A couple of years ago we got a FVX Pick and Place for our in house assembly. It came a 5 feeders, 3 x 8mm x 4mm pitch for 0603 components and 2 x 8mm x 2mm pitch for 0402 and 0201 components. It also had a cut-strip feeder installed. There were probably other items that we were supposed to get, like a reel holder for the cut sheet feeders, we just gave up waiting and chalked it up to a bad customer service.
After a few months of back and forth, and an on-site visit from a very knowledgeable tech, we eventually got the system set up correctly to place most of our items ranging from 0402 to tqfp 100.
It is a nice system for standard components but we have not been able to get a high degree of accuracy for QFN devices. We believe that the vision system probably has a hard time aligning the QFN as it is probably tuned for brighter pins, as you get on most devices with exposed/protruding pins. So we just decided to not to use any QFN footprints and opt for TQFP or TSSOP. Fine pitch SSOP i.e 0.4mm is not an issue though we occasionally have to nudge a device to get it into the correct position.
We soon discovered that we would need to get a ton more feeders so we purchased a 12mm and a couple more 8mm feeders, of course you can never have too many feeders.
We obviously ran out of space on the left side of the machine. The right side had the few cut sheet feeders that came with the system. These are OK if you want to grab a cut sheet and insert it but the 'badge holders' that are used to retract the tape are just a bad idea as they can easily get entangled in the head when components are being advanced. this happened a few times with us. In addition to that you need to get the tension exactly right else they will creep along and be out of alignment. And don't even mention the constant baby sitting, and occasional fail that will cause your head to lock up and of course you need to re-home it.
So we were happy with our initial investment but adding additional feeders was beginning to become a major capital expenditure. Sure you can get them from MDC at half the price that Manncorp was selling them for but who wants to wait 4 weeks when you need it tomorrow.
We found a great cut sheet holder from Count on Tools that we could put in the waffle tray spot and that really helped with small run production, you can see 2 of them in the video above between the boards and the cut sheet feeders. However we needed to have more feeders and not have to worry about running out of components mid way through the assembly.
We then got a feeder system from smtmax to replace the hopeless cut sheet feeder that came with the machine. We also decided to get a new re-flow oven and a stencil printer from smtmax so the relationship worked out well. The great advantage of this feeder assembly was it had a ton of slots for 8mm then a couple for 12mm, 16mm, 24mm, and a 32mm. There is also a motorized take up for the tape that is peeled back. We installed a small photo interrupt to trigger the motor when the gantry containing the head moved past a certain position.
We removed the whole right assembly for the cut sheet feeders and installed the new cut sheet feeder system to be at approximately the same height as before.
We could not get the height exactly right so we had to re-calibrate the arm-tape feeder in order to get the feeder arm to be in the correct position relative to the height of the head (think trigonometry/triangulation).
This turned out pretty well and functional for us as can be seen in one of our early videos.
This all worked very well for a few months. In May 2015 we moved to new offices and got a whole lot of new space. With demand for our boards growing we needed to find a quicker way to turn the pick and place setup, currently a couple of hours we needed to get it down to a few minutes.
We had two options, either get a new pick and place or retrofit the FVX to use auto-feeders.
I will cover the transformation of our FVX in Part 2.