Thanks to a grant from the wonderful city of Longmont, Colorado, the Tinkermill maker space recently was able to acquire a Neoden TM245P Pick and Place machine, which will be a great asset to the various businesses based there that need electronic prototyping capabilities (including mine!: Silicognition LLC, LiFePO4wered.com). In collaboration with Ted from Funovation, we cut a solder stencil using standard transparency film on Tinkermill's new 80W laser cutter, and did a quick test build of one of Funovation's boards.
The build went quite well for a first try. It takes some fiddling to get the build file generated just right, especially to get the pick positions calibrated correctly. I'm hoping that once we figure out pick offsets for different standard size components, this part should become less time consuming. As can be seen in the video, we were able to load the microcontrollers from a piece of cut tape by taping cover film from another reel to the tape's own cover film and feeding that through the peeler.
We then used our new T-962A reflow oven to reflow the solder.
I had to run the board twice and use a profile with a higher peak temperature to get the solder paste to reflow. This is another thing that we'll have to fiddle with to get just right. The transparency used as solder stencil was thinner than it should be to lay down a nice layer of paste, and I think this contributed to our reflow problems. The resulting PCBs look like they should work, but the connections would definitely be better with more solder. Some pads aren't even completely covered.
The micros were also shifted up from the ideal location, and since we didn't have enough solder for surface tension to do its job straightening stuff out. Still, not bad for a first test!
I'll need to work on getting placement accuracy better before I can build some of my LiFePO4wered/USB panels. For those who use Eagle, you can find an adjusted placement export script that works with the TM245P on Github. Happy picking and placing!