Maker Faire NY: Chipsetter, The Pick And Place For Your Production

This weekend at Maker Faire, Chipsetter showed off their pick and place machine. It is, in my opinion, the first pick and place machine designed for hackerspaces, design labs, engineering departments, and prototypers in mind. It’s not designed to do everything, but it is designed to everything these places would need, and is much more affordable than the standard, low-end Chinese pick and place machine.

Inexpensive and DIY pick and place machines are familiar territory for us. A few years ago, we saw the Carbide Labs pick and place machine, a machine that allows you to put a board anywhere, pull chips out of tape, and place them on pasted pads. The Retro Populator is a pick and place machine that retrofits onto a 3d printer. The Firepick Delta, another Hackaday Prize project, takes a mini-factory to its logical conclusion and is capable of 3D printing, populating boards, dispensing paste, and creating its own circuit boards. All of these machines have one peculiarity: they are entirely unlike normal, standard, industrial pick and place machines.

The Chipmaker feeder. Production versions of this feeder will be injection-molded plastic. This one is SLA nylon.
The Chipmaker feeder. Production versions of this feeder will be injection-molded plastic. This one is SLA nylon.

The idea of any startup is to build a minimum product, and the idea behind Chipsetter is to build a minimally viable tool. For their market, that means being able to place 0402 components (although it can do 0201, the team says the reliability of very small packages isn’t up to their standards), it means being able to shoot 1250 components per hour, and it must have inexpensive feeders to accept standard tape.

This is a complete departure from the spec sheet of a machine from Manncorp. For the ‘professional’ machines, a single feeder can cost hundreds of dollars. According to Chipsetter founder Alan Sawula, the feeders for this machine will hopefully, eventually cost about $50. That’s almost cheap enough to keep your parts on the feeder. A pro machine can handle 01005 components, but 0402 is good enough for most projects and products.

This is the closest I’ve seen to a pick and place machine designed to bridge the gap between contract manufacturers and hackerspaces. Most of the audience of Hackaday – at least as far as we’re aware – doesn’t have the funds to outsource all their manufacturing to a contract manufacturer. Most of the audience of Hackaday, though, or any hackerspace, could conceivably buy a Chipsetter. The Chipsetter isn’t designed to be the best, but when it comes to placing parts on paste, the best is overkill by a large margin.

The Chipsetter has a Kickstarter going right now. They’re about halfway funded, with a little more than three weeks to go. Right now, if you’re looking at pick and place machines, I’d highly suggest checking out the Chipsetter. It works, and with forty feeders it’s cheaper and more capable than the lowest priced ‘pro’ machines.


26 thoughts on “Maker Faire NY: Chipsetter, The Pick And Place For Your Production

  1. I do wonder why would someone actually put $5k into a kickstarter of a company with no history in making and supporting this type of product, with a delivery in a year (maybe – their timeline looks like over-optimistic BS) and unrealistic budget instead of putting the same money into something like Neoden 4 which is available already:

    Also, P&P machine for prototyping is just economical nonsense. You would be a lot better off simply having the boards assembled than spending the time and money setting up, maintaining and babysitting your own P&P machine.

    1. Jan, some people have vision for the future and can take calculated risks. People who can’t stomach that are free to sit back and relax. Don’t hate on the visionaries. They are the ones that put their ass on the line now, so that people like you (good people as well) can have amazing, low cost, stable products later.

      Side note: I think the timeline is realistic. The project is very far along. I’m not at Maker Faire but I’m sure some 3rd parties can vouch for how polished this product is already.

      Disclaimer: I’m the guy in the Kickstarter video from Nix. I don’t have any financial interest in this company. Alan Sawula from Chipsetter is a good friend of mine.

      1. Former skeptic reporting in. I was there, got to see it first hand ( It’s definitely further along than I thought. They’re at the “making the injection molds” for the part feeders, not “design the part feeders”. The first thing I noticed was the density on the machine. It may end up being limiting, but you can always re-reel parts as necessary (and they have other feeder types input).

