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A Look At the Firepick Delta Circuit Board Assembler (Video)

Roblimo posted about 4 months ago | from the components-get-tinier-every-year dept.

43

From the Firepick website: 'We are developing a really cool robotic machine that is capable of assembling electronic circuit boards (it also 3D prints, and does some other stuff!). It uses a vacuum nozzle to pick really tiny resistors and computer chips up, and place them down very carefully on a printed circuit board.' There are lots of companies here and in China that will happily place and solder components on your printed circuit board, but hardly any that will do a one-off prototype or a small quantity. And the components have gotten small enough that this is really a job for a robot (or at least a Waldo), not human fingers. || There are obviously other devices on the market that do this, but Firepick Delta creator Neil Jansen says they are far too expensive for small companies, let alone individual makers.

The Firepick Delta Hackaday page talks about a $300 price for this machine. That may be too optimistic, but even if it ends up costing two or three times that amount, that's still a huge step forward for small-time inventors and custom manufacturers who need to populate just a few circuit boards, not thousands. They have a Haxlr8r pitch video, and have been noticed by TechCrunch, 3DPrintBoard.com, and Adafruit, just to name a few. Kickstarter? Not yet. Maybe next year. Open source? Totally, complete with GitHub repository. And they were at OSCON 2014, which is where Timothy found them. (Alternate Video Link)

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one please (2)

maliqua (1316471) | about 4 months ago | (#47561285)

how can i make you take my money!

Re:one please (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about 4 months ago | (#47564015)

if they somehow manage to go 300 bucks, I'll buy it just for the steppers, alu extrusions and controllers.

Re:one please (1)

Skylinux (942824) | about 4 months ago | (#47564295)

this!
A proper power supply and steppers are "expensive" but I would buy one if he can manage to make a unit for around 1500 EUR.

So it can place parts... (2)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | about 4 months ago | (#47561475)

How do I feed it parts?

I can see two rolls kind tucked to the side there, with tape just loosely hanging out. Would it somehow take parts out of those?

What about designs with lots of different parts?
Parts that don't come on rolls (this is about small numbers and prototypes after all)?
How much time goes into preparing all the parts for pick up?

Re:So it can place parts... (3, Informative)

maliqua (1316471) | about 4 months ago | (#47561591)

parts are usually bought in reels or on trays so you don't have to prepare them you just buy them in the appropriate packaging

I appears to use reels they are the black smaller ones on the left side of the print bed in this picture:

http://static.projects.hackada... [hackaday.com]

it also appears to hold about 12 different reels

Re:So it can place parts... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47566917)

pretty standard trays and reels from guys like Vishay and such. nobody ships lose resistors and such, too easy to damage.

The real deal (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 4 months ago | (#47561505)

These are around $6000 but it's the real deal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
My fathers got a few where he works. They're so fast a crucial part of setup is laying out where the parts are in the feed tray. You put the most used parts in the center so the head has less travel, and the least used parts near the ends. It's so important that the machine calculates this for you and tells you where to place what.

It's amazing to watch, that video doesn't even do it justice.

Re:The real deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47561597)

It's so important that the machine calculates this for you and tells you where to place what.

well crucial to high volume manufacturing, even if its relatively slow and crappy it will save time over manual assembly and even if it takes longer.. i'd rather be doing something else than delicately placing tiny parts on a board to reflow

Re:The real deal (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 4 months ago | (#47562383)

These are not for high volume. These are more for "I have a contract for 200 of these boards a month"
You set them up to do the run, they do it fairly quick and you're done.

For high volume there are $15k to $200k machines that would blow your mind. That's when you're spitting out hundreds of thousands of soundcards or whatever... Those take weeks to setup, but they can spit out a fully populated PCI card in just a few seconds. Those have shields and such because they are so fast they can really hurt you.

With these sorts of things it's always trades offs between setup times and speed per unit.

Re:The real deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47562457)

In my mind these are for "I want to build 10 of these because i think its really cool"

why is it everyone thinks this is supposed to fill the role of a factory, this is a tool to replace tweezers and time for the recreational user not the tool you seem to think it is

Re:The real deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47562467)

200 per month? Then you're a goon if you don't turn around and outsource it to Asia. Really, 200 boards per month? If you actually have a contract for 200 boards a month, then they aren't the kind of boards a toy like this will help. I doubt you'd get the repeatability and MTBF to make 20, let alone 200 boards.

