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. We couldn’t find anything that was both portable and simple to use, though, which is why we 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 up to 2 mm in height, which 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:
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, we’ve added a "pause" button that you can use to freeze the count while pulling empty tape.
Counting your parts before a build can prevent frustration and wasted solder paste. Keep BeanCounter at your bench to quickly count your cut-tape components. Putting together kits for your online shop and need to cut a bunch of strips of resistors? Use Dispense Mode to count out your portions quickly.
A tape-and-reel counter that you can carry around the warehouse floor is a game changer for inventory management. Spot check a partial reel before you start a build or pick a length of cut tape from a reel without dragging the whole thing to a tabletop reel counter. Equip each member of your team with their own BeanCounter or use the lanyard hole to anchor them to inventory shelves so they don’t get lost.
Ever find yourself at a swap meet or surplus store browsing partial reels? With BeanCounter in your kit, you can determine whether or not that specified quantity—the one that’s been crossed out and re-written several times—is actually correct.
|BeanCounter||SpotCheck™ Reel Estimator||RobotDigg MRD-902||Iteco County Evo|
|Pocket Sized||Yes||If you have big pockets||Absolutely not||Absolutely not|
|Empty Pocket Detection||No||No||Yes||No|
|Automatic Tape Feed||No||N/A||Yes||With attachment|
|Supports Multiple Tape Width||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Supports Multiple Part Pitch||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Positive & Negative Counting||Yes||N/A||Yes||Yes|
|Weight||<50 g||180 g||14 kg||1.8 kg|
Although GreatBigFactory is a short-run PCBA, we’re going to be partnering with overseas manufacturers to ensure we can meet demand. PCBs and SMT assembly will be handled by our friends at PCBWay, and 3D Printing of the resin component will be handled in cooperation with Wenext. We will import these parts to our facility in Virginia, USA, to complete final assembly and to program and test all units before packaging.
Partnering with Crowd Supply allows us to leverage their fulfillment and logistics infrastructure. Once final assembly, testing, and packaging is complete, all of the units will be packed up and shipped to Crowd Supply for dispersal to our backers! You can learn more about Crowd Supply’s fulfillment service under Ordering, Paying, and Shipping in their guide.
While the entire industry is suffering from a major parts shortage, we’re lucky in that our bill of materials does not appear to have been badly affected. As of campaign launch, even our microcontroller is available in large quantities. That could change at any minute, of course, but we are fully prepared to leverage our experience sourcing parts in small batches and wrangling supplier contracts as needed to meet demand.
The design of BeanCounter is simple and proven. Barring unforeseen technical hiccups, we expect fulfillment to go very smoothly. No doubt we will encounter unexpected import hassles, stretched supplier timelines, and various other minor issues that plague all product launches, but we are committed to transparency and will will keep you up-to-date throughout the process. Our community has helped guide the design of BeanCounter, and we will look to you for advice on any other bumps we encounter along the way.
"[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."
Produced by Great Big Factory in Wytheville, VA, USA.
Sold and shipped by Crowd Supply.
One BeanCounter with a wrist lanyard and a non-rechargeable coin-cell battery
One BeanCounter with a wrist lanyard, a Big Ugly Battery Upgrade (BUBU), and two non-rechargeable AAA batteries