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I'm Thinking about a Queue management system built with Android tablets. I figured out that the cheapest way to give each customer a number is a thermal receipt printer. I'm looking for any solution that:

  • Can print text and basic graphics (e.g. QR codes)
  • Can connect to my Android directly via BT or USB, without Cloud printing or internet connection
  • Is generally reliable, and can handle a few hundreds of prints every day

Is thermal printing a good idea? Are there any thermal printers that play nicely with Android?

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"What printer should I get?" doesn't really seem like a good fit for this site. In general, shopping recommendations don't work well on Stack Exchange sites (see Q&A is Hard, Let’s Go Shopping! for some explanation why). –  eldarerathis Sep 20 '12 at 15:31
    
@eldarerathis Thanks for your comment, I've updated my question accordingly. I'm not just looking for a specific model recommendation, but an answer about the Android thermal printer connectivity issue. –  Adam Matan Sep 20 '12 at 15:35
    
There's no print facility embedded within the Android stack. But having said that, a lot of those kind of receipt printers are controlled by the Epson Esc codes, it would be best to have this plugged into a computer, and make a client server architecture out of it. –  t0mm13b Sep 20 '12 at 16:17
    
If you can't find a printer that connects locally, you might want to take a look at Little Printer app. *8') –  Mark Booth Sep 20 '12 at 16:35
    
What did you find? Did you find a solution? –  Justin Jan 7 '13 at 19:44
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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

What you are looking for is usually known as a 'receipt printer'. A quick Google for 'bluetooth receipt printer' turns up a number of models from a variety of manufacturers (quite a few of them are actually battery powered and portable - like you see at car rental places).

The big problem here is that Android doesn't really have any concept of local printing, so I think you're going to have to implement it yourself.

Android DOES have bluetooth communications APIs (docs), and I'd be surprised if the printer manufacturers haven't heard all this before, and have at least clues how to proceed (after all, they like to sell printers!). If you'll be buying a significant number of printers, I bet they'll happily help you talk to their devices.

If that's too expensive for you (and those printers look a bit pricey), then you could try USB. Again, you can find USB receipt printers, which again you'll have to learn to talk to. Android does have a set of USB APIs (docs). On the plus side, my quick Google for 'USB receipt printer' turned up some sub-$75 choices right away, so this might be a good approach if you are price sensitive. I'd also be willing to bet that at least some of the USB printers are actually serial devices with something like an FTDI chip bolted up to them. That means that talking to them is probably not very difficult.

Alternately, if you can find a cheap receipt printer that's serial or something, you could look at the IOIO boards and software stack as a way to interface your android tablet to some funky printer. These are boards that adhere to the relevant Android APIs + software that makes them easy to talk to. The boards are available commercially, and the schematics are available, if you want to build your own, and they are designed to make hardware interfacing easy.

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The problem with a USB printer is that most Android devices don't support USB host mode. –  Al E. Sep 20 '12 at 19:47
    
@AlEverett - according to the docs at USB Host, it's supported in Android 3.1 and up (so, from a software perspective, almost every tablet). Now that doesn't mean all hardware supports it, but since the OP seems to be in the early stages of the project, it would be simple to choose tablets that do have USB support, either with full sized USB connectors, or USB-on-the-go adapters. –  Michael Kohne Sep 20 '12 at 20:30
    
Also, I Googled around a bit and noted that some folks have even been able to use standard serial adapters with a serial terminal program - no rooting required! That could be very useful, because I'd bet that not a few USB receipt printers actually have something like the FTDI serial USB chips embedded in them, rather than anything custom. –  Michael Kohne Sep 20 '12 at 20:33
    
Can you include the source in relation to standard serial adapters? I do know that some kernels have that built in for debugging via JTAG and serial/usb chip to enable the reading of kernel logs on boot. But from what I can gather, Android has no clue about serial! –  t0mm13b Sep 20 '12 at 20:49
    
@t0mm13b - This SO question goes into it a bit. –  Michael Kohne Sep 20 '12 at 23:21
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I work for a thermal printer manufacturer based in India (Mumbai). We have the perfect solution for your requirements: our 2" Bluetooth printer.

We can also provide a sample APK file, and the source code to integrate the printer with your application. If you want more information, please contact us.

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There are number of thermal printer available in market with their own SDK. Here is the ans of your queries:

Can print text and basic graphics (e.g. QR codes)

Yes we can print the basic graphics from the thermal printers. You can check the EPSON, Casio or any other Chinese printer in market.

Can connect to my Android directly via BT or USB, without Cloud printing or internet connection

Yes, you can connect with those printer via Bluetooth, WiFi or USB. Also one more thing is you can install your printer drivers on Server and directly send the printing request to the server. This feature allow you to print form anywhere no issue or slow connection like we face in BT and WiFi.

Is generally reliable, and can handle a few hundreds of prints every day

Yes, Thermal printers are reliable and work very well. You can print any number of prints from thermal printers.

Is thermal printing a good idea? Are there any thermal printers that play nicely with Android?

Thermal printer is a very good idea because it's available in very small amount. That is small in size so no need to make an extra place for the printer.

For the Developers here is one sample how to deal with thermal printer

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/15701465/how-to-print-from-the-thermal-printer-in-android

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