When a full-scale production run is too much of a good thing and it is necessary to assemble only a small number of PCBs, then any assistance when placing the components is very welcome, especially with Ball grid arrays (BGAs). For this purpose Eurociruits have developed the eC-placer. With this 'contraption', the accurate positioning of fine-pitch components on the PCB is simplified considerably and much quicker.
The eC-placer actually looks more like a robust x-y drafting table, but instead of a pen holder it has a component holder that can move in the z-axis and has a vacuum system and camera. Furthermore, the x- and y-axes can be independently locked magnetically and the 'drawing surface' is a robust peg board onto which the PCB, the stencil and the component feeders/holders can be easily attached. The machine has four operating modes that allow, depending on the desired operation, the optimum combination of speed and accuracy to be selected:
- Free mode, where the pick-up toll and the camera can move freely within the x-y surface.
- Array mode, where the x-axis is locked and the pick-up tool can move in the y- and z-directions. With this, multiple components 'in a row' can be placed quickly and accurately onto the PCB.
- Copy-paste mode, where BGAs and other components that are difficult to place by eye alone are positioned on the board in one smooth movement using the stencil as a template.
- Lock mode, where both the x- and y-axes are locked, so that the pick-up tool can only move in the z-direction to place the component.
The mode that is active in indicated using three LEDs. When no LEDs are turned on the eC-placer is in free mode, one LED indicates that array mode is active, two LEDs indicate copy-paste mode and three lit LEDs denote that lock mode has been activated.
The eC-placer is supplied with two foot pedals: one pedal operates the vacuum pump which sucks the components against the nozzle of the pick-up tool and the other pedal operates, in a smart way in combination with the different operating modes, the locking of the axes. By the way, you will receive four different quick-change nozzles that allow the majority of components to be handled. 23 adjustable holders (feeders) are also supplied to hold the components. The vacuum pump is built into the machine and therefore avoids the need for an external air compressor.