An Inexpensive Manual Pick-and-Place Machine


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.

20 thoughts on “An Inexpensive Manual Pick-and-Place Machine

    1. It appears that this would just be a way to pick up really small parts and set them into paste/hold while soldered. If you have ever set 0402 components with a tweezer you know why this might be nice to have. Time consuming, yes, but not that bad considering you can get parts exactly where they need to be with little fuss.

      1. Why do people persist in saying 0402 are small and hard to solder? 0402 is easy, especially if you already have solder paste on the board and a reflow oven. Just drop them somewhere near the right place and heat, they will float to the correct position.

        I tried hand soldering 01005 components with standard tweezers, a soldering iron and no magnification, the result is rather messy but works:

        Please see the background on the main page for reference, the resistors shown are in order from the bottom: 1206, 0805, 0603, 0402, 0201, 01005:

        I am not saying soldering 01005 by hand is easy or anything people should be doing, i am saying since i succeeded with it with no special tools, 0402 can’t be as hard as people keep saying.

        1. I haven’t soldered anything smaller than 1206 but I have seen videos of using soldering paste and hot air gun and they do self-align like magic. Maybe not as perfect as a pick and place system but nevertheless the result is good and, above all, working.

        2. Perhaps you have better eyes and / or a more steady hand than most. It may be easy for you to place the parts, but that doesn’t mean it is easy for everyone. Certainly, there are a number of people that would find it difficult to place anything other than through hole parts. I know my eyesight is far worse than it was 5 years ago, and my hands are no where near as steady as they were ten years ago, I can still do it now, but I can see there will come a time where it will be a problem.

          1. I have frankly crap vision, i have strong near sightedness and some other issues, i didn’t actually go by sight when soldering the 01005 components, i made sure i had the component correctly gripped then went by the feel of the copper edges on the board.

            As for not everyone being able to do it, i have taught several people with almost no previous soldering experience to solder 0603 with no problems what so ever, the biggest problem people have is they are scared of SMD because they are told it’s hard.

            I can understand that older people or people with physical handicaps could have problems soldering 0402, but the precision is no greater than threading a needle, something most people can handle. And as i said, if you have solder paste already on the board you need even less precision.

          2. My eyes have crossed that point where I need the jewelers glasses for any soldering. Just wait. You’ll understand how this device makes perfect sense. Just wish I had it a month ago. If you’re wondering what age this transition happens, it’s late 30’s early 40’s.

      1. Hmm, “right side”, so you are using it with the tray running in the X direction across your body? I would have thought the tray in the Y direction extending from your body would be better so that the “opening” is in front of you?

        Will be most interesting to see a video of you using it.

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