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E-TKT: anachronic label maker

E-TKT is a DIY label maker that mixes both old fashioned and contemporary technology to create something as simple as... Labels!

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The initial spark for this project came from an ordinary manual labeling device that I bought to organize my workshop. I was VERY UPSET when I noticed that it was basically rubbish, getting broken and unusable after just a few operations.

I knew I could easily buy a brand new modern electronic thermal label printer (such as Brother), but something about the vintage embossed finish fascinated me. Also, these new models use expensive proprietary cartridges that create a lot of trash after use.

After all, even though the pressing mechanism was poorly made, the characters' carousel was pretty sturdy and sharp. So I thought: can I build over its principles to create a functional device? If so, then why not make it physical-digital?

teaser_4

E-TKT: anachronic label maker

Andrei Speridião 2022 - http://andrei.cc

🙃 what is it?

étiquette f (plural étiquettes)

"ticket, memorandum, attach, stick, pierce, sting, to be sharp, goad, puncture, attach, nail"
  1. tag, label
  2. prescribed behavior

E-TKT is a DIY label maker that mixes both old fashioned and contemporary technology to create something as simple as... Labels!

🤔 why?

TLDR: curiosity, technical challenge and of course organizing stuff.

motex3

The initial spark for this project came from an ordinary manual labeling device that I bought to organize my workshop. I was VERY UPSET when I noticed that it was basically rubbish, getting broken and unusable after just a few operations. This little plastic hook (circled in red) grabs a gated cog (the white plastic part below) to feed the tape forward. I tried to fix and reinforce it, but the failure was unavoidable because there seems to be a critical flaw in the project: it is too weak for the lateral resistance imposed.

low_DSC8695 copy annotated

I knew I could easily buy a brand new modern electronic thermal label printer (such as Brother), but something about the vintage embossed finish fascinated me. Also, these new models use expensive proprietary cartridges that create a lot of trash after use.

After all, even though the pressing mechanism was poorly made, the characters' carousel was pretty sturdy and sharp. So I thought: can I build over its principles to create a functional device? If so, then why not make it physical-digital?

...why bother mixing an archaic printing method with current automation and connectivity features? Because why not? It was a technological blind spot to be explored!

...anachronism 🤓

I've later realized that it was what I’ve been attracted to. According to Wikipedia:

“An anachronism (from the Greek ἀνά ana, 'against' and χρόνος khronos, 'time') is a chronological inconsistency in some arrangements, especially a juxtaposition of people, events, objects, language terms and customs from different time periods”.

The point is: even though the process is digitalized, the resulting label is totally old school and there is no easy way of telling if it wasn't made in the traditional way.

⚙️ how does it work?

how

An ESP32 commands the label production and also serves an on demand web application to any device connected in a local network.

Neither internet is needed, nor installing any app.

The whole process of connecting the E-TKT machine to a local network and then launching the app is aided by a small OLED display that provides instructions and a dynamically generated QR code with the URL, according to the IP attributed by the WLAN.

The web app provides text validation, special characters, a preview of the exact size of the tape, an option to select the desired lateral margins and also real-time feedback during the printing (also present on the device screen). There are also commands for attaching a new reel, manually feeding and cutting the tape.

The label production itself uses the same mechanical principles as the original machine did, but is now automated. A stepper motor feeds the tape while another selects the appropriate character on the carousel according to a home position acquired by hall sensor. Then a servo motor imprints each character by pressing the carousel to the tape. That happens successively until the end of the desired content, when there is a special character position to cut the label. A light blinks to ask for the label to be picked.

💡 features

🌟 highlights

  • No need for internet, app installation, data cables or drivers;
  • Use from any device that is connected to a local network and has a web browser: desktop, tablet, smartphone;...
Read more »

e-tkt_014.stp

Source 3d file with all parts

stp - 10.07 MB - 06/14/2022 at 15:46

Download

I_top.stl

STL for 3D printing

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 14.39 MB - 06/14/2022 at 15:46

Download

O_carousel_coupling_2.stl

STL for 3D printing

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 764.83 kB - 06/14/2022 at 15:46

Download

L_caroulsel_cube.stl

STL for 3D printing

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 2.98 MB - 06/14/2022 at 15:46

Download

K_top_tapefeeder.stl

STL for 3D printing

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 5.56 MB - 06/14/2022 at 15:46