    2. Or, one can get a complete 47 feeder unit now for a lower price than ShitStarter cloners.
      The TVM802B has machine vision, the feeders do work, and EagleCad ulps have already been written.
      Neoden 245p are faster for large parts like LEDs, but YMMV…

      I’d rather pay a real engineer for their work.

      1. Yeah, having seen the product I think the problem is that people think its vapor because its on Kickstarter (like most stuff is). I see a slick product and I assume its just good video production. So I agree about paying real engineers for their work. The Chipsetter guys (yup real engineers) actually waited till the product was ready, and are using Kickstarter to fund the injection molds for mass production. I think Chipsetter needs to show the fast setup and a time lapse of some real completed jobs. Full disclosure, they have used our accelerator services so I know the guys well. Also the early beta of their machine helped another company I worked with out of a jam. That being said it would be interesting to see the prototype against the machines LOL mention above.

    3. Brian would be more convincing that this is a great machine if he had not touched on the Hackaday past. The “Firepick Delta” project he references was a total failure. I paid good money for it with high hopes. Today it sets in the corner gathering dust. It does not 3D print, does not dispense paste or anything else and has not placed a single PCB part. The creator Neal dropped out of the project and left all the beta customers hanging with nothing but expensive spare parts and crushed dreams.
      Let’s hope Alan of chip setter is a better project leader than Neal was and completes the project so customers can do something with it.

      1. Wow, that’s expensive for a beta. I am doing something similar on my own just as a PCB drill. I couldn’t find the delta dimensions. The build volume is perfect for what I want. Can you tell me the delta dimensions?

        A Delta is fast at the expense of accuracy so it’s usually the option for low cost devices. I will be using Nema17’s with planetary gearboxes as it’s much simpler than the complex gear/bearing block arrangement.


          Overall dimensions: 600mm H x 460mm W x 460mm D
          Frame dimensions: 520mm H x 300mm W x 300mm D
          Max PCB size / 3D print volume: 80mm H x 214mm W x 214mm D

          If you read the Hackaday story play by play it does everything an engineer could dream of for $300.00. The story is fantastic! If I could get that machine for $300 It would assume. Count me in. Then reality set in and the price jumped to $1350 for a kit.
          Then of course all us Beta customers drop our hard earned cash down all waiting for our beta units. After many months we got them and had to wait again for instructions how to put it together. It became disappointing that 3D printing became unsupported and pick and place was from double sided tape on the bed not from feeders as described in the articles. Then after much more delay it became obvious the machine didn’t work, can’t work and never will work. One of the founders bailed and the rest is history and lesson learned. Buy from reputable sources and you get what you pay for, nothing more if anything.

          1. I looked at that site but the delta dimensions aren’t there even though it’s open hardware. It would have saved me writing an app to test and optimize it but oh well, I will just have to do that anyway.

            I chose Radial Delta because it’s cheap. No expensive linear rails, bearings and ball screws. The firepick is far from cheap so delta is not a good choice as far as I am concerned. Delta has low resolution and added to that is that the resolution is different in different places so the worst case is an even lower resolution. It also has very low lateral torque at the effector. I saw there that they wanted it to mill ass well. That won’t happen.

            If you want a 3D printer then it would be simple to add an extruder. The Marlin firmware will drive it. At least you would have some use for it in the mean time, hoping that they get back on track. It would be a very expensive 3D printer with a tiny tiny build area. The pick and place is not so simple as the software is beyond my skills.

            The Radial Delta has a flat wide build envelope so it’s perfect for what I want, just to drill PCB’s. Even though Delta has no lateral torque it *does* have heaps of downward torque.

            Have a look at this one –
            and you will see that the 3D printer can’t be that hard. Grab a Mega, RAMPS 1.4, extruder, filament tube and hot bed and install Marlin and your on your way.

            Oh, the other thing, the build area of a Delta is not a cube like a Cartesian so you may get more build height if you have less x and y distances. I can’t tell you how much because I don’t have the delta dimensions. But right in the middle the height can be the difference full up and full down on the arms. It drops off fairly sharply from there towards the edges.

