SMT placement equipment

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Internal details of a two head, gantry style pick-and-place JUKI SMT machine. In the foreground are tape and reel feeders, then the (currently empty) conveyor belt for printed circuit boards, and in back are large parts in a tray. The gantry carries two pickup needles, flanking a camera (marked "do not touch" to avoid fingerprints on the lens). Pick and place internals of surface mount machine.JPG
Internal details of a two head, gantry style pick-and-place JUKI SMT machine. In the foreground are tape and reel feeders, then the (currently empty) conveyor belt for printed circuit boards, and in back are large parts in a tray. The gantry carries two pickup needles, flanking a camera (marked "do not touch" to avoid fingerprints on the lens).
Tape-and-reel feed mechanism used to load components into a pick-and-place machine Surface mount component feeder.jpg
Tape-and-reel feed mechanism used to load components into a pick-and-place machine
SMD pick-and-place machine (with simulated motion blurs) PlaceC5.jpg
SMD pick-and-place machine (with simulated motion blurs)

SMT (surface mount technology) 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 (PCB). They are used for high speed, high precision placing of broad range of electronic components, like capacitors, resistors, integrated circuits onto the PCBs which are in turn used in computers, consumer electronics as well as industrial, medical, automotive, military and telecommunications equipment. Similar equipment exists for through hole components. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] This type of equipment is sometimes also used to package microchips using the flip chip method. [7] [8] [9] [10]

Printed circuit board board to support and connect electronic components

A printed circuit board (PCB) mechanically supports and electrically connects electronic components or electrical components using conductive tracks, pads and other features etched from one or more sheet layers of copper laminated onto and/or between sheet layers of a non-conductive substrate. Components are generally soldered onto the PCB to both electrically connect and mechanically fasten them to it.

Capacitor electrical component used to store energy for a short period of time

A capacitor is a passive two-terminal electronic component that stores electrical energy in an electric field. The effect of a capacitor is known as capacitance. While some capacitance exists between any two electrical conductors in proximity in a circuit, a capacitor is a component designed to add capacitance to a circuit. The capacitor was originally known as a condenser or condensator. The original name is still widely used in many languages, but not commonly in English.

Resistor Passive electrical component providing electrical resistance

A resistor is a passive two-terminal electrical component that implements electrical resistance as a circuit element. In electronic circuits, resistors are used to reduce current flow, adjust signal levels, to divide voltages, bias active elements, and terminate transmission lines, among other uses. High-power resistors that can dissipate many watts of electrical power as heat, may be used as part of motor controls, in power distribution systems, or as test loads for generators. Fixed resistors have resistances that only change slightly with temperature, time or operating voltage. Variable resistors can be used to adjust circuit elements, or as sensing devices for heat, light, humidity, force, or chemical activity.



1980s and 1991

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.[ citation needed ]

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 orient 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.[ citation needed ]

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. The fastest machines can have speeds of up to 200,000 CPH (components per hour). [11]

2010 onwards

Swapping heads onboard placement machines required more inventory of heads and related spare parts for different heads to minimize the downtime. Placement machines have an all-in-one head that can place components ranging from 01005 to 50 mm × 40 mm. In addition to this there was a new concept wherein the user could borrow performance during peak periods. There is a big change in the industry approach these days with more focus on software applications for the process. With new applications like POP and wafer placement on substrate the industry is moving beyond conventional component placement. 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.[ citation needed ] 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.[ citation needed ]

SMT pick and place machine manufacturers include:


The placement equipment is part of a larger overall machine that carries out specific programmed steps to create a PCB Assembly. Several sub-systems work together to pick up and correctly place the components onto the PCB. These systems normally use pneumatic suction cups, attached to a plotter-like device to allow the cup to be accurately manipulated in three dimensions. Additionally, each nozzle can be rotated independently.

