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Pipsta Raspberry Pi printer review

Tom Morgan
3 Jun 2015
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
84
inc VAT

A neat, but expensive, project printer for the Raspberry Pi

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When it comes to flexibility, nothing beats the Raspberry Pi – there are a huge number of software distributions, project tutorials and accessories available for the diminutive board. Pipsta wants to add printing to that list. The Pipsta printer is a tiny kit comprising a flat-pack case for your Raspberry Pi and a thermal printing module that slots in the top, letting you print text and images onto receipt-style paper rolls.

The case is made from acrylic and slots together without the need for screws. It's a little fiddly and you need to use quite a bit of force to get the final pieces wedged into place. The Raspberry Pi screws into four standoffs in the base, while the printer module sits on top. Once assembled it's rather difficult to remove the top piece of the case, which could be a pain for anyone using the GPIO headers for other projects.

As with all Raspberry Pi cases, there's no neat way of organising your cables as they snake out from every side. The printer module's USB cable is also much longer than it needs to be, and although there's a small amount of room underneath the Raspberry Pi to hide it we had to use a fair amount of force to pin it in place. The printer can't draw power from the Raspberry Pi itself and needs a dedicated power adapter, meaning you'll need two free plug sockets to run both printer and Pi.

Pipsta runs using Python scripts, which can be a little intimidating for anyone not familiar with the coding language, but thankfully there are detailed tutorials available at https://bitbucket.org/ablesystems/pipsta/overview to get you started. This also means there's no user-friendly interface to start printing; you have to edit the supplied demo scripts manually, or create your own from scratch. Dedicated Pi fans would argue this is all part of the fun, however.

The printer module uses a thermal printing process rather than laying down ink or toner, meaning you don't have to worry about refills or making a mess. Unfortunately this means you're restricted to black and white images, but on the plus side prints are fast. Each print request takes a second or two to process, but rolls almost instantly out of the paper slot.

You have to tear your prints off the roll, much like you would with a receipt printer, so depending on what the prints are for you may need to tidy them up with a pair of scissors. Print quality is a step above what you'll find on most receipt printers, but Pipsta definitely fares better with text than it does with images.

Two rolls of paper are included with the kit; one is basic thermal paper but the other is a roll of label paper. This doesn't have any backing paper, meaning you can tear off your print and slap it straight onto pretty much anything. It's a fun addition that should appeal to children using Pipsta to learn to code. The printer takes standard 36mm diameter, 57.5mm-wide thermal rolls, so buying replacements shouldn't be too difficult.

It's a novel way to experiment with Python scripting, but Pipsta is undeniably expensive. At £84 it's practically the same price as an inkjet printer, yet can only print basic black and white text and images. The case design also means you're restricted when it comes to other Raspberry Pi projects, but if you like the idea of programming for your own little printer, Pipsta is still a fun learning experience.

HARDWARE
CompatibilityRaspberry Pi A, B, B+, B 2
Printer TypeThermal
Consumables36mm diameter, 57.5mm wide thermal paper
Dimensions113x88x85mm