The Retro-Printer case

We have been working with a company who are already well known for producing items for the Raspberry Pi, in order to design the new case for the Raspberry Pi + Retro-Printer module.

The bottom of the case will be able to be screwed down should you wish to attach it to a wall, and the top will show the online switch and three leds (normally used to show power, receiving data and online).

Changes to the LEDs

We appreciate that the data conversion can continue running for a little while after the Retro-Printer module has finished capturing printer data.  We have therefore now changed the function of the blue (power) led, so that if the Retro-Printer module is busy converting data, the blue led will flash to warn you not to unplug the unit.  The led will turn steady again as soon as some new data is received.

The manual also explains how you can write your own software to take over control of each of the three leds, should you wish to use them for your own purposes.

Production Units

We are getting quite a lot of interest in the low cost Retro-Printer from a wide range of industry and home users.  We are therefore now in discussions with a few select companies to obtain quotes for producing the modules in volume, which will enable us to meet existing and anticipated interest.

Alternative Single Board Computers

– Retro-Printer Module for BananaPi – the Banana Pi M1 and M1+ uses the same GPIO pins as the Raspberry Pi, which means the Retro-Printer module could easily be fitted to one of these mini-computers, although there is a difference in speed between the BananaPi and Raspberry Pi (mainly because of it only having a dual core processor).

– Retro-Printer Module for Orange Pi PC – the Orange Pi PC has a quad speed H3 processor and although their are slight differences in some of the GPIO pins compared to the Raspberry Pi, our new approach to reading the data over the GPIO mean that we can easily adapt the software to handle this board,

Some changes were required to the libraries which address the GPIO connector, but other than that, the core software remains the same; so we can easily maintain the Retro-Printer software for both the Raspberry Pi,  the Banana Pi and Orange Pi.  The only downside is the physical dimensions of the different single board computers mean that the Retro-Printer module cannot easily be supported by spacers (and will not fit in the new case)

This makes the Retro-Printer module one of the few HATs which has been made to work with a range of different low cost Single Board Computers, using the same software, and it means that the module is well-positioned to create a low cost centronics to usb printer convertor for both home and industry.

Branching Out

As well as the work to improve the hardware for the Retro-Printer Module, we have also been working on some parallel projects; which in turn help to feed into further improvements to the Retro-Printer software.

The RWAP Interceptor – this is software written to run on a Banana Pi M1 / M1+ or an Odroid C1+ and is designed to sit between equipment and a connected USB printer, whilst remaining invisible to the connected equipment – simply unplug the USB printer, and plug the Interceptor module into the original equipment, connecting the USB printer basck into the Interceptor module and then switch everything on.

The Interceptor then captures any data sent to the USB printer, and stores this onto the SD card for processing by an independent task.

To date, this has been used for two specific instances, where third parties have written their own processing software to convert the captured data:
– capturing receipts being sent by tills to receipt printers; which is ideal for extracting the data into a spreadsheet to make for simpler transaction recording than keeping duplicate till receipts
– allowing for insertion of reports and information / promotional material as a second page on the till receipt.

We are hopeful that this will have further benefits for the Retro-Printer module by expanding the range of printer code interpreters (for example to support ESC/POS).