HP printer cartridge control module

HP 63/302/123/803 cartridge control module with 3D printable mount.

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The idea of this project is to make the MCU compatible control module for the HP printer cartridge in easy to connect format. For the first time ever, inkjet technology is available for your projects in a convenient module format with the necessary easy-to-use software. Most of the mechanical parts are 3D printable. The electronics part is a 23x38 mm level converters SMT PCB with 14 inputs with an overload cartridge protection circuit.


In my head quite often there are ideas that I would like to implement, they are both in the field of hardware and in the field of software. Often they remain unstarted because someone has already implemented them.

Once again I have a new idea - a project of a handheld printer which would consist of a color printer cartridge and optical flow sensor (the same which is installed in an optical mouse) in a compact case. My idea was that it would print by moving this whole construction over a sheet of paper. A genius idea, and... it already turned out to be implemented, for example here: PrintCube.

Okay, let this particular idea has already been implemented, but many more interesting things can be done based on printing:

  • Make DIY handheld mini printer similar to PrintCube.
  • Make a module for a 3D printer that turns it into a CUPS-based 2D inkjet printer.
  • Make a printer that prints with edible ink on cookies, cakes, coffee cups, or whatever else you eat.

Even though these ideas are not new, making something out of it would still be an interesting adventure for a new experience. At first glance the task did not seem too difficult: I would take ready-made modules, which are on the market, put everything in one box and code it. Three easy steps!

Let's see what ready-made solutions for makers on the subject of printing already exist:

  1. Ink Shield GitHub - Open source solution. Not color. No longer available for purchase.
  2. Controlling an HP6602 printhead - Open source solution. Not in color. Can't buy an off-the-shelf solution as a module.
  3. MagicPaintBrush - Open source solution. Color!!! Can't buy an out-of-the-box solution as a module.
  4. Ytec3D Forum - Lots of information on reverse engineering various cartridges.
    All are not in color. Can't buy an off-the-shelf solution as a module.

The list could go on and on, but they all have one thing in common: at the moment, there are no ready-made modules for controlling a color printer cartridge. There is not even a monochrome print module that you could buy and use out of the box.
So this project was born.

Project goal

This project is an attempt to make a compact modular control unit for color/black print cartridges of an HP printer using a microcontroller.
It is based on the already tested in the MagicPaintBrush project by Sprite_tm's solution. The final result of the project: the realization of a working iron prototype in the form of a surface mount board, a 3D printer printable mount, and control software.

Cartridge pinout

Most of the description of the cartridge is taken from here and details of its reverse engineering can be read there. Here is a small part required to implement this project.

The picture shows the pinout of the inputs:

LabelDescriptionVoltage level
S3Clock line.16V
DCLKClock line.16V
D1Data line for the yellow color.9V
D2Data line for the magenta color.9V
PWRA - F3Print trigger line.16V
PWRB - F5Print trigger line.16V
S5Clock line.16V
D3Data line for the color cayan.9V
CSYNCData group switching line.9V
S1Clock line.16V
S4Clock line.16V
S2Clock line.16V

To protect against burning out the nozzles in the cartridge it is necessary to limit the signal time on lines PWRA-F3(hereinafter F3) and PWRB-F5(hereinafter F5) to about 4-10 µs. Failure to do so may cause the nozzle heating resistors to malfunction.

Description of the designed PCB

The board is a converter of 5V input signal levels from the controller to the control signal levels of the cartridge.

Almost all of the circuit solutions were taken from the MagicPaintBrush project.

Circuit diagram:

Three blocks can be distinguished here:

1. Block of input voltage conversion from 5V to 9V and 16V.

2. The level shifter block of the...

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Zip Archive - 56.50 kB - 02/23/2022 at 13:26


Comma-Separated Values - 2.28 kB - 02/23/2022 at 13:25



Data dump from the printer

srzip - 1.06 MB - 01/12/2022 at 08:20



The image that prints to acquire a dump from the printer

Portable Network Graphics (PNG) - 32.89 kB - 01/12/2022 at 08:13



HP123 cartridge scanned model

sla - 23.84 MB - 07/28/2021 at 13:43


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View all 5 project logs

Enjoy this project?



