(19)
(11)EP 2 796 985 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
06.05.2020 Bulletin 2020/19

(21)Application number: 14165524.1

(22)Date of filing:  23.04.2014
(51)Int. Cl.: 
G06F 3/12  (2006.01)

(54)

Print control device, printing system, and print control method

Drucksteuerungsvorrichtung, Drucksystem und Drucksteuerungsverfahren

Dispositif de commande d'impression, système d'impression et procédé de commande d'impression


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 23.04.2013 JP 2013090118

(43)Date of publication of application:
29.10.2014 Bulletin 2014/44

(73)Proprietor: Seiko Epson Corporation
Tokyo 163-0811 (JP)

(72)Inventor:
  • Nakamura, Hideo
    Suwa-shi, Nagano 392-8502 (JP)

(74)Representative: MERH-IP Matias Erny Reichl Hoffmann Patentanwälte PartG mbB 
Paul-Heyse-Strasse 29
80336 München
80336 München (DE)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A1- 0 738 596
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description

    1. Technical Field



    [0001] The present disclosure relates to a print control device, to a printing system, and to a print control method that convert print data received from a host to commands and send the commands to a printer.

    2. Related Art



    [0002] ESC/POS (R) commands are de facto industry standard printing control commands for controlling printers (receipt printers) from a POS (point of sales) terminal (see, for example, JP-A-2005-343028).

    [0003] ESC/POS (R) commands, however, assume a 1:1 connection between the POS terminal and the printer. As a result, problems occur when there is a many-to-one or a many-to-many relationship between POS terminals and printers connected over a network. For example, if an error occurs while printing based on a print command from POS terminal A and a print command is received from POS terminal B before the error has been resolved, the print command from POS terminal B cannot be processed normally. Conversely, maintenance commands from POS terminal A may not be processed normally when a print command is received from POS terminal B.

    [0004] In the configuration of the related art, the printer can only receive print control commands when on-line. More specifically, the printer cannot receive special control commands (real-time commands such as a clear print data command, error recovery command, and start/stop buzzer command) that are used when the printer is off-line or an error has occurred.
    In EP 0 738 596 A1, control commands for switching a paper charging/discharging tray and printing commands for printing out are outputted from a print server, and these commands are sequentially stored into a buffer regardless of the state of the printing mechanism. When the printing commands are sent to the printing mechanism, the printing mechanism picks up image data designated by the printing commands from image data and prints out. A timing control unit holds control commands when the printing mechanism is printing out. When printing is completed, the timing control unit outputs the control commands to the printing mechanism. Further, the timing control unit holds printing commands when the printing mechanism is switching the pager charging/discharging tray. After switching the paper charging/discharging tray, the timing control unit outputs the printing commands to the printing mechanism.

    SUMMARY



    [0005] A print control device, printing system, and print control method according to the present invention enable executing desired operations according to the status of the printer. In view of the above problems, the present invention provides a print control device having the features defined in claim 1, a printing system having the features defined in claim 3, and a print control method having the features defined in claim 4. A further development of the print control device is defined in claim 2.

    [0006] Note that commands include both print execution commands that cause the printer to execute a print operation, and control commands that cause the printer to execute specific operations other than printing (such as cancelling an error or controlling a peripheral).

    [0007] The print data is preferably written in markup language (such as XML, HTML, XHTML). This configuration can be applied to various platforms because of the high versatility of such languages. The host could be a tablet computer, embedded device, or other device that runs on a driverless platform.

    [0008] Because this configuration returns the result of the printer executing a command to the host, the host can know that the command was processed normally.

    [0009] By setting mode information and the printer status as the execution condition, this configuration can cause the printer to execute real-time commands that are used when off-line and when an error occurs even when the printer is off-line. When the first mode information is specified, the printer is first changed to the real-time command execution mode and a command is sent, and the printer is then reset to the normal command execution mode, and processing subsequent print commands is therefore not affected.

    [0010] In the above print control device, the printer control unit generates commands from print data based on mode information.

    [0011] This aspect of the disclosure can generate commands appropriate to the mode information. For example, normal commands could be generated when the second mode information is specified, and real-time commands generated when the first transmission mode is specified. As a result, the same elements can be commonly used in plural modes when the print data is written in markup language, for example.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS



    [0012] 

    FIG. 1 is a system configuration diagram of a printing system according to a preferred embodiment of the invention.

    FIG. 2A is a control block diagram of a web application server, and FIG. 2B is a control block diagram of a host.

    FIG. 3 is a control block diagram of an intelligent printer.

    FIG. 4 shows implementation layers of the print control device.

    FIG. 5 is a function block diagram of a printing system.

    FIG. 6 is a flow chart showing the operation of the print control device.

    FIG. 7 (a) shows an example of print data that is sent during a normal data transmission mode, (b) shows an example of print data that is sent in a forced transmission mode, (c) shows an example of print data when outputting commands according to the mode information, and (d) shows an example of print data containing commands that are valid in an off-line state.

    FIG. 8 (a) shows the process flow when an error occurs, and (b) shows the process flow when an error has not been resolved.


    DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS



    [0013] A printing system SY according to the present invention is described below with reference to accompanying figures. A print application and printer driver written for the operating system of the terminal device is normally required for each OS in order to print from a tablet computer or smartphone. In contrast, the printing system SY according to the invention installs an XML (Extensible Markup Language]) web service print function (print control device) that is equivalent to a printer driver in the printer, and thereby enables printing independently of the OS. More specifically, the printer can be operated using a web browser without installing a dedicated printer driver on the host. Below, a printer having this XML web service print function is called an "intelligent printer." In contrast, a printer not having this XML web service print function is simply called a printer.

