Hacking a Printer Paper Feed

Don’t you just hate it when your printer refuses to accept a certain type of paper and it takes you 30 minutes to print one document? Well recently the family printer (an Epson PX710W) has suffered from this problem, refusing to accept any photo paper. This problem was driving me crazy recently when trying to print full A4 photos so I decided enough was enough and started investigating the problem.

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Friday, May 11th, 2012 Take-aparts 5 Comments

Counterfeit Electronics

After reading about counterfeit electronics in Military weapons, I never though that I would find any counterfeit products in any of the many devices I take apart. The other week however, this thought was disproved!

The school I attend won a Promethean ActiVote system which consists of 30 modules to vote on multiple choice answers with and a base station to connect all the modules to the computer via USB. The USB cable had been trapped in the box causing it to fracture due to the appalling quality of the cable. You can see from the photo to the right, the white ActiVote USB cable has no foil inside to shield the conductors, nor does it have the stress-releasing string that should stop fractures like this.


Anyway, opening up the unit I found a small 2layer PCB which contains an MCU, USB controller chip, wireless chip and some memory. One thing that struck me as odd was the strange black marks on (what was later found out to be) the MCU. The code on it has been scrubbed off, and a new one inked over the top of it! There was also a marking reading “PRS 10” engraved in a very dodgy manner. A little rubbing alcohol and scraping later, I managed to reveal a chip code that was slightly different to the one inked on top. You can see the markings in the picture below.


After some careful lighting and googling, we found the chip to be a Renesas H8S/2134 with a retail price of about $15. This obviously makes it worth counterfeiting with this high RRP. I cannot see that the chip is an old silicon revision and the module seems to work once I had soldered on a new cable.

The counterfeit electronics business is obviously massive and according to this slightly dated NASA report, the quality of the fakes varies massively. The quality of this fake was fairly bad with the new code inked on with water-soluble ink, but at least the chip is functional!

Friday, April 27th, 2012 Take-aparts No Comments