Our old and clunky pick and place machine can’t keep up with demand for some of the modules we sell. The current machine was bought second hand from someone who had stopped using it. When the machine arrived here there were some difficulties with the software and I had the software and machine upgraded by the manufacturer. This solved most of the problems.
Nothing lasts forever and the pick and place machine is no exception. There is nothing physically wrong with the machine and it still works. The vision system is ok but the component picking is not completely reliable and this causes the tape to jam. Sometimes a component is dropped near the tape or on top of a neighboring tape. The component then get trapped in the small spaces in the tape and this causes the machine to stop and wait for a manual intervention. The LS1 level shifter sells well and it has small margins. To manufacture it economically it has to be made in panels. There are enough components on a panel so that the machine jams on nearly every panel.
The vision system is optimized for small parts and this causes issues with bigger parts. When a part is picked up and moved to the up looking camera the vision alignment must find the part somewhere in the picture in order to align it. When using a parts larger than 144 pin QFP the part nearly fills the frame. The vision system fails to align the part if any piece of it is outside the frame. This is limiting the size of parts that we can use in our designs. Watch this space for more news on our adventure in surface mount assembly.