DIY Automated Printer Kerchunks Out Classic Embossed Labels

For our money, the best label for pretty much any purpose is one of those embossed Dymo-style stick-on labels, the kind with the raised white letters. There’s just something about them — the raised letters just beg to be touched, their legibility is outstanding, they lend an unmatched retro feel to a project, and the experience of creating one with one of those manual kerchunkers is oddly satisfying.

But alas, those manual label makers aren’t what they used to be, as [Andrei Speridião] discovered when his fell apart in his hands. Rather than complain, he automated his label maker and turned it into a computer peripheral.  Dubbed “E-TKT”, the DIY label printer takes the daisy-wheel embossing die from his defunct labeler and puts it under computer control. Rather than the ratchet mechanism of the original, a stepper motor advances the tape, another stepper rotates the wheel to the correct position, and a servo does the kerchunking duty. The process repeats until the label is complete and neatly cut off, ready to apply. An ESP32 runs the mechanism and serves up a web application to compose labels and control the printer. There’s also an OLED display and, of course, an embossed label. Video demo below.

We don’t care what [Bart Simpson] thinks, embossed labels are cool, and this makes them even cooler. And as [Andrei] points out, this is also a neat way around the nasty DRM trick that some companies are foisting on the label-making public. That alone is reason to cheer this project on — but we won’t complain about the beautiful photography and excellent documentation, either.

27 thoughts on “DIY Automated Printer Kerchunks Out Classic Embossed Labels

  1. Very neat. Now all it needs is a mode where a tiny random amount is added or subtracted to the stepper position for each letter (or raqndom nth letter) to get a truly authentic slightly-wonky label :)

      1. The wonky-ness wasn’t with the font, it was with the alignment.

        There’s a millimeter or so of play where the tape can float back and forth making alignment inconsistent.

      2. The dymo-compatible wheels he uses seem to only come in lower or upper case. I could be wrong, but I’ve been working on replicating his build for about a week now, ever since I first saw it, and the parts I’ve ordered off ebay are wheels that only have one case each.

      3. Thank you all for the comments! Yes, this wheel has only upper case characters, plus number and a few symbols. Lets say that beyond what Mr Name suggested (lateral variation), we might also expect some vertical variation too, depending on the tape position when pressed against the wheel. This might create an effect similar do tHaT eFfEcT, and I’ve been observing that on old school labels.

  2. I don’t care what [Bart Simpson] thinks either. I got one of those as a kid (and I’m not young, that was a long time ago) and I loved that thing! I was pleasantly surprised to find you can sill buy them new for under $10 along with a huge variety of tapes. So of course I had to order 2 of them, one of which will be to replicate this project!

  3. imho, The worse thing about the newer DYMO manual printer is when it cuts the label, it folds the tape under so it catches on the lip so any following squishing of the handle folds the taper under itself, which can send the little uncut part backwards and under the die. So, then it makes no impressions and you have to take the whole thing apart. I just try to keep scissors handy, but, sometimes I forget and snip with the label maker.

    I usually use my Brother label maker for multiple labels, but, these hard plastic labels are better in some applications including flower pots and seedling trays left in the sun.

    1. My Dymo tape reels are old, so they want to remain curled, and the aging adhesive allows them to peel off the surface they were applied to.
      But I am too Scrooge to use the Brother labeler often.

    2. Absolutely John, I’ve had that issue too and this is why in E-TKT the label moves freely in the output. I tried to make a proper guide, but I had the same problem. As Ren said, there is natural curl in the tape and even though that is a problem for that and for sticking the tape to a planar surface, it ends up helping when putting the label on curved surfaces such as bottles ;)

      1. BTW: Thank you for the article, a bit beyond my resources at the moment, but, I saved the github page. I tried to save your site, but, it just comes up as a blank black screen under firefox 101.0.1.

        Though I might like the Brother P-touch a bit better, the raised embossed labels are a good choice for things subjected to sunlight and grease, such as marking magnetic mechanic trays for sockets where magic marker and thermal labels are a poor choice.

        What I thought would be a cool use would be to use a Braille wheel to make labels for blind people to attach to such things as condiments and spices to help blind people cook when using a lazy susan.

        1. I’m glad that you liked John. My website is fully based on threejs (webgl 3D elements) so this might be why it printed out blank, but actually there is nothing related to the E-TKT there yet. But, if you are curious about other things I did, then check it out ;)

          Everything you need to make the machine is in the git/ pages. Perhaps you can save them as favorites for later.

          About your idea on the braile, I think it is great and is something that I interests me a lot. Actually, there is a discussion on that happening here:

          Thank you!

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