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Braille Printing and Home-Use Braille Printers

Updated the 04/24/2024 08:00 

When approaching domestic or school use Braille printing, one finds oneself evaluating and choosing which Braille printer to purchase. Printing in Braille is not the same across all printers because not all Braille printers have the same features. So how do you choose a Braille printer?

I'll outline some basic features of a Braille printer and explain how to choose the one that's most suitable for Braille printing.

Printing Speed

In the market, there are excellent Braille printers for domestic use that can achieve high printing speeds. Don't expect the speed of a laser printer because Braille printers use pins actuated by solenoids mounted on heads that move back and forth. There are printers that use a system of multiple pins that move in harmony to ensure speed and precision (for example, Index printers). There are other printers that use one or few pins, or other systems, and have a very slow speed, printers that even take more than a minute to print a full page (for example, Mountbatten or Portathiel printers).

Generally, when choosing a printer, one must have clear objectives in mind. For example, there are machines that function as both a Braille typewriter and a Braille printer (MountBatten). These are not good Braille printers and perform a different task compared to a classic Braille typewriter.

Braille printers for domestic use that achieve at least a speed of 80 characters per second and on average two or three sheets per minute are excellent solutions for printing in Braille.

Interpoint Printing

Current Braille paper is printed on both sides of the sheet. This mode is called interpoint or double-sided. Even today, there are Braille printers that only print on one side of the sheet. These printers are typically developed for other purposes, such as printing graphics. They are printers that have been somehow adapted to print in Braille; besides being slow printers, they cannot print on both sides of the sheet. There are also printers, usually outdated or with obsolete mechanics, that manually interpoint, meaning they require manually flipping the sheet. For fast and reliable Braille printing, such solutions are unacceptable.

Interpoint is essential today. When you need to print single-sided, the Software you use will arrange that type of printing, but the printer you purchase must absolutely have the ability to interpoint.

Computer Connectivity

Today there are Braille printers that can even operate via WiFi, controlled by smartphones or tablets. For quality printing, a smartphone is not ideal, but the printer's features remain. A good compromise is to have a Braille printer that at least connects to the Computer via USB 2.0. If it also has a network connection, that's even better.

Pay attention to the drivers provided by the Braille printer manufacturer. Are they updated to work with current operating systems? Before purchasing a printer, do some research, check the manufacturer's website to see what resources it offers and what information it provides.

If a retailer offers you a Braille printer that only works on a serial port or parallel port, I suggest looking elsewhere or choosing another option because that is just old stock.

Types of Sheets

Do you have an idea of what kind of sheets you would like to use with your printer? There are Braille printers for continuous feed sheets and for single sheets. If I were you, I would choose a single-sheet printer for several reasons: A4 sheets for Braille are inexpensive, readily available at any office supply store, easy to transport, and manageable. Continuous feed sheets are more expensive, almost exclusively found at specialized retailers, and require more effort to separate and organize.

If you are attached to large Braille books where you can also bind, you are probably already thinking about continuous feed sheets. However, for a more streamlined and faster solution, using single sheets will give you many satisfactions.

Graphics and Tactile Drawings

I know, you won't be doing graphics... in the first week. Then, after ten days, you'll ask me if you can do graphics with your printer. There are printers that allow printing in graphics mode. Do you think the graphics mode is the same as that for Braille? It's not.

Printing in graphics means having better resolution. In other words, the distance between one point and another, which in Braille is 2.5 mm, is smaller in graphics mode. The closer the tactile points are, the better the resolution. There are printers almost exclusively designed for graphics. Do you want to buy one of these? If you only want to do graphics, go ahead. However, if you want a printer that does graphics and allows you to make excellent Braille, you definitely need to choose something else, even if the price is tempting.

"Giuseppe, can you give me an example?"

There is a printer on the market produced by View Plus called EmBraille. It costs less than 2000 euros. It's a printer that operates at a speed of 25 characters per second, is single-sided, and was developed purely for graphics. Do you really want to use it for printing in Braille?

The Software that drives the printer and everything else

Here I divide the Software category into two, knowing both parts: internal firmware and external Software.

