Anyone that has run a pick and place machine knows that the PnP itself is only half the battle. Feeders play an incredibly important role in a reliable, hands-off SMT job. That's why I'm so excited to announce that the LumenPnP Feeders are available today!
The entire point of a Pick and Place machine is to automate the tedious and finicky task of putting components onto a circuit board. Feeders take it to the next level. No more reloading strip feeders every few jobs; you just load up a reel of parts, and your LumenPnP can place thousands of components uninterrupted.
There's lots to say about these little machines, given that we've packed a ton of smarts into them. Before I get into the details, here's an overview of the LumenPnP Feeder:
- They're capable of reliably feeding down to 0402 components, and support any pitch tape.
- They are designed to easily mount to a 20mm x 20mm v-slot aluminum extrusion. We have a cable harness available for mounting to a LumenPnP, but these feeders can work with any machine using a 20mm x 20mm v-slot.
- The drive motor has an integrated high-resolution encoder, giving us incredibly high resolution control of the tape's position.
- The active peel subsystem ensures film is consistently and reliably removed from component tape with a second motor.
- Full OpenPnP support with feeder auto-discovery feature, making setup a breeze.
- As always, completely Open Source, including a new project called Photon (more on this later!)
When we started designing the feeder, we knew that precision had to be at the heart of every decision. The right-angle N20 motors that actually move the tape have a 1:1030 ratio gearbox, providing a high torque output. The encoder on the back shaft of the motor has 14 ticks per revolution, which combined with the gearbox results in a theoretical 8.8 micron tape movement resolution. Of course, there are many other factors at play that change the real life resolution, but the encoder is insanely precise and lets us have incredible control over tape movement.
We take each feeder through a full vision test, ensuring that every one is capable of reliably feeding 0402 components. It's a great test, and a fantastic check to ensure that every single feeder is capable of performing as expected.
Ease of use
Another central focus for the feeder design is how easy it is to use. Pick and Place machines are notoriously difficult to set up, and we want to break that stereotype.
That's why we made a brand new Feeder type in OpenPnP that supports the LumenPnP Feeders. There's no Actuators to configure or RegEx to type in; just add a new feeder in OpenPnP and everything is set up automatically.
You don't even have to add your feeders to OpenPnP manually! Just mount them to your LumenPnP and click the "Search" button in OpenPnP. It will automatically scan and find every one, and add them to OpenPnP for you. If you remove them and place them in a different location, OpenPnP will even keep track of where it went and remember what part it has loaded.
We managed to get the width of the 8mm Feeder down to just 15mm, meaning that you can fit up to 50 feeders on your LumenPnP at once. That means 50 unique parts, plus two staging plates worth of real estate for strip feeders.
We're launching the 8mm tape-width variant of the feeders today, but larger variants are not far behind. We wanted to start with one, and do it right. We started with the most common tape width as it'll be the most help to the most people, but others will become available soon (we're currently testing other widths on our production line!). Plus, all future variants will be compatible with the same slot system that 8mm feeders are shipping with.
As always, all of the source for the LumenPnP Feeders is completely open. Today marks the v1.0.0 release of the LumenPnP Feeder source.
Along with this release comes an exciting new project: Photon Firmware. In short, Photon is firmware for feeders. Similar to how you can compile Marlin for all kinds of 3D printers, Photon aims to accomplish the same for feeders. And Photon isn't just the firmware, it's also the communication protocol over RS-485, and a whole new feeder type in OpenPnP. Photon solves the software side of feeders, from OpenPnP down to firmware. The goal is to create an open standard for how feeders communicate that is easy to adopt.
A tremendous thanks to all the folks that played a part in bringing these feeders to life. We're really proud of them, and we can't wait to get them out to everyone! We've had them running on our production line for the past few months, and they've completely changed how we use the LumenPnP.