Project image
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$213
pledged of $50,000pledged of $50,000 goal
6
backers
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Tue, October 20 2015 3:59 AM UTC +00:00
$213
pledged of $50,000pledged of $50,000 goal
6
backers
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Tue, October 20 2015 3:59 AM UTC +00:00

About

HD Project Video Link

To get the best feel for the user interface we recommend watching our project video in high-definition at this link: https://youtu.be/Ny99KzsySHE

Project Description

The purpose of this project is to deliver cost-effective pick and place machines to makers, businesses, laboratories, academic institutions, and others interested in electronics manufacturing.  A pick and place machine automates the assembly of electronics by picking up tiny electronic components and placing them on circuit boards.

Personal Introduction

Hi, I'm Chris Riegel and my team and I want to build you a pick and place machine.  I'll be personally responsible for the successful delivery of your machine.  The buck stops with me. 

I did some of the engineering and integration work for the machine you see in the video.  It has been a pet project of mine since the beginning of the year and a lot of fun.  It allowed me to brush up on my 3D CAD skills, learn a lot about computer vision, make things out of metal with a 4000-watt laser cutter, and meet a lot of cool folks at Maker Faires.  

I think the machine is a work of art: from the laser cut gears on our automatic feeders to the 3D input device we're currently integrating (see below); it's a thing of beauty that I'd love to share with you.

Your money at work

We use the prototype shown in the video to manufacture the electronics that we sell on our website, so we have a vested interest in it being usable, reliable, and awesome.  We're constantly making improvements to it and it's an incredible machine.  The reliability is now to a point where we feel comfortable offering the machine to others.  However, it's very difficult to know how many folks would actually buy an entry level pick and place machine like ours.  Also, some of the components in the machine have a long lead time, which means it takes weeks for us to get some of the parts that we need from our suppliers.

Your backing will go toward acquiring the right number of parts we need to build our machines with the understanding that it will take weeks just to get our raw materials in from our suppliers.  A portion of your funds will also go toward continued development: to make the machine even faster and easier to set up and use.  So this means you should expect some differences between what we're showing you in our video today and what we end up delivering to you.

Differences between what you see and what you get

What you see in our project video represents the worst-case scenario you should expect in terms of performance out of the machine that we deliver to you. We have many ideas for how to speed up the machine and we expect several of those ideas to materialize before delivery.  We will keep you updated all along the way.  The downside is that we can't give you exact specifications on the capabilities of the machine we will deliver to you; the only thing we can say for sure is that it will be better than what's in the video. 

Below you'll find some of the ideas we have for near-term delivery so you have some idea of where things are going.

CUDA accelerated computer vision with your graphics card

Computer vision on your graphics card
Computer vision on your graphics card

Our machine makes heavy use of computer vision and there is an opportunity to make the processing faster by having a graphics card perform some of those vision tasks instead of having the computer's processor do them. This development will occur while we're waiting for parts to arrive, so the worst-case scenario here is that you have to download an update to the software to enable this feature.

Software refactoring

We've been laser focused on making the machine reliable and we need to take some time to clean some sections of our software.  This should make the interface much tighter.  This can also occur while we're waiting for parts to arrive.

New head design

New head design for faster placements
New head design for faster placements

We have a concept for a new pick up head that should offer several improvements over our current design.  We have most of the parts to prototype this head and should know how it performs soon, but there is some risk associated with this since it's new and unproven.  The worst-case result is that you end up getting the head design on the machine in the video, which is very unlikely.

Automatic Feeders

Our automatic feeders are the biggest differentiator between us and other projects like ours.  We laser cut the parts for our feeders locally. We have a demo video of our previous prototype of the feeders here.

Each feeder bus has a master feeder that talks back to the control computer with a USB cable.  Each master feeder can be connected to multiple "daughter" feeders through a CAN (Controller Area Network) bus.  The CAN bus is what is used in automobiles for reliable communication among all of the electronics in vehicles.  The feeders are daisy chained together to establish communication from a feeder, to the master feeder, back to the control computer.

Various parameters stored on the feeder control the actions of the feeders, such as how many steps the stepper motor should take to advance the tape reel, how long the tape retraction motor should run, and so on.  

We will release the details for all of this communication in case someone wants to use our feeders with a different machine.

Current Specifications

The video shows placements of 0603 and 0805 passives as well as TSSOP-28 (0.65mm pitch) and TQFP-44 (0.8m pitch) packages.  These are not the limits of the machine!  It's just what we use.  We will upload videos to demonstrate the machine's performance with other packages.  If you have a package you're curious about, let us know, or offer to send us a part to try!

In terms of components-per-hour: the average placement speed as shown in the video is 260 components-per-hour.  Yes, we know this is on the slow side.  This is with full vision processing on every part (worst case scenario).  If you line up your parts square with your circuit board and don't need to do rotational vision correction on every part you can currently get closer to 850 components-per-hour as demonstrated here.