Re:The real deal (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 4 months ago | (#47566031)

These are not for high volume. These are more for "I have a contract for 200 of these boards a month"
You set them up to do the run, they do it fairly quick and you're done.

For high volume there are $15k to $200k machines that would blow your mind. That's when you're spitting out hundreds of thousands of soundcards or whatever... Those take weeks to setup, but they can spit out a fully populated PCI card in just a few seconds. Those have shields and such because they are so fast they can really hurt you.

With these sorts of things it's always trades offs between setup times and speed per unit.

Or you just use your local contract manufacturer to do it. 200 boards a month is nothing. The only reason for this machine is to do it in-house if you can accept the limitations over using your local contract manufacturer.

And the biggest delays for that is usually part lead time - setup for a run is usually only up to a day or so followed by the run itself. And hell, they'll even test it for you for a small additional fee.

And they scale up - the Foxconns won't take your business until you're wanting to do thousands to tens of thousands, but your local one can do 100, 200, 1000 quite easily. Even with oddities like no spare parts for the machine.

Re:The real deal (1)

normaldotcom (1521757) | about 4 months ago | (#47562419)

These are around $6000 but it's the real deal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

You may have lost a zero there--I wasn't able to find pricing on that machine specifically, but most pick and place machines of that caliber cost upwards of $50,000. There are some chinese ~$3,000 desktop machines like this http://dangerousprototypes.com... [dangerousprototypes.com] , but they have poor accuracy and no optical feedback.

A $300 pick and place machine would be awesome, but honestly anything around $2000 that can accurately place 0402 components with optical feedback would be amazing.

Re:The real deal (1)

labnet (457441) | about 4 months ago | (#47562473)

Not sure where you got $6k from.
We have a Yamaha & Juki machines and they cost between $60k and $120k new + feeders.

For $6k you get somthing more like this.
http://www.alibaba.com/product... [alibaba.com]

Re:The real deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47563447)

yeah, you mean $600,000

Re:The real deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47563481)

At the same time it is amazing how simple it is.

Not so sure... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47561567)

I'm right in the target market for this device and I don't know if I'm really interested. We always do a couple small batches of prototyping on a new product, several times a year. However, I find that our circuit assemblers are all very helpful and more than willing to do this for us for a reasonable fee. If your business partners are not interested in helping develop your product (there's FAR more to it than just quick prototype assembly!) then I'd look for somebody else who isn't in it just for the repeat high volume stuff.

Sure, this $300 machine *seems* cheaper than paying your assembly house for the service, but here it's not free either. You pay your employees and you have to train them (not just "here, this is how you load the machine", but ideally also training like IPC certifications for operators), and you'll have to assume the cost of all potential errors, from having placed the wrong part or having it placed reversed (loaded the machine incorrectly), dealing with all the placement/soldering defects that might arise, managing the inventory levels (keeping enough parts on hand of everything necessary on small reels, often at higher cost), etc. Nobody knows yet how good the feeders are, what parts it can or can't handle, board size limits, etc. There's WAY too many unknowns still...

It's probably gonna take a good while to fine tune your process to know its limits and to get reliable results, and that time is money. Setting up a pick and place machines (and stencils and what not) is typically too labor intensive and too expensive for small runs, and I don't see how a cheaper machine will change that. It could end up being very nice but we're more than happy to outsource all that trouble for now :)

Re:Not so sure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47561661)

perhaps your not exactly in the target market as much as you think.. its clearly more geared towards hobby users yes it says its for businesses as well but everything says that.

As an electronics hobbyist i can say i definitely want one, its not ideal for one off boards but a lot of the times when i develop a prototype for something, it requires several boards or i just want to build some for friends.

you're clearly looking at this from the standpoint of a commercial user, not the target market of hobbyists .

Re:Not so sure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47562253)

This is for prototyping. Nobody cares about IPC certification for that.

Not much advantage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47561651)

Real pick and place machines have feeders where rolls of many different types of parts are placed. Unless you're placing a large number of the same part, there's not much advantage to doing it this way. I routinely build boards and use tweezers to place parts; the statement that the parts are too small to place by hand just isn't true until you reach 0201 size components, which I doubt many hobbyists would use.

