Charmhigh Technology’s CHM-T36VA SMT-2 is a great pick and place that can be had for around $3,000, a bargain for a somewhat commercial machine, which features dual-vision and dual PNP head, powered by an external PC. That said, the software and firmware are limited, and SparkFun has even created a repository with a translation of the manual to help those having issues with the machine. Engineers like Erich Styger feel that the CHM-T36VA could be boosted in performance using the open source OpenPNP platform, which has more features than the machine’s stock software and offers more reliability over its firmware.
Styger made it his project to retrofit Charmhigh’s PNP machine with the OpenPNP framework, and extensively documented his project along the way. The conversion involves switching out the cameras (ELP global shutter cameras), cable drag chains, and USB cables, and then porting Smoothieware to the STM32 microcontroller within the machine. The next steps entail installing OpenPNP and configuring the software to take advantage of the CHM-T36VA with several new options.
Styger states the conversion is a stringent process for anyone not familiar with electronics or worried about voiding warranties. He also says that although it took him two weeks to convert, it could be done in one or two full working days. Styger's used the newly-converted PNP machine to populate more than 300 PCBs using over 7,000 parts at a rate of 600 to 700 parts per hour.
It’s actually slower than the original setup, but Styger notes speed was never the goal, and only wanted to get full use of the machine running OpenPNP. Those interested in recreating his build can head over to his blog post, which includes links to the necessary code to get it up and running.