A pick and place machine is a beneficial tool for those cranking-out batches of PCBs or rapid prototyping, but not so much for users that need to populate a PCB every once in a while. Those machines tend to run on the expensive side, which is not justified for an occasional use tool. Electrical engineer Steve Gardner from SDG Electronics has developed a DIY pick and place tool that can transfer electronics from SMD component tape to PCBs that’s easy to use and won’t break the bank.
Gardner designed his SMD Pick and Place Tool using a vacuum pump, solenoid valve and a foot controller repurposed from a guitar pedal. The tool’s complete load-out includes an air pump, air filter three-port solenoid valve, 24V power supply, and custom vacuum pickup control board with headers for the relays, solenoid, air pump, foot pedal, and time settings.
After assembling all the components for the Pick and Place Tool, Gardner arranged them into a nice metal case outfitted with a power on/off switch, timeout potentiometer (for adjusting the vacuum), vacuum connector for the air tool, and jack for connecting the foot controller located in the rear of the case.
Overall, Gardner’s Pick and Place Vacuum Tool relieves many of the headaches from trying to grab tiny components from SMD tape using tweezers, where electronics tend to become disoriented or even lost if not careful. For those that want to recreate the build, Gardner has posted downloads for the schematics, Gerber files, and code necessary on his SDG Electronics engineering blog linked earlier in the post.