    [0014] The general configuration of the printing system SY is described first below with reference to FIG. 1 to FIG. 4. FIG. 1 is a system configuration diagram of the printing system SY. This printing system SY has a web application server 10, a plurality of hosts 20 (host a, host b), a print control device 31, and a plurality of printers 32 (printer A, printer B). Note that the print control device 31 and one printer 32 (printer A) are included in the printing system SY as an intelligent printer 30. As a result, printer A and printer B are in a master-slave relationship.

    [0015] The web application server 10 and hosts 20 are connected over the Internet or other network. The hosts 20 and print control device 31 are connected over a wired or wireless local area network (LAN) or other network. The host 20 is a POS (point of sale) terminal installed at the checkout register in a retail business, or an ordering terminal used on the sales floor of a restaurant, for example. The intelligent printer 30 and printer 32 are, for example, receipt printers that print sales receipts, or kitchen printers installed in a kitchen.

    [0016] The control configurations of the web application server 10, hosts 20, and intelligent printer 30 are described next with reference to FIG. 2 and FIG. 3. FIG. 2 (a) shows the control configuration of the web application server 10. The web application server 10 includes a control unit 11, communication unit 12, storage unit 13, and other hardware components not shown that are generally included in a computer. The control unit 11 is embodied by a CPU (central processing unit), ROM (read only memory), and RAM (random access memory). The storage unit 13 is a HDD (hard disk drive), for example, and stores a HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) server 15 and web application 16.

    [0017] The communication unit 12 is an interface for communicating with the host 20 (web browser 27). Communication between the web application server 10 and host 20 is controlled by the HTTP server 15 using HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). More specifically, the web application server 10 receives an HTTP request from the host 20 (web browser 27), and based on the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) contained in the HTTP request, sends a web page 40 (see FIG. 1) provided by the web application 16 to the host 20.

    [0018] A page control script (JavaScript (R)) that controls the web page 40, and a print control script for controlling printing, are embedded in the web page 40. The host 20 executes a printing process by running the print control script through the web browser 27 (on the web page 40).

    [0019] FIG. 2 (b) shows the control configuration of the host 20. The host 20 has a control unit 21, display unit 22, communication unit 23, storage unit 24, and operating unit 25. The control unit 21 includes a CPU, and controls host 20 operation.

    [0020] The display unit 22 displays a web page 40 acquired (downloaded) by the web browser 27 in the web browser 27, and displays windows for reporting events accompanying operations performed in the web browser 27, and windows for configuring settings. The operating unit 25 is used for operations including issuing printing instructions on a web page 40 displayed by the web browser 27. For example, when the host 20 is a POS terminal and the web application 16 is a POS application, the results of reading barcodes (the name, price, and quantity of purchased products, for example) and transaction results are displayed as a web page 40. A print command is also issued by pressing an enter key on the host 20 (operating the operating unit 25). Note that the display unit 22 and operating unit 25 can be configured as separate hardware devices or together as a touch panel.

    [0021]  The communication unit 23 is an interface for communicating with the web application server 10 and print control device 31. As described above, the host 20 communicates with the web application server 10 and print control device 31 by HTTP.

    [0022] The storage unit 24 is a hard disk drive, for example, and stores the web browser 27. In this embodiment a simple browser (standard browser) that does not support plugin modules is used as the web browser 27. The control unit 21 uses this web browser 27 to access the web application server 10 through the communication unit 23, and acquire a web page 40 provided by the web application 16.

    [0023] The web page 40 includes a page control script (JavaScript (R)) and print control script (JavaScript (R)) as described above. When the web browser 27 receives a print instruction from the user through the page control script embedded in the web page 40, the web browser 27 executes the print control script embedded in the same web page 40, and generates and sends print data written in XML (markup language) to the print control device 31.

    [0024] Note that the host 20 is a computer on which the web browser 27 runs, and may be a POS terminal, tablet computer, smartphone, personal computer, or other type of device. In addition, because the host 20 is a driverless configuration as described above, any operating system can be used. A plurality of hosts 20 that operate on different platforms can therefore coexist in the same printing system SY.

    [0025] FIG. 3 shows the control configuration of the intelligent printer 30. As described above, the intelligent printer 30 combines the print control device 31 and a printer 32. The print control device 31 in this embodiment is an interface board that is removably installed in the printer 32. The print control device 31 could alternatively be a discrete control box that is externally attached (connected) to the printer 32.

    [0026] The print control device 31 has a control unit 41, board interface 42, storage unit 43, and communication unit 44. The control unit 41 includes a CPU and controls operation of the print control device 31. The board interface 42 communicates with the printer 32 (printer interface 55). The storage unit 43 is nonvolatile memory (such as flash ROM), for example, and stores an HTTP server 46 and printer list 47. The printer list 47 is a list of printer information 57 for each printer 32. The print control device 31 communicates with each connected printer 32 (printer A, printer B), and acquires and stores printer information 57 such as the model and installed character set in the printer list 47.

    [0027] The communication unit 44 communicates with the host 20 and other printer 32 (printer B), and includes interfaces such as a LAN interface and a USB interface, for example. Communication between the print control device 31 and host 20 (web browser 27) is handled by the HTTP server 46 using HTTP. More specifically, when print data is sent from the host 20 to the service endpoint address (a URL such as http://x.x.x.x/) uniquely assigned to the print control device 31, the print control device 31 receives the print data.

