3D Printed Tool Lets You Measure Component Reels Easily

Component reels are a highly-0ptimized packaging format. They deliver components to pick and place machines for effective high-speed assembly. As more of us get into working with SMD components, we’re exposed to them as well. [MG] wanted a way to easily measure tape from component reels, which is difficult because they’re often curled up. Thus, they whipped up a nifty little tool for the job.

The device consists of a 3D printed bracket which is designed to fit on a cheap electronic tape measure from Amazon. The bracket holds an 8mm wide component tape against the measuring wheel. As the component tape is fed through the device, it turns the wheel, and the measurement appears on the screen. No more must you try and flatten out a tape and measure it section by section. Instead, you just feed it in, yank it through, and you’re done!

[MG] notes that the tape measure itself runs on an STM32 microcontroller. As an extra-credit assignment, they suggest that the device could be reprogrammed to display component count instead of distance if that’s more suitable for your application. If you happen to make that mod, be sure to notify us on the tipline!

5 thoughts on “3D Printed Tool Lets You Measure Component Reels Easily

  1. Modding it to count parts would be quite easy. Best I know, the holes in the tape are always at a pitch of 4mm, and the parts always line up with the hole pitch, so just counting the holes is often sufficient. But some very small parts are placed on a pitch of 2mm, Some big parts need 8, 12, or another multiple of 4mm before they fit in the tape.

    Oops, I just noticed the project is just a 3D printed bracket around a commercially available “electronic tape measure”. I have no idea how reliable that is. SMT dispensers usually have a wheel with bumps that fit into the holes in the tape. The trouble with making something reliable is in the details. Paper tape, and plastic tape. Tapes with different widths and pocket depths.

    I’ve had a vision that bigger stores (Digikey, Mouser. LCSC, etc) have fully automated cut tape dispensers. Somebody puts in full reels, and the dispenser dispenses a piece of tape, cuts it to size and it falls into a container on a conveyor belt. Maybe each dispenser has room for two spools of tape, so people exchanging empty reels for full ones don’t have to hurry to prevent the whole system from blocking. With a system like this you would also have to account for empty pockets in the leader tape. It could even be extended with automated spooling unto small custom spools but that would add some other headaches to get reliable.

  2. If you’re gonna go through the trouble of reprogramming the microcontroller to get a part count, it seems like it’d be much easier to just start from scratch with an attiny and a suitable sensor that won’t slip. Hell, several projects probably already exist.

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