SMT Part Counter Aims To Ease Taking Inventory

[Nick Poole] has an interesting idea for a new tool, one that has the simple goal of making accurate part counts of SMT reels as easy as pulling tape through a device. That device is the BeanCounter, an upcoming small handheld unit of his own design that counts parts as quickly as one can pull tape through a slot. The device is powered by a CR2032 cell and and works with 8 mm wide tapes up to 2 mm in height, which [Nick] says covers most 0805 or smaller sized parts, as well as things like SOT-23 transistors.

Why would one want to make such a task easier? Two compelling reasons for such a tool include: taking inventory of parts on partial reels or cut tape, and creating segments that contain a known number of parts.

The first is handy for obvious reasons, and the second is useful for things like creating kits. In fact, the usefulness of this tool for creating tape segments of fixed length is perhaps not obvious to anyone who hasn’t done it by hand. Sure, one can measure SMT tape with a ruler or a reference mark to yield a segment containing a fixed number of parts, but that involves a lot of handling and doesn’t scale up very well. In fact, the hassle of cutting tape segments accurately and repeatedly is a common pain point, so making the job easier has value.

If you looked at the photos and suspected that the big, 7-segment numeric display is done with clever PCB fabrication options (making segments by shining LEDs through PCB layers, a trick we always like to see) you’re not alone. After all, [Nick] has a lot of experience in getting clever with board fabrication, and eagle-eyed readers may even suspect that the reset and setup buttons on the edge of the tool are created by using flex PCB segments as switches. Want the nitty-gritty details? Visit the GitHub repository for the project and see it all for yourself at the CAD level.

Make A Better, Spring-Loaded SMT Tape Strip Holder

Every so often, a project is worth some extra work to see if the idea can go any further. [JohnSL] has been busy doing exactly that with his spring-loaded SMT tape holder¬†project. Having done the original with 3D printing, he has been working on designing for injection molding. This isn’t a motorized feeder, it’s still a manual tool but it is an improvement over the usual workshop expedient method of just sticking segments of tape down to the desktop. Tape is fed into the holders from one end and spring tension holds the tape firm while a small slot allows the cover tape to be guided backward after peeling. As anyone who has used cut segments of tape to manually deal with SMT parts knows, small vibrations — like those that come from peeling off the clear cover — can cause the smaller components to jump around and out of their pockets, and any length of peeled cover gets awkward quickly.

The design allows for multiple holders to mount side-by-side.

In [JohnSL]’s design, all SMT tapes sit at an even height regardless of size or tape thickness. A central support pushes up from the bottom with tension coming from a spring pulling sideways; the central support is forced upward by cams and presses against the bottom surface of the tape. As a result, the SMT tape gets supported from below with even tension and the whole assembly maintains a narrow profile suitable for stacking multiple holders side by side.¬†The CAD files are available online along with a McMaster-Carr part number for the specific spring he used.

After working out the kinks on 3D printed prototypes, [JohnSL] decided to see if it would be feasible to design an injection molded version and made a video outlining the process, embedded below.

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