May 12th, 2022—
Masking tape makes for a great label as its weak adhesive does not tend to leave visible residue and names can be easily sketched onto its surface, albeit quite slowly. To expedite this process, Hackaday.io user michimartini decided to design and build a machine that writes labels automatically.
The device is essentially a drum plotter, which rotates a cylinder around an axis while moving the writing head back and forth to draw. For the X axis, michi used a basic NEMA17 stepper motor in conjunction with a CNC shield connected to an Arduino Nano. And rather than creating a custom horizontal Y axis from scratch, the machine instead utilizes a repurposed linear assembly extracted from an old DVD drive carriage, while a limit switch assists in homing the toolhead. Finally, a small servo motor holds the writing utensil so that it adequately contacts the masking tape.
To actually print a label, the text is first entered into a specialized program running on an old Odroid-C1 single-board computer, which converts the string to a G-code path that the Grbl-based firmware can understand. After the user has verified everything looks good on the attached 3.2″ LCD screen, the Nano begins to plot the characters.
For more details about the project, you can read its write-up here.