Manual Pick and Place machine

Inspired by this post, I’ve made a similar pick and place machine for myself.

I find it extremely hard to drill on the ridge of the aluminium rail without the drill press as in the original design. So I use counter-sunk timber screws instead to hold the rails. This has another advantage that allows you to do fine alignment of the 2 rails by tightening/loosening the screws.

I also made it easier to replace the tip by having the Y axis pad supported by 2 rails on the same plane. Just lift up the Y-axis pad and tip can be replaced quickly.

Boards, aluminium rails and tubes are from Bunnings (Australia hardware store). Those should cost you less than $50.

All other things are imported from Aliexpress – China.

The linear ball bearing is about AU$13 for 4 pieces on ebay. The 8-mm aluminium tube is about AU$1.5/piece including shipping from China. I couldn’t find that size in Bunnings and their specifications is not precise enough. I took a caliber with me to the store and they all had odd diameters.

This is the suction pump I used. It’s has a weird design. It does not have fan, but it has a few suction cup. The motor rotates a disk that in turn pushes and pulls the suction cup thereby creating vacuum. It’s quite strong. I can feel the suction with my finger. Don’t use the little brushless pump on eBay. It’s very weak. This pump is quite noisy but if you put it on a soft cloth or carpet, then it’s not so bad.

$7 Suction pump from Aliexpress

And finally, important components are the suction tips.

The green tip is from ChipQuik solder flux syringe, the black one with the rubber piece is from a suction toolkit from Aliexpress. They’re then connected to the aluminum tube with a piece of heat shrink (and some plumbing tape)

In the first try, I drilled a 1-mm hole on the side of the aluminum tube to be used as an “on-off” pressure switch using my finger. I kind of liked it because I didn’t have to use a foot switch. But the draw back is that it was difficult to rotate the tube more than 90degrees. I found it easy if the component angle was somewhat “on position”. If the component was too far off, it took some additional movements to rotate them.

Then after that I actually tried with a foot-switch and the foot-switch is better at releasing components. Small components still get sucked in when I release the pressure.

But with footswitch, the pump totally is off. So small components are released easier. I’d recommend the foot-switch. You can make a nice  foot-switch from a scrap PCB and 12x12mm button switch.

Home made footswitch from scrap PCB

In summary, here’s the bill of material

  • 1200 x 450 x 12mm Particle Board Handyman Panel – $7
  • 2 pieces of 42 x 19mm 2.4m Premium Grade Dressed Pine – $13
  • 3 pieces of 20 x 20 x 1.5mm x 1m Aluminium $18
  • 16 pieces of ball bearing : $9
  • 2 pieces of 8mm linear bearing $7
  • 1 pieces of 8mm aluminium tube $1.25
  • 1 piece of suction pump $7
  • 1 USB microscope 60
  • Miscelleaneous : nuts/bolts/tube/electrical wire $15.
  • Roughly the cost is $138

Totally liked it. Much better than tweezer. The 0603 capacitors are still quite challenging at release. Probably I don’t have the right tip. I found that just a little bit of flux contamination on the tip makes it impossible to release.  Here are some videos to show the machine in action




This article has 2 comments

    • Yeah, It definitely makes it easier to release.
      But I have to be careful not to repick a misplaced component to avoid contaminating the tip with solder paste/flux.


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