Hi everyone, this is my first ever English-language blog post. I just want to share my experience of building a low-cost pick and place tool for SMD components. This idea came up in my mind after I had difficulty to put tiny SMD components on their pads. I am now dealing with a bunch of 0402 SMD components for my project. I am not a robot! My hand is shaking. Since the components are mounted very close to each other, placing tiny parts on high-density PCB is often troublesome even though using fine tip tweezers. The tip of tweezers may hit the adjacent component and makes it off from the pad. Instead of picking a part from its side, it is easier to pick component up from the top side by using a vacuum pump. This technique can minimize the possibility of smashing adjacent part, but it does not solve the shaking hand. So, I need a special tool to eliminate this issue.
Here is how it looks like. Those white-colored parts are 3D printed items.
Commercial pick and place machine is beyond my budget, it is better to put it out from wishlist. I searched on the internet and found a lot of DIY-ers around the world making a simple pick and place tool. They shared their brilliant idea to build the low-cost one (I will list my influencer at the end of this post). The link for downloading 3D files can be found on >>this website<<. These are files I sent to the 3D print factory for fabrication: PenSupport, CableBlock, TopRing, and BottomRing. I decided to substitute several parts to adapt to the condition in my lab. Ok, here we go.
Figure 2 shows you the materials I use for x and y-axis rail.
X-axis and Y-axis are defined as depicted in figure 3
Stacks of acrylic sheets are used as a base of the y-axis rail. The surface of linear bearing SCS8UU is below the surface of bracket SK8. The edge of that 5 mm acrylic will hit bracket SK8 if it is mounted directly to bearing SCS8UU. So I added 3 stacks of 3 mm acrylic to avoid this problem.
Figure 5 shows an assembly of the table. A vacuum tube and USB camera will be attached to this table. It acts as hand support when steering that platform in x-direction and y-direction. Looking at the PCB directly is not a big deal, so I don’t want to attach a USB camera.
The vacuum tube is inserted in its holder. I need to push the spring downward to pick and place the components. Once the component on its place, the spring helps to restore the vacuum tube to its initial position.
The vacuum tube has a small aperture on the side (Figure 10). In regular use, I have to close this hole with my finger to pick components. The air flows through the tip of the needle and pulls the components up. Just open the hole for releasing the parts.
I control the vacuum pump via footswitch. Thus this hole is unused. I just obstructed it with adhesive tape.
SMD components have various sizes. Just use suitable needle size for every part you are dealing with. Luckily, I already have a bunch of needles. I got these needles long before I built this pick and place tool. Previously, I use it for dispensing solder paste to the PCB, and now I can use it for another function.
I have tested this tool, and it is fantastic. It works perfectly and accurately. If no leakage presents on the vacuum tube, it can lift up a DIP8 chip, as shown in Figure 15. Trust me!!!
What about the total cost? I spent less than USD 60 to build this !!! Check my video below to see the performance (sorry for the quality).
- 8 brackets SK8
- 2 linear bearings SCS8UU
- 2 linear bearings LM8UU
- 4 bars of linear shaft OD: 8 mm length: 200 mm
- Black-colored acrylic 3 mm
- Black-colored acrylic 5 mm
- 8 bolts L M4 X 20
- 8 hexagonal nuts+bolts M5 X 15
- 2 hexagonal nuts+bolts M4 X 12
- Spring OD:20 mm length: 50 mm
- 8 bolts M3 X 15 mm
- Vacuum pump
Ideas came from:
Do you need it? Go for it!!!