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Retro Populator – 3D Printer Becomes Electronics Pick-and-Place #3DxElectronics #3DThursday #3DPrinting

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Eric Boyd and team’s Retro Populator project over at Hackaday Projects attempts to retrofit a 3D printer into an electronics pick-n-place assembly. A dual community project between Ultimate Workshop and HackLab Toronto, and answers the question of “what’s the next new thing” with “well, let’s do better stuff with outdated 3D printers!” As many 3D enthusiasts buy their 2nd, 3rd, and beyond machines, perhaps there is more to do with those that aren’t as busy printing electronics enclosures for your projects. 😉

A jig and software for allowing a 3D printer to do electronics pick-n-place assembly. It populates boards, by retrofitting a 3D printer, hence Retro Populator.

Motivation: surface mount soldering is great, but the process of placing parts is horribly tedious and requires great manual dexterity as well good vision. Doing a few boards by hand is practical, but doing more than about 20 is hell on earth. Yet it’s not practical (read: affordable) to pay industry to do it until about 500 boards – the setup charges just kill you. So there is this huge chasm between what’s doable for hobbyists by hand, and where industry can take over, and this volume is quite commonly desired in the maker community – a small run of 50 to 100 boards is in fact typical. Thus, the desire to build machines that hobbyists can own to do electronics pick-n-place. Our cost-saving idea is to retrofit similar machines that makers already own: 3D printers.

Read more.

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