Portable printer recommendations.

I have been asked to recommend a printer model, to be used by some of our guys in the field. These are tradesmen, not IT people. The following are essential:

1. Battery powered.  
2. Capable of withstanding storage at high temperatures. These printers could sit in a car for weeks, without use, reaching 50+DegC each day.
3. Capable of printing on A4 paper.
4. Printed output need not be high quality, but needs to be legible, and not fade significantly over a few years.
5. Available in Australia.

The following would be nice:
1. Rugged
2. Bluetooth.
3.  Capable of working in a dusty and hot environment.
4.  Smaller the better.
5.  USB rechargeable batteries would be good.
6.  Cheaper is better, obviously. Prefer under about  $500USD.

The following are not important:
1. Colour. Not required, and just adds cost and complexity.
2. Consumable cost per print is not all that important, these devices will only be printing a handful of prints each month.
3. Speed is not very important.
LVL 21
Mal OsborneAlpha GeekAsked:
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Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
What are your folks in the field printing from — Windows PC? Mac? iPhone? Android phone? If Windows or Mac, what version(s)?

As a side comment, my opinion is that you should not leave a printer (or any other electronics, for that matter) in a car that reaches 50+ degrees Celsius (122+ Fahrenheit) for weeks at a time. That's asking for trouble. Regards, Joe
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Mal OsborneAlpha GeekAuthor Commented:
Printing will be from Windows 8 & 10 64bit ruggedized tablet PCs. The devices we have are rated to be stored at up to 71DegC. We have 20 or so in the field, none have suffered damage that looks heat related. The vehicles themselves of course are blistering with electronics as well.

https://www.xploretech.com/au/motion-f5m-rugged-tablet-pc/

Unfortunately, even in the City of Perth, temperatures over 40DegC are common.  A car in direct sunlight at midday, will get to 60DegC in less than an hour. We have users in remote, hotter areas as well.

50DegC is about  the lowest temperature specs we could consider; even then users would have to keep the devices shielded from sunlight, and avoid parking outside on hot days.  

These guys are servicing emergency fire pumps. Local legislation requires written maintenance records to be kept with the pump onsite. We have moved from pens and paper to computerised management years ago. Current procedure is to have the tech sync data from an in house app to our head office, then get someone to compile maintenance reports, send email them to someone at the site and have them printer out. This is fine when there is a printer on the site, but in some cases there is none.
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Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
Impressive temperatures! I had a Brother mobile printer years ago when I travelled a lot. I was very happy with it. In general, I've been pleased with Brother devices for many years, including my latest MFC-L8850CDW. I don't have any experience with their current line of mobile printers, but based on my overall satisfaction with Brother for a lot of years, I wouldn't hesitate to give them a try — and Brother does have distribution in your neck of the woods. Here's a link to their A4 mobile printers at their Australian website:
https://www.brother.com.au/a4-mobile-printer

I don't know if any of them can survive the conditions you're talking about, so you'll need to take a spin through the specs. For example, the PJ-773 says this in the Features section (copied here under "Fair Use"):
Durable and rugged – 1.2m drop protection (IP54 rated) with optional roll printer case

Resistant to extreme environments - Resistance from -10C to 50C temperatures
As a disclaimer, I want to emphasize that I have no affiliation with this company and no financial interest in it whatsoever. I am simply a happy user/customer. Regards, Joe
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Mal OsborneAlpha GeekAuthor Commented:
Yeah, problem there is print durability. The maintenance records need to be kept WITH the pump, often in a dusty, unventilated shed or basement.  Usually it is in a clear plastic cover. There may be sunlight and diesel fumes.   I suspect that  after couple of years, output from a thermal printer would have decayed into  a greyish sheet of paper. Possibly we could try some special high durability paper, however I suspect degradation would still be problematic, and it would take a few years before we could reasonably assess this.
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Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
Well, if you don't think that the thermal printouts will hold up, then you'll need a printer that uses ribbons or ink, and it's hard to imagine ribbons or ink that would survive 50+ Celsius in a car for weeks at a time (I didn't mention toner because I don't know of a portable printer that uses toner). HP makes a line of portable printers, but I think that all of them are inkjets, and I'm pretty certain that the ink would dry up quickly in those conditions. This is a sticky wicket.
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Mal OsborneAlpha GeekAuthor Commented:
Yeah, the problem with laser printers is power consumption; running the fuser would required something like a car battery. This impinges on portability.

Current frontrunner seems to be an HP Officejet 200. The original suggestion from management was an Epson WF100. These are both small inkjet printers with similar specs. Both are unfortunately colour, and I expect both will have big problems with ink drying and blocking the printheads.  

The HP has one advantage; the ink cartridges include the print head. Thus if blocked they can just be replaced. Using $20 "low yield" cartridges, costs might be manageable. The Epson has non replaceable print heads, once blocked the printer is landfill.

I was hoping I had missed something obvious here, but it is looking like I have not. It would seem that a product meeting our requirements does not really exist.
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Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
> It would seem that a product meeting our requirements does not really exist.

Agreed! I don't think that you missed anything obvious...or even non-obvious. :)
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Mal OsborneAlpha GeekAuthor Commented:
OK, after some consideration I have offered management two solutions:
1. An HP Officejet 200, with a heap of spare cartridges.
2. An entry level laser printer, with a 600W inverter, bolted into a vehicle.

Both solutions are about the same initial cost ($350AUD), and not very good.  We are going to attempt to work around this requirement.
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Mal OsborneAlpha GeekAuthor Commented:
Points awarded for confirming no real solution exists. Sanity check appreciated.
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Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
You're welcome, Mal, and thanks back at you for the update...and the points. Cheers, Joe
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