Re:Not much advantage (1)

maliqua (1316471) | about 4 months ago | (#47561679)

this machines has feeders for rolls of many different parts the larger reels your seeing in the pictures aren't the part reels, the part reels are smaller and it can hold a dozen of them

Re:Not much advantage (1)

plover (150551) | about 4 months ago | (#47562247)

He says right in the video that it's accurate enough to place 201 sized components, as that was one of their design goals.

It has vision! (2)

Change (101897) | about 4 months ago | (#47561827)

This project appears to have computer vision for parts alignment, which is a HUGE deal for a pick-and-place. You need your machine to know if a component is oriented improperly in the reel, and to provide positive feedback on board position by referencing fiducials for accurate placement of fine-pitch components. Other pick-and-place projects I've seen in the past have been just standard 3-axis CNC gantries with a vacuum pickup, the addition of CV means it potentially can truly compete with the high-cost units.

Re:It has vision! (2)

plover (150551) | about 4 months ago | (#47562287)

Watch the vid. Not only does it use a RasPi 5.0MP camera, but he was able to cheap out and use a mirror instead of a second upward looking camera. And yes, it aligns to fiducials. I was just disappointed the interview didn't show it in operation.

Takes some profit from the Chinese... (1)

Jason Goatcher (3498937) | about 4 months ago | (#47561831)

and might give a bit back to the rest of the world's economy, especially where electronics are common.

The US is pretty evil lately, but if this tech pans out, I'll be thrilled. Might make things so cheap they're done locally.

A golden age for home electronics design? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47562123)

Yes, you can buy entire assembled systems for dirt cheap already, how does this help?

Re:A golden age for home electronics design? (1)

maliqua (1316471) | about 4 months ago | (#47562487)

because when you're designing and building electronics devices, a lot of the time you're trying to build something that doesn't already exist and you can't just order from china for $2 with free shipping.

Re:A golden age for home electronics design? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47562653)

Nonsense. You haven't looked hard enough. I have 30 years' experience designing electronics and in the last 5 years I haven't touched my soldering iron or oscilloscope. I can find anything I need on eBay and some wiring on terminal blocks.

My tools are the multimeter and logic analyzer. That's it.

The rest is software.

The only time I've used my iron was for non-design work; putting bullets on my RC stuff. Again, I bought everything I needed and assembled it.

So you design what, exactly? Are you so arrogant you think no one else has thought it before?

You have to be a goon to not see that.

Either that or you are working on Gbps circuitry or kA motor drives in which case I'd laugh you out the building if you showed up with this toy.

How the big boys do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47562245)

Here's a video of how things are assembled in mass production.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

Takes a while to start though.

A thought from under the UV lamp (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 4 months ago | (#47562291)

This means pretty soon we'll have more "robotic machines that are capable of assembling electronic circuit boards"
than we have electronic circuit boards.

Don't waste your 8 minutes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47562493)

The video contains a lot of this typical American "uuh"-filled mouth diarrhea, but there's no actual showing of the machine running.

If you're just doing a one-off... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47562615)

You can assemble it by hand. Seriously, there is nothing this machine can do that can't be done fairly easily by a skilled worker.

I think I've seen this in a movie... (1)

Narcocide (102829) | about 4 months ago | (#47562697)

Eventually the machines will start designing and building better revisions of themselves autonomously, at which point it will really become their world, not ours.

Ummmmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47563195)

This is ummm pretty ummmm impressive. I ummmmm wouldn't ummmm mind purchasing ummmmm one of ummmm these.

$1000, not $300 (1)

Animats (122034) | about 4 months ago | (#47563223)

Their presentation for investors quotes a sale price of $1000, not $300. At that price they might be able to do it. How well they'll do it remains to be seen.

Their presentation is all about their XY positioning mechanism. But that's not the problem. The hard problem is dispensing solder paste reliably and precisely, sticking the component down, and using hot air to solder it into place. As with low-end 3D printers, most of the problems are where the weld/soldering action takes place. They don't say much about how that's done.

The important thing is doing a consistently good soldering job. Nobody needs a machine that produces lots of reject boards.

Re:$1000, not $300 (1)

linearZ (710002) | about 4 months ago | (#47563659)

Their presentation for investors quotes a sale price of $1000, not $300.

The numbers seems a bit off. He said it cost $20 for the frame, but that looks closer to $40-$60 worth of 80/20. Not clear they really know how much this thing will cost yet.

But this machine is open source, so who is going to invest?

