Tweezers and a microscope seem to be the only option, or order part-populated pcbs from one of the big pcb service providers – the latter being quick and easy, but it is still a week (plus a batch) before you can spot the daft error you made.
So imagine my delight when I discovered a company about to offer a pick-and-place machine kit aimed at small companies, using construction techniques inspired by OpenBuilds and the low-cost 3d printer community.
It looks like US-based company is to be called Opulo, founded by a YouTuber called Stephen Hawes.
At this point, alarm bells might be going off – a YouTuber?
We will have watch and see if Hawes gets the company off the ground – he certainly seems motivated enough to crack the start-up game. Only time will tell if he can negotiate the pit-falls. Opulo appears to have seed capital, and to be making its own motherboards on its own pick-and-place machine – shades of Prusa making 3d printers on its own 3d printers.
A second concern might be that the proposed kit is partial – needing plastic structural parts to be 3d printed by the builder.
This does not need to be an issue anymore, as there are plenty of low-cost printers capable of doing this – the Prusa Mini springs to mind as a particularly low-hassle way to reliably get accurate parts for under £500.
And any company, one-person-band or maker capable of building pcb-based modules in-house is almost certainly going to have sufficient skills to build a kit, so questions will come down to time: but long did it take to assemble that last pre-production batch of 20-off with tweezers…?
Something that seems less of a risk is the software, as Hawes is using OpenPnP – yet another marvellous effort by the open-source community, this time for pick-and-place machine control.
Hats off to Mr Hawes, we wish he and his colleagues well with Opulo. The company has yet to have a website – try starting with this video
As usual, caveat emptor – you need to do your own due diligence
And hats off to the generous folk behind OpenPnP – there are also links from there to self-build pick-and-place machines
OpenBuilds is a supplier of mechanical parts that hosts a huge collection of designs built around its products. Oozenest in the UK supplies OpenBuilds parts, and offers its own CNC cutting machine kits.
Image copied from the linked YouTube video