    [0028] The print control device 31 converts the received print data (XML document) to print control commands (ESC/POS (R) commands) for the printer 32, and outputs to the printers 32. Printer identification information (ID) for the printer 32 selected for printing is also included in the service endpoint address. The print control device 31 sends the print control command addressed to the printer 32 identified by the printer ID. Note that when a crossdomain (crossOrigin) request is received from the print control script running on the web browser 27 of the host 20, the print control device 31 responds (XML document) to allow the request.

    [0029] The printer 32 has a control unit 51, storage unit 52, print mechanism 53, buffer 54, and printer interface 55. The control unit 51 includes a CPU and controls printer 32 operation. The storage unit 52 stores the printer information 57 (including the printer 32 model and installed characters). The print mechanism 53 includes the printhead, paper feed mechanism, and paper cutter mechanism, and performs print operations as controlled by the control unit 51. Note that the printing method could be an inkjet, laser, or other type of printing method.

    [0030] The buffer 54 is a receive buffer that temporarily stores received data (print control commands). The print mechanism 53 sequentially reads and prints the data stored in the buffer 54 in response to normal commands. Real-time commands are executed immediately regardless of any data stored in the buffer 54. The printer interface 55 communicates with the print control device 31 (board interface 42). The printer 32 performs specific operations based on print control commands received from the print control device 31 through the printer interface 55. The printer 32 also outputs the result of command execution through the printer interface 55 to the print control device 31. When a status acquisition command is sent as the print control command, the printer 32 detects and sends the internal state (status) of the printer to the print control device 31. The print control device 31 then converts the command execution result, status or other command response to an XML document, and returns the XML document to the host 20.

    [0031] The implementation layers of the print control device 31 are described next with reference to FIG. 4. From the bottom up, the implementation layers of the print control device 31 include hardware, the operating system, the web server (HTTP server 46), and a plurality of web service print functions (XML web service print functions) and a device registration web application on the top layer.

    [0032] A print web service is a function that includes converting from XML documents to print control commands, and constitutes an important part of this embodiment. By providing a plurality of print web services, a plurality of processes can be executed in parallel, including receiving print data from a plurality of hosts 20 and printing from a plurality of printers 32, and returning print results from each printer 32 to the host 20 that sent the print data. For example, because there are ten print web service processes in the example shown in the figure, ten processes (threads) can be processed simultaneously. However, when data for plural print jobs is sent to a single printer 32, the print jobs are processed in the order in which printing permission is received (the order in which the printer port is acquired).

    [0033] The device registration web application is an application for registering the printer identification information (ID), model, and port information (IP address) of a printer 32. This information is registered by presenting a configuration page (web page) provided by the HTTP server 46 on the web browser 27 for the user to input the information using the operating unit 25. The registered information is then stored in the printer list 47 (see FIG. 3).

    [0034] The functional configuration of the printing system SY is described next with reference to FIG. 5. The main functional components of the host 20 include a browser control unit 71, print data generation unit 72, print data transmission unit 73, and response receiving unit 74.

    [0035] The browser control unit 71 controls the web browser 27. The print data generation unit 72 generates print data written in XML using a print control script that runs on the web browser 27. The print data transmission unit 73 sends the generated print data to the print control device 31. The response receiving unit 74 receives response data (including decision results from the print control device 31, the results of command execution by the printer 32, and status reports) from the print control device 31 as an XML document.

    [0036] The main functional components of the print control device 31 include a print data receiving unit 81 (reception unit), status acquisition unit 82, decision unit 83, printer control unit 84, execution result acquisition unit 85, and response unit 86.

    [0037] The print data receiving unit 81 receives print data from the host 20. Mode information is included in the print data. Mode information in this embodiment is information identifying either a normal transmission mode or a forced transmission mode. The normal transmission mode is the mode for sending normal commands (such as print execution commands) to a printer 32 in the on-line state. The forced transmission mode is a mode for sending print control commands unconditionally to a printer 32 that is off-line or has reported an error. Print data includes error recovery commands, drawer kick commands, and other commands in addition to print commands. Note that a drawer kick command is a command for opening a cash drawer (not shown in the figure) connected to the printer 32. When the printer 32 receives a drawer kick command, it outputs a drawer open command to the cash drawer. Note that a configuration in which the cash drawer is connected to the print control device 31, and the print control device 31 outputs the drawer open command to the cash drawer, is also conceivable.

    [0038] The status acquisition unit 82 acquires the state (status) of the printer 32 by sending a status acquisition command to the printer 32. In this embodiment, a signal denoting the off-line status or on-line status is acquired as the printer status. The decision unit 83 determines if the mode information contained in the print data and the status of the printer 32 meet the execution conditions. More specifically, if the mode information denotes the forced transmission mode and the printer 32 is off-line, the decision unit 83 determines a first execution condition is met. If the mode information denotes the normal transmission mode and the printer 32 is on-line, the decision unit 83 determines a second execution condition is met.

    [0039] When the decision unit 83 determines the first execution condition is met, the printer control unit 84 changes the printer 32 to a specific mode and then sends a print control command (ESC/POS (R) command) generated from the print data to the printer 32. In this embodiment, the printer 32 changes to a real-time command execution mode as the specific mode. A real-time command is a command instructing immediate execution by the printer 32. Note that in this example the printer 32 can switch to the real-time command execution mode or a normal command execution mode. When the decision unit 83 determines the second execution condition is met, the printer control unit 84 sends the print control command generated from the print data to the printer 32 without changing the mode of the printer 32. In addition, if the decision unit 83 determines that both the first execution condition and the second execution condition are not met, the printer control unit 84 does not send a print control command to the printer 32.

