Robin Reiter's Pixel Pump Is an Open Tool for SMT Pick-and-Place, Powered by a Raspberry Pi RP2040

Powered by the same microcontroller as the Raspberry Pi Pico, this open source vacuum pump aims to make SMT assembly a cinch.

UPDATE (8/17/2021): The Pixel Pump open source vacuum pump is getting closer to launch, with creator Robin Reiter having listed the device on Crowd Supply ahead of launch.

Pricing and full availability have not yet been confirmed, but interested parties can sign up on Crowd Supply to be notified when the campaign goes live.

Original article continues below.

Developer and self-described "electronics and mechanical design enthusiast" Robin Reiter is working on the Pixel Pump, an open source vacuum pump designed to ease assembly of surface-mount technology (SMT) projects.

"The Pixel Pump is an open source vacuum pump for manual SMT assembly," Reiter explains on the project's landing page. "It comes with a comfortable pen, a foot pedal, and has a variety of features that make hand assembly a lot more fun and way more efficient."

Vacuum pumps are used for pick-and-place in projects which use surface-mount devices (SMDs). Rather than messing around trying to grab the parts with your fingers or tweezers, you just push the foot switch to engage the vacuum, please the pen on top of the component, and lift; once you've positioned it on your board, release the foot switch to cut the vacuum and drop the part into place.

To be released under an unspecified open source license and featuring a 3D-printed housing, the Pixel Pump includes switchable pick and drop trigger modes, adjustable vacuum strength, and the ability to reverse the vacuum. Inside is a custom-designed circuit board, driven by a Raspberry Pi RP2040 microcontroller.

While not yet available to buy, an early beta unit was sent to Chris, a tech support engineer at Particle. "I’ve played with it a little and love it thus far," he wrote of his experience. "Looking forward to put this through its proper paces soon."

Reiter is soliciting sign-ups for more information on the Pixel Pump's website, with subscribers to be the first notified when funding for the project goes live on Crowd Supply.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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