Selecting Your Pick & Place Machine - Introduction

Selecting A Pick and Place Machine: Introduction

For most purposes, choosing a pick and place machine can be broken down into three simple steps:

  1. Understanding how equipment is specified by manufacturers
  2. Calculating your product requirements






  1. Benchmarking machines from various manufacturers against your requirements

There are special considerations that differ based on the type of manufacturing you'll be doing. Are you an original equipment manufacturer (OEM)- in other words, are you manufacturing your own product?- or are you a contract or custom manufacturer, where you either manufacture someone else's products or you custom manufacture your line of products based on your customer's needs. Perhaps you do a mix of both.

Contract assemblers and custom manufacturers need more flexibility in their placement capabilities and faster, easier job changeovers while OEMs doing some or all of their production in-house are looking for accuracy, speed and ease of use.

If this is your first pick and place machine, the availability of onsite installation, training and support from experienced, factory-trained technicians may be a big factor in determining which machine you purchase. Having someone help ensure you get your production off on the right foot can make all the difference for a young or growing company.

You may also have specific production needs- perhaps you're doing prototyping, or LED components are part of your assembly mix.

You may have been assembling your boards by hand up to this point, and you're looking to be able to produce more boards faster. Or you may have been outsourcing the assembly to a contract electronics assembly house. Either way, it's helpful to know some basics about SMT production before you make any costly investments in equipment.

The basic equipment for PCB production are the screen or stencil printer, the pick and place machine and the reflow oven.

  1. The stencil printer applies solder paste to the PCB on the pad locations.
  2. The pick and place machine picks up, inspects, and places SMT components on programmed locations.
  3. The reflow oven brings the PCB assembly up to a temperature high enough to liquefy the older paste (This is called "Liquidus").

When the PCB assembly cools, it is finished and ready to go.

For mixed-technology assemblies (containing both surface mount and through-hole components), a wave solder machine may also be required to solder the through-hole leads.

You may also need board defluxing, stencil cleaning, and automated optical inspection equipment.

Different Requirements for Different Manufacturers

Pick and place equipment needs will vary both by the type and level of manufacturing you're doing. Here are some common considerations and requirements for start-up manufacturers, OEMs, and contract assemblies.

Start-Up Manufacturers

Whether you're running production out of your garage or you've gotten the backing to set up your first real production line, the tips here can help keep you from making costly mistakes when it comes to choosing your first pick and place machine.


OEMs Bringing Production In-House

It's no secret that any OEMs who've tried outsourcing have come away disillusioned and dissatisfied with the outcome. If you've tried outsourcing board build to assembly houses, either domestically or overseas, or you're deciding for the first time which would be the best way to manufacture your product, here are some reasons to consider bringing all or part of your production in-house.


Contract Manufacturers/Assemblers

Contractors, unlike start-ups and OEMs, have more than a passing acquaintance with stencil printers, pick and place machines, reflow ovens, etc., since they may be using these machines on a daily basis. Under what circumstances would a contractor require additional capital equipment? Here are four instances where this situation could arise.


How Pick and Place Manufacturers Specify Equipment

Understanding how equipment manufacturers specify their equipment is the first step in finding the right equipment for you production requirements.


Determining What is Best for You



               Person questioning

How Many Feeder Slots
Do You Need

Benchmarking Pick and Place Equipment Against Your Needs

You figured out your production requirements. You calculated your feeder slot requirements. So all that's left is to create a chart that allows you to compare your needs side-by-side with the equipment you're considering.

Fill in the equipment data with the manufacturer's specs for each piece of equipment you're looking at, you'll fill in equipment data with the manufacturer's specs. Make sure to de-rate the CPH as discussed in How Equipment Manufacturers Specify their Machines. For placement speed and manufacturer specifies as IPC-9850 rated, subtract 20%. For placement speed that isn't IPC 9850 rated, subtract 30%.

View Examples

Special Applications



Assembling LED boards


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