    [0040] The execution result acquisition unit 85 gets the execution result (response) of the print control command from the printer 32. The response unit 86 sends the execution result to the host 20. When the decision unit 83 determines that both the first execution condition and the second execution condition are not met, the response unit 86 sends response data reporting the same to the host 20.

    [0041] As described above, these parts 81 to 86 of the print control device 31 are embodied as web services. Because there are plural print web services (see FIG. 4), the print control device 31 can process print data for plural jobs in parallel. Note that the print data for plural jobs could be print data sent from plural hosts, or print data for plural jobs (plural requests from the same program) sent from a single host.

    [0042] The main functional blocks of the printer 32 include a status transmission unit 91, mode changing unit 92, command receiving unit 93, command execution unit 94, and execution result transmission unit 95.

    [0043] The status transmission unit 91 sends a signal denoting the status of the printer 32 to the print control device 31 in response to a status acquisition command sent from the print control device 31. The mode changing unit 92 changes the mode of the printer 32 to the real-time command execution mode or the normal command execution mode.

    [0044] The command receiving unit 93 receives print control commands sent from the print control device 31 (printer control unit 84). The command execution unit 94 executes the received print control command. Executing a print control command includes printing operations and error recovery operations. Therefore, if the print control command is a print execution command, the command execution unit 94 functions as a print unit. The execution result transmission unit 95 sends the result of executing the print control command to the print control device 31.

    [0045] Operation of the print control device 31 is next with reference to FIG. 6. When the print control device 31 receives print data from the host 20 (S01), the print control device 31 sends a status acquisition command to the printer 32, and gets the status of the printer 32 (S02). Based on the received status, the print control device 31 determines if the printer 32 is on-line or not (S03), and if the printer 32 is on-line (S03 returns YES), determines if the mode information contained in the print data denotes the normal transmission mode (S04). If the normal transmission mode is detected (S04 returns YES), the print control device 31 generates and sends normal commands based on the print data to the printer 32 (S05), and gets the status from the printer 32 (S06). This status includes information indicating if printing was successful or failed. The print control device 31 then sends the command execution result (printing successful or printing failed) as response data to the host 20 (S07).

    [0046] If the normal transmission mode is not detected in S04 (S04 returns NO), the print control device 31 sends a signal indicating that the execution condition is not met (that the printer 32 is on-line) to the host 20 without sending a command to the printer 32 (S07) .

    [0047] If in S03 the printer is determined to not be on-line (S03 returns NO), the print control device 31 determines if the mode information contained in the print data indicates the forced transmission mode (S08). If the forced transmission mode is detected (S08 returns YES), the print control device 31 first sends a change mode command (a command to change to the real-time command execution mode) to the printer 32 (S09), and after the printer 32 finishes changing mode, generates and sends a real-time command (such as an error recovery command) based on the print data to the printer 32 (S10). By thus changing the printer 32 to the real-time command execution mode, the printer 32 can execute print control commands even when off-line. When the status is then acquired from the printer 32 (S11), the print control device 31 resends the change mode command (a command to change to the normal command execution mode) to the printer 32 (S12). The print control device 31 then sends the command execution result (whether error recovery was successful or failed, for example) as the response data to the host 20 (S07).

    [0048] If the forced transmission mode is not detected in S08 (S08 returns NO), the print control device 31 sends a signal indicating that the execution condition is not met (that the printer 32 is off-line) to the host 20 without sending a command to the printer 32 (S07) .

    [0049] Specific examples of print data are described next with reference to FIG. 7. Note that as described above the print data is written in XML. Note further that text following a bullet (•) is explanatory text and is information that is not included in the actual print data. Block (a) in FIG. 7 shows an example of print data sent during a normal transmission. A <print> tag is used in the normal transmission mode. In the example shown in the figure, drawer kick, print text, line feed, print barcode, and paper cut commands are contained in the print data. Based on the print data, the print control device 31 generates print control commands corresponding to each command.

    [0050] Block (b) in FIG. 7 shows an example of print data that is sent in the forced transmission mode. In the forced transmission mode the <print force = "true"> tag is used. In this example, an error recovery command is included in the print data. Based on this error recovery command, the print control device 31 generates error recovery and clear buffer (deleting print data in the buffer 54 of the printer 32) print control commands.

    [0051] FIG. 7 block (c) shows an example of print data when outputting commands according to the mode information. In the example in the figure both the <print> tag and the <print force = "true"> tag are included in the print data. In this event, if the printer 32 is on-line, the print control device 31 converts and sends the drawer kick command in the <print> element to a normal command to the printer 32, and ignores commands in the <print force = "true"> element. If the printer 32 is off-line, the print control device 31 converts the drawer kick command in the <print force = "true"> element to a real-time command and sends the real-time command to the printer 32, and ignores commands in the <print> element.

    [0052] In FIG. 7, block (d) shows an example of print data containing commands that are valid in an off-line state. In the example shown in the figure, drawer kick, error recovery, and stop buzzer commands are contained in the print data. Based on the print data, the print control device 31 generates print control commands corresponding to each of the commands (print control commands including drawer kick, start buzzer, error recovery and buffer clear, and stop buzzer commands).

    [0053] The process flow when an error occurs is described with reference to FIG. 8. In FIG. 8, block (a) shows the flow of the process when an error occurs. In this example a print command from host A is executed, and an error occurs while printing. In this event, the printer 32 sends a status signal indicating that an error occurred to the print control device 31, and the print control device 31 sends response data indicating the error to the host 20. Even if a print command is asserted from host B in this state, the printer 32 is off-line, and response data reporting that the execution condition is not met is sent to the host 20 without a print control command being sent from the print control device 31 to the printer 32. As a result, host B waits to print.

