Print-from-the-Car gear?

So the wife’s job involves visiting people at their homes, writing up a summary of her visit, having the customer sign the summary, and handing the customer one copy for their records. [The other two go to the customer file and to Headquarters.]

Currently, she wraps up her meeting by writing the summary by hand on an NCR-style triplicate form and having the customer sign it. Then she gives the customer one of the triplicates (nobody cares which color goes to whom). When she gets to the office, she retypes the handwritten material into the company’s documenting system.

We both think she could save a ton of time by writing her notes on a pre-formatted WORD document, then saving the file and printing a copy for the customer to sign. Then when she gets back to the office, she can just copy her notes from the file and paste them to the documenting system.*

So the questions for my fellow geeks’ opinions:

  1. What’s the lightest, least power-hungry printer you’d recommend for this job? It doesn’t need to be a color printer or do any scanning or copying or faxing.

  2. I realize I’ll need a power inverter to make the printer run off the 12v battery in my wife’s small car, but knowing what they’re called is about the extent of my knowledge…
    A) What’s a good brand/model that will handle this task?
    B) Will this kind of usage drain the battery while printing, say, 5 pages?
    C) There’s no 12v cigarette/utility outlet in my wife’s trunk; how do I connect the thing to the 12v battery? Tap into the line for the license-plate light?


At least she’s not using carbon-paper!

*Yes, I agree her documenting system should have a way to directly enter notes and immediately print them on the form for the customer to sign (or just let the customer sign on a tablet…). But the IT guys at her company haven’t developed the documenting system to that level and it’s just not going to happen this century.

There are portable, wireless battery-powered inkjet printers available.such as the Canon PIXMA iP110.
Normally I wouldn’t heartily recommend an inkjet, but given your requirements, I think it’s an acceptable choice.

Is using a Microsoft Surface tablet out of the question? You should be able to set it up where no printing is needed and clients just sign right on the tablet.

Looks like there’s something Drawboardthat is supposed to make this a snap.

You can also get direct 12v car adapters for those compact printers, so the inverter shouldn’t be necessary if you go that way.

This. Though any tablet with a stylus will do.

The magic seach term is “mobile printer” - there are several on the market, but they’re not cheap, generally starting at $200. Some of them have internal rechargeable batteries to charge up at home, and others plug into a cigarette lighter socket.

If I was doing this, I’d just buy a basic printer for $60 or so and small inverter for about $35. Something like an HP Officejet 4630 (Just one example from this week’s ads, and it can print from iPads and phones.) A 400 watt inverter (about $35) should be able to power this with no trouble.

No worries about draining the car’s battery while printing five pages on an inkjet. Just don’t leave the inverter plugged in all the time as that could run out the battery overnight.

A tablet would be the ultimate, but I could see clients not liking it.

A quick google showed up lots of ‘photo’ and color-oriented printers.

There used to be a (HP?) set ot scanner and printer that would fit in an attache case.

A carry-along solution would save a trip to the car. I"m just too lazy to find the modern version of the tiny, flat, battery-powered printer of 1995.

What’s the “documenting system” that the info eventually goes into? Why can’t she access that directly in the field, either via wifi or cellular data connection? Or if the system isn’t computerized but requires some pre formatted report form, why doesn’t she bring those into the field? All this could be done on (old school) a laptop / (now) a tablet. Client doesn’t have to like or dislike it, she could still print them hard copy. I’m just aghast at the idea of typing the same info twice, once in the field and again at home. Nobody should double their work load like that!

ETA sorry, “office” not “home”

Check out Brother PocketJet printers. They’re thermal printers, so you need thermal 8.5" paper in either cut sheet (letter or legal), fan fold (letter only), continuous 8.5" roll or 8.5"roll, perforated every 11". The roll paper will curl. You can get carry cases for fan fold or roll paper and you will probably want a kit with battery. The brand new PocketJet 7 version uses a lithium battery good for 500-600 pages. PocketJet 6 standard battery is low-capacity NiMH, probably only good for about 100 pages. Careful what you buy, there are different kits or you can buy printer and accessories a la carte. Bluetooth is an option, not standard, and you would almost certainly want Bluetooth for this type of use.

Definitely not the cheapest solution, but no ink to deal with and they have very few moving parts, so they tend to last a very long time. One of these with a fan fold case would look very professional (the case case a clipboard and handle), but you could also just carry a printer and cut sheet paper.

Also check out the Printek Interceptor 800 that is roll paper only in a self contained unit. This is a fairly new model from Printek and I don’t have any experience with their printers, but it is another option in full page thermal.

The system is ancient and her IT department is stuck in the stone age. Really. They use Novell because nobody bothers to write malware for Novell OS. [And it would surprise me that their CIO doesn’t suggest they use Tandy BASIC for the same security reasons.] :eek:

She currently does bring the pre-formatted report forms on NCR triplicate paper out in the field. She types at better than 100WPM on a regular or ergonomic keyboard, and just a bit slower on a laptop keyboard. That drops substantially on a tiny tablet keyboard. Handwriting, of course, is distressingly slow if it needs to be legible. I suspect, however, it would be slightly faster than thumb-typing on a smartphone…:dubious:

Indeed, thus the inquiry to my fellow geeks. She has been issued a laptop – which is older than the Off-Lease Refurb I got from TigerDirect Clearance – and may not use another one because her IT guys won’t support anything other than the issued laptop for her job duties.

Heartily agreed!
Thus the inquiry…:frowning:


OK, so somebody needs to turn the triplicate paper form into a digital form, perhaps using Adobe Acrobat (or – suggestions from SDMB?). If there is something special about the old form (background info, or other issues such as formatting or spacing, whatever) the digital form can be made by scanning the old paper form, then turning the “blank spaces” into text entry boxes. She could then type directly into the required form, but digitally. It’s also possible to have a “signature box” on the form, for the client to make scribble marks in. Then print any number of copies to keep, to share, to turn in to the boss, whatever. Save as a PDF for digital filing.

She’ll still need a portable printer, but all typing/data entry is only done once.