SMT Placement Equipment
SMT component placement systems, commonly called pick-and-place machines or P&Ps, are robotic machines which are used to place surface-mount devices (SMDs) onto a printed circuit board
Printed circuit board
A printed circuit board, or PCB, is used to mechanically support and electrically connect electronic components using conductive pathways, tracks or signal traces etched from copper sheets laminated onto a non-conductive substrate. It is also referred to as printed wiring board or etched wiring...

 (PCB). They are used for high speed, high precision placing of broad range of electronic components, like capacitor
A capacitor is a passive two-terminal electrical component used to store energy in an electric field. The forms of practical capacitors vary widely, but all contain at least two electrical conductors separated by a dielectric ; for example, one common construction consists of metal foils separated...

s, resistor
A linear resistor is a linear, passive two-terminal electrical component that implements electrical resistance as a circuit element.The current through a resistor is in direct proportion to the voltage across the resistor's terminals. Thus, the ratio of the voltage applied across a resistor's...

s, integrated circuit
Integrated circuit
An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit is an electronic circuit manufactured by the patterned diffusion of trace elements into the surface of a thin substrate of semiconductor material...

s onto the PCBs which are in turn used in computer
A computer is a programmable machine designed to sequentially and automatically carry out a sequence of arithmetic or logical operations. The particular sequence of operations can be changed readily, allowing the computer to solve more than one kind of problem...

s, telecommunications equipment, consumer electronic goods, industrial equipment, medical instruments, automotive systems, military systems and aerospace engineering
Aerospace engineering
Aerospace engineering is the primary branch of engineering concerned with the design, construction and science of aircraft and spacecraft. It is divided into two major and overlapping branches: aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering...


These systems normally use pneumatic suction nozzle
Suction is the flow of a fluid into a partial vacuum, or region of low pressure. The pressure gradient between this region and the ambient pressure will propel matter toward the low pressure area. Suction is popularly thought of as an attractive effect, which is incorrect since vacuums do not...

s, attached to a plotter
A plotter is a computer printing device for printing vector graphics. In the past, plotters were widely used in applications such as computer-aided design, though they have generally been replaced with wide-format conventional printers...

-like device to allow the nozzle head to be accurately manipulated in three dimensions. Additionally, each nozzle can be rotated independently.

Surface mount components are placed along the front (and often back) faces of the machine. Most components are supplied on paper or plastic tape, the tape reels are loaded onto feeders mounted to the machine. Larger integrated circuit
Integrated circuit
An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit is an electronic circuit manufactured by the patterned diffusion of trace elements into the surface of a thin substrate of semiconductor material...

s (ICs) are sometimes supplied arranged in trays which are stacked in a compartment. More commonly IC's will be provided in tapes rather than trays or sticks. Improvements in feeder technology means that tape format is becoming the preferred method of presenting parts on an SMT machine.

Through the middle of the machine there is a conveyor belt, along which blank PCBs travel, and a PCB clamp
Clamp may refer to:*Clamp , a device used to hold an object in a fixed position*Wheel clamp, a device used with road vehicles to prevent theft or enforce parking restrictions*Riser clamp, a device used to support vertical piping...

 in the centre of the machine. The PCB is clamped, and the nozzles pick up individual components from the feeders/trays, rotate them to the correct orientation and then place them on the appropriate pads on the PCB with high precision.High end machines can have multiple conveyors to produce multiple same or different kind of products simultaneoulsy.

As the part is carried from the part feeders on either side of the conveyor belt to the PCB, it is photographed from below. Its silhouette is inspect
Automated optical inspection
Automated optical inspection is an automated visual inspection of a wide range of products, such as printed circuit boards , LCDs, transistors, automotive parts, lids and labels on product packages or agricultural products...

ed to see if it is damaged or missing (was not picked up), and the inevitable registration errors in pickup are measured and compensated for when the part is placed. For example, if the part was shifted 0.25 mm and rotated 10° when picked up, the pickup head will adjust the placement position to place the part in the correct location.Some machines have these optical systems on the robot arm and can carry out the optical calculations without losing time, thereby achieving a lower derating factor.
The high end optical systems mounted on the heads can also be used to capture details of the non standard type components and sace them to database for future use.In addition to this advanced softwares are available for monitoring the production and interconnect database of production floor to that of supply chain in real time.

