Humble Beginnings Of A Pick And Place Machine


[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.

Once everything was setup, he wrote a quick program to control his future pick and place machine — he strapped a pen onto the Z-axis and it scratched out its first word: “Gangsta”. Cause you know, G-Code. Right? Yeah. Anyway, we’re quite excited to see how this progresses.

To see a pick & place machine that’s already functioning, check out this beautiful piece of work!

10 thoughts on “Humble Beginnings Of A Pick And Place Machine

  1. The Nema system just tells you about the casing dimensions, nothing about the actual motor. The Big Easy Driver can output up to 2 amps so it’ll happily drive any motor that can run on (up to) 2 amps. I have some Nema 23 steppers that are rated for 1.5 amps, but according to your article I can’t use them with a Big Easy Driver. I hope no one tells the motors!

    1. Also needs cameras and machine vision software. Still a lot to do :) And seeing that the boards only have 3 SMD components on them, you could make 1000 boards in a day by hand.

  2. I thought about buying a Shapeoko 2 for a pick & place, but I was well aware that it would still have been a major project once the Shapeoko 2 was built.

    I’ll keep an eye on the project.

  3. It’s a good idea. You’ll find, though, that the there are a lot of very devilish details. Picking up small parts reliably is hard. Feeding parts from reels is hard. You can get very far by using computer vision … but then CV can be quite advanced.
    Then there’s set-up. If it’s just going to be G-code driven, fine, someone can sit down and write the G-code. But if you want to have libraries of feeders, parsers for Eagle boards, paste dispensing, etc, you’ll find out there is a *tremendous* amount of software to write.

    These guy are doing a good job of it, but I don’t know when they’re going to hit the market:

    We have a Madell Tech machine here in lab, and jesus, it pretty much requires a full-time person with a B.S. in engineering to get it set up and running, due their heinously complicated design and software.

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