Plotter Churns Out Labels With Roll Of Tape

Like it or not, organizing your workspace from time to time is a necessary chore. Labels can go a long way towards taming the most unruly of benches, but writing them out by hand isn’t exactly ideal. Looking for something a bit neater, [sandy] built a simple pen plotter to write labels on a roll of tape.

Pen plotter writing on roll of masking tape

The plotter uses the usual 3D printer components like steppers, drivers, belts, and rails. The tape holder is printed with flexible arms for a tight grip, and a servo is used to raise and lower the pen while writing.

The custom control board includes an Arduino Nano clone and a pair of stepper drivers, and an optional Bluetooth module and can be configured for a variety of machine control applications. A pair of Android apps are used to generate and send the G-code from a phone to the GRBL firmware loaded on the Arduino.

This seems to fall in the category of “entry-level” custom automation tools which help to save some time and effort on repetitive tasks without blowing the budget. We would include the various component tape cutters we’ve seen in this category, as well as smart build platform for manual PCB assembly

Masking Tape Pen Plotter Gets An Upgrade

[Mr Innovative] decided to make his version of a small pen plotter (video after the break) to make labels on masking tape. The result is an impressive compact machine that is remotely controlled using your smartphone. The plotter is constructed using several different techniques, a piece of plywood as the base, a 3D printed bracket for the motors and pen carriage, and a routed acrylic plate that holds the lead screw and linear rail assembly. The whole thing is controlled by an Arduino Nano mounted on a custom motor driver carrier board.

The inspiration for this build came from a project by [michimartini] aka [Molten Cheese Bear] that we covered a few months ago. [Mr Innovative] went for belt vs direct drive and no local screen. It also appears to plot a little bit faster, but that might be due to differences in the ink pens used. An Android app called TextToCNC converts label text into G-Code, and the Grbl Controller app sends those commands to the plotter.

We like continued iterations of open source projects and look forward to seeing what the next generations look like. Thanks to [keithfromcanada] for submitting this tip.

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CX-6000 Pen Plotter Upgrade

[Terje Io] decided to breathe new life into an old pen plotter — the CX6000 from C. Itoh, a Japanese company that made several printers for Apple in the 1980s. He keeps most of the framework, but the electronics get a major overhaul. The old motors are replaced, the controller and motor drivers are modernized using a Raspberry Pi Pico and stepper motor drivers. After tending to other auxiliary electronics like the control panel and limit switches, it’s time to deal with the firmware.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, [Terje] sensibly built upon existing projects and refactored them for his application. G-Code processing is done by grblHAL, with an added mode to handle HPGL code. He modified the firmware from Motöri the Plotter project to parse HPGL, making his new CX6000+ bilingual.

We covered Motöri way back in 2009, and more recently we wrote about the Teensy Controller using grblHAL, one of the 32-bit big brothers of GRBL. Have you ever restored one of these old plotters? Or is it easier to just build your own these days?


PlottyBot: A DrawBot That Plots A Lot

Fire up those 3D printers because if you’re like us, you’ll want your own PlottyBot. Still, have a pile of “thank you notes” to write from recent winter holiday gift exchanges? Hoping to hand letter invitations to a wedding or other significant event? Need some new art to adorn your lock-down shelter or shop? It sounds like [Ben] could help you with that.

Besides being a handsomely designed desktop DrawBot, this project from [Ben] looks to have some solid software to run it, a community of makers who have tested the waters, and very detailed build instructions. Those include everything from a BOM with links for ordering parts to animated GIF assembly for the trickier steps.

If you’d like to graduate from “handwritten” cards and letters to something poster-sized are customization tips for expanded X and Y dimensions. As we’ve included in other recent articles, one caveat to mention is the current scarcity of the Raspberry Pi Zeros that PlottyBots require. But if you have one on hand or think you’ll be able to source one by the time you’ve 3D printed all the parts, it might just be the perfect time to add another bot to your family. As a heads up, this project is self-hosted on a solar-powered server, so maybe take turns reading the complete build log.

A nice bonus if you need help drawing something suitably complex to require a robot’s help, [Ben] also created MandalGaba which looks like an awesome online tool for drawings like the ones shown above.

Pen Plotter From PCB Panels

Hacker [12344321A] has built a clever open-source pen plotter having a frame made from odd-shaped PCB panels (Chinese). It holds an ordinary drafting pen and draws on a small writing platform 8 x 8 cm square. This is barely enough space to draw a business card, depending on which country you’re from. The motion appears to be provided by DVD stepper motor head positioning assemblies, and the controller is an ESP32-based GRBL 3-axis board. User control is via WiFi and the plotter can be seen in operation being driven from the user’s smartphone (see video on the project page above).

Linear Motion Assemblies from a DVD player?

This looks like it would be an inexpensive build, and seems sturdy enough despite being literally held together by solder and paper clips. But be forewarned, the project is documented on an open-source hardware sharing site sponsored by EasyEDA called OSHWHub — the Chinese equivalent of their similar English-language OSHWLab. Hence all the notes are in Chinese, although Google translate can help here. [12344321A] provides all the engineering design files under GPL 3.0 license.

Thanks to [J. Peterson] for finding this project and bringing it to our attention via the tip line.

A r0tring CS-50 scriber. You type, it writes the letters with a pen on your blueprint or technical drawing.

Plotting To Restore A R0tring CS-50

If you’re of a certain vintage and have ever done any technical drawing, chances are good that you used a r0tring of some kind, be it pencil or pen. Well, r0tring makes more than writing implements.  They also made electronic scribers — a small plotter that pens ISO lettering on technical drawings based on typed input. This was a huge time saver over doing it freehand or stenciling each letter. The CS-50 is designed to hold the top-of-the-line r0tring drawing pen, which turned out to be the most expensive part of this restoration aside from the time spent sniffing out issues.

[Atkelar] likes to open things up and give them a visual inspection before powering them on. We think this is good practice, even if the suspense kills you. But really, [Atkelar] did so much more than that. He started by replacing the likely late-80s-era coin cell even though it registered north of 3 V. Then he swapped out all the electrolytic caps and one tantalum, cleaned the rubber dome keyboard parts with a cheap electric toothbrush, (another great idea), and completely disassembled the x-y mechanism to clean and re-oil it.

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Build Your Own Bluetooth Notification Ticker

Stock tickers were telegraph-based machines from the 19th century, and quickly fell by the wayside with the advent of computer replacements from the 1960s onwards. However, there’s something charming about small machines that deliver us paper strips of information – as demonstrated by this notification ticker from [DIYprojects] (Russian language, Google Translate link).

The heart of the build is an Arduino Mini, which receives the text content of smartphone notifications via a Bluetooth module hooked up to its serial port. The machine mounts a small roll of paper strip, which is pulled along by a stepper motor fitted with a rubber earbud for added grip. The pen is moved along the paper by a servo using a Lambda mechanism to allow it to move nicely perpendicular to the paper’s direction of travel. Instead of moving the pen up and down, the paper is pushed into the pen by a solenoid mounted underneath.

It’s a fun little project, and one we can imagine being great for educational purposes. It teaches skills required to work with steppers, servos, solenoids and Bluetooth, all at once. It’s a little different from some other pen plotter designs, but the ticker format has a certain charm that’s hard to replicate any other way. Video after the break.

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