"Magic" DIY printer to send my wife cute messages with Arduino/ESP8266/MQTT | Ye Olde Fax Machine

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I used a thermal printer (and a feather) to make a device that lets me send notes to my wife from anywhere, using an ESP8266, an Arduino Nano, and MQTT. The feather is moved by a pair of servo motors to make it look like the notes are being written by a "magic" quill like you'd see in Harry Potter (kinda).

Drink temperature monitor: https://youtu.be/4gJ1Rk6mqHM

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I started this project two days before my anniversary with my wife. At the time it looked like I was going to have to head back to the office soon after a year or so of working from home. She’d just started her first writing job and would be working from home indefinitely, and she’d been saying she’ll miss having me around all day. With that in mind, I decided to make her something that can sit on her desk and print out cute messages that I can send her. And, since her new job is as a writer, instead of just printing out the notes I could make it look like a little quill is magically writing the messages Harry-Potter style. I call it: “Ye Olde Fax Machine”.

An ESP8266 MCU (microcontroller) is subscribed to an MQTT topic, using Mosquitto as the message broker. When it receives a message it processes the text and sends it to an Adafruit thermal printer, which prints it on a roll of thermal paper. The ESP also sends a signal to an Arduino Nano that controls two mini servo motors. These are attached to a feather that moves back and forth and jitters to imitate a quill writing, to add a little bit more fun. There's some 3D printed parts as well, and I wrote a quick and dirty Android app so I can easily send messages from anywhere. See below for links to the code and a circuit diagram, and while the video can serve as DIY instructions or a how-to, I'll update the description with a link to a full tutorial eventually.

Note: I use an ESP8266 here but an ESP32 would work just as well (and possibly better).

Disclaimer: I write software professionally but I’m an amateur when it comes to electronics, so don’t take anything I do in these videos as a best practice! If you know of a better way to do anything, or you see me doing something particularly silly or dangerous, please leave a comment letting me know.


Tools I use every day:

Ender 3 Pro 3D Printer: https://amzn.to/3hL7aHi
Hatchbox PLA (my go-to 3D filament): https://amzn.to/3CuCO3s
Variable power supply (similar to mine): https://amzn.to/3nO3gAZ
Tinkercad for 3D modeling: https://www.tinkercad.com (it’s not the best but hey, it’s free)
Soldering iron: https://amzn.to/3AltNJs

Parts list for this project:

Thermal printer: https://www.adafruit.com/product/2753
ESP8266: https://amzn.to/3Cyj7Il
Arduino Nano: https://amzn.to/3hMuELY
Servos: https://amzn.to/3lHob6k
Too much thermal paper: https://amzn.to/3nKHiPv
Power supply: https://amzn.to/3zksgC1
Brass rod: https://amzn.to/2ZeDrjx
90-degree clamp: https://amzn.to/2VTWqhU

Disclaimer: I may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through the links above, at no additional cost to you.

3D Model(s): https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4940029

Code & circuit diagram:

#Arduino #ESP8266 #Engineering #Adafruit
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