About rpi2caster

Let’s say you have a letterpress workshop, and you want to do your own typecasting
— or you want to cast type for others to print…

You have a Monotype composition caster, matrix cases, moulds, wedges and tools to maintain it, as well as  some knowledge and documentation… but lack the keyboard or parts that are necessary to operate it?

That’s no longer a problem!

With rpi2caster, you can control your caster without even having the keyboard.
First, you register your matrix case layouts with an inventory management program.
Then you run a typesetting program, which converts a text file (plain text, UTF-8, ISO-8859-1 or ASCII-encoded) to a series of Monotype control codes (like 0005, 0075; G S 2; B 13…) and saves this “ribbon” to a file or stores it in a database.
Finally, you use the casting program to send this ribbon to a caster or a perforator.
This is done with Raspberry Pi and an interface board, which is basically an I/O expander and driver for controlling 32 solenoid valves, grouped into four blocks of 8 valves and supplied by Matrix Mechatronics from Italy.
The device controls the caster by applying pneumatic signals to the air holes in the caster’s original paper tower via custom-made air connection block.

The rpi2caster works under control of GNU/Linux operating system (mainly, the Raspbian distribution). Working with it is simple: connect over the wired or wireless LAN, and start the casting program. Cast type from a ribbon stored in a file or database, do caster testing&adjustments etc.

The software is still under development, wrtten in Python and stored at https://github.com/elegantandrogyne/rpi2caster
It is free and open source (GPL v3 licence) and will stay that way.
Currently, it has a text (console) user interface which can be used via SSH or from the local console. It can send codes to the caster or perforator, as well as help with alignment or diagnostics of the machine.
The software uses a local SQLite database for storing matrix case layouts, unit arrangements for your wedges and processed works (a.k.a. ribbons). First, you need to register a matrix case data (fount name, type size, wedge series, set width, matrix case layout) and add definitions for the wedges you have (series, set width, unit arrangements and whether the wedge is based on pica=0.1660″ or pica=0.1667″). After this, you are ready to compose and cast some type.

When composing, testing and typecasting, the software reads the matrix case data and automatically determines the correct wedge unit arrangement and set width. It shows all the necessary data on screen (so you know what wedge to use) and lets you view a matrix case layout.