Author Topic: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag  (Read 7235 times)

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Offline Electro707Topic starter

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Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« on: December 24, 2022, 03:37:20 am »
For full disclosure, this is a self-promotion for something that I want to eventually put up for crowd-funding. Also feel free to let me know if this isn't the right forum topic for it.

I want to get an idea of what you think about this crowd-funded project idea, and to gauge some rough interest. It's a name tag with an E-ink display that is programmable over USB (Type C, none of this MicroB garbage). Currently the programming software (written in Python) is in rough shape, I do plan on polishing it up eventually.

This is what it looks like right now assembled with a 3D printed enclosure. I actually used this during a conference/event, with with only current fault being the case falling apart from the front (friction fit).


Whether I will crowd-fund this or not, it's an open source and open hardware project if you want to have a peak at the source:
https://github.com/Electro707/eink_name_tag
 

Online PlainName

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2022, 11:46:34 am »
Nice, but I think it lacks a USP. It doesn't really gain anything over a bit of Dymo tape stuck on plastic but adds expense, complexity and the potential for failures. Let me expand on that...

Suppose you go to many conferences, so you might have many name badges. First, they're all going to be the same name (yours). Second, if they are different (perhaps to have a custom conference thing) it would be tricky for this to cover all of them. So run off single tape, stick it an out-of-date credit card and you're done.

Alternatively, perhaps its use might be for organisers who will need to generate badges for many attendees. Again, the names aren't going to change for each person, and running off a hundred or so Dymo labels is easy peasy. Cheap, doesn't matter if the attendees walk off with them or chuck them in the bin.

Where this kind of thing would score is if there needs to be some change during its use. A use case for this doesn't immediately spring to mind (since any such case would be unusable due to existing fixed name badges, so examples don't exist), but we could make one up. Suppose there is limited room and you wish to restrict the numbers of people at any one time, and have them exit when their time is up (so others can go in). You have that number of these badges, and they could beep at the wearer when their time is up, and even show the name of the next wearer (so you don't have to check your list). No badge, no entry.

So, I think to be desirable this would have to be active in some way that a plain, cheap and simple printed one isn't.
 
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Offline Kalvin

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2022, 12:12:11 pm »
Here are my 2c:

- USB charging is ok, although a coin battery might be sufficient as the e-ink displays do not consume energy when the display is not changing.

- Programming the badge using USB is kind of old-school, why not use BLE instead?

- Create a mobile application which can be paired with the tag, and the user can enter the information over the BLE connection using the application.

- Provide some predefined templates, and allow user to upload their own background graphics in the mobile application.

- Finalize the mechanical design.

I know that BLE and the mobile application stuff may be difficult, but you might find a partner who can do those things with you. Same goes to mechanical design.
 
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Offline Electro707Topic starter

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #3 on: December 25, 2022, 04:26:32 am »
Quote
Nice, but I think it lacks a USP. It doesn't really gain anything over a bit of Dymo tape stuck on plastic but adds expense, complexity and the potential for failures.
For this particular name tag, I was planning on targeting it more for the hobbyist/hacker space where one might find it enjoyable to have an E-Ink name tag. More of an open source project rather than a consumer product. I do agree it's going to be quite niche and doesn't really have a USP for most, but I am hoping at least 100 or so people to justify a production run (thus this post and the hopefully future crowd-funding).
Quote
So, I think to be desirable this would have to be active in some way that a plain, cheap and simple printed one isn't.
Currently I have it change the display using the two buttons on the side (with several "frames" store in an EEPROM), so in that sense it's "active" but doesn't do much.
 

Offline Electro707Topic starter

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #4 on: December 25, 2022, 04:38:21 am »
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USB charging is ok, although a coin battery might be sufficient as the e-ink displays do not consume energy when the display is not changing
Funny you mention that, as the first revision of the board actually used a coin cell. What I found out was that the coin cell's output current couldn't support updating the display. I also couldn't find any easy-to-remove mechanism for the coin cell battery holder unless I were to design the enclosure with a coin cell hole with side-terminals.
I do agree that the self-discharge of lithium cells might be too much (this thing draws <5uA during sleep mode), so I might switch up the battery to one which has a low self-discharge rate but can support the "high" E-ink update current
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Programming the badge using USB is kind of old-school, why not use BLE instead?
Mainly due, at the time of inception, I used an STM32L0 for it's low current draw during sleep mode and never bothered adding BLE (whether a separate chipset or something to replace the STM). I can definatly see the usage of BLE, and on the next rev might switch to an ESP32 (the current draw is also small in hibernate mode, ~5uA), which might also justify keeping a lithium cell due to the "high" power consumption during BLE RX/TX.

