Build Your Own Dot Matrix Printer with an Arduino!

Back in the days of 8-bit and 16-bit computing, office (and home, if you could afford it) printing relied not on inkjet and laser printers, but on dot matrix. Using a grid of dots to output text and numbers onto paper, the quality was never great, but it retains some artistic interest. (Perhaps the closest print method still in use is thermal printing, commonly used for receipts in shops and restaurants.)

You’ve probably never considered building your own printer, but in case you’re looking for an engaging project to surprise and interest people, this might be the one. Dotter comprises several 3D printed components and is controlled using an Arduino. As the 18-year-old builder Nikodem Bartnik notes: “there are also 28BYJ48 stepper motors (the cheapest stepper motors you can find) and some basic components ... It can print on the paper up to 55cm wide and infinity long.”

Perhaps most notable about the project (beyond the stunning art it is capable of), is the story behind this dot matrix printer. As Nikodem explains, he never intended to build a dot matrix printer at all:

“At the beginning, there wasn't a Dotter. I wanted to make maybe a little bit similar thing but much more sophisticated – a 3D printer.” 

After a considerable amount of work and research, and a few left-over parts, Nikodem coincidentally stumbled across some old school artwork, examples of pointillism (where images are created with dots). Making the link, the spare components were combined with some custom 3D printed parts and Dotter was born! Interestingly, this project is ideal for printing on those long rolls of paper you can find at IKEA.

In addition to an Arduino for sending images to the Dotter print head, the project also requires a custom PCB; buy this on Bartnik’s Tindie store. Find full details on Bartnik’s Instructables page to build your own Dotter.

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