The firmware is the Software developed and inserted into the printer, which serves to move all the mechanics and is more or less suitable for performing certain actions. There are firmware versions that are quite manageable and functional for use, but there are also poorly made firmware versions. I know, you can't tell how a firmware is made, but you only need to use the printer without encountering problems. It's the presence or absence of problems that gives you an idea of what's inside the printer.

Keep in mind that the internal firmware is the Software that also manages the control panel of the printer, i.e., those external buttons used for configuration.

Is the printer's configuration panel manageable? Does it have a voice guide? What quality and quantity of functions does it have? Can it be understood and managed even by a ten-year-old blind child?

Never underestimate the access you have to the printer's panel and configurations. There are printers that have two crossed configurations; others have a panel made of beeps and tunes, really great for a blind person who can't see... I'm being ironic; there are other printers that have a panel without any display but have a voice guide; there are others that have web access to configurations via the network.

How will you choose? Ask the retailer what type of panel and what depth of configurations the printer they are proposing has, but don't trust completely.

External Software includes drivers, which I've already discussed in the Connectivity section, and transcription Software... are you familiar with Biblos?

Does the printer you're about to purchase have updated drivers? Can the printer you're about to purchase be managed with the Software you've chosen to use it with? Is the Software accessible? What does it allow you to do? How well-known and specialized is it for printing in Braille? Is it a makeshift solution or a professional Software?

Please, don't tell me that your needs are small, that you only need the printer to print simple things. I know these reasonings well, and I know that after a week your needs will expand, and you'll start trying to print pamphlets or entire books. Do you happen to want to print "The Betrothed" at a speed of 25 characters per second? Good luck, it will take you about 16 hours.

To use the printer they're about to sell you, how much do you need to spend on management Software? Be careful because there are Software options that, to offer you even minimally decent printing, can cost up to 600 euros.

I suggest one thing: Biblos is free Software, install Biblos, use it, see if you like it for Braille, and then buy the printer that you can use well with it.

Don't make the mistake of others, who buy printers first - any one will do, they say - and then find themselves asking for help left and right because they can't even connect it to the Computer, after spending a few thousand euros. Do you want direct testimonials?

You know what the best thing is? It's to ask for advice from your friends who already have a Braille printer, to listen to whether your friends are satisfied or dissatisfied; to seek advice from people more knowledgeable than you. If you ask the shopkeeper for advice, it's natural that they'll try to sell you what they have in stock. If you don't dislike me, join the Biblos group on Facebook and ask me.

Technical Support

Let's talk straight: do you think you'll never need technical support from the person who sold you the printer? You're just fooling yourself and daydreaming about your future career as a Braille typographer.

Does the retailer who sold you the printer offer you sufficient and competent technical support to be able to install and use the machine they want to sell you? Don't underestimate this aspect because then you'll deal with very kind retailers before the purchase, who after selling you the printer won't be able to provide you with adequate technical support nor will they make themselves available to provide it. Customer testimonials are the best information to trust: ask people who have already bought from that retailer. Listen carefully to their opinion.

When it comes to providing technical support on Biblos Software, since I'm the author, you have at your complete disposal a public support group where I can give you all the help you need, and where you can read questions and answers from other users. But when you need support and assistance on the printer, you'll need the retailer who sold it to you. If you've been so unprepared and impulsive as to be sold a printer and Software that you understand little about or that performs poorly, for which no one can provide adequate technical support, then you simply hit the jackpot: you've wasted money and you have an extra ornament to store in the closet.


You probably know me and know that for me, Index printers are the best, even though I believe that Braille printers, all of them, cost significantly more than their actual value. In the near future, my dream is to read Braille and touch graphics on haptic screens, devices that will definitively retire Braille printers for domestic use. Consider that Braille printers are devices sold in low quantities worldwide. For example, a figure I know is that in 2012, Index sold around 1500 printers worldwide. In Italy, I have my finger on the pulse of the situation, and I can tell you that in those years, about a hundred printers were sold annually.

I beg you, don't purchase or request through the ASL a Braille printer that you won't end up using. Don't trust products that cost around 2000 euros...

there are some, and they are decidedly poor machines. Add a thousand or two thousand euros more and buy a Braille printer that will truly serve you to print everything you want, without problems.

For further support you can subscribe the Biblos Group on Facebook.