I do agree the that the enclosure needs some work. The app might be difficult as app development isn't my specialty.
 

Offline mariush

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #5 on: December 25, 2022, 09:06:08 am »
These are already mass produced as price labels for products on shelves, just look on alibaba / aliexpress
examples :
https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Label-Esl-Retail-Store-2-9_1600068737478.html
https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Price-Tags-SUNY-2-13-Inch_62030328495.html

By the looks in the picture, your product is way too thick, it needs to be much thinner.
 
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Online Ranayna

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #6 on: December 25, 2022, 11:11:23 pm »
- USB charging is ok, although a coin battery might be sufficient as the e-ink displays do not consume energy when the display is not changing.

- Programming the badge using USB is kind of old-school, why not use BLE instead?
Would the Badge even require a battery at all, if it's being programmed over USB?
Even those little E-Ink displays should hold the image for a long time, if not forever.
 

Offline Kalvin

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #7 on: December 26, 2022, 01:06:00 am »
- USB charging is ok, although a coin battery might be sufficient as the e-ink displays do not consume energy when the display is not changing.

- Programming the badge using USB is kind of old-school, why not use BLE instead?
Would the Badge even require a battery at all, if it's being programmed over USB?
Even those little E-Ink displays should hold the image for a long time, if not forever.

You have an excellent point!  :-+

I was thinking that as most people are carrying their mobile phones with them, so it would be practical if the users could update their badge over the BLE connection, no wires required.

But after your message I am not sure about my idea and how good it was afterall. At least the badge would be cheaper to produce and it would be much thinner without a battery, if the badge were powered from the USB port while updating the display.
 

Offline Mr.B

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #8 on: December 26, 2022, 04:14:45 am »
These are already mass produced as price labels for products on shelves, just look on alibaba / aliexpress
examples :
https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Label-Esl-Retail-Store-2-9_1600068737478.html
https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Price-Tags-SUNY-2-13-Inch_62030328495.html

By the looks in the picture, your product is way too thick, it needs to be much thinner.

There are also some suppliers on Aliexpress selling as Name Badges.
Search Ali for: e ink name tag
A number of them also use NFC from your phone to do updates. (Don't require a specialised 433MHz network.)
Search Ali for: YalaTech ESL Digital E ink Epaper NFC Price Tag ESL2.66/4.2 inch Electronic Shelf Label For Intelligent Store
(URL is too long.)
I approach the thinking of all of my posts using AI in the first instance. (Awkward Irregularity)
 

Offline Electro707Topic starter

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2022, 07:50:36 pm »
Quote
These are already mass produced as price labels for products on shelves, just look on alibaba / aliexpress
examples :
https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Label-Esl-Retail-Store-2-9_1600068737478.html
https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Price-Tags-SUNY-2-13-Inch_62030328495.html
Yeah unfortunately I am not surprised. This is why this would be more of an open hacker/hobby thing.

Quote
Would the Badge even require a battery at all, if it's being programmed over USB?
If only one "frame" is displayed, then no. But in this case multiple "frames" are uploaded to the device which can be switched with the buttons on the side.
If I were to go for the single-frame/no-battery design, I probably would make a connector board between the E-ink panel and a standard connector, then develop a separate daughter-board that powers the E-Ink display and updates the displayed image.

Quote
A number of them also use NFC from your phone to do updates. (Don't require a specialised 433MHz network.)
I do like the idea of NCF added to the board. Might add that in Rev D of the PCB.

 

Offline james_s

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2022, 08:00:52 pm »
I don't want to just crap on someone's project but as proposed I'm not really seeing a use case for this. It's more bulky and expensive than a regular name badge and I'm not sure what advantage it offers. My name is always the same and the times I've had to wear a name tag or badge it was the rest of the badge that was custom to the event/organization and my name was on it to show not only who I am but that I was supposed to be there. I can't think of anywhere that I'd want to wear a generic badge that had anything other than my own name on it.
 

Offline gnuarm

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2022, 11:53:43 pm »
Here are my 2c:

- USB charging is ok, although a coin battery might be sufficient as the e-ink displays do not consume energy when the display is not changing.

That's why it is powered by USB.  You need the USB to talk to it, so it gets power from the USB at that time.   Otherwise, it's a piece of paper, needing no power, so no coin cell.


