Hackaday Prize Entry: A Manual, CNC Pick And Place Machine

Everyone who wants a 3D printer probably already has one, and even laser cutters and CNC machines are making their way into garages and basements ’round the world. Pick and place machines are the next great frontier of personal manufacturing, and even though that’s a long way off, [Tegwyn]’s project for this year’s Hackaday Prize is bringing us that much closer to popping down 0201 LEDs reliably.

This project is a manual pick and place machine — otherwise known as ‘tweezers’. It’s a bit more complicated than that, because the entire idea behind [Tegwyn]’s build is to decouple a human’s fine motor skills from the ability to place components on a board. To do that, this project is using an off-the-shelf, blue light special CNC machine. There’s not much to it, just a bit of aluminum extrusion and some threaded rods. However, with the addition of a vacuum pump, a hollow needle, and a few manual controls to move the axes around, the operator has very fine control over where a resistor, cap, or LED goes.

There are a few neat additions to the, ‘put a vacuum pump on a CNC machine’ idea. This is a 4 axis machine, giving the user the ability to rotate the part around a pad. There’s also a microscope hooked up to a small monitor mounted to the machine. If you’re assembling hundreds of boards, this is not the machine you want. If, however, you only need a handful, don’t mind spending a few hours placing parts, and don’t want to go insane with tiny QFN packages, this is a great build and a great entry for the Hackaday Prize.

31 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: A Manual, CNC Pick And Place Machine

  1. Damn, this needs a hot air reflow and tweezer extension too!
    I have spent a few weeks trying to solder two wires to pins 4 and 5 on a RTL2382U dongle and between keep a loupe in my eye not vaporizing the flux, not burning the chip, and not frying off my eyebrows or adding any more burns to the loupe I still have not gotten the damn wires to stick!
    I think 20 or even 10 years ago(and no disability) I could have done this with bare eye and some concentration.

    1. Could also use a record and high-speed playback feature. Like with most industrial robots, you could train it once, and then have it repeat the motion to lay down a series of identical parts.

  2. OMG. this is awful. takes ages, is loud and ridiculously over complicated. and then the1206 smd footprints on that board. by the time he has his first resistor placed and back to the strip to pick another one, I’ve finished at least two of those boards with lets say 5 different parts with just tweezers and a soldering iron with fine tip.

    Why make smd so complicated. it is not so. and the cheap hand held pick and place vacuum tools work so much better. just remember to have your board fixed on something like a rotating platform so you can reach every part of the board easily. then you dont have to rotate the part. :-)

    (note to self: make video and post online)

    1. Tweezers might be okay for 0603 but even Dave at EEBlog would agree that 0402 and smaller is pretty tricky. In any case some of us just can’t use tweezers for actual biological reasons. Yes the video is slow and it is 1206 but that was the first time that I ever used it so what would you expect? Obviously it is a lot faster now. As for the noise of the small vacuum pump, I now play very loud music like Nirvana to drown it out so yeah no problem.

      1. I think it is a great effort, and pretty obvious you intend to work up in speed after you get repeatability ironed out. A water aspirator is a quiet vacuum source for testing. I have a rework station with one of those vibrating things inside and from what I can tell, it just makes lost of noise.

  3. Thumbs up, Teg!
    Just wondering, what else have you considered for user interface?
    My first thought would have been small joystick as it provides intuitive 2-axis movement and speed control.
    Sliders might have other benefits though – less tiring, no constant pressure needed?
    Ordinary mouse might work?
    Or something like a reversed etch-a-sketch – 2 sliders and some linkage – move a pointer on 2D plate, CNC follows? Separate large-scale and fine-scale movement?

  4. A joystick would be okay for the course control but, yes, a mouse would be probably the best thing to use other than sliders. Any clues as to where to get a Wi-Fi mouse PCB shield or whatever?

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