Testing in aluminumland

A project log for 2020 HDP Dream Team: Field Ready

The 2020 HDP Dream Teams are participating in a two month engineering sprint to address their nonprofit partner. Follow their journey here.

Tom HartleyTom Hartley 07/25/2020 at 15:000 Comments

So, in my last log I touched on the concept of letterpress, and how this 500 year old technology could provide us with insight into how we could produce a low cost, reliable and simple solution to help Field Ready with labelling. 

In this log, I want to show you some of our initial experiments into embossing aluminium cans using a somewhat similar process. Sadly, none of us own any sets of letterpress type or printing presses, so we had to resort to something a little simpler. The tool in question is a label maker of the kind historically made and sold by Dymo, but it is now out of patent so it's manufactured under generic brands and sold for less than $10.

Here's the game-plan: The label maker normally prints onto a plastic tape, but I wanted to see whether strips of thin aluminium could do the same. To get the aluminium, I set about opening an empty standard drinks can and cutting it up. Be sure to wear gloves if you try this process - the aluminium ends up very sharp. I'll start with photos, then give the overview:

Step 1: Use a can opener to take the top off the drinks can (not really what it's designed for... but it works).

Step 2: Slice down the side of the can.

Step 3: Cut around the base.

Step 4: Take your rectangle and trim off any scraggly bits.

Step 5: Cut into thin strips, the width of your label maker tape.

Step 6: Feed through the label maker, punching letters as normal. I  had to manually feed as the gears that push the tape through didn't engage with the metal in the same way as they did with the plastic tape you buy.