Re:$1000, not $300 (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 4 months ago | (#47564027)

I guess you're supposed to stencil the paste in first and the put it in a heat oven as if you had done the pick and placing by hand.

it's a pick and placing machine after all so I don't know why you would expect it to do the things the machines left and right to it on a proper "factory" setup do... 1000 sounds more reasonable for the cost though. it's just a xy gantry and vacuum hose anyways, but even that 300 is not enough..

Re:$1000, not $300 (2)

Animats (122034) | about 4 months ago | (#47568555)

I guess you're supposed to stencil the paste in first and the put it in a heat oven as if you had done the pick and placing by hand.

Their FAQ [hackaday.io] contains:

  • TBD - Solder paste dispensing
  • TBD - Selective Reflow via custom ATC head

That's what would make the machine useful for prototyping. Printing a solder paste stencil can be done on a laser cutter, but you need access to one, or you must send the job out. Laying down solder paste by hand with a little syringe on each pad (probably under a microscope) takes longer than manually placing parts and is Not Fun.

Printing solder paste with an ink-jet printer type head has been done. [mydata.com] If they can make that work, that will be a big win.

You can get 1-off, machine placed boards in the US (2)

Mr.CRC (2330444) | about 4 months ago | (#47563795)

For runs of 1 to a few dozen pieces of a board which would take me more than an hour to hand assemble, I just send my stuff to Advanced Assembly: http://www.aa-pcbassembly.com/ [aa-pcbassembly.com]

The hidden costs involved in assembling boards by hand are staggering, mostly in time. I've built an entire electronics lab, which is 3/4 storage. The buying, organizing, and storing of parts takes a big chunk of my time. If I were to set up a reflow oven, stock solder paste, etc., that would eat up more money and time. Consequently, I've become very skilled at building any type of SMD (except BGA) with just wire solder and an ordinary soldering iron. Then there is the hazardous waste management and chemical inventory overhead, and the entire day down the drain ordeals several times a year when I use the corporate application to do the waste tickets, which tells me I have to install a new Java version (different from the one in the corp. standard desktop--WTF?!?), which works after 4 hours of installing uninstalling and reinstalling, but then breaks all my other corp. apps (accounting) so I have to do the ordeal in reverse to reconcile my CC later.

Thus, even for smaller batches of fairly simple boards, I am going to be sending all my boards to places like Advanced Circuits. Even if it costs 50%-100% more than my time is worth, it's still worth it, because my co. will let me do it, and then I can use my time for stuff that actually matters for performance. I'm sick of building more than 1 of anything.

Speech therapy needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47564909)

"We built this machine AAAAA using the delta configuration and AAAAA a lot of the different techniques AAAAA that we used AAAAA to kind of hit the differet AAAAA AAAAA to hit the different requirements AAAAA you know AAAAA that AAAAA"

All that AAAAA's and not even a running demo? LAME!

!headphones (1)

coofercat (719737) | about 4 months ago | (#47564965)

I don't have my 'phones handy, so had to watch with the sound off. The video doesn't show the machine actually working, which makes it a pretty boring watch. Hell, even the guy in the checked shirt looks bored talking about it.

I know us geeks aren't great at PR, but if you've got a machine that does something and you're at a trade show, then make sure your machine runs 24x7 - even if it's not your machine and it's just an incidental part of what you do, it's still better than leaving it idle.

Only a part of production (1)

elgatozorbas (783538) | about 4 months ago | (#47567919)

While this looks like an interesting and cheap device to populate empty PCBs, it is only a small part of the total sulution. The PCB has to be made, solder paste added (maybe this device could be extended to do so), and most importantly: heated. Of all these steps, the pick-and-place may be the least enjoyable, but also the one that _could_ be done manualy, if needed. Still, if this device saves two days of manual labor, it already pays itself.

Re:Only a part of production (1)

WillAdams (45638) | about 4 months ago | (#47568595)

The Shapeoko 2 works well for milling circuit boards (esp. if one upgrades the spindle): http://www.shapeoko.com/wiki/i... [shapeoko.com]

Precisely adding solder paste should just be a variation on an extruder: http://www.shapeoko.com/wiki/i... [shapeoko.com]

and here's one example of using the machine for pick and place: http://www.shapeoko.com/forum/... [shapeoko.com] (using an aquarium pump for vacuum).

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