The Challenge

Anyone who has tried to manually solder surface mount components (SMD) will know it can be tricky at times, especially since the trend toward smaller components is an increasing one.

For the occasional board it’s not such a problem, but when you need to produce several boards it’s less than ideal, not to mention time-consuming.

This is where automation comes in handy and it comes in the form of a ‘pick and place’ machine. For those who are not familiar with these, it’s basically a machine that takes a PCB with solder/paste pre-applied and automatically places components on to the board.

The board can then be put in an oven which melts the solder and the components are fixed in place. The pick and place method is the standard for most mass production electronics.

As ideal as that sounds for most of us it’s not so accessible since the cost for this type of machine can be upwards of £50,000.

finished-diy-pick-and-place-machineThe Project

With this in mind, a Maker by the name of Brian Dorey set out to make his own automated pick and place machine to produce Raspberry Pi expansion boards for his business.

Typically an automated machine is quite large and one of the requirements was for it to fit within their existing workshop, however since he had already built a manual pick and place machine, this didn’t put him off and I guess it was the next logical step.

“The device has a total cost of materials at £3659.60″

Lets see it in action -

The device has a total cost of materials at £3659.60, which of course doesn’t account for the time involved to design and build it. Now this is just the costs for what you see, but there are already plans to enhance it with an aim to integrate the external circuits on to a single custom board -

“we are looking into building a custom USB based interface board using a PIC microprocessor which will replace the current relay board, Arduino Mini for the feeder X axis drive and the control of the control valves and head and base LED drivers and dimming. “

pnp-boards

For home based makers that decide to sell their inventions, this is a crossroads that many face. Do you produce low volume that can be managed by hand, outsource it or automate it?

What Brian has done makes the best of two worlds, having the ability to produce a volume of boards in-house and with automation which reduces cost and time.

We’ve followed this project with excitement for some time now. It’s a great example of making something that solves a problem, which is always the most satisfying kind of project!

Brian has done an amazing job of detailing the build with illustrations and videos. I recommend you visit it and see what was involved -
http://briandorey.com/post/DIY-Pick-and-Place-V2-Project-Complete.aspx

Source: DIY Pick and Place V2 Project