THP Entry: A $300 Pick & Place 3D Printer

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With the advent of cheap PCB fabrication, (relatively) easy to use layout tools, and a whole host of prototypes for nearly any device imaginable, the age of custom circuits is upon us. The tools to make these custom circuits, though, are usually hilariously expensive or simply unavailable to all but the most resourceful hackerspace. It would be great if every workshop in the country had a pick and place machine, and the $300 Pick and Place / 3D printer would be a great way to introduce this tech to millions of electronic tinkerers around the world. It also makes for a great entry to The Hackaday Prize.

The basic design of this machine is a delta bot. This is a wonderful choice over a Cartesian bot; deltas are faster and can have higher acceleration, a great thing to have if you want to throw together a few boards quickly. Although the configuration looks a little inverted as compared to other 3D printer delta bots, there’s a reason for this: the design was simulated with evolutionary algorithms and statistical tests to find the best geometry for the machine. The completed machine should be able to place 0201 components; anything smaller would be called dust.

The software hits all the marks, using OpenCV for image processing, ARM boards for motor control and computational tasks, and a good bit of mechanical and pneumatic work to suck up the parts. They’re even working on a 3D printed tape feeders. Now a component often overlooked when looking at the total cost of pick and place equipment is essentially free.

It’s awesome work, and even if they don’t win The Hackaday Prize, it’s still something every hackerspace should have. Now if someone would only crack the through-hole plating problem…


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is an entry in The Hackaday Prize. Build something awesome and win a trip to space or hundreds of other prizes.

Humble Beginnings of a Pick and Place Machine

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[Pete’s] invented a product called an AIR Patch Cable designed to interface with an airplane’s intercom, and is looking to manufacture and assemble them himself — unfortunately, the circuit boards are tiny, and SMD components aren’t exactly the easiest to install. So he decided to build a pick and place machine to do it for him!

It’s not finished yet, but [Pete] has reached a major milestone — he’s finished the base CNC machine aspect of it. He opted for a kit build for the major mechanical components, the Shapeoko 2 — its a solid design and if you decided to make something from scratch it’d probably cost much more and take a lot longer.

From there he began selecting his electronics individually. He’s chosen the Big Easy Driver by Sparkfun to control his stepper motors, which supports a maximum size of NEMA 17 steppers, so he bought five of those too. To control it all, he’s using LinuxCNC which is an excellent choice — and if you’re not crazy about Linux, you can actually download Ubuntu 10.04 with LinuxCNC pre-installed for you to make it super easy — you’ll just need an old dedicated PC to use.

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Manual Pick and Place

picknplacePopulating a large surface mount PCB can take forever. [craftycoder] from Freeside Atlanta has built a great looking manual pick and place machine, removing the need for tweezers. No more will passives stick to your tweezers while you are trying to place them on your PCB!

We have seen a lot of pick and place machines in the past few years. What makes this one stand out is its simplicity and the no-nonsense build. This pick and place is built on an MDF platform, uses bearings from Amazon, standard 12 mm rails, and has a small camera for a close-up look at your part placement. Sure it is a manual method, but it beats painstakingly placing each part with tweezers. It would be interesting to see how much this entire build cost; we expect that it was not too expensive. See this thing in action in the video after the break.

We hope this project has inspired you to go out and make something cool! If so, let us know what you have made!
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Update: Semi-automatic Pick and Place Goes Fully-Automatic

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Way back in April we looked at an impressive Pick and Place machine project which wasn’t actually up and running yet. Well it looks like [Brian Dorey] has really put the pedal to the metal with this fall, posting nine project updates since September.

The previous system was working just fine but required quite a bit of user intervention to do the actual placing. So the first modifications toward the new goal centered around motorizing the gantry. There’s a lot of information on this, as well as the vacuum tweezer heads that were designed for the system. But for us it was exciting to read about the vibrating chip feeder. This uses the vibrating motor from an Xbox controller to jiggle the ICs from their tube packaging to a staging jig off the side of the build table. You can see a video of this after the break along with a demo of the entire machine at work.

[Brian] seems to favor the Xbox parts as he also used an Xbox live camera along with OpenCV to detect the parts and ensure they are lined up correctly. For the best results possible the parts need to be illuminated properly which is why he also built a rather interesting light ring using 144 red LEDs.

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DIY Pick and Place just getting under way

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It’s not totally fair to say that this project is just getting under way. But the truth is it neither picks nor places so there’s a long road still to travel. But we’re impressed with the demonstrations of what [Daniel Amesberger] has achieved thus far. Using the simplest of CNC mills he’s finished the frame and gantry for the device. You can see some of the parts on the left after going though an anodizing process that leaves them with that slick black finish.

The demo video shows off the device by driving it with a joystick. It’s fast, which gives us hope that this will rival some of the low-end commercial pick and place machines. He’s already been working on the software, which runs on a mini ITX form factor computer. This includes a gerber file interpreter and some computer vision for a visual check on part placement. He hasn’t gotten around to building the parts feeders but we’ll keep you updated as we hear back from him.

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Semi-automatic pick and place machine

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This is a fascinating take on building your own pick and place machine. It does an amazing job of automating the hardest parts of hand assembly, while relying on human dexterity to achieve the hardest parts of automation. It’s a semiautomatic pick and place machine driven by an Arduino and controlled by an Android tablet.

The machine is built in two parts. The portion in the upper left feeds components from reels and is fully automated. The portion on the lower right consists of a padded arm-rest which slides smoothly along two axes. A mechanical arm with multiple articulations is attached to the end, culminating in a tip connector for some vacuum tweezers. Right handers are the only ones who will find this convenient, but oh well. The clip after the break shows it in action. The assembly technician first selects the component from an icon on the Android tablet. The reel machine then dispenses that part, which is picked up by the vacuum tweezers using the left hand to switch the vacuum on and off again. If the part orientation needs to be rotated it can done using the jog wheel on the Android app. It smooth, quick, and best of all, clever!

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An Inexpensive Manual Pick-and-Place Machine

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When dealing with surface mount components, a manual pick-and-place machine is certainly a helpful device to have. Unfortunately, they can be quite expensive, so [Vassilis] came up with his own solution.

While commercial setups can cost upwards of a thousand dollars, this setup was made for less than a tenth of this cost. This one uses a simple setup of sliders and bearings available from a local hardware store. A cheap vacuum pen is used to lift the components, using an aquarium pump in reverse to generate suction. Finally, a USB microscope is used to make sure everything is placed in the correct position.

Plans are available on the site in DXF format, so you can build your own. The setup is reminiscent of a DIY CNC router, like this one that we featured a while ago. We could even see something like this serving a dual role with interchangeable heads for whatever you happen to be making that day!

Update: [Vassilis] published an video demonstration. See it after the break.

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