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I have a need for a bill counter at my current job, but besides counting bills we also could use a machine to count admission cards.

The idea is to either buy a bill counter machine (like those that the Banks have), or make one from scratch by buying the parts. Besides the bill counting feature i wanted to make it so that it also counts the certain number of cards, and check if they are either stamped or not.

My question is:

Is this possible?

If so, is it easier to just buy a arduino and use it with other parts (sensors, moving gears etc etc), or to buy a bill counter and just "crack" the OS?

Any insight would be appreciated!

PS: I am a 1st year Computer Science student, but i have 0 experience in programming in Arduino

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    I suppose an Arduino could be used as the brain of a currency counter. Since you can buy a currency counter with UV counterfeit detection for under $250 (the model I picked for the link wasn't even the least expensive) I'm not sure this is a viable project. It would cost way to much unless you are able to custom fabricate every metal piece needed in your own machine shop. – Tyson Jan 17 '15 at 3:28
  • It's hard to think of a particularly good reason for chosing an Arduino for this task. The classic ATmega-based boards are a bit short on memory for the kind of image comparison you would probably want to do, and the ARM-based boards are fairly pricey compared to the alternatives. You could I suppose use one as a USB-connected paper-path motion delegate for something PC-based, but realistically projects where your design is going to be actively attacked aren't a great place to start, unless you are doing them only for learning purposes without envisioning real-world deployment. – Chris Stratton Jan 17 '15 at 19:52
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There are many more things to consider than just put some parts together if you try to build a counter from scratch. Automated currency handling has come a long way to today's bill counters or any vending machines. You may perfectly handle the computing part of task with an embedded system like the arduino, but paper handling is an art of itself.

If you think of this task as a challenge to acquire and hone engineering skills, go ahead. It may be one of the best training tasks one can think of. But while you may learn a lot from this conundrum, you will propably end up without an usabale device. :)

You have to consider, there are subtasks in

  • mechanics
  • electronics
  • programming

which may include

  • paper handling (separation, traction, alignment)
  • pattern recognition
  • motor control
  • high speed sensors
  • signal detection and processing
  • error and fault processing and handling
  • motor and gear connection
  • bearings and mechanical substructure
  • user interface

and many more.

To modify an existing device solves a lot of mechanical problems in advance. But it may still be difficult to change the firmware of a bill counter to your needs.

You will have to

  • break into the system (may be impossible)
  • reverse engineer the firmware
  • understand the mechanical constraints
  • find a way to adapt the system to your needs.

A third way, which in my eyes is rather intriguing, is to take an existing bill counter, rip out the controller and try to plug in your own controller, e.g. an arduino. This gives you a real chance to reach your goal while still having the opportunity to learn a lot.

  • First of all thanks for the reply. I really liked the idea of replacing the controller, but i have no idea where to start, could you link some sites where i can learn how to do it or maybe explain a little further ? – P. Faria Jan 18 '15 at 20:25
  • Hmmm, as I stated in my answer, this task touches various fields of science and engineering. So it is difficult to say, what you should learn first. Generally said: I don't have any clues about bill counters besides having seen one in action recently. So I don't have a link to a resource where you can get information about let's say: roughness of used dollar bills, or paper thickness detection with infrared. So I suggest: make a plan first. I'm going to add some further notes to my answer. – Ariser Jan 26 '15 at 14:40

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