I’m pleased to announce that Agile Electronics is now in a position to employ its first non-founding staff member to assist with manufacturing. Currently this is on a casual basis, but we hope that the job will grow with the business. We welcome Gen!
Previously I wrote about how providing your components on cut tape slows the SMT assembly process for the assembler, because they need to mount your tape on a reel before putting the reel on the feeder.
There is one thing worse than cut tape, and that is loose components! You might think it is a saving to just buy a bag of the components you need, but if you are using a professional assembler, it is often cheaper to buy in bulk on a reel, or to make use of the very reasonable reeling service from suppliers like Digikey or Mouser, where your small number of components are mounted on a reel, ready for assembly.
So, what do we do when we receive loose components? Some are taken out of their plastic bags and put into a belt or tube feeder. For others, we need to design and print a special matrix tray, and then manually place the components into the matrix tray. For really short cut tape, we stick the tape into the matrix tray area with removable double-sided tape. For each tray or short cut tape, the pick and place machine needs to be programmed to indicate the dimensions of the tray and the type of component contained in it. As you can imagine all this preprocessing takes quite a bit of time. So, do think twice about how you provide components to your friendly assembler!
We sometimes get asked how to prepare a design for manufacture on a pick and place machine. There are things to be aware of that are not needed for your prototype, including fiducials, which are marks on the board that help the machine’s vision system place the components accurately. Also the way that components are provided makes a lot of difference to how long it takes to set up the run.
An excellent introduction to design for manufacture is provided by Dave Jones. We strongly recommend watching it before sending your design to be made. Having said that, we can handle 0402 sized components, but are happy to use other sizes if required.