What if its not a sunny day?

The thermal printer as a component in a solar powered system. Thermal printers, especially if deployed for automated applications, have to work hard at several tasks at the same time. Success of small built in printers for automation applications is dependent on numerous aspects. 
Small size, high flexibility, convincing print speed and quality as well as longevity, and ease of service are of high importance. Moreover, energy efficiency in applications requiring sensible use of available resources can be critical.   

Thermal printer units are deployed in a wide variety of fields they span from information or sales terminals to automated transit and parking ticketing machines. Last but not least, the question of on-site power availability can be of critical importance.   

Many municipalities have already installed solar powered On-Street-Parking systems because it is more cost effective than tying individual parking systems in to grid power. However, solar panels typically deliver a, for thermal printers and the associated re-chargeable batteries, non-typical voltage.     

Standard printers are available to run on 24V or, for slower machines 5V. In any case, solar power has to go through an inverter to be transferred into printer friendly power. The detour through an inverter means, next to higher cost, power losses which are of great disadvantage in such systems.  

Modern thermal printers require high peak currents of sometimes more than 10A. DC/DC step up inverters of this size often transform 20% of energy in to heat losses; Energy that was elaborately produced via solar panels.   

A printer connected directly to 12V is a much more attractive solution.

Showing true greatness

Bigger components also mean undesirably large units. The smaller the better is the mantra. Furthermore, mounting flexibility is expected in applications where, next to paper output devices, other components have to be installed. The system door is an often desired mounting location that requires custom mounting attachments to afford easily accessible to printer and paper roll holder.  However, an only fist sized printer can be much more easily integrated. The printer from printer specialist GeBE Elektronik und Feinwerktechnik GmbH COMPACT PLUS, with dimensions of only 100 x 85 x 43 mm, shows true greatness in a small package.

Safe paper transport and output warranted

Mostly thicker paper stock of maximum 120-140m are used in ticketing applications. Parking tickets are often even thicker and can top 180m. Many print mechanisms cannot cope with such paper thicknesses, and especially proper paper transport can be problematic. The high speed print mechanism built in to the COMPACT PLUS can handle paper thicknesses of up to 200m and the cutter reliably guaranties 2 million cuts. This performance makes this printer ideally suitable for parking areas.  

Public system locations pose special risks concerning user manipulation. Here it is important that a printer offers options preventing paper jams and/or damage to the print mechanism. An Anti Jam unit from GeBE  is already available for other printers and will shortly be available for the COMPACT PLUS as well.

Naturally - coping with power fluctuations

In order to work reliably and trouble-free the printer has to be able to cope with certain difficulties. In addition to the unusual 12V operating voltage, the printer also has to be able to handle power fluctuations that might be a side effect of solar operation.

The at GeBE developed controller GCT-4692/-93 enables the printer to handle a variety of input voltages ranging from 11-26.5V. It is therefore ideally suited for solar operation. Also, an input voltage independent functionality of individual components such as paper feed, paper cutting and even heating of the print head is imperative.

Goal oriented development of the controller enables the COMPACT PLUS to operate without the use of a inefficient DC/DC step-up inverter which is a considerable advantage.

Efficient use of resources

What if the sun doesnt shine? Limited availability of energy is a consideration for any solar operated system. All components must make efficient use of available energy. In use the printer should use energy economically and it should power down automatically when not in use. The COMPACT PLUS features a smart power management that enables energy savings during print pauses. It also enables the printers Zero Power Mode. In this state the printer uses virtually no power during stand by. The controller wakes the printer as soon as another print command is sent.    

This way solar operated units can work properly guaranteed.

A print speed of up to 200mm/s can be reached depending on power availability. Of course, highest printer performance is available only when full voltage and current are availability. Therefore, power use should be sensibly controlled keeping energy availability in mind. The GCT-4692/93 controller adjusts print speed such that a preset maximum current cannot be surpassed. This technology guarantees printing even at times when the power supply only makes minimal current available, and it enables the smooth matching of the printer to the power and performance of an existing system power supply.
4673_solar(smaller).jpgSuperior to public power network bound units; Solar operation for OnStreet parking applications
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