Kefan Cao wrote 06/30/2022 at 08:12 point

Thanks for your project. Does PrintSpider v2.0 PCB works now?

I noticed you change HX3608 to SY7304DBC for 16V supply net, and use CD74HC123PWR to generate fire pulse, use A03401A to amplify current . Does F3 and F5 signal function properly now?

  Are you sure? yes | no

sanketdhone wrote 04/06/2022 at 17:43 point

Can you provide any further details on the project?

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ACCount wrote 02/23/2022 at 21:42 point

That "TS" line you don't have a function for likely stands for "thermal sensor". Seen a similar thing in Epson printheads. It either provides an analog value off the heat sensor, or just a high/low depending on if the head is too hot.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Pavel Semenov wrote 02/28/2022 at 11:44 point

Thanks for this information. As for now, I decided to focus only on MVP of the main printing function. I will check and maybe use this in future releases to add more stability to the module.

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D Z wrote 12/18/2021 at 17:03 point

Hi! Have you abandoned the project?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Pavel Semenov wrote 12/18/2021 at 20:59 point

Hi! Project is not abandoned but I have been stalled it a bit. I think I'll go on it on the new year vacations.

  Are you sure? yes | no

D Z wrote 11/20/2021 at 23:44 point

very cool project, cant wait for final instructions!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Romina wrote 11/05/2021 at 09:53 point

Cool Project. Would you please update us on your recent progress? I am also really interested to build it.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Pavel Semenov wrote 12/18/2021 at 21:02 point

There are technical and time issues, but a working prototype is on the way.

  Are you sure? yes | no

sanketdhone wrote 11/04/2021 at 08:38 point

hey bro, can u post your recent progress I am really looking forward to build this! 

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Pavel Semenov wrote 12/18/2021 at 21:06 point

Hey dude, I can't say exactly when, since this is my first project, but I'll get it to a working version.

  Are you sure? yes | no

florian wrote 09/11/2021 at 15:41 point

Where u able to get it working? Would like to build myself one.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Pavel Semenov wrote 09/12/2021 at 14:21 point

@florian , thank you for your interest in this project. I am expecting to have a working version ready by mid of October, and I will publish the final instructions by the end of the month.

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florian wrote 09/12/2021 at 14:43 point

Is the current PCB working that I can order one?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Pavel Semenov wrote 09/16/2021 at 14:37 point

@florian PCB still has some issues to fix. I am waiting for the revision with fixes from the manufacturer.

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Anthony G wrote 08/29/2021 at 01:05 point

Depending how well the ink sticks to metal, I could see this as being tremendous for those making PCBs or metal jewelry at home using acid etching.  Use the printer cartridge to directly print on blank PCBs or pieces of brass, no need for laser printer toner transfer.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Pavel Semenov wrote 09/04/2021 at 12:10 point

@Anthony G , great idea to try. I don't know if the acid for etching is suitable in viscosity, thermal and other characteristics for the thermal print head of the HP cartridge. Will have to try with empty cartridges like this one::

  Are you sure? yes | no

Neal wrote 02/24/2021 at 02:09 point

Cool project.  What library are you using to drive the PrintSpider board?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Pavel Semenov wrote 02/26/2021 at 12:08 point

I've not implemented any code yet, but I will adapt this realization in near future.

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Gravis wrote 01/21/2021 at 19:15 point

Here's info on a similar print head:

  Are you sure? yes | no

Pavel Semenov wrote 01/22/2021 at 08:57 point

Thanks @Gravis . I've seen this project already. The problem is that HP45 cartridge used there is only a single color, so if you want full color printing solution you should combine at least three cartridges with it's own PCSs, connectors etc. I want a more simpler and cheap solution.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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