    [0054] FIG. 8B shows the process flow when recovering from an error. When an error occurs in the printer 32, host A selects the forced transmission mode and asserts an error recovery command. The print control device 31 generates an error recovery command (real-time command) based on the error recovery command from the host. As a result, the printer 32 is reset and the error is cleared. These steps enable printing in response to another print command from host B.

    [0055] As described above, when print data is received from a host 20, the print control device 31 in the above embodiment evaluates the execution condition that the mode information is set to the forced transmission mode and the printer 32 is off-line, and if this execution condition is met, changes the printer 32 to the real-time command execution mode and sends a real-time command generated from the print data. As a result, even if the printer 32 is off-line, desired print control commands such as an error recovery command can be executed. If the execution condition is not met, the print control device 31 does not send a command to the printer 32, and can therefore prevent erroneous operation of the printer 32. In addition, because print control commands are generated based on the mode information when converting print data to print control commands, the print control device 31 can use the same elements in plural different modes.

    [0056]  Furthermore, because the mode information being set to the normal transmission mode and the printer 32 being on-line is the condition for normal command transmission, even if the print control device 31 is connected to plural hosts 20 and print data for plural print jobs can be processed in parallel, a print recovery process from one host 20 will not interfere with print commands from other hosts 20.

    [0057] Furthermore, because the host 20 generates print data using a script that runs on a web browser 27, a printer driver or plugin is not needed. In addition, because the host 20 can run on any platform, a mixture of hosts 20 that operate on different operating systems, including smartphones and tablet computers, can be used in the same printing system SY.

    [0058] The mode of the printer 32 can change to a real-time command execution mode or a normal command execution mode in the above example, but the printer 32 could also change to other modes such as a printer setup mode or a firmware update mode. In this event, mode information appropriate to each mode is also provided. A configuration in which the printer setup mode or firmware update mode are executed when the printer 32 is off-line is also conceivable. Configurations in which states other than on-line/off-line (when a specific button is pressed or a cover is open) are linked to the mode information as printer states (status), and can be set as execution conditions, are also conceivable.

    [0059] Note that a standard browser is used as the web browser 27, and print data is generated using a print control script in the above embodiment, but the print data can be generated using a plugin or a rich Internet application.

    [0060] The above embodiment describes a configuration in which plural hosts 20 and plural printers 32 are connected to a single print control device 31, but configurations in which plural printers 32 are shared by plural print control devices 31 are also conceivable. A robust printing system SY can be constructed by sharing printers 32 between redundant print control devices 31.

    [0061] Components of the printing system SY described in the foregoing embodiments can also be rendered as a program. The program can also be stored and supplied on a suitable recording medium (CD-ROM or flash memory, for example).

    [0062] A receipt printer is used as an example of a printer 32 in the foregoing embodiment, but the invention can also be applied to printers other than receipt printers. The foregoing embodiments also use JavaScript (R) as an example of a scripting language, but the invention can also be used with other programming languages. Other variations are also possible without departing from the scope of the present invention, which is defined by the following claims.


    Claims

    1. A print control device (31) connected to a plurality of hosts (20) that send print data and to a printer (32), the print control device (31) comprising:

    a reception unit (81) configured to receive the print data including mode information from a host (20) of the plurality of hosts (20);

    a status acquisition unit (82) configured to acquire the status of the printer (32) upon reception of print data from the host (20);

    a decision unit (83) configured to determine whether or not the mode information contained in the print data and the status of the printer (32) acquired by the status acquisition unit (82) meet a first execution condition or a second execution condition, or neither;

    a printer control unit (84) configured to send commands generated based on the mode information and the print data to the printer (32),the commands including print execution commands and/or control commands;

    an execution result acquisition unit (85) configured to acquire an execution result of executing the command from the printer (32); and

    a response unit (86) configured to send, to the host (20), the execution result having markup language format, wherein:

    the status of the printer (32) is on-line or off-line, and

    the mode information is information identifying either:

    a normal transmission mode for sending print execution commands and/or control commands to the printer (32) in the on-line state, or

    a forced transmission mode for sending control commands unconditionally to the printer (32) in the off-line state, wherein:

    when the mode information denotes:

    the forced transmission mode and the printer (32) is off-line, the decision unit (83) determines that the first execution condition is met;

    the normal transmission mode and the printer (32) is on-line, the decision unit (83) determines that the second execution condition is met, wherein:
    when the decision unit (83) determines that:

    the first execution condition is met, the printer control unit (84) sends to the printer (32) first a command to change to a specific mode and then sends the control commands,

    the second execution condition is met, the printer control unit (84) sends the print execution commands and/or the control commands without changing the mode of the printer (32),

    neither of the first execution condition and the second execution condition are met, the printer control unit (84) does not send any of the commands to the printer (32), and

    the response unit (86) sends, to the host (20), response data having markup language format indicating the first and second execution conditions are not met.


     
    2. The print control device described in claim 1, wherein
    the specific mode is a real-time command execution mode, and
    when the decision unit (83) determines that the first execution condition is met, the printer control unit (84) sends, after status is acquired from the printer (32) upon transmission of a control command, to the printer (32) a second change mode command to change the real-time command mode to a normal execution mode.
     
    3. A printing system comprising:

    the print control device (31) according to claim 1 or 2;

    a host (20) configured to send the print data; and

    the printer (32) configured to print.


