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!

RSS Printer Gives You The Hard Copy News You Desire

The days of yore saw telex machines and dot-matrix printers with continuous feed paper churning out data in hardcopy form in offices around the world. [Jan Derogee] wanted a bit of that old-school charm, and set about building a RSS news printer using a venerable old printer in his possession. 

The build relies on an ESP8266, with the WiFi-enabled microcontroller readily capable of jumping online and querying RSS feeds for content. It scrapes the XML files for title, description, and publication date information, and formats this for output to the printer. The microcontroller then spits out the data over a Commodore serial interface to a Brother HR-5C printer. Unlike dot-matrix printers of its contemporary era, the HR-5C is a thermal printer. Once loaded up with a roll of the appropriate paper, it can print continuously without requiring any hard-to-source ink ribbons.

Armed with a continuous supply of wireless internet and 210 mm rolls of thermal printer paper, [Jan]’s system should provide news summaries to him for years to come. We’ve seen similar retro news ticker projects before, too. Video after the break.

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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.

#FreeDMO Gets Rid Of DYMO Label Printer DRM

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. Continue reading “#FreeDMO Gets Rid Of DYMO Label Printer DRM”

Retro Portable Computer Packs Printer For The Trip

Looking like it dropped out of an alternate reality version of the 1980s, the Joopyter Personal Terminal is a 3D printed portable computer that includes everything you need for life in the retro-futuristic fastlane: a mechanical keyboard, a thermal printer, and the obligatory tiny offset screen. It’s a true mobile machine too, thanks to it’s onboard battery and a clever hinge design that lets you fold the whole thing up into something akin to a PLA handbag. You won’t want to leave home without it.

This gorgeous machine comes our way from [Gian], and while the design isn’t exactly open source, there’s enough information in the GitHub repository that you could certainly put together something similar if you were so inclined. While they might not serve as documentation in the traditional sense, we do love the faux vintage advertisements that have been included.

The upper section of the Joopyter holds a Raspberry Pi Zero W (though the new Pi Zero 2 would be a welcome drop-in upgrade), an Adafruit PiTFT 2.8″ display, a CSN-A2 panel mount thermal printer, and a Anker PowerCore 15600 battery to keep it all running. On the opposite side of the hinge is a hand wired keyboard powered by a Raspberry Pi Pico running KMK.

Speaking of that printed hinge, [Gian] says it comes on loan from [YARH.IO], which Hackaday readers may recall have produced a number of very slick 3D printed portable Linux machines powered by the Raspberry Pi over the last couple of years.

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Get GitHub Tickets IRL With A Raspberry Pi And A Receipt Printer

Thermal receipt printers are finding their way into all sorts of projects that are well beyond the point-of-sale environment that they normally inhabit. And while we applaud all the creative and artistic uses hackers have found for these little gems, this GitHub physical ticket printer has to be the best use for one yet.

According to [Andrew Schmelyun], seeing a fast-food order pop up on a thermal printer was the inspiration for this build. Maintaining over one hundred GitHub repos as he does, it’s easy for the details of any one bug report or feature request to get lost in the swarm of sticky notes that [Andrew] previously used to keep track of his work. To make it happen, he teamed an Epson thermal printer up to a Raspberry Pi Zero W and worked out the details of sending data to the printer using PHP. Luckily, there’s a library for that — the beauty of GitHub.

With the “Hello, World!” bit out of the way, [Andrew] turned his attention to connecting to GitHub. He set up some webhooks on the GitHub side to send a POST request every time an issue is reported on one of his repos. The POSTs are sent via ngrok to a PHP web server running on the Pi, which formats the data and sends the text to the printer. There’s a short video in the tweet below.

Between the sound of the printer working and the actual dead-tree ticket, it’ll be hard for [Andrew] to miss issues now. We’ve seen thermal printers stuffed into cameras, used to send pictures to Grannie, and even watched them commit suicide slowly, but we say hats off to [Andrew] for his solid work ethic and a fun new way to put a receipt printer to use.

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Thermal printer with a loop of thermochromic foil inserted in it, printing digits of Pi on the loop.The digits gradually disappear from the foil as it exits the printer.

Celebrating The Infinity Of Pi Day With Thermochromic Foil

It might take you some time to understand what’s happening in the video that Hackaday alum [Moritz Sivers] shared with us. This is [Moritz]’s contribution for this year’s Pi Day – a machine that shows digits of Pi in a (technically, not quite) infinite loop, and shows us a neat trick we wouldn’t have thought of.

The two main elements of this machine are a looped piece of thermochromic foil and a thermal printer. As digits are marked on the foil by the printer’s heating element, they’re visible for a few seconds until the foil disappears from the view, only to be eventually looped back and thermally embossed anew. The “Pi digits calculation” part is offloaded to Google’s pi.delivery service, a π-as-a-Service endpoint that will stream up to 50 trillion first digits of Pi in case you ever need them – an ESP8266 dutifully fetches the digits and sends them off to the thermal printer.

This machine could print the digits until something breaks or the trillions of digits available run out, and is an appropriate tribute to the infinite nature of Pi, a number we all have no choice but to fundamentally respect. A few days ago, we’ve shown a similar Pi Day tribute, albeit a more self-sufficient one – an Arduino calculating and printing digits of Pi on a character display! We could’ve been celebrating this day for millennia, if Archimedes could just count a little better.

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Sending Pics To Grandma, No Smartphone Needed

When it comes to keeping in touch with the grandparents, a lack of familiarity with modern technology can get in the way. [palmerabollo] wanted to share photos with his grandmother, but found that it was difficult as she didn’t have a smartphone or an Internet connection to receive photos. Thus, a custom build for grandma was in order! (translated)

To minimise maintenance requirements, the build relies on a thermal receipt printer. Each roll of thermal paper is good for printing off about 150 images before needing a change, so it’s a low-cost, fuss-free solution with no need for ink changeovers.

A Raspberry Pi Zero 2W runs the show, paired with a HAT that provides cellular internet connectivity. Photos are sent over Telegram with some custom Python code that [palmerabollo] put together. The system uses the Python “thermalprinter” library, with the Floyd-Steinberg dithering algorithm baked in allowing nice quality even on the simple thermal printer.

It’s a fun build, and lets [palmerabollo] send his grandmother fun photos and messages without requiring any effort on her part. It’s super cute to see the photos stuck up on the refrigerator, too.

There’s plenty of fun to be had with thermal printers, so don’t be afraid to get stuck in yourself! Video after the break. Continue reading “Sending Pics To Grandma, No Smartphone Needed”