          2. I told you already
            3D print volume: 80mm H x 214mm W x 214mm D
            The tiny 80mm z makes drilling pretty limited.

            You have data to support your comment that deltas are not linear in all the work space?
            My 3D printer is a Delta and its linear across all 13inches and vertical.

          3. Tiny z axis is ok for drilling because you don’t need too much more than the thickness of the PCB except for the convenience of changing the bit.

            Your delta printer is linear because software corrects to the non-linearity. There are still different steps per unit in different locations. The math explains it.

  2. The big question is what will the Chinese machines be like by the time this ships ?
    They’re already offering faster performance at a similar price to Chipsetter’s RRP, the main problem at the moment being crappy Chinese software. OpenPNP might be a route to fixing that.

    1. Meh – no inbuilt standalone controller. Could easily run something like this with an internal RasPi or Beaglebone. You really don’t want to run P&P on a shared platform like a PC that;s doing other things as an glitches can easily ruin a job and waste parts. And that’s before you consider all the potential support issues,
      Even the Chinese have realised that internal dedicated controllers are the way to go.

  3. Unless your design has a large number ( hundreds) of parts, or a very few part types ( e.g. a LED array) it will never be quicker to use any pick & place than to hand-place due to the setup time, and loading feeders.Their claim of one-click import is complete nonsense.
    With a vacuum pen, some tape holders and some practice you can do 500-1000cph by hand. If you’re doing that for an hour, chances are it’s probably not a prototype,
    I have a real pick & place machine and a very slick workflow to get jobs onto it, but still hardly ever use if for 1-off boards.
    Cheap pick & place machines are only viable for short to medium runs, not 1-offs. To push them as useful prototyping tools will only end in disappointment.

  4. I wonder what it is about trying to build a low-cost pick and place that seduces so many non-incumbents think they can do it better ? I’ve seen new pick and place start-ups at BAMF or NYCMF every year only to disappear or pivot into a completely different venture.

    Yet, some of these start-ups did look like they had far better software. I do not know why either NeoDen or one of the big-iron incumbents like Autotronik(Manncorp) or DDM Novastar team with someone to replace the Godawful software that currently runs on all of them..

    Still, I wish the best to the ChipSetter team.

  5. When I was watching the video, I could hear the voice of the little girl in the Taco adds saying “Why not make a pick and place 3D printer?”.

    ie, be truly innovative and use some conductive fulfillment so that you can do away with the limitations of the archaic PCB and print the whole product at once and not just the electronics.

    Two nails in a table can be innovation.

    1. Come back when you’ve got a reliable 3D printer printing 6/6 design rules and vias, a material that can be soldered to, a material that can withstand reflow heat, and a conductive material equivalent to copper, not high-resistance carbon-loaded plastic or something.

      1. It seems that you so accustomed to the archaic limitations of PCB manufacture that you no longer can think outside the box.

        I could respond in the same vein and say – come back when PCB manufacturing process makes 3D circuit boards adding layers as it goes and completes or encapsulates the finished product without extra processes like injection molding.

        Sure there is a way to go yet but we could start now and the simple use of a conduction filament would already have useful purposes even with higher resistances. The input impedance of a modern GPIO is on the order of megs or k ohms and may circuits today can run on the trickle of a button cell.

        And by the way you can very easily weld solder to plastic or have you never touched plastic with the tip of your soldering iron. Is that not very ‘filament’ like? Is it 3D? and is your PCB 3D?

        I might go have a Taco.

  6. I saw Chipsetter in person at the Maker Faire and have to say it was pretty awesome to behold. Alan is not only brilliant, but a very nice guy. I can see why people are wary of kickstarter with a lot of the vaper ware that is getting through, but this machine is the real deal. The speed, head options, and accuracy are perfect for the price and I hope all Tech shops and maker spaces pick some up to allow people to get some small batch boards to market.

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