     
    4. A print control method for a print control device (31) connected to a plurality of hosts (20) that send print data and to a printer (32),
    the print control device (31) comprising a reception unit (81), a status acquisition unit (82), a decision unit (83), a printer control unit (84), an execution result acquisition unit (85), and a response unit (86),
    the method comprising:

    receiving, by the reception unit (81), print data including mode information from a host (20) of the plurality of hosts (20);

    acquiring, by the status acquisition unit (82), a status of a printer (32) upon reception of print data from the host (20),

    determining, by the decision unit (83), whether or not the mode information contained in the print data and the status of the printer (32) acquired by the status acquisition unit (82) meet a first execution condition or a second execution condition or neither;

    sending, by the printer control unit (84), commands generated based on the mode information and the print data to the printer (32), the commands including print execution commands and/or control commands;

    acquiring, by the execution result acquisition unit (85), an execution result of executing the command from the printer (32); and

    sending, by the response unit (86), to the host (20), the execution result having markup language format, wherein:

    the status of the printer (32) is on-line or off-line, and

    the mode information is information identifying either:

    a normal transmission mode for sending print execution commands and/or control commands to the printer (32) in the on-line state, or

    a forced transmission mode for sending control commands unconditionally to the printer (32) in the off-line state, wherein:

    when the mode information denotes:

    the forced transmission mode and the printer is off-line, determining, by the decision unit (83), that the first execution condition is met,

    the normal transmission mode and the printer (32) is on-line, determining, by the decision unit (83), that the second execution condition is met,

    wherein the method further comprises:
    when it is determined by the decision unit (83) that:

    the first execution condition is met, sending, by the printer control unit (84), to the printer (32) first a command to change to a specific mode and then sending the control commands,

    the second execution condition is met, sending, by the printer control unit (84), the print execution commands and/or the control commands without changing the mode of the printer (32),

    neither of the first execution condition and the second execution condition are met, not sending, by the printer control unit (84), any of the commands to the printer (32), and sending, by the response unit (86), to the host (20), response data having markup language format indicating the first and second execution conditions are not met.


     


    Ansprüche

    1. Drucksteuervorrichtung (31), die mit mehreren Hosts (20), die Druckdaten senden, und mit einem Drucker (32) verbunden ist, die Drucksteuervorrichtung (31) umfassend:

    eine Empfangseinheit (81), die konfiguriert ist, die Druckdaten, die Modusinformationen enthalten, von einem Host (20) der mehreren Hosts (20) zu empfangen;

    eine Statuserlangungseinheit (82), die konfiguriert ist, den Status des Druckers (32) bei Empfang von Druckdaten vom Host (20) zu erlangen;

    eine Entscheidungseinheit (83), die konfiguriert ist zu bestimmen, ob die in den Druckdaten enthaltenen Modusinformationen und der Status des Druckers (32), der von der Statuserlangungseinheit (82) erlangt wird, eine erste Ausführungsbedingung oder eine zweite Ausführungsbedingung oder keine davon erfüllt;

    eine Drucksteuereinheit (84), die konfiguriert ist, Befehle, die basierend auf den Modusinformationen und den Druckdaten erzeugt werden, an den Drucker (32) zu senden, wobei die Befehle Druckausführungsbefehle und/oder Steuerbefehle enthalten;

    eine Ausführungsergebniserlangungseinheit (85), die konfiguriert ist, ein Ausführungsergebnis einer Ausführung des Befehls vom Drucker (32) zu erlangen; und

    eine Antworteinheit (86), die konfiguriert ist, das Ausführungsergebnis in einem Markup-Sprachformat an den Host (20) zu senden, wobei:

    der Status des Druckers (32) online oder offline ist und

    die Modusinformationen Informationen sind, die entweder:

    einen normalen Übertragungsmodus zum Senden von Druckausführungsbefehlen und/oder Steuerbefehlen an den Drucker (32) im Online-Zustand oder

    einen forcierten Übertragungsmodus zum bedingungslosen Senden von Steuerbefehlen an den Drucker (32) im Offline-Zustand identifizieren, wobei:
    wenn die Modusinformationen:

    den forcierten Übertragungsmodus angeben und dass der Drucker (32) offline ist, die Entscheidungseinheit (83) bestimmt, dass die erste Ausführungsbedingung erfüllt ist;

    den normalen Übertragungsmodus angeben und dass der Drucker (32) online ist, die Entscheidungseinheit (83) bestimmt, dass die zweite Ausführungsbedingung erfüllt ist; wobei:
    wenn die Entscheidungseinheit (83) bestimmt, dass:

    die erste Ausführungsbedingung erfüllt ist, die Druckersteuereinheit (84) zuerst einen Befehl an den Drucker (32) sendet, um zu einem spezifischen Modus zu wechseln, und dann die Steuerbefehle sendet,

    die zweite Ausführungsbedingung erfüllt ist, die Druckersteuereinheit (84) die Druckausführungsbefehle und/oder die Steuerbefehle sendet, ohne den Modus des Druckers (32) zu ändern,

    weder die erste Ausführungsbedingung noch die zweite Ausführungsbedingung erfüllt ist, die Druckersteuereinheit (84) keinen der Befehle an den Drucker (32) sendet und

    die Antworteinheit (86) Antwortdaten im Markup-Sprachformat an den Host (20) sendet, die angeben, dass die erste und zweite Ausführungsbedingung nicht erfüllt sind.


     
    2. Drucksteuervorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, wobei
    der spezifische Modus ein Echtzeitbefehlsausführungsmodus ist und
    wenn die Entscheidungseinheit (83) bestimmt, dass die erste Ausführungsbedingung erfüllt ist, die Druckersteuereinheit (84), nachdem Status vom Drucker (32) nach Übertragen eines Steuerbefehls erlangt wurde, an den Drucker (32) einen zweiten Änderungsmodusbefehl sendet, um den Echtzeitbefehlsmodus zu einem normalen Ausführungsmodus zu ändern.
     
