Dot matrix printer ribbon fun (TFT EAS 911 and others)

(We’re saved! The original Epson ERC-09B ribbons appear to be available again via Amazon.)

This post has been technically deemed a shitpost because WD-40 is involved. Also something that looks like Comic Sans.

Shitposting loudly

This is the tiny printer ribbon used on the TFT EAS 911 and many other devices using a small dot matrix printer mechanism. This particular unit is hilarious, it’s less than half an inch thick and appears to contain a one pixel printhead!! The way it works, noisily, is that the printhead cycles back and forth on a bihelical gear as the paper feeds one pixel height at a time. It takes like a minute and a half for the log output from a RWT (Required Weekly Test) to creep noisily out of there.

So the ribbon was fading away on this one and i opened a fresh… new… old stock (uh oh) box of ribbons. They were all dried up in the box.

The ribbon feed knob wouldn’t move the cloth ribbon at all. Curious, I carefully pried the top off.

Larger ribbons as used in some dot matrix printers like the Citizen 200GX/GSX140 models had a big boxy space filled with lots of ribbon that kinda folded up in there and flowed to the other end. Smaller ribbons that went on the carriage (Okidata, IBM, and Apple printers were like this) usually contained a foam roller that stored ink and transferred it to the ribbon. They were easy to re-ink; I always just applied stamp pad ink and WD-40 with good results. The light mineral oil from the WD-40 helped the ink transfer and lubricated the print head pins.

This just has a small band and two foam rollers. The ink was there but dried, so I just applied WD-40 to the ribbon and both rollers.

Success.

I tried this on a second one in the box but it seemed its feed roller had separated – the plastic core spun free in the foam sleeve. That seems to be the game over point on these things, it can’t feed anymore once that happens.

I’m not sure if these are still made fresh somewhere. I’ll have to check later. For now, Fun With Subcarrier Audio is on the agenda.

One thought on “Dot matrix printer ribbon fun (TFT EAS 911 and others)”

  1. Tom, that’s a pretty standard ribbon and you should be able to find them in small quantities for not too much. I’ll try to get the number when I am at the studios.

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