Raspberry Pi Turns Truck into Giant Dot Matrix Printer

Raspberry Pi
(Image credit: Ryder Damen)

Whether he’s stopping package thieves by dousing them with flour or recreating Christmas lights from Stranger Things, it’s no stretch to say that maker Ryder Damen’s projects are always "overflowing" with creativity. Today we’re sharing another fantastic creation of his that uses our favorite SBC, the Raspberry Pi. Ryder has somehow managed to create a giant dot matrix printer using his truck.

The printing process works by dropping splotches of water onto the road while the truck is driven. The water is dropped carefully to shape letters and form custom messages. The system is mounted to the back of the truck and controlled from inside the cabin using a web interface. As a message is parsed, a series of tubes direct water into position and activate precisely to create shapes much like a dot matrix printer.

The Raspberry Pi is responsible for running the web interface, accepting user input for new messages and sending the command to trigger the water-based printing system. In this case, Ryder has opted to use a Raspberry Pi 4 but you could get away with using an older model like a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ or maybe even a Raspberry Pi Zero.

In the video, Ryder breaks down the design and assembly process for the project which relies on several hoses and valves. Solenoids are used to release the water when directed by the Raspberry Pi. A bucket of water is in the back of the truck connected to the printer system making it easy to refill.

Unfortunately, the code for the project hasn’t been released but we do have an idea of how it all works. The Raspberry Pi is hosting a web server that users can connect to from a web browser and input new messages for printing. The text is converted into an image which is then processed for printing with the solenoids. 

This is one Raspberry Pi project you’ve got to see in action to truly appreciate. Head over to Ryder’s official channel, Ryder Calm Down, and watch the video he released showcasing the build process and final project.

Ash Hill
Freelance News and Features Writer

Ash Hill is a Freelance News and Features Writer with a wealth of experience in the hobby electronics, 3D printing and PCs. She manages the Pi projects of the month and much of our daily Raspberry Pi reporting while also finding the best coupons and deals on all tech.

  • Metal Messiah.
    This is Awesome ! Really nice creative project ~! Some things you can do to improve this further.

    Maybe try changing the orientation of the letters so they can be viewed by the driver behind you as well ?

    Try to add a 3d printed mini shower head, and most importantly, implement a code which can synchronize the spray intervals with the SPEED of the car (would also help if you use more sprayers with nozzles for more precision )?

    How about using a "marking paint" instead of water (some paints can be rinsed away though)? :smiley:
  • bit_user
    That's cooler than I expected, and a much better truck trend than "Rolling Coal".
    ...assuming it's only used with "printer ink" that will disappear after a couple rainstorms.
  • NetInquisitor
    This is a nice variation of Chalkbot. It used chalk based paint to write messages during the 2009 Tour DeFrance.
  • thisisaname
    bit_user said:
    That's cooler than I expected, and a much better truck trend than "Rolling Coal".
    ...assuming it's only used with "printer ink" that will disappear after a couple rainstorms.
    The "printer ink" in this case is rather cheap too as it is water :)