Do you often find yourself needing to make small signs? Perhaps you’re trying to put a notice on the office fridge, but you’re just not in the mood for the usual Comic Sans-on-A4 staple today. A banner of some sort would do the trick, but… a small one, right? [Mike Ingle] has the answer – making mini-banners on old receipt printers.
[Mike] was a fan of Paint Shop in the 1980s, which among other things, enabled the printing of long banners on the popular dot matrix printers of the era. Realising that receipt printers have a similar ability to print on a long continuous strip of paper, he decided to see if it was possible to create small banners using the hardware.
The hack is simple – ImageMagick is used to generate a one-bit black & white bitmap that is then processed with some custom C code to generate something the printer can understand. It’s then a simple matter of hacking up the original RS-232 cable to fit a DB-9 (aka DE-9) connector, and spitting out the instructions over serial.
The mini-banners are cool, and we could imagine having some fun with such a project, using it to print out tweets or putting it into service as a stock ticker. It’s a great example of cleanly interfacing with existing hardware to create something outside of the original design intentions. Such printers are fertile ground for hacks – like this printer that can spit out the US Constitution in 6 seconds flat.
Sometimes we hack for the thrill of making something new, and sometimes we hack to push back the dark veil of ignorance to shed fresh light on a problem. And sometimes, like when turning a used label printer into a point-of-sale receipt printer, we hack because we’re cheapskates.
We say that with the utmost respect and affection — there’s nothing to be ashamed of when your motive is strictly pecuniary. In [Dan Herlihy]’s case, hacking a cheap Brother label printer to use thermal paper meant saving $300 on a dedicated receipt printer. But it also meant beating Brother at their “Razor and Blades” business model that keeps you buying their expensive proprietary labels. A pattern of holes in the plastic label roll tells the printer what size labels are loaded, so [Dan] defeated that by breaking off a piece of the plastic and gluing it on the sensor. To convince the printer that plain thermal paper is label stock, he printed up a small strip of paper with the same pattern of black registration stripes that appear on the back of the labels. Pretty clever stuff, and it lets him print high-resolution receipts for his electronics shop on the seriously cheap.
[Dan]’s hack is simple, but may suffer from wear on the paper encoder strip. Perhaps this Brother hack using the gears as encoders will provide some inspiration for long-term fix.
Continue reading “Tightwad Hacks Label Printer, Beats Manufacturer at Own Game”
Well, unless you know exactly what you’re referencing it’s going to take you a lot longer, but this clever serial receipt printer hack will let you print the whole darn thing in just 6 seconds!
Commissioned by [Jeff Goldenson] for his LABRARY.bike (quite literally a pop-up library on a bike), it was actually shown off at SXSW Interactive — did anyone see it in person? The artist-hacker who created it is [Thibault Brevet], the guy who brought us the DRM chair that only works 8 times before it falls to pieces.
Anyway, this cool and rather suspicious looking tube with a serial cord hanging out contains an Arduino, a max232 chip and a small Li-Po battery. The Arduino communicates with the printer through the max232 chip by converting the TTL signal to RS-232. It has a single button on top, which when it is connected to the printer will send out the US Constitution over the serial interface via ESC/p language.
Did we mention how fast it is?
Continue reading “Need to Reference the US Constitution Fast? How’s 6 Seconds Sound?”
This visually stunning tape ticker prints out [Horatius Steam’s] emails for him. It watches his email address for a secret trigger phrase in the subject line. Sure, thermal receipt printer projects are becoming rather common, but we can’t remember seeing one that took this much time and effort to make it into a showpiece.
The two parts that make this happen are the thermal printer with cutter module and the glass dome which is just large enough to house the business end of it. The driver PCB for the printer is hidden in the base (a paper tube which is painted to took like wood), which positions the outfeed near the bottom of the dome. This had the added benefit of leaving plenty of room for [Horatius] to proudly display the paper roll. Since the receipt printer is designed to work with a Windows machine there was no custom circuitry necessary.
Over the last year, [James] has been a part of a few commercial projects that used a thermal receipt printer as part of the build. Something must have cracked in his mind, because [James] spent a lot of time developing a way to print customized content on receipt printers, connecting these printers to the Internet, and sharing content with other Internet-connected receipt printers. Even [James] doesn’t know why he spent so much time on this project; [James] figured he was bound to find something interesting. We’ve got to commend him for that.
Getting his receipt printer onto the Internet had its own challenges. After wrangling with the Arduino Ethernet library through the month of February, [James] realized larger prints (about 15cm of paper) would fail inexplicably. To get around this, [James] wrote an HTTP client for the Arduino that would fetch data, put it on the SD card, and then start printing.
Right now, [James]’ project is a polished as anyone could hope. We’re a bit concerned – although we completely understand – that he could get sucked into the black hole of pointless development of receipt printer software so easily. All was not for naught, though; now anyone can make very professional-looking prints on receipt paper very easily.
[John] has always loved stock ticker machines. These machines are highly collectible, so short of finding one that wasn’t hurled from a Manhattan skyscraper in 1929, a stock ticker is out of reach for the casual enthusiast. There is another way to get a stock ticker-like device though: hack a label printer to print out stuff from Twitter.
The build is really quite simple. A Dymo thermal label printer was modified to accept standard 2.25″ point of sale receipt paper. Now that the printer can shoot out line after line of text, [John] wrote a little bit of Ruby code using a Twitter API, RMagick for graphics processing and a Dymo printer driver.
Every 30 seconds, the code does a Twitter search for a specific hashtag and prints those tweets. #cookiehammer was the first thing that came to mind, so it stuck. Right now there’s a few tweets for #cookiehammer, but we expect [John] will have to put a new roll of paper in his printer fairly soon.
It may not be as informative as a stock ticker machine, but we think [John]’s twitter printer build sure beats watching CNN. Check out the walk through after the break.
Continue reading “Spamming a label printer with #cookiehammer”
It seems like receipt printers are pretty popular as hacking targets lately. Aside from the wasted paper, they cooler than plain old blinking LEDs and we’d image there’s a ton of them floating around out there as advances in technology have prompted retailers to trade in the bulky dinosaurs for slimmer thermal printers. [Philip Hayton] picked up this Epson model at some type of equipment sale and set to work figuring out how to control it.
This unit is addressed via a parallel interface. After assessing the pinout and searching a bit for protocol information [Philip] hooked up his Arduino and printed out a fitting first message that reads: “Hello World”. He’s got a few tricks you can learn from when trying to talk to hardware with which you are not well acquainted.
Need a reason to go out and find your own receipt printer? Check out this paper-based gaming system for some inspiration. Now develop your own paper recycling setup and we can file this one under ‘green hacks‘.