Placing all those tiny surface mount pieces on a PCB can be a grueling task, even for a single board. When you're moving into multiple boards, the thought of having to start over once you're finished can be quite daunting. Large companies utilize pick and place machines to get the job done easily and efficiently, but the high-cost machines are easily out of the range of your typical at-home prototyper.
Brian Dorey is here to show you how to build a very nice pick and place system at home. Dorey has a small web store selling components and found that his previous DIY pick and place couldn't keep up. When he set out to build a newer better version, he documented the entire process, step by step, for our benefit.
Want to know how in-depth he goes? Here is the table of contents:
Project Overview and aims
Main Frame assembly
Bearings and Drive systems
Picker Heads and Vacuum Control
Component tape feeders and actuators
Tube fed chip feeder system
Control boards and interfaces
Future Plans and Upgrades
Many of these include not only what Dorey and his team did right, but what they tried that didn't work. For example, in the section labelled "Bearings and Drive System," Dorey discusses a rail system they initially tried but had to abandon because it would bind at higher speeds. Sometimes these little failures give us more of a lesson than the successes.
Whether you will ever need a pick and place or not, the project is an interesting read. If you do find you need to build one, this could be absolutely invaluable. Not only does he describe his process, he gives away his software and supplies links to all of the suppliers he used.
Not a horrible idea. I wonder if there are enough people out there who really need a pick and place to justify it? I mean, I know a lot of people who love to see them and drool about them but don't really need them (like myself).