Download

View all 18 files

  • 200 × 3D print filament - PETG (~200g used)
  • 17 × screw - M3x20mm
  • 3 × screw - M3x18mm
  • 2 × screw - M3x16mm
  • 6 × screw - M3x8mm

View all 40 components

View all 5 project logs

  • 1
    Overview
    This project has three pillars:
    • Code
    • Electronics
    • 3D printing
  • 2
    Code
    1. Clone the repository: https://github.com/andreisperid/E-TKT
    2. Make sure you have all the libraries installed on your computer (I've used platformio)
    3. Flash the code into the ESP32
    4. Upload the files ("data" folder) to the ESP32 using SPIFFS
  • 3
    Electronics

    One of the next steps is to create a PCB, but for now the scheme below can be used to create one using into a perforated prototyping board:

    Schematic_e-tkt_2022-05-30

    Power

    • 7-12v to be provided by an external power supply with at least 35w to deal with servo peaks current while pressing the label. It supplies the stepper drivers directly.
    • 6v out of the L7806 step down and is provided for both the servo and hall sensor.
    • 3.3v is provided by the ESP32 WROOM board (as in its logical ports).

    Logic Level

    • As the ESP32 uses 3.3v logic, we need this conversion for parts that are running on higher voltage (servo and hall sensor).

    Press

    • The servo uses 6v, higher voltages tend to damage it.

    Carousel

    • NEMA stepper, driver and a hall sensor to match the position origin.

    Wi-fi reset

    • A tact button that when pressed while booting, clears the saved credentials.

    Feeder

    • Reduced stepper motor along with its standard driver.

    User interface

    • Running on 3.3v an I²C OLED display and two LEDs (no need for resistors).

View all 4 instructions

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Discussions

K5BBoing wrote 4 days ago point

Brilliant Work I came here from Maker Update. ...Perfect Project

  Are you sure? yes | no

David Knochenhauer wrote 06/16/2022 at 08:49 point

What an awesome project! I love these old school labels and own a cheap version of it as well. I think I will do a build.

A few ideas to improve that thing further:

1. Wouldn‘t it be fantastic to have custom pressing discs? Maybe they can be done using resin 3D printing.

1b. If that disc has only elements of a 14-segment display, every character can be printed.

1c. Additional there could be simple dots in a column (8-12) to print simple icons

2. Maybe you can save some costs and room if the servo is replaced by a geared dc motor with a cam (one whole revolution per press)

3. I can assist in doing a custom PCB, if you like. Just drop me a PM

  Are you sure? yes | no

Andrei Speridião wrote 06/16/2022 at 14:12 point

Hi David, I'm glad that you liked it! Sure, give it a try! In case you need spare carousels: https://aliexpress.com/item/1005003984936889.html

And thank you very much for the ideas!

1.a Amazing, didn't think about it! I've been more of a FDM 3d printing guy until now. Do you know if is there any hard resin that wouldn't wear easily against the tape and the press, while keeping the flexibility? I guess the print precision might to be good enough... That opens many possibilities such as custom fonts and symbols... Nice!

1.b This could allow for a much smaller disk and thus, device. I've seen you are a fan of miniaturizing stuff, great.

1.c That goes in a direction of an idea that I had at the beginning of the project: making a braile printer. There is a braile tag maker that uses a disk too, but it seems expensive. On the other hand, braile have a matricial principle and I saw this project (https://github.com/carloscamposalcocer/OpenBraille) that uses a rotary mechanical encoder, it is another way for doing it, instead of using a carousel.

2. Nice, once I did a prototype had a geared motor that automatically turned itself off after a complete turn, might be a good try.

3. Cool, I was in fact planning to do a manufactured PCB (which would be my first), lets talk and see how to make it work, I'll PM you ;)

  Are you sure? yes | no

Richard Hogben wrote 06/14/2022 at 17:54 point

That top plate looks so cool.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Andrei Speridião wrote 06/14/2022 at 18:11 point

Thank you Richard! For that, I've used Cura with "Bottom Pattern Initial Layer" set to "Concentric". It somehow gives a "vinyl record" anisotropic appearance, doesn't it?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Richard Hogben wrote 06/14/2022 at 18:17 point

Yeah for sure it's like 3d printer art.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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