We should be able to move our speed numbers up substantially before shipping.  Our new head will enable this in several ways. 

With our current pick up head our computer vision might tell us we need to rotate 3 degrees, then we tell the motor to rotate the part 3 degrees, but then we have to check to see if we actually rotated the part by 3 degrees.  We have to check our work because of the backlash between our motor and our suction tube: with the backlash we might not actually rotate the part a full 3 degrees.  The new head has zero backlash.  So we'll be able to fly over the upward looking camera, grab a snapshot, immediately start on our way to the placement location, and apply the rotational correction as we're dropping the part after the computer vision has operated on the snapshot it took. 

The new head will also have the cameras rigidly mounted to it, so we should be able to go faster without the cameras unintentionally moving from the acceleration.

Risks and challenges

The main risks associated with this stage of the project are related to supply chain issues. These risks would delay delivery, but not ruin the project in a fundamental way where it would be impossible to ever deliver machines.

For example, we are currently using a Cartesian machine from an existing open source hardware project for our machine's skeleton (the X-Carve from inventables.com). If the supply of these proved to be a critical issue, our backup plan would be to laser cut parts in house to make deliveries (as shown here: https://youtu.be/lcr2mN8Q8FM ). This might mean that your machine is metallic in color instead of black. It might also look somewhat different than the machine you see in the video. For example, if a particular extrusion (like for the X-Carve's gantry) was not available it might have to be replace by a sub-assembly of other parts (like what the ShapeOko 2 had).

As a second example, our motor controller comes from another open source hardware project (the smoothieboard from smoothieware.org). If the supply of these were a critical issue, we would have to make them in-house with our pick and place machines or contract another manufacturer to build them.

The other items that go into making the machine are mostly commodity items where there are multiple suppliers in the market with similar products. This would include things like the cameras, motors, raw metal stock, fasteners, and so on.

All of these risks impact the schedule, but we don't have any "engineering" or "raw science" risks that would impact the project in a "oh no, we can't even do this" kind of way.

We already have a facility we can use for manufacturing and employees that we know can assemble these machines. We currently have 15 employees and don't expect any troubles in getting more if needed.

Nothing for the project depends on deliverables from "skilled labor". For example, we already have working computer vision code, we already have design files for the parts that we laser cut, we already have working firmware for our feeder controllers, etc. We have the cookie-cutter, we just have to keep cutting cookies. Delicious pick and place cookies that is.

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    Pledge US$ 10 or more About US$ 10

    Thank you for wanting to be part of our project! We will keep you in the loop with all the latest and greatest coming from the ProtoVoltaics team!

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    Pledge US$ 199 or more About US$ 199

    One (1) automatic feeder.

    Includes CAN bus terminators, feeder firmware source code, and documentation.

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    Pledge US$ 1,499 or more About US$ 1,499

    Eight (8) automatic feeders.

    Includes CAN bus terminators, power supply splitter (1 to 8 splitter), power supply to screw terminal adapter, daisy-chain cables, feeder firmware source code, and documentation.

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    Pledge US$ 2,499 or more About US$ 2,499

    Sixteen (16) automatic feeders.

    Includes CAN bus terminators, 2 power supply splitters (1 to 8 splitter), 2 power supply to screw terminal adapters, daisy-chain cables, feeder firmware source code, and documentation.

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    Pledge US$ 5,999 or more About US$ 5,999

    Pick and place machine with one (1) automatic feeder.

    Includes CAN bus terminators, feeder firmware source code, feeder documentation, our software application for controlling the machine, and the control cabinet.

    Does not include table, computer, monitor, or monitor stand.

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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 6,750 or more About US$ 6,750

    EARLY BIRD SPECIAL

    Pick and place machine with eight (8) automatic feeders. Also, get our first shipments.

    Includes CAN bus terminators, power supply splitter (1 to 8 splitter), power supply to screw terminal adapter, daisy-chain cables, feeder firmware source code, feeder documentation, our software application for controlling the machine, and the control cabinet.

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    Pledge US$ 6,875 or more About US$ 6,875

    Pick and place machine with eight (8) automatic feeders.

    Includes CAN bus terminators, power supply splitter (1 to 8 splitter), power supply to screw terminal adapter, daisy-chain cables, feeder firmware source code, feeder documentation, our software application for controlling the machine, and the control cabinet.

    Does not include table, computer, monitor, or monitor stand.

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    Pledge US$ 7,875 or more About US$ 7,875

    Pick and place machine with sixteen (16) automatic feeders.

    Includes CAN bus terminators, 2 power supply splitters (1 to 8 splitters), 2 power supply to screw terminal adapters, daisy-chain cables, feeder firmware source code, feeder documentation, our software application for controlling the machine, and the control cabinet.

    Does not include table, computer, monitor, or monitor stand.

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Funding period

- (34 days)