboard box, but we’re sure you could laser cut or print something a bit sturdier and a bit more aesthetically pleasing. But, hey, whatever works, right?