Tour A PCB Assembly Line From Your Armchair

Those of us who build our own electronics should have some idea of the process used to assemble modern surface-mount printed circuit boards. Whether we hand-solder, apply paste with a syringe, use a hotplate, or go the whole hog with stencil and oven, the process of putting components on boards and soldering them is fairly straightforward. It’s the same in an industrial setting, though perhaps fewer of us will have seen an industrial pick-and-place line in action. [Martina] looks at just such a line for us, giving a very accessible introduction to the machines and how they are used. Have a look, in the video below the break.

It’s particularly interesting as someone used to the home-made versions of these machines, to see the optical self-alignment and the multiple pick-and-place tools which are beyond the simpler pick-and-place machines you’ll find in a hackerspace. Multiple machines in a line are also beyond hackerspaces, so the revelation that the first machine is deliberately run slowly to avoid the line backing up is a valuable one.

At the end of the line is the reflow oven itself, through which the boards pass on a belt through carefully graded hot air zones. Certainly a step up from a toaster oven with an Arduino controller!

Sadly not all of us will be lucky enough to have such a line at our disposal, but pick-and-place projects come up here quite often. We did a teardown on the feeders from a Siemens machine a couple of years ago.

15 thoughts on “Tour A PCB Assembly Line From Your Armchair

  1. Speaking of soldering 8-bit guy recently discovered manufacturing thru hole in a garage is not a picknic. Cool shots of cheap Chinese solder dip machine warping his PCBs like crazy :o

    1. Thanks for the link to the Siplace S feeder article, which I completely missed. Brings back memories as I had to refit about 50 of these from S (shutter) to SL (shutterless) a few years ago. It was great fun, especially because you had to work very precisely.

    1. She has a very manly voice. ;-)

      Actually that wasn’t an issue for me but what did grind my gears was the grating background music which so many content providers add to their videos these days – it’s seriously annoying and I wish it was possible to remove it.

        1. The entire audio track is rubbish. Absolute rubbish. The extreme variation in volume of the music track is intensely annoying. Why not leave the music out entirely – it is not a video clip (for promoting a song), it’s an informational video!

  2. I work in at an automation tech manufacturer in Northeast Ohio that does PCB assembly in one building and final assembly in the building next door. They have 8 of these pick and place lines, followed by wave solder ovens and automated selective solder machines that move boards across a spout of flowing solder for large through-hole components. It’s neat to see these things showcased here.

  3. I would love to see someone explain how jlcpcb can handle the large amounts of different components. The website lists about 1700 basic parts.I would expect all basic parts to be loaded all the time for a prototype pooling service. And then there are extended parts – how many can you expect per panel?

    This video had about 7 pick and place machines in total. With 200 feeders each, this is less than 1400 components at the same time. Is this sufficient for prototype/pooling services? Is there another trick that nobody shares?

    1. Typically common parts are always loaded. Based on the job and quantity, the stockroom picks the reels and the machines are loaded with the unique parts. Our facility’s SMT team would be setting up and tearing down the mobile feeder carts. After completing a job, the feeder carts would roll in and pick & place would be ready to run the next job, minimizing the change over time.
      Also the larger SMT manufacturers have a lot more automation: stockroom reel delivery, bare board feeders, solder paste inspection, automated pre-oven inspection, post oven automated optical and x-ray inspection. All the machines are connected into closed loop control system maximizing through-put and quality.

    2. Yes. Batch the PCBs with the same parts to save time (cost) in swapping parts in and out of feeders. All part of process optimisation.

      Applies to any commercial PCB loading operation.

      Also these are fairly small pick and place machines. I used to work with ancient ones that moved two racks of feeders back and forth, which were each 4-5m long. That was a lot of metal moving very fast, but very precisely.

    1. Your comment makes no sense, both from an English and technical standpoint. What is “new nano hardware” even supposed to mean? If you mean why aren’t they using newer smaller chips then cost and ease of use is a big factor.

      You think this should be more advanced for 2023 but who’s to say that it hasn’t been worked on for years beforehand? That is another reason the newest, shiniest components might not have been used. You typically won’t find new hardware in current devices, you will start finding them in devices a little further down the line. If something works then it doesn’t need updated to use the newest parts, if it works, it works.

      Also microcontrollers do not run gcc or “c transparent source codes” whatever that means. Gcc is used to compile C into a binary that can be flashed to the MCU.

      Also what does the STM32CubeIDE have to do with anything?

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