I have always been interested in inkjet cartridges ever since we had an old DeskJet when I was very young; these cartridges looked mightily interesting and they were up for grabs as soon as the ink in them ran out. Back then, I couldn't really do much more than open them up and get my hands black... while I knew there must be some fancy electronics in there, just sticking a battery on the contacts did not make the cartridge do anything and my electronics knowledge did not reach much further than that.

A bit later on, when I was a student, I got my hands on an old inkjet printer. I used a laser printer myself around that time, so I did not have much interest in keeping it, but having some cartridges and a way to reverse engineer them was quite interesting. I actually did a writeup on controlling these cartridges, and while it worked pretty well, it had some disadvantages: I never managed to figure out the exact nozzle order, the cartridge was monochrome-only (specifically: magenta), and as the cartridge was pretty old, it did not have that high a resolution.

Recently, my girlfriend got into painting, so I figured I had a good excuse to re-visit inkjet cartridges, in the hope I could get some art on canvas myself. With a bit of luck, I could find a way to map all the nozzles to the correct signals this time. Also, printer cartridges nowadays control more nozzles with less signals, possibly making controlling the cartridge easier and the amount of surface you can cover in one 'swipe' larger. Finally, if I managed to control a tri-color cartridge, I could print in full-color!

If you want to follow my journey to get from a stack of printers to full control over the printer cartridge, I have given a talk about that on the Hackaday Supercon 2018. I have embedded the recording of this below. If you're interested in the reverse engineering details, please watch that. Here, on this website, I'll try to discuss the technical details of the electronics I built, as well as the nitty-gritty technical details of how to control the cartridge, so you can also squirt out Nyancats with your own ESP32 or other microcontroller.

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