Badgemaker - Name Tag Fabrication Made Easy!

This machine allows children to get into touch with the personal fabrication technology by enabling them to create their own name tags.

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Devices like small sized desktop 3D printers and milling machines are already finding their way into our private households. These personal fabricators may be beneficial for many different applications like prototyping, spare part fabrication or individual product design. But, so far, many of these machines still show to be cumbersome to use. Novice users often have to face several challenges before they can operate such devices and achieve their desired results. These challenges may also form an entry barrier for people who are not familiar with such devices and prevent them from getting into touch with this technology.
My approach to solve this problem is the 'Badgemaker'. This stand-alone device should provide novice users, like children, the opportunity to gather early experiences with the fabrication technology by offering them an intuitive and easy-to-use milling machine. It enables them to create their own illuminated acrylic name tags in a safe and self-directed way.

This project was part of my bachelor thesis and realized with the help of the tools and fabrication machines from the FabLab Aachen. The goal is to encourage people and especially children who are not familiar with personal fabrication yet, to get into touch with this great technology and learn the beneficial use of such devices.

To break down the complex design and building process, the fabrication is reduced to a simple application of creating name tags. The name tags are manufactured by engraving the users name and an individual graphic onto a blank sheet of acrylic glass. A battery connected to two LEDs make the name tags glow at the engraved areas and turn them into an eye-catching accessory. 

A user performs five simple steps to create his name tag:

  1. The user enters his/her name by using a usual keyboard.
  2. The user selects a graphic from a set of graphics (to simplify the graphic design process).
  3. The user inserts a blank into the machine which will be engraved.
  4. During the building process one is able to watch how the workpiece is engraved and get an idea about how the mechanics might be working.
  5. Afterwards the user removes his/her name tag and may add the basic electrical circuit.

The user is guided through these steps by displaying a simple structured graphical user interface on a touchscreen and offering extensive feedback. Inner lighting and a beeper for example provide additional visual and audible feedback which indicate whether the workpiece was inserted or removed correctly. Safety mechanisms prevent the user from injuries while the mill is engraving the workpiece.

 The whole construction is built out of MDF- and PLEXIGLAS-sheets. The linear motion system with the mill are encapsulated in a case which offers a safety-door to access the interior part. 

A Raspberry Pi 3 Model B is used for the front-end. It runs a java GUI-application which takes care about the user relevant input and output (interaction). For the touchscreen a Waveshare 7inch touchscreen is used. When a user confirms his input and starts the building process the raspberry pi merges the user's name and the selected graphic into one SVG image which is then converted to a dxf-file. After that, the dxf-file is converted to g-code using dxf2gcode (this is currently a workaround). The g-code job is then sent to an Arduino UNO R3 which serves as machine controller and forms the back-end. 

The Arduino UNO runs the g-code interpreter grbl and controls the linear motion system, as well as the mill. Simple bearings, some nuts, leadscrews, aluminium rods, and three Nema 11 bipolar stepper motors build the core of the linear motion system. A cheap Proxxon MicroMot 50 is used to engrave the acrylic glass with the users name and his selected graphic. A custom made UNO shield is mounted on top of the Arduino which provides slots for three SilentStepStick drivers and a simple 3.3v <-> 5v level adjustment circuit for the serial communication between the Arduino UNO and the Raspberry Pi. 

  • 1 × Raspberry Pi 3 Model B
  • 1 × Arduino UNO R3
  • 12 × simple bearings
  • 1 × several sheets of 3mm plexiglas were cut using a laser cutter
  • 1 × Arduino UNO Shield for three stepper motor drivers I built mine by myself including the level adjusting circuit, but there are also some to buy online (if you wish to use grbl, be sure that the pin configuration matches the one from grbl)

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  • New Generation Upcoming

    Moritz Messerschmidt10/15/2017 at 22:59 0 comments

    As we have received so much good feedback and several people have already asked for an instructable, we are currently developing a new version of the 'Badgemaker' which will improve several things. With the new generation we also intend to publish an instructable. It will be more compact, less expensive and hopefully provide an even more intuitive & comfortable user interaction. One essential drawback of the current version is that with only one device, the creation of one name tag, can take about 4-7 minutes. We try to reduce the time, a user is not involved (which is the time spent on calculations or the engraving process) for the next generation. 

    We hope to build multiple devices of the new generation in future and want to offer them to children workshops, so that children in these workshops can explore the fabrication technology using the 'Badgemaker'. 

  • Badgemaker On Tour

    Moritz Messerschmidt10/15/2017 at 22:29 0 comments

    Together with the Fab Lab Aachen for the Personal Photonics project, funded by the german Federal Ministry of Education and Research and supported by the Make Light initiative, we are now taking the 'Badgemaker' with us to several exhibitions and Maker Faires. The device did not only seem to excite children yet; we also received good feedback of many different aged visitors and makers of the fairs - enjoying their new illuminated acrylic name tag souvenirs.

    -- As the 'Badgemaker' has now fabricated several hundreds of name tags, the machine unveils to be more robust than we initially thought.

  • User Study

    Moritz Messerschmidt10/15/2017 at 21:50 0 comments

    To evaluate the device a user study was conducted within a children workshop consisting of children at the age of 8 to 11. 

    The children did have great success operating the device and seemed to be very interested. Some did even operate the device without any prior instructions. Of course, we also unveiled some problems. E.g. some instructions like how to open the safety door were not clear enough so that shy participants did sometimes ask how to proceed when they were not sure.

  • Early Stages

    Moritz Messerschmidt10/15/2017 at 21:35 0 comments

    At the beginning it was intended to a create a laser engraving machine (prototyping sketches below), but it quickly turned out that a small laser would not be powerful enough to engrave acrylic glass. Because of that a third axis had to be considered. But as the milling tool would be to heavy for the third axis it was now decided to move the working piece. 

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