Electronics > Manufacturing & Assembly

Why so few low-end "manual" pick & place machines on the market?

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I've recently been researching pick & place machines, and it struck me as odd how few basic manual pick & place machines were on the market.    Does anyone know why?

The mechanics are trivial, and the electronics (if any) are absolute commodity stuff - In this world of $100 3D printers and DIY CNC everywhere, I would have expected basic X/Y/Z carriages with an aquarium pump vacuum pen to be a product that at least one vendor would have latched onto, if not dozens of options from overseas.   But it seems to be an abandoned market.

There are of course plenty of high-end "request for quote" options (Fritsch, Manncorp, etc), and mid/high-tier machines like the "SMT Caddy", Fortex MPP1, Gold-Place MPP-11, CIF V900121, those from Madell, etc.  But at prices from $1,700-$3,500 USD, you're already above the cost of some hobbyist automatic Pick & Place machines (Liteplacer, OpenPNP, SimplePNP (if it ever delivers), etc), and quite close to the low-end commercial automatic units with feeders (Charm High CHMT36VA, etc).   The market is also littered with references to nice looking mid-range machines that no longer exist - such as the Eurocircuits eC-placer, VEGATEC V900022, LPKF ProtoPlace E, etc, all seemingly discontinued in favor of costlier machines with more features.

Aside from a bunch of clever homemade machines (vpapanik, etc), really the only low-end manual machine I could find for purchase was the PickSoEasy PSE-20... but even that starts at $580 without cameras or feeders, and goes up from there.  The next closest was the Abacom ezPick at $700, which looks like it uses drawer slides for motion?

I'll probably end up making something myself - pricing out extrusions, linear motion components, etc, it's looking to be <$100 in parts.  I'm just really surprised that the market doesn't already have these.   :-//

It's all about the FEEDERS!

Used machines without feeders are virtually worthless, and a decent compliment of feeders will often be worth 2-3x what a machine is worth.

Before you cut a length of rail, build a nozzle or write a line of code, sort the feeders out.

It doesn't offer anything to a hobbyist with good eyes and a steady hand, and it's completely worthless for commercial purposes. No market.

I'd disagree a bit.

"good eyes" ? Seriously?  A lot of people would have trouble discerning quality placement of a 0.5mm lead pitch part as is common.  Typically one would use a loupe, head magnifier, microscope or similar.
And even then nudging the part to be correct rotationally and translationally is a bit difficult.

Then move to something like a QFN, BGA, LGA, it is even much harder since one has progressively less visual indication of correct placement.

And then there is the issue of throughput.  If one has a line of components like resistors / MLCCs arranged adjacent to each other it could be handy to be able to place them after nicely aligning the PCB / axis so that it is lined up and one only needs to place the right part on a nozzle with the X, Y, theta all staying aligned as opposed to manually needing to do each.

Also I would hope something could facilitate inspection.  If not built into some kind of manual placer, are there low cost right angle / small working space required inspection microscopes with prism or whatever for looking at manual placement of say 0.65 mm pitch BGAs' balls under the chip?

--- Quote from: jduncan on June 20, 2021, 06:07:54 pm ---It doesn't offer anything to a hobbyist with good eyes and a steady hand, and it's completely worthless for commercial purposes. No market.

--- End quote ---

Since the question was about "manual" pnp, it is quicker to assemble a board with a tweezers. Also no need to prepair parts, just take the cut tape out of the bag, take what is needed and put it back in the bag (or reel). With my hand and tweezers i easily align parts with pads. Not sure what it may take to rotate a part just a smitten on a "manual" pnp.


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