Thursday, April 19, 2012

Invert! Invert! Invert!

So far on the subject of mobile printing for the iPad, I've written about:

Printing from the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch on the road (no router and no sockets required)

Getting the iPad to talk to the H470

Mobile Wireless Printers for the iPad / iPhone

That last post shows just how very limited the choices are when it comes to wanting to print in a truly mobile way ... but what if we widen the net a little and looked at how the iPad could print provided we could get power to a printer?

The problem with battery-operated printers is that pretty much all of them (apart from the H470 and H460 I've previously written about) only offer bluetooth as a wireless option, which is simply a no-go for printing with iPads and iPhones. If we look at regular printers, we open up a ton of options as long as we can solve the power problem.

Enter the power inverter ...

When I was originally looking at this, I saw a lot of sales people wanting to print invoices for customers or truck drivers wanting to print delivery advices or pickup slips from their rig ... so, right there we have a source of power on the road - the humble 12v DC cigarette lighter.

Your car throws out 12v of Direct Current but everyday electrical items want 120v of Alternating Current (or 220v-240v if you're in Europe/Asia) - a power inverter converts the DC so that you can simply plug in your printer (or anything else for that matter) as if you were at home.

This opens up the possibility for AirPrint printers which operate in AdHoc mode ... in these cases there's no need for a third-party printing app - you should be able to just print straight from your iPad / iPhone from any app that supports AirPrint.
Note: Make sure the AirPrint printer you buy can definitely operate in AdHoc mode.

Going the non-AirPrint route though opens up a bunch of more compact printers (or you may already have a printer capable of operating in AdHoc mode). It might be a lot easier to track down something like this with an inverter than the ideal mobile printing solution of a H470 / H460 ...
Note: Make sure the printer you buy can definitely operate in AdHoc mode.

And don't forget the power inverter itself for your car.

Once you've got these, you can set up an AdHoc connection between your printer and your iPad (or just print the standard AirPrint way if compatible) and away you go ...


  • Use it only when your engine is running - it's a common misconception that a car's alternator refills the battery all the way. I've heard that modern cars are designed to replace what's taken at any given moment ... so, if you're taking power without the engine running, you're slowly draining your battery and what you use won't get replaced
  • Check the power rating of the printer you buy - most modern printers (even all-in-ones) run under 100W - but check the specs so that the inverter you buy can handle the printer's power requirements (a laser printer sucks power to heat up the rollers btw, so steer clear)
  • Make sure the printer can operate in AdHoc wireless mode - otherwise you won't be able to get the iPad / iPhone to talk to it without a router (which you could also run off an inverter, but what's the point when the iPad and printer can talk to each other direct?)

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  1. Hello, I have been able to setup a Brother printer in my vehicle with an inverter and in adhoc network mode, and print successfully using the Brother iPrint app. It's a small detail, but I am wondering why I cannot print directly just using the "Print" option in iOS - meaning that I have to "export to" or "open in" the iPrint app and then print. If I don't use the app and just print directly from iOS, it sees the printer, seems to connect to it, but nothing prints. I know I'm being picky, as I can print, but I'm wondering if my ideal of printing using the "Print" icon in iOS is possible and just needs some better configuration, or is it just that the app is needed for this?

  2. Great article! Any luck finding a list or resource to identify printers that can setup their own ad hoc network? Somewhat an overlooked feature it seems...