Custom Tape Applicator


Designers: Jon Liu, Shweta Mani, Kevin O’Connor, Daniel Piao

Client Coordinator: John Wiltshire

Figure 1. Custom Tape Applicator: 1. Frame, 2. Tape Spool, 3. Backing Spool, 4. Pressure Applicator, 5. Cutting Mechanism, 6. Base, 7. Trough.

Figure 1. Custom Tape Applicator: 1. Frame, 2. Tape Spool, 3. Backing Spool, 4. Pressure Applicator, 5. Cutting Mechanism, 6. Base, 7. Trough.


Many employees at OE Enterprises have physical and mental disabilities that make certain jobs difficult. The goal of this project was to create a device that enables employees to separate and linearly apply an accurate, wrinkle-free piece of sealing tape to a roll of insulation foam.  The Custom Tape Applicator consists of a base with trough, a frame, a pressure applicator, backing and tape spools with automatic spooling, and a cutting mechanism.  The Custom Tape Applicator helps employees to apply wrinkle-free tape onto foam insulation with a wide range of diameters.


The Custom Tape Applicator assists employees with disabilities at OE Enterprises in applying a sealing tape about the centerline on a foam tube, and allows them to complete this task more rapidly and accurately. According to a supervisor at OE Enterprises, “Now it is more doable for two people who before weren’t able to do any of it. We went from them not being able to do any of it, to being able to with one hand. With very little assistance, they can do this job.”


The Custom Tape Applicator (Figure 1) comprises a base, a frame, two spools, a cutting mechanism, a pressure applicator and a guiding trough. The 11” x 1 3/8” x 49 5/8” base is constructed of wood. A 48” long wooden trough that guides the foam tube attaches to the base via three triangular wedges that set the trough walls at a 30 degree angle relative to the base.  The trough extends past the front of the base, allowing the user to rest the tube comfortably while starting the tape. A 11” x 1/4″ x 5/8” wooden stopper (shown but not labeled in Fig. 1) ensures that the proper length of tape is applied. Wooden supports hold the frame securely on the base but allow the frame to easily detach for portability.

The frame is made of 1” square aluminum extrusion, 2’ tall x 14 1/4” deep x 17 3/4” long.  Two axles are made from 7/8”aluminum tubing cut to 19” lengths. The lower axle holds the tape roll which is provided by the client. The upper axle collects the backing of the tape about a cylindrical piece of PVC tubing. The tape roll and backing collector tubing are held in place on both sides by plastic holders that rest on PVC tubing. Each axle has a sprocket at one end. Both sprockets are steep finished-bore, 7/8” bore, 1/4” pitch. The axle with the tape has a sprocket with 48 teeth, and the axle with backing has a sprocket with 24 teeth, for a 2:1 ratio. The sprockets are connected with a length of machined chain to allow for synchronized automatic spooling and collection of tape backing. A 5/16” diameter, 12” long steel support rod attaches across the front of the frame to hold two steel 7/8” diameter shaft collars to center and guide the tape.

The cutting mechanism is integrated with the pressure applicator. Two 6 1/2” lengths of aluminum extrusion extend out toward the user, with a 9 1/8” length of extrusion connecting them. In the longer member,  the cutting mechanism, a curved razor blade, slides within a 7 1/2” slot.

The pressure applicator comprises a machined piece of aluminum extrusion with a woolen paint roller that applies pressure to the tape as the tube is pushed through. The height of the pressure applicator adjusts easily to accommodate different sized tubes using two side knob-screws. Figure 2 shows the client using the custom tape applicator. The cost of the components for the device is approximately $350.




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