Friday, April 25, 2014

Distant Print at Democamp Hamilton

I presented the working model of Distant-Print on April 2 at Democamp Hamilton.

Check out the featured article:

Here is the youtube video.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Review: SPRT SP-POS58IV thermal receipt printer

I promised to post some thermal printer reviews earler in Jan; however my other tasks had sucked away all my time.  So, better late than never, here is the first piece of 5 printer reviews.

This SPRT printer is one of the "good" printers I have been able to source from China.  And this particular model is been used to build my remote-printer prototypes, therefore I have enough experiences to backup the claim.


I have to say that this one differs from most other China made 58mm thermal printers.  The printer prints fast and quiet; the plastic case feels better; and the paper chamber cover is even spring loaded.  When I press on the release button, it will pop up to full open.  Unfortunately I don't have a youtube video to share, but you can see the springs below.

It has (1) usb port and (1) RJ11 for connecting the cash drawer.


As usual, I disassembled the printer and took photos of everything.

1) Main controller: STM32F103
This is an ARM Cortex-M3 controller.  Compare to a M0 solution found in generic 5890 printers, it just has more processing power.

So the claim of faster printer speed seems reasonable.

2) The components and soldering job are okay.  No scrapped parts but no fancy stuff too.

One thing I have noticed is that they don't cut corner on wires.  Some other printers has very short internal wire length, making it difficult for me to disassemble.

3) Paper feeding gear.
It uses a rather large plastic gear for paper feeding mechanism.(approx over 1.2cm in diameter)  This is a good sign, because small gears wear out faster. Some other Chinese manufacturers just don't spend the extra 0.02 on gears.

4) Motor
Can't see the actual model number, but it is larger than 5890s too.

3.Software-windows (tested on win7 64bit)

This one comes with 32/64 bit drivers for windows.  The whole installation process is quite easy.  Windows issued a warning because the driver was not signed, but we don't worry about that, just continue.

After the installation process is done, SPRT printer appeared in my device list.

Test print

First try to print something from notepad; just pure text. The result is okay.

Then I used photoshop to print out a grey-scale image.  To my surprise, it actually printed out instantly, and the result is satisfactory.  (I was expecting some problems since this is not a laser jet.)


For the linux test, it is as good as it could be.  That is from my experiences using this model with Raspberry Pi for remote printer project. Everything has been tested and working.

This is the test print out:

  • ESC !  -  fully supported.   
  • Every other ESC POS command I have tested are also supported.

Here is a simplified list of supported ECS/POS command.

5. ESC/POS Barcode 

Barcode printing is easy. Test code in python:
import shutil
import sys

printer = open('/dev/usb/lp0','w')

string = "--test EAN-13 barcode wide--\n"
string += "\x1d\x77\x04"   # GS w 4
string += "\x1d\x6b\x02"   # GS k 2 
string += "5901234123457\x00"  # [data] 00
string += "-end-\n"


6. ESC/POS Graphics

SP-POS58IV supports two ways of bitmap printing.  The main difference is how you define the bitmap data.   The actual printing code is too long to list here. You will have to consult with the user manual for instructions on how to format the command.
  • Method 1:
  • ESC * m n1 n2 [d]k   ---- Print bitmap in one big command (8 or 24 bit column)
  • Method 2:
  • GS /    ---- print bitmap data
  • GS *   ---- define bitmap data   (n x 8 bit column)


I am quite happy with this unit so far.  It has several advantages over many cheap 58mm thermal printers:

  • Prints faster.
  • Better build quality
  • Windows 32/64 compatible.
  • Better ESC/POS command support
  • Barcode support

However, the benefits come at a price.  This SPRT POS58IV costs 2x as much as the cheapest 5890 I can find.  But it is still significantly cheaper than EPSON or Zebra.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Better Cloud Printer III - The Hardware

This post continues from my earlier post:

The Hardware

The prototype has been finished for two weeks, but I have not had time to update this blog.  Now I proudly present the 1st unit, hand crafted by Reed:

  • A: 12v~5v voltage converter module. 
  • B: Raspberry Pi running modified Raspbian.
  • C: the original printer board.
The printer looks industrial solid and cost me just about $100.

What next?

- Make a youtube demo video.
- Setup a webstore to take pre-order.
- Complete the public API.
- Attract buyers/investors.

Update 2014-04-08:

1) The printer project name is officially "Distant Print".
2) I am finishing up the client program, hopefully will release a RPi SD image soon.

For anyone who is reading this:

If you feel that you are good at any tasks above, I am looking for a co-founder.  Feel free to send me a message.  (6-Feb-2014)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Review: 5 thermal receipt printers line-up

Part-one: Thermal printers line-up.

Finally, I put together 5 thermal printers for a side-by-side comparison.

As far as I know, this is the only review for thermal printers beyond the manufacturer's brochures.  I hope it can help you in your POS project.

Because I don't have enough time to finish the review in one go, will post the rest in multiple parts during the next few weeks.

Printer/Models covered in this review:
  • POS58 - 58mm, USB
  • POS80 - 80mm, auto-cutter, USB+RS232+LAN
  • SP-POS58IV - 58mm, USB
  • SP-POS88V - 80mm, auto-cutter, USB
  • HDD-80260 - 80mm, auto-cutter, USB+RS232+LAN

Read the reviews:

POS58 - 58mm, USB

POS80 - 80mm, auto-cutter, USB+RS232+LAN

SP-POS58IV - 58mm, USB

SP-POS88V - 80mm, auto-cutter, USB

HDD-80260 - 80mm, auto-cutter, USB+RS232+LAN