    3. Drucksystem, umfassend:

    die Drucksteuervorrichtung (31) nach Anspruch 1 oder 2,

    einen Host (20), der konfiguriert ist, die Druckdaten zu senden; und

    den Drucker (32), der zum Drucken konfiguriert ist.


     
    4. Drucksteuerverfahren für eine Drucksteuervorrichtung (31), die mit mehreren Hosts (20) die Druckdaten senden, und mit einem Drucker (32) verbunden ist, wobei die Drucksteuervorrichtung (31) eine Empfangseinheit (81), eine Statuserlangungseinheit (82), eine Entscheidungseinheit (83), eine Druckersteuereinheit (84), eine Ausführungsergebniserlangungseinheit (85) und eine Antworteinheit (86) umfasst,
    das Verfahren umfassend:

    Empfangen, durch die Empfangseinheit (81) von Druckdaten, die Modusinformationen enthalten, von einem Host (20) der mehreren Hosts (20);

    Erlangen, durch die Statuserlangungseinheit (82), eines Status des Druckers (32) bei Empfang von Druckdaten vom Host (20);

    Bestimmen, durch die Entscheidungseinheit (83), ob die in den Druckdaten enthaltenen Modusinformationen und der Status des Druckers (32), der von der Statuserlangungseinheit (82) erlangt wird, eine erste Ausführungsbedingung oder eine zweite Ausführungsbedingung oder keine davon erfüllt;

    Senden, durch die Drucksteuereinheit (84) von Befehlen, die basierend auf den Modusinformationen und den Druckdaten erzeugt werden, an den Drucker (32), wobei die Befehle Druckausführungsbefehle und/oder Steuerbefehle enthalten;

    Erlangen, durch die Ausführungsergebniserlangungseinheit (85) eines Ausführungsergebnisses einer Ausführung des Befehls vom Drucker (32); und Senden, durch die Antworteinheit (86) des Ausführungsergebnisses in einem Markup-Sprachformat an den Host (20), wobei:

    der Status des Druckers (32) online oder offline ist und

    die Modusinformationen Informationen sind, die entweder:

    einen normalen Übertragungsmodus zum Senden von Druckausführungsbefehlen und/oder Steuerbefehlen an den Drucker (32) im Online-Zustand oder

    einen forcierten Übertragungsmodus zum bedingungslosen Senden von Steuerbefehlen an den Drucker (32) im Offline-Zustand identifizieren, wobei:
    wenn die Modusinformationen:

    den forcierten Übertragungsmodus angeben und dass der Drucker offline ist, Bestimmen durch die Entscheidungseinheit (83), dass die erste Ausführungsbedingung erfüllt ist;

    den normalen Übertragungsmodus angeben und dass der Drucker (32) online ist, Bestimmen durch die Entscheidungseinheit (83), dass die zweite Ausführungsbedingung erfüllt ist,
    wobei das Verfahren weiter umfasst:
    wenn durch die Entscheidungseinheit (83) bestimmt wird, dass:

    die erste Ausführungsbedingung erfüllt ist, Senden durch die Druckersteuereinheit (84) zuerst eines Befehls an den Drucker (32), um zu einem spezifischen Modus zu wechseln, und dann Senden der Steuerbefehle,

    die zweite Ausführungsbedingung erfüllt ist, Senden durch die Druckersteuereinheit (84) der Druckausführungsbefehle und/oder der Steuerbefehle, ohne den Modus des Druckers (32) zu ändern,

    weder die erste Ausführungsbedingung noch die zweite Ausführungsbedingung erfüllt ist, kein Senden durch die Druckersteuereinheit (84) eines der Befehle an den Drucker (32) und Senden, durch die Antworteinheit (86) von Antwortdaten im Markup-Sprachformat an den Host (20), die angeben, dass die erste und zweite Ausführungsbedingung nicht erfüllt sind.


     


    Revendications

    1. Dispositif de commande d'impression (31) connecté à une pluralité d'hôtes (20) qui envoient des données d'impression et à une imprimante (32), le dispositif de commande d'impression (31) comprenant :

    une unité de réception (81) configurée pour recevoir les données d'impression comprenant de l'information de mode de la part d'un hôte (20) de la pluralité des hôtes (20) ;

    une unité d'acquisition de statut (82) configurée pour acquérir le statut de l'imprimante (32) à la réception de données d'impression de l'hôte (20) ;

    une unité de décision (83) configurée pour déterminer si, oui ou non, l'information de mode contenue dans les données d'impression et le statut de l'imprimante (32) acquis par l'unité d'acquisition de statut (82) satisfont à une première condition d'exécution ou une deuxième condition d'exécution, ou à aucune des deux ;

    une unité de commande d'imprimante (84) configurée pour envoyer des instructions générées sur la base de l'information de mode et les données d'impression à l'imprimante (32), les instructions comprenant des instructions d'exécution d'impression et/ou des instructions de commande ;

    une unité d'acquisition de résultat d'exécution (85) configurée pour acquérir un résultat d'exécution consistant à exécuter l'instruction de la part de l'imprimante (32) ; et

    une unité de réponse (86) configurée pour envoyer à l'hôte (20) le résultat d'exécution ayant un format de langage de balisage, dans lequel :

    le statut de l'imprimante (32) est en-ligne ou hors-ligne, et

    l'information de mode est de l'information identifiant soit :

    un mode de transmission normal pour envoyer des instructions d'exécution d'impression et/ou des instructions de commande à l'imprimante (32) dans l'état en-ligne, ou soit

