Automate Handwritten Postcards With Robots

As someone notorious for not doing things the old-fashioned manual way, we’re not sure by [Shane] of Stuff Made Here was thinking when he promised to send out a few hundred handwritten letters. Predictably he built an automated production line for the task. Video after the break.

With “handwritten” and “automated” not being particularly compatible, [Shane] set out to create a robot to create believable handwritten letters, which is significantly harder than it may seem at first glance. It turns out that turning your handwriting into a font is too consistent to be believable, which led down the rabbit of generated handwriting. [Shane] first spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to implement a machine learning model for the task, only to find there’s already an open source library good enough to fool a forensic handwriting expert.

On the robot side, [Shane] used a pen plotter from Amazon that’s it’s actually cheaper than building one from scratch. With the “handwriting” taken care of, [Shane] set up an automated loading system with the industrial robot arm he also used for his CNC chainsaw. The feeders for the empty and full postcards are 3D printed with a spring-loaded mechanism to keep the top card at the same height all the time.

Although this project contained less custom hardware and software than [Shane’s] other projects, it served as an excellent reminder that it’s unnecessary to reinvent the wheel when building a car. It’s easy to get caught up in the small details of a project that don’t matter much in the final implementation and usage.


15 thoughts on “Automate Handwritten Postcards With Robots

  1. Did he ever consider that the recipients would never have compared the cards with each other? He could have just written each word of the message a few times : that would have been far closer to being written by himself…

    All his projects are good, but all of his projects are overengineering, and this one especially. It must be because he has so many fancy tools.

    1. To replicate real handwriting /signatures, I would have expected to also address:
      – draw some lines with different speed, to a point where the pen might not keep up
      – apply uneven pressure onto the pen/paper. Sometimes with impression in the paper or only faint lines in between some characters
      – maybe even changes in angle of the pen, like in calligraphy

      This requires:
      – a different setup for capturing writing
      – much more refined generation (if needed at all)
      – different mechanics for the writing machine

  2. Just when things got interesting, in regards to hand written letter connection, he pulls the plug, again, and uses a 3rd party lib, no further analysis. Then an expert validates this 3rd party lib.

    He seems to have lost his mojo, I really really hope he finds it again.

    1. I agree with you. To keep alive the channel seems that he needs to upload something no matter what. This time there was nothing creative from him but the video editing. 3rd party lib, bought plotter, tormach robot arm.

      1. I’m fine with a video of him trying to make the stuff “here” and realizing it there was no point. I do think if multiple styles of writing were not a goal, he could have simply made a stroke font with enough variations on each character and enough ligatures, along with some subtle random transformations.

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