Quote
- Programming the badge using USB is kind of old-school, why not use BLE instead?

Read above...


Quote
- Create a mobile application which can be paired with the tag, and the user can enter the information over the BLE connection using the application.

That could be useful, as long as it has a USB connection for power.


Quote
- Provide some predefined templates, and allow user to upload their own background graphics in the mobile application.

Really?  Are you talking about a BYOsignage?


Quote
- Finalize the mechanical design.

I think a name badge needs to be large enough to read without squinting or leaning over.  I can't tell how large this print is.


Quote
I know that BLE and the mobile application stuff may be difficult, but you might find a partner who can do those things with you. Same goes to mechanical design.

BLE is redundant.  The device is not wireless, it is powerless unless you are changing it, in which case a USB cable is no big deal.
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Offline gnuarm

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2022, 12:01:57 am »
Quote
Nice, but I think it lacks a USP. It doesn't really gain anything over a bit of Dymo tape stuck on plastic but adds expense, complexity and the potential for failures.
For this particular name tag, I was planning on targeting it more for the hobbyist/hacker space where one might find it enjoyable to have an E-Ink name tag. More of an open source project rather than a consumer product. I do agree it's going to be quite niche and doesn't really have a USP for most, but I am hoping at least 100 or so people to justify a production run (thus this post and the hopefully future crowd-funding).
Quote
So, I think to be desirable this would have to be active in some way that a plain, cheap and simple printed one isn't.
Currently I have it change the display using the two buttons on the side (with several "frames" store in an EEPROM), so in that sense it's "active" but doesn't do much.

I would ditch the buttons, other than possibly a clear all button.  If these are used at a conference, when you turn it back in you might want to clear it.  But then most geeks are going to end up pushing the buttons at some point, so better to have no button. 



A wireless power/comms connection would be good. 

I would also try to make it much flatter.  You likely can put it all on a flex circuit rather than a typical PWB. 
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Offline gnuarm

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2022, 12:04:54 am »
Quote
USB charging is ok, although a coin battery might be sufficient as the e-ink displays do not consume energy when the display is not changing
Funny you mention that, as the first revision of the board actually used a coin cell. What I found out was that the coin cell's output current couldn't support updating the display. I also couldn't find any easy-to-remove mechanism for the coin cell battery holder unless I were to design the enclosure with a coin cell hole with side-terminals.
I do agree that the self-discharge of lithium cells might be too much (this thing draws <5uA during sleep mode), so I might switch up the battery to one which has a low self-discharge rate but can support the "high" E-ink update current

Why does it need power at all when you aren't updating the display?  The e-Ink display needs no power.  What would be going on in the electronics???
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Offline Electro707Topic starter

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2022, 12:15:25 am »
Quote
I don't want to just crap on someone's project but as proposed I'm not really seeing a use case for this. It's more bulky and expensive than a regular name badge and I'm not sure what advantage it offers. My name is always the same and the times I've had to wear a name tag or badge it was the rest of the badge that was custom to the event/organization and my name was on it to show not only who I am but that I was supposed to be there. I can't think of anywhere that I'd want to wear a generic badge that had anything other than my own name on it.
That's a fair point, which is why I am more leaning towards/targeting hobbyist and geeks who may want something like this for fun. More of a novelty gadget.

Quote
I would ditch the buttons, other than possibly a clear all button.  If these are used at a conference, when you turn it back in you might want to clear it.  But then most geeks are going to end up pushing the buttons at some point, so better to have no button. 
Quote
Why does it need power at all when you aren't updating the display?  The e-Ink display needs no power.  What would be going on in the electronics???
The buttons are there, and for the same reason it needs power, is to allow changing which "frame" is displayed.
Of course that would be a fair point if I was making this as a host-given badge for a conference, but instead this will be something an individual has, more likely a hobbyist for fun.
 

Offline james_s

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #15 on: December 31, 2022, 01:20:47 am »
I actually do see some merit in the idea of a self contained e-ink display, just not as a name badge. I think it would be cool to have a general purpose display that could sit on a desk or stick to a refrigerator with a magnet and display stuff like temperature, weather data, notifications from home automation, a word or quote of the day, that sort of thing. Most of those applications are going to need some kind of wireless interface though, either wifi to the internet or low power wireless from a host system nearby.
 