    un mode de transmission forcée pour envoyer des instructions de commande de façon inconditionnelle à l'imprimante (32) dans l'état hors-ligne, dans lequel :
    lorsque l'information de mode indique :

    le mode de transmission forcée et que l'imprimante (32) est hors-ligne, l'unité de décision (83) détermine que la première condition d'exécution est satisfaite ;

    le mode de transmission normal et que l'imprimante (32) est en-ligne, l'unité de décision (83) détermine que la deuxième condition d'exécution est satisfaite, dans lequel :
    lorsque l'unité de décision (83) détermine que :

    la première condition d'exécution est satisfaite, l'unité de commande d'imprimante (84) envoie à l'imprimante (32) d'abord une instruction pour passer à un mode spécifique et envoie ensuite les instructions de commande,

    la deuxième condition d'exécution est satisfaite, l'unité de commande d'imprimante (84) envoie les instructions d'exécution d'impression et/ou les instructions de commande sans changer le mode de l'imprimante (32),

    ni l'une ni l'autre parmi la première condition d'exécution et la deuxième condition d'exécution sont satisfaites, l'unité de commande d'imprimante (84) n'effectue pas l'envoi de l'une quelconque des instructions à l'imprimante (32), et l'unité de réponse (86) envoie à l'hôte (20) des données de réponse ayant un format de langage de balisage indiquant que les première et deuxième conditions d'exécution ne sont pas satisfaites.


     
    2. Dispositif de commande d'impression décrit par la revendication 1, dans lequel le mode spécifique est un mode d'exécution d'instruction en temps réel, et lorsque l'unité de décision (83) détermine que la première condition d'exécution est satisfaite, l'unité de commande d'imprimante (84) envoie, après avoir acquis le statut de l'imprimante (32) à la transmission d'une instruction de commande, à l'imprimante (32), une deuxième instruction de changement de mode pour faire passer le mode de commande en temps réel à un mode d'exécution normal.
     
    3. Système d'impression comprenant :

    un dispositif de commande d'impression (31) selon la revendication 1 ou 2 ;

    un hôte (20) configuré pour envoyer les données d'impression ; et

    l'imprimante (32) configurée pour imprimer.


     
    4. Procédé de commande d'impression pour un dispositif de commande d'impression (31) connecté à une pluralité d'hôtes (20) qui envoient des données d'impression et à une imprimante (32),
    le dispositif de commande d'impression (31) comprenant une unité de réception (81), une unité d'acquisition de statut (82), une unité de décision (83), une unité de commande d'imprimante (84), une unité d'acquisition de résultat d'exécution (85), et une unité de réponse (86),
    le procédé comprenant :

    la réception, par l'unité de réception (81), de données d'impression comprenant de l'information de mode de la part d'un hôte (20) de la pluralité d'hôtes (20) ;

    l'acquisition, par l'unité d'acquisition de statut (82), d'un statut de l'imprimante (32) à la réception de données d'impression de l'hôte (20),

    la détermination, par l'unité de décision (83), si, oui ou non, l'information de mode contenue dans les données d'impression et le statut de l'imprimante (32) acquis par l'unité d'acquisition de statut (82) satisfont à une première condition d'exécution ou une deuxième condition d'exécution ou à aucune des deux ;

    l'envoi, par l'unité de commande d'imprimante (84), d'instructions générées sur la base de l'information de mode et les données d'impression à l'imprimante (32),

    les instructions comprenant des instructions d'exécution d'impression et/ou des instructions de commande ;

    l'acquisition, par l'unité d'acquisition de résultat d'exécution (85), d'un résultat d'exécution consistant à exécuter l'instruction de l'imprimante (32) ; et

    l'envoi, par l'unité de réponse (86), à l'attention de l'hôte (20), du résultat d'exécution ayant un format de langage de balisage, dans lequel :

    le statut de l'imprimante (32) est en-ligne ou hors-ligne, et

    l'information de mode est de l'information identifiant soit :

    un mode de transmission normal pour envoyer des instructions d'exécution d'impression et/ou des instructions de commande à l'imprimante (32) dans l'état en-ligne, ou soit

    un mode de transmission forcée pour envoyer des instructions de commande de façon inconditionnelle à l'imprimante (32) dans l'état hors-ligne, dans lequel :

    lorsque l'information de mode indique :

    le mode de transmission forcée et que le l'imprimante est hors-ligne, la détermination, par l'unité de décision (83), que la première condition d'exécution est satisfaite,

    le mode de transmission normal et que l'imprimante (32) est en-ligne, la détermination, par l'unité de décision (83), que la deuxième condition d'exécution est satisfaite,

    dans lequel le procédé comprend en outre :
    lorsque l'on détermine grâce à l'unité de décision (83) que :

    la première condition d'exécution est satisfaite, l'envoi, par l'unité de commande d'imprimante (84), à l'attention de l'imprimante (32), d'abord d'une instruction pour passer à un mode spécifique et ensuite l'envoi des instructions de commande,

    la deuxième condition d'exécution est satisfaite, l'envoi, par l'unité de commande d'imprimante (84), des instructions d'exécution d'impression et/ou des instructions de commande sans changer le mode de l'imprimante (32),

    ni l'une ni l'autre parmi la première condition d'exécution et la deuxième condition d'exécution sont satisfaites, l'absence d'envoi, par l'unité de commande d'imprimante (84) , de l'une quelconque des instructions à l'imprimante (32), et l'envoi, par l'unité de réponse (86), à l'attention de l'hôte (20), de données de réponse ayant un format de langage de balisage indiquant que les première et deuxième conditions d'exécution ne sont pas satisfaites.


     




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    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description