A separate camera on the pick and place head photographs fiducial marks on the PCB to measure its position on the conveyor belt accurately. Two fiducial marks, measured in two dimensions each,usually placed diagonaly let the PCB's orientation and thermal expansion
Thermal expansion
Thermal expansion is the tendency of matter to change in volume in response to a change in temperature.When a substance is heated, its particles begin moving more and thus usually maintain a greater average separation. Materials which contract with increasing temperature are rare; this effect is...

 be measured and compensated for as well.Some machines are also able to measure the PCB shear by measuring a third fiducial mark on the PCB.

To minimize the distance the pickup gantry must travel, it is common to have multiple nozzles with separate vertical motion on a single gantry. This can pick up multiple parts with one trip to the feeders.Also advanced software in the newer generation machines allow different robotic heads to work independentally of each other to further increase the throughput.

The components may be temporarily adhered to the PCB using the wet solder paste
Solder paste
Solder paste sometimes refers to soldering flux that does not contain solder.Solder paste is used to connect the leads of integrated chip packages to attachment points in the circuit patterns on a printed circuit board...

 itself, or by using small blobs of a separate adhesive
An adhesive, or glue, is a mixture in a liquid or semi-liquid state that adheres or bonds items together. Adhesives may come from either natural or synthetic sources. The types of materials that can be bonded are vast but they are especially useful for bonding thin materials...

, applied by a glue dispensing machine.

1980s and 1990s

During this time, a typical SMT assembly line employed two different types of pick and place (P&P) machines arranged in sequence.

The unpopulated board was fed into a rapid placement machine. These machines, sometimes called chip shooters, place mainly low-precision, simple package components such as resistors and capacitors. These high-speed P&P machines were built around a single turret design capable of mounting up to two dozen stations. As the turret spins, the stations passing the back of the machine pick up parts from tape feeders mounted on a moving carriage. As the station proceeds around the turret, it passes an optical station that calculates the angle at which the part was picked up, allowing the machine to compensate for drift. Then, as the station reaches the front of the turret, the board is moved into the proper position, the nozzle is spun to put the part in proper angular orientation, and the part is placed on the board. Typical chip shooters can, under optimal conditions, place up to 53,000 parts per hour, or almost 15 parts per second.

Because the PCB is moved rather than the turret, only lightweight parts that will not be shaken loose by the violent motion of the PCB can be placed this way.

From the high speed machine, the board transits to a precision placement machine. These pick and place machines often use high resolution verification cameras and fine adjustment systems via high precision linear encoders on each axis to place parts more accurately than the high-speed machines. Furthermore, the precision placement machines are capable of handling larger or more irregularly shaped parts such as large package integrated circuits or packaged inductor coils and trimpots. Unlike the rapid placers, precision placers generally do not use turret mounted nozzles and instead rely on a gantry supported moving head. These precision placers rely upon placement heads with relatively few pickup nozzles. The head sometimes has a laser identifier that scans a reflective marker on the PC Board to orientate the head to the board. Parts are picked up from tape feeders or trays, scanned by a camera (on some machines), and then placed in the proper position on the board. Some machines also center the parts on the head with two arms that close to center the part, the head then rotates 90 degrees and the arms close again to center the part once more. The margin of error for some components is, in many cases, less than half a millimeter (less than 0.02 inches). The process is a little slower than rapid placement, necessitating careful line balancing when setting up a job, lest the precision placement machine become a production bottleneck
A bottleneck is a phenomenon where the performance or capacity of an entire system is limited by a single or limited number of components or resources. The term bottleneck is taken from the 'assets are water' metaphor. As water is poured out of a bottle, the rate of outflow is limited by the width...


2000 to present

Due to the huge cost of having two separate machines to place parts, the speed limitations of the chip shooters, and the inflexibility of the machines, the electronic component machine manufacturers abandoned the technique. To overcome these limitations they moved to an all-in-one modular, multi-headed, and multi-gantry machines that could have heads quickly swapped on different modules depending on the product being built to machines with multiple mini turrets capable of placing the whole spectrum of components with theoretical speeds of 136,000 components an hour.

2010 onwards

Swapping heads on placement machines required more inventory of heads and related spare parts for different heads to minimize the downtime.Siemens Siplace SX machine offered the solution,an all in one head that can place components ranging from 01005 to 50mmx40mm.
Additional to this there was a new concept wherein the user could borrow performance during their peak periods.
There is a big difference in the needs of SMT users. For many, the high speed machines are not suitable due to cost and speed. With recent changes in the economic climate the requirement for SMT placement becomes focused on the machine's versatility to deal with short runs and fast changeover. This means that lower cost machines with vision systems provide an affordable option for SMT users. There are more users of low end and mid-range machines than the ultra fast placement systems.
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