Offline MK14

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #16 on: December 31, 2022, 01:52:29 am »
This thread, is reminding me of a similar device, already on the market.  Which costs around $15 to $20, one-off.

https://shop.pimoroni.com/products/badger-2040?variant=39752959885395

Quote
A hackable, programmable badge with E Ink® display, powered by Raspberry Pi RP2040.

In honour of Raspberry Pi's 10th birthday, we've fused a RP2040 microcontroller with an EPD display to produce a stylishly monochrome, maker friendly, e-paper badge(r) to attach to your person, your office door or to prop up on your desk. With the support of the fun guys (and gals and non-binary pals) at Ineltek and Raspberry Pi we've been able to keep it as low cost as possible, hoorah!

We've equipped Badger 2040 with plenty of buttons so you can easily change what's displayed on the screen, a slot so you can clip it onto a lanyard and a battery connector so you can keep things portable and refresh the screen whilst on the go. On the back, you'll find some funky badgerpunk stylings plus our RP2040 accoutrements of choice: boot and reset buttons and a Qw/ST connector so it's super easy to plug in Qwiic or STEMMA QT breakouts

Here are some things you could do with it!

    Switch between images, pronouns or secret identities at the push of a button
    Make yourself into a mobile weather station or air quality monitor (by adding a sensor breakout)
    Store important QR codes for getting into places (or to Rickroll people)
    Make a tiny to-do list and tick stuff off
    Display inspirational badger quotes or educational badger facts of the day

Want to show your Badger the world? We've put together a convenient Badger + Accessory Kit which contains batteries, a lanyard and everything else that's needed to get portabello.

« Last Edit: December 31, 2022, 01:55:17 am by MK14 »
 

Offline gnuarm

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #17 on: December 31, 2022, 03:13:14 am »
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I don't want to just crap on someone's project but...
The buttons are there, and for the same reason it needs power, is to allow changing which "frame" is displayed.
Of course that would be a fair point if I was making this as a host-given badge for a conference, but instead this will be something an individual has, more likely a hobbyist for fun.

I also am not trying to crap on your idea, but I'm not following the purpose of it being an ID badge. 

If you want to provide something for a hobbyist, why the little box?  Why not a board?  Is that something people will really be interested in?

Personally, I would find useful, something with a larger e-ink panel that can be used like a terminal display.  There are many times when I would like to have a small graphical, touch panel to use as an interface for a small project.  Rather than always reinventing the wheel, it would be nice to have something prefab that is simple, yet, programmable. 
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Online ebastler

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #18 on: January 03, 2023, 08:18:34 pm »
For this particular name tag, I was planning on targeting it more for the hobbyist/hacker space where one might find it enjoyable to have an E-Ink name tag.

I don't see the benefit. I can always write "My name is ebastler and I am a nerd" on a piece of paper, if that is the message I want to send. ;)
 

Offline SiliconWizard

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #19 on: January 05, 2023, 03:07:17 am »
I don't see the point here either. Paper/cardboard works fine here, is less hassle, potentially looks better (due to better resolution of printing), and by the time an electronic tag like this has barely payed itself in comparison to the cost and environmental impact of a printed paper tag, you'll probably be a thousand years old. But just my opinion.
 

Offline bitwelder

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #20 on: January 05, 2023, 11:04:08 am »
If the idea is to use it as a 'name tag' (i.e. a text that doesn't change that often), I'd split the project in two parts:
1) the e-ink screen itself with a simple (and lightweight!) plastic frame, and its contacts semi-exposed maybe as a string of PCB pads. No power needed here.
2) a programming 'jig', with all the STM32 logic, the USB/Wifi/whatever interface, power input, and some kind of pogo-pins where to plug the screen module just for the time to set its contents.
So you need to make only one jig to serve potentially a number of e-ink modules.
 

Online PlainName

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #21 on: January 05, 2023, 12:48:39 pm »
That would be a good move, bitwelder. Except I would suggest sliding contacts for the programming jig rather than pogo pins - perhaps a PCB edge connector type (but thinner, single-sided). Reason being that you could then have a module which mounts the display, for portable wearable purposes, and uses the programming pins to change the screen whenever buttons are pressed or whatever. Pogo pins would work but add depth.
 

Offline bitwelder

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Re: Intrest Survey: E-Ink Name Tag
« Reply #22 on: January 09, 2023, 09:53:40 am »
Except I would suggest sliding contacts for the programming jig rather than pogo pins
Yess. I agree. Pogos are also a little fragile to use outside a lab environment.
 


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