This Innovative Printer Helps Organize SMD Tape
The evolution of electronics manufacturing has led to components drastically decreasing in size over the last few decades, and for automated PCB assembling, these parts come packaged in tape. Ordinarily, this presents no issues, as large rolls of tape are scanned and then placed into robotic pick-and-place machines.
However, hobbyists who purchase much smaller quantities of surface mount parts can run into trouble when attempting to keep track of values, such as maintaining separation between ceramic capacitors.
In response to this challenge, Yvo de Haas (who goes by ytec3d) created a small device that contains an HP45 printhead and a motor in order to automatically label components that come packaged in SMD tape.
de Haas' printer is based around his custom HP45 controller module that he designed. It features a Teensy 3.5, which communicates with the host computer over USB to drive both the printhead and other external components. The controller board is powered from a 12V source via a jack, so it can also drive a motor. And finally, encoders and switches can be attached for gathering positional data to aid in motor movements.
On the software side of things, de Haas came up with a custom program which he calls "Inkjet Commander". This Python-based program's role is to open communication with the HP45 controller, initialize it, and send images to print. It can maintain full control over the HP45 printhead, run diagnostics, configure encoders and other pins, and even send direct serial commands to the controller.
The SMD tape printer was designed to be entirely 3D-printed while using little in the way of extra hardware such as screws. After fabricating the parts, de Haas began by attaching two small feet to the base, which houses the motor just below its top surface. Next, the top plate was added along with a switch that tells the controller if a tape has been loaded.
The sprocket was positioned at the front of the device so that it can barely poke above the plate and feed the tape through the machine. Lastly, the tape guides and inkjet assembly were fixed to the top of the plate, as well as an additional microswitch that is activated when the inkjet is in place.
With the printer now assembled, de Haas opened his Inkjet Commander application and loaded the first image to be printed: a 1.2kOhm label for the tape of SMD resistors. In terms of settings, he went with a printing velocity of 80mm/s, a 300 dots-per-inch density, and used the first external pin to trigger printing while it is depressed.
As seen in his video, this printer worked very well at applying a clean layer of ink to the back of the tape while maintaining a constant speed. When combined with the flexibility of the custom software, the printer has some serious capabilities. You can read more about this project here on de Haas' website, and his demonstration video can be found here on YouTube.