Component feeds

Surface mount components are placed along the front (and often back) faces of the machine. Most components are supplied on paper or plastic tape, in tape reels that are loaded onto feeders mounted to the machine. Larger integrated circuits (ICs) are sometimes supplied arranged in trays which are stacked in a compartment. More commonly ICs will be provided in tapes rather than trays or sticks. Improvements in feeder technology mean that tape format is becoming the preferred method of presenting parts on an SMT machine.

Early feeder heads were much bulkier, and as a result it was not designed to be the mobile part of the system. Rather, the PCB itself was mounted on a moving platform that aligned the areas of the board to be populated with the feeder head above. [17]

Conveyor belt

Through the middle of the machine there is a conveyor belt, along which blank PCBs travel, and a PCB clamp in the center 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 simultaneously.


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 inspected 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 save them to a database for future use. In addition to this, advanced software is available for monitoring the production and interconnect database — of the production floor to that of supply chain — in real time. ASM provides an optional feature for increasing accuracy while placing LED components on a high end product where in the optical center of the LED is critical rather than the calculated mechanical center based on the component's lead structure.The special camera system measures both physical and optical center and makes the necessary adjustments before placement.

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 diagonally, let the PCB's orientation and thermal expansion 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 allows different robotic heads to work independently of each other to further increase the throughput.

The components may be temporarily adhered to the PCB using the wet solder paste itself, or by using small blobs of a separate adhesive, applied by a glue-dispensing machine that can be incorporated on to the pick and place machine. The glue is added before component placement. It is dispensed by nozzles or by using jet dispensing. Jet dispensing dispenses material by shooting it towards the target, which in this case, is the circuit board.

Related Research Articles

Point-to-point construction

Point-to-point construction is a non-automated method of construction of electronics circuits widely used before the use of printed circuit boards (PCBs) and automated assembly gradually became widespread following their introduction in the 1950s. Circuits using thermionic valves were relatively large, relatively simple, and used large sockets, all of which made the PCB less obviously advantageous than with later complex semiconductor circuits. Point-to-point construction is still used to construct prototype equipment with few or heavy electronic components.

Surface-mount technology method for producing electronic circuits

Surface-mount technology (SMT) is a method for producing electronic circuits in which the components are mounted or placed directly onto the surface of printed circuit boards (PCBs). An electronic device so made is called a surface-mount device (SMD). In industry, it has largely replaced the through-hole technology construction method of fitting components with wire leads into holes in the circuit board. Both technologies can be used on the same board, with the through-hole technology used for components not suitable for surface mounting such as large transformers and heat-sinked power semiconductors.


In electronics, desoldering is the removal of solder and components from a circuit board for troubleshooting, repair, replacement, and salvage.

Wave soldering

Wave soldering is a bulk soldering process used in the manufacture of printed circuit boards. The circuit board is passed over a pan of molten solder in which a pump produces an upwelling of solder that looks like a standing wave. As the circuit board makes contact with this wave, the components become soldered to the board. Wave soldering is used for both through-hole printed circuit assemblies, and surface mount. In the latter case, the components are glued onto the surface of a printed circuit board (PCB) by placement equipment, before being run through the molten solder wave. Wave soldering is mainly used in soldering of through hole components.

Printed circuit board milling

Printed circuit board milling is the process of removing areas of copper from a sheet of printed circuit board material to recreate the pads, signal traces and structures according to patterns from a digital circuit board plan known as a layout file. Similar to the more common and well known chemical PCB etch process, the PCB milling process is subtractive: material is removed to create the electrical isolation and ground planes required. However, unlike the chemical etch process, PCB milling is typically a non-chemical process and as such it can be completed in a typical office or lab environment without exposure to hazardous chemicals. High quality circuit boards can be produced using either process. In the case of PCB milling, the quality of a circuit board is chiefly determined by the system's true, or weighted, milling accuracy and control as well as the condition of the milling bits and their respective feed/rotational speeds. By contrast, in the chemical etch process, the quality of a circuit board depends on the accuracy and/or quality of the photomasking and the state of the etching chemicals.


