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Surface mount components on 8 mm carrier tape are among the most commonly used in electronics assembly today. Whether you’re a hobbyist, a manufacturer, or a supplier, you probably handle 8 mm reels and cut tape all the time. As the smallest standard size, 8 mm tape carries tiny, densely packed components that are difficult to count by hand. There are plenty of existing methods for counting parts on tape, from the humble ruler-and-calculator technique to large, expensive, automated reel counters. In need of something both portable and simple to use, Great Big Factory designed BeanCounter.

BeanCounter is an SMT parts counter that fits in your pocket. It’s battery powered and uses two IR photointerrupters to count parts about as fast as you can pull them through. It works with any opaque, 8-mm-wide carrier tape with a part height of up to 2 mm for plastic tapes and a total thickness of 1mm for paper tapes. This covers most 0805-or-smaller LEDs and passives, as well as SOT23 transistors. It’s an affordable SMT tape counter without unnecessary bells and whistles.

To use BeanCounter, simply turn it on and start pulling tape through. It will immediately begin counting your parts using one of two modes:

Inventory Mode - Using just one sensor, BeanCounter polls at its fastest rate, allowing you to count long tapes and partial reels very quickly.

Dispense Mode - With both sensors active, BeanCounter can detect the direction in which you are pulling tape, which allows it to count upward in one direction and downward in the other. This feature is useful in kitting contexts where you may be cutting fixed quantities off the end of a full reel. Part pitch is configurable in either mode, so you can accurately count any part that physically fits through the counter.

Digging a little deeper, what BeanCounter actually does is count feed holes and divide by the part pitch. Because it cannot differentiate between parts and empty pockets, you will need to ensure that it begins counting after empty tape has been pulled through and stops counting before it reaches the tail. To help with this, there is a "pause" button that you can use to freeze the count while pulling empty tape.

  • Counts any component on optically opaque, 8-mm-wide carrier tape up to 1 mm thick (2 mm component height for plastic tapes)
  • Adjustable part pitch
  • Two counting modes: Inventory Mode and Dispense Mode
  • A "Pause" button for starting or stopping a count mid-tape
  • No moving parts means less wear and tear over time
  • Runs on a single CR2032 coin-cell battery (or an external 3V supply)
  • LED segment display is visible in all lighting conditions
  • A lanyard hole for attaching to a cable or wrist-strap
  • Weighs less than 50 grams
  • Open source design based on the Microchip ATTINY861V-10MU


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  • Member #134773 / about 8 months ago / 2

    Reminds me a bit of an inexpensive reader for punched paper tape back (if memory serves) in the late 1970s. At the time, software was often stored on punched paper tape, but the commercial readers were both slow and expensive. Someone came up with one that had 9 light sensors, and used wires for guides - and best of all, it would read the tape as fast as you could pull it through!

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