Precision Pantograph Probes PCBs

Electronic components are getting smaller and for most of us, our eyesight is getting worse. When [Kurt] started using a microscope to get a better view of his work, he realized he needed another tool to give his hands the same kind of precision. That tool didn’t exist so he built it.

The PantoProbe is a pantograph mechanism meant to guide a probe for reaching the tiny pads of his SMT components. He reports that he has no longer has any trouble differentiating pins 0.5 mm apart which is the diameter of the graphite sticks in our favorite mechanical pencils.

[Kurt] has already expanded his machine’s capability to include a holder for a high-frequency probe and even pulleys for a pick-and-place variation. There’s no mention of dual-wielding PantoProbes as micro-helping-hands but the versatility we’ve seen suggests that it is only a matter of time.

Four bar linkages are capable of some incredible feats and they’re found all around us. Enjoy one of [Kurt]’s other custom PCBs in his Plexitube Owl Clock, or let him show you to make 3D objects with a laser engraver.

26 thoughts on “Precision Pantograph Probes PCBs

    1. Ja after I did the pick and place version I was thinking about some wacky linkage to open/close a tweezer head. Kind hard though since you also need to twist tweezer. So probably not at time soon. Toooooo complicated.

  1. “Did I patent this, no.”

    He couldn’t patent this if he wanted to. There is so much prior art from companies like Cascade Microtech for micromanipulators used in probing that use the same mechanism.

  2. It looks like is’s a 2 to 1 reduction in motion, correct?
    Here is three cheers for using sharpened piano wire for a probe. Collage days, a slipped probe shorted out one channel of a friends amp on the transistor sockets of the output stage.
    Never again with those blunt tips on every test lead set I have ever seen. I have poked myself a few times but never shorted out any surface mounted stuff yet alone anything else.

    1. The brass tubing joint version is a 3 to 1 reduction. The flexible linkage version of the probe is 4 to 1. 3 to 1 gives you more of a range of motion which is required for things like pick and place, but since the flex version already has a limited range of motion I made it a bit higher. I’ll probably try out a 5 to 1 flex version later this week. Last night I made a version with a twist to lock probe holder. I’ll post that soon. Dang I really should be working on Halloween costumes!

  3. This is a great build and something I’ve been puzzling for some time. I personally dont have issues placing probes, but i also know theres a big fat ‘YET’ somewhere in that sentence that will likely bite me in the ass as i get a few more years under my belt.

    Thank you tho, this will be a great help for my grandfather who had to give up playing with electronics due to shaky hands and bad eyesight.

  4. I read up on micromanipulators from time to time, but never get around to building one myself.

    Some highlights of my research:

    Other things this brings to mind:

    It appears successful manipulators have been made with large reduction ratio hydraulics, differential spings, pantographs, piezo actuators and differential screws. I couldn’t find a picture of it but I thought I had seen a flexural version of the singer mk1 made out of wire. Well I’m out of time, hopefully someone will find the links interesting.

  5. This reminds me, when trying to solder a tiny SMD resistor last month, it kept clinging to my iron, probe, or tweezers by a tiny bit of magnetism. I finally realized the 0.7mm lead in my mechanical pencil did not have residual magnetism. Extending the lead out an extra cm, it worked for holding that little bugger down until the solder flowed.

    1. Careful when you do that not to scribble too much on top of resistor. Some pencil lead is conductive enough to draw circuits with, other high polymer leads I think mostly, not so much. It’s a nice “tuning” trick, when you’d like a smidge less resistance to apply light strokes over a SMD or between tracks until your meter reads right, often used in over volting GPUs and memory controllers etc in the past, or for unlocking older athlon CPUs, but you don’t wanna do it by accident and have yourself wondering why your 10kOhm resistor appears to be acting like about 2k …

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