Depaneling is a process step in high-volume electronics assembly production. In order to increase the throughput of printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing and surface mount (SMT) lines, PCBs are often designed so that they consist of many smaller individual PCBs that will be used in the final product. This PCB cluster is called a panel or multiblock. The large panel is broken up or "depaneled" as a certain step in the process - depending on the product, it may happen right after SMT process, after in-circuit test (ICT), after soldering of through-hole elements, or even right before the final case-up of the assembly.

Through-hole technology mounting scheme used for electronic components that involves the use of leads on the components that are inserted into holes drilled in printed circuit boards and soldered to pads on the opposite side manually or by automated insertion mount machines

Through-hole technology, refers to the mounting scheme used for electronic components that involves the use of leads on the components that are inserted into holes drilled in printed circuit boards (PCB) and soldered to pads on the opposite side either by manual assembly or by the use of automated insertion mount machines.

Glass tubes are mainly cylindrical hollow-wares. Their special shape combined with the huge variety of glass types, allows the use of glass tubing in many applications. For example, laboratory glassware, lighting applications, solar thermal systems and pharmaceutical packaging to name the largest.

Solder paste is a material used in the manufacture of printed circuit boards to connect surface mount components to pads on the board. It is also possible to solder through hole pin in paste components by printing solder paste in/over the holes. The paste initially adheres components in place by being sticky, it is then heated melting the paste and forming a mechanical bond as well as an electrical connection. The paste is applied to the board by jet printing, stencil printing or syringe and then the components are put in place by a pick-and-place machine or by hand.

Selective soldering is the process of selectively soldering components to printed circuit boards and molded modules that could be damaged by the heat of a reflow oven or wave soldering in a traditional surface-mount technology (SMT) or Through-hole technology assembly processes.This usually follows an SMT oven reflow process; parts to be selectively soldered are usually surrounded by parts that have been previously soldered in a surface-mount reflow process, and the selective-solder process must be sufficiently precise to avoid damaging them.

Fiducial marker

A fiducial marker or fiducial is an object placed in the field of view of an imaging system which appears in the image produced, for use as a point of reference or a measure. It may be either something placed into or on the imaging subject, or a mark or set of marks in the reticle of an optical instrument.

Automated optical inspection (AOI) is an automated visual inspection of printed circuit board (PCB) manufacture where a camera autonomously scans the device under test for both catastrophic failure and quality defects. It is commonly used in the manufacturing process because it is a non-contact test method. It is implemented at many stages through the manufacturing process including bare board inspection, solder paste inspection (SPI), pre-reflow and post-reflow as well as other stages.

In-circuit test (ICT) is an example of white box testing where an electrical probe tests a populated printed circuit board (PCB), checking for shorts, opens, resistance, capacitance, and other basic quantities which will show whether the assembly was correctly fabricated. It may be performed with a bed of nails type test fixture and specialist test equipment, or with a fixtureless in-circuit test setup.

Metal electrode leadless face

Metal electrode leadless face (MELF) is a type of leadless cylindrical electronic surface mount device that is metallized at its ends. MELF devices are usually diodes and resistors.

Bowl feeder

Vibratory bowl feeders are common devices used to feed individual component parts for assembly on industrial production lines. They are used when a randomly sorted bulk package of small components must be fed into another machine one-by-one, oriented in a particular direction.

An insertion mount machine or inserter is a device used to insert the leads of electronic components through holes in printed circuit boards.

Juki Japanese manufacturing company

For SMT products in the Americas see JAS

Component placement is an electronics manufacturing process that places electrical components precisely on printed circuit boards (PCBs) to create electrical interconnections between functional components and the interconnecting circuitry in the PCBs (leads-pads). The component leads must be accurately immersed in the solder paste previously deposited on the PCB pads. The next step after component placement is soldering.


  17. Ford, Michael. "Circuit Assembly Online Magazine - A History of Placement Programming and Optimization". Retrieved 2016-05-10.