Do You Need a Unique Solution for Your Thermal Printer Application? Try Using TSC’s Customizable GPIO Interface.

The TSC GPIO interface is perfect for customizing solutions. Do you need your printer to turn on a warning light when it runs out of paper, sound an alarm if a printer stops working or print a new label at the touch of a button? You can do all that and many other operations by taking advantage of TSC’s optional GPIO interface.

What is GPIO?

GPIO stands for general purpose input/output. It is a type of connector optionally installed on a printer that does not have a specific pre-programmed function. While most pins have a dedicated purpose, such as sending a signal to a certain component, the function of the GPIO interface is customizable and can be controlled by software.

The TSC GPIO card is a 15-pin interface that can be programmed to either receive input from outside of the printer (such as a foot pedal switch or other momentary switch) or can send an output signal that triggers a relay or other device outside of the printer.

How does a GPIO card work?

Most circuit boards have assigned functions such as print, cut, keyboard, etc. What makes the GPIO card such a powerful tool is its ability to customize barcode applications. For instance, we had a customer who wanted to operate their printer using a foot pedal and also wanted to connect a set of status indicator lights that could be seen from across the room. None of these functions are considered standard, but with the TSC GPIO card it was attainable.

Here are some typical applications using GPIO with your thermal printer:

Signals can be sent from the printer to the attached device for printer status including:

  • FAULT: Printer fault.
  • FAULT RIBBON: Ribbon error is occurred.
  • FAULT PAPER: Paper empty or paper jam is occurred.
  • FAULT CARRIAGE: Carriage is open.
  • FAULT MEMORY: Out of memory is occurred.
  • FAULT CUTTER: Cutter error is occurred.
  • FAULT OVERHEAT: Stepping motor or print head is overheat.
  • PAUSE: Pause status is occurred.
  • TAKELABEL: Take label is occurred.
  • IDLE: Printer is idle.

Signals may also be received by the printer and trigger the printer to do a variety of tasks including:

  • PAUSE: Toggle pause status.
  • PAUSE ON: Enter pause status.
  • PAUSE OFF: Cancel pause status.
  • PRINT: Print batch of labels.
  • PRINT n: n is numerical. Specify how many labels to print. Maximum: 32000.
  • CUT: Cut immediately.
  • FEED n: n is numerical, and the unit is dot. Specify the feeding length. Maximum: 32000.
  • BACKFEED n where: n is numerical, and the unit is dot. Specify the back-feeding length. Maximum: 32000.
  • FORMFEED: Feeding an empty label.
  • INPUT n: n is text or command. The n will be triggered to printer
  • PRINT: Printer is printing

How to Program GPIO

The TSC TSPL manual includes instructions for many common GPIO applications including programing a label applicator. TSC’s Print Engine, the PEX-1000 is a good example of a product that can be programed to connect with other devices as part of an overall label applicator solution. For more information on programing GPIO, refer to the GPIO section of the TSPL manual.

If a customer has a requirement that surpasses what is covered in the manual and additional programing is deemed necessary, just remember, our TSC engineers can go well beyond standard commands to help you create a powerful system.

Are GPIO cards included on all TSC printers?

GPIO is included as a standard feature on the PEX-1000 print engine series and is available as an option on the following industrial printers:

  • MB240 Industrial Thermal Printer Series
  • MH240 Industrial Thermal Printer Series
  • MX240P Industrial Thermal Printer Series


For more information about TSC advanced customization tools take a look at the Advanced Customization Series blog articles.


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