Info: LitePlacer - Ultimate tool
Posted on Monday, July 18 2016 @ 16:07:09 CDT by majsta
No one could predict that demand for Vampire 600 cards will be in such volume. Simply, in my wildest dreams I couldn't think that more than 100 of them will be sold. Now, I have no idea how much of them are send or how many more needs to be produced. It is not a problem when you need to solder few cards by hand but soldering thousands of them could take too much time, months, years... Biggest problem here is not time itself, problem is that after some time you are sick of it. You start to hate project itself each time more and more when you put single PCB on the desk and start soldering ~50 0402 capacitors by hand. Lot of people offered help in soldering but for various reasons they gave up after seeing the board. Man I trust the most when comes to soldering, kipper2k did amazing job lately by producing more than 500 Vampire 600 cards and sending them to end users. I have ended up in really bad situation because I had multiple task to handle, same time. I was soldering V600 cards for people from my pre-order list, doing 3 redesigns of Vampire 500 and Vampire 1200 design. Same time I entered into territory of high speed signals and I needed to read a lot to understand how DDR3 works. Like that was not enough I had to help with VHDL coding and Gayle/IDE integration into V500. More, BigGun Apollo-team leader after some discussion about our HDMI drivers told me that I should stop talking because I don't know anything about C++. I have found that as a challenge and took 2 months long classes about C++ at my university...
People from my pre-order list asked melot's of reasonable questions. Why they need to wait so long for the cards from me when people are getting them sooner from kipper2k. Answer is simple, if there were no my personal pre-order list none of this could happen. Without money from pre-order list I wouldn't be able to do anything. This story begins and ends with Amiga 600 but what about other models. In current situation there is no normal person who would start production of Vampire 500 without proper plan. How to announce it and survive demand who could be 10 times greater than with Amiga 600. Again, lot of people proposed that cards should be manufactured by professional company so we, from Apollo-team can concentrate on other things. I have tried to manufacture Vampire 600 V1 in Europe and cost for assembled board was around 800Eur so I had to give up. You see, for Amiga market demand is high but for professional manufacturer we are too small to reduce costs by having larger volume of the product. Yes, all is doable, but then forget about low price I m trying to keep here. As a person who want's to have control over certain things I m doing I have decided that only option is to get myself Pick and Place machine.
Professional PnP machines costs tens of thousands dollars so that was out of the question. Only company who produces affordable machine is NeoDen, but then again price is about 4000USD. Same time their low level models have one huge disadvantage, they don't have cam. In the days where USB cameras are everywhere for few USD? Searching the web I didn't find any other company in that price range but what I did find is that few people managed to build PnP machine from old printers, scanners and DVD players. There are also specialized robotics related sites where you can order everything from stepper motors to various controller boards. All of the things mentioned above were not possible in my case. Because of the price I can't buy any of commercial machines, even low end variants. On the other hand I can build machine, I can build anything but my enemy here is the time. For building PnP machine I would probably need 3 years of constant work so going in that direction could delay my other projects. By pure luck I stumbled on liteplacer.com website and start to read. The Low Cost Prototype Builder's Pick and Place Machine as is started on the site and it costs 1199â‚¬, still huge money for me but I had to do it. I was amazed how everything is well documented and I started discussion with Juha Kuusama, man behind this amazing project. He was very friendly and with help from ShK we find a way to get machine to me by using cheapest possible options. Then nightmare begins. About the things I had to do to get machine into my hands is not smart to talk. I only realized that there is close to nothing I wouldn't do for this project...
Box, huge, opening box, I m scared. There are thousands of parts inside, nuts, bolts, pipes, motors, wires. Assembly has started 28.6.2016 and ended up 4 days later, after ~18 working hours. Like I said , because all was documented properly all went fine. For tweaking machine I needed about 16 days more. So not bad. Initial plan was to dedicate on this one month, that was the only time I could afford away from Vampire project. No more or less. Complete assembly puts each of your skills to huge tests. Each time wondering is there something you did wrong. Juha did awesome job with LitePlacer and I m certain that with this project he made lifework and earned his place in scientific world's history. Combining mechanical and coding knowledge he made ultimate tool for every man cave. Using the machine is the experience that can hardly be compared to something else.
What's left to do and not included in the kit was SMDtrays, and for professional SMD trays price can go up to 1800USD, yes you read it right. To solve this problem I had to find plastic or aluminum profiles for other use who can be modified. Five days I have spend in my car, driving to every shop, store, mall in my and closest cities looking for something I can use. Sellers looked me like I m crazy because I was measuring everything from fly killing racket and his grip to the various toys. Can 8mm SMD tape fit and slide inside something. Finally I have found 10mm cable channels and used their cover bending it down to 8mm and gluing 4.8mm plastic tape on the bottom to ensure that parts won't move up and down once PnP needle picks them. In the process of making those trays I cut myself badly. That and many more pictures from LitePlacer's assembly stages you can find in Read More, Pictures, Files... section of this article.
LitePlacer - Placing 0805 capacitors on Vampire 600 V2 accelerator