I end up doing a number of PCB designs for various projects. Most are small one offs that aren’t a huge problem to assemble by hand, but there are instances where I have multiple to build, or large boards with hundreds of components. In these cases it can take a number of hours of tedious, exacting, labor to place all the parts. Especially in the case of needing multiple, I found myself putting off the work and letting those projects languish.
In light of that, I decided to purchase an open source prototyping pick and place machine, specifically the LitePlacer. This machine comes as a kit, and after assembly and calibration, can place components on boards automatically. It’s not as fast as a professional production pick and place machine, but it also doesn’t cost a million dollars and I can set it up and let it run while I work on other things.
I found the kit instructions quite good, and quickly had the mechanical build completed.
Next was the electrical build which included wiring up all the motors, switches, and other bits to the control board. Then would be calibration and testing.
And finally, placement of the first board!
Since then I’ve placed a few much larger boards with hundreds of components, and I’m quite pleased with how the machine runs. I still need to do a bit of work in terms of the optical recognition on black and clear tapes, but overall I’m pleased to be able to offload this work a bit.