Robin Retier's Pixel Pump, a Raspberry Pi RP2040 Manual Pick-and-Place Tool, Launches Crowdfunding

Shipping with five nozzles and a foot pump, plus optional SMD magazine accessories, the Pixel Pump is expected to ship in January 2023.

Self-described "electronics and mechanical design enthusiast" Robin Reiter has launched a crowdfunding campaign for the Pixel Pump, an open-hardware desktop pick-and-place tool designed around a Raspberry Pi RP2040 microcontroller.

Reiter unveiled the Pixel Pump a year ago as an open source vacuum pump designed to make it easier to pick up and place small components when performing surface-mount technology (SMT) board assembly. Using a 3D-printed housing and a control system driven by Raspberry Pi's low-cost yet surprisingly-flexible RP2040 microcontroller running a customized MicroPython firmware, beta testing of the device showcased its potential — and now it's finally available to order.

The open source Pixel Pump pick-and-place tool has hit Crowd Supply, ahead of a planned January delivery. (📹: Robin Reiter)

"Pixel Pump ships with a set of five stainless-steel nozzles in each of five different sizes, with outer diameters ranging from 0.3mm all the way up to 1.8mm," Reiter says of the device's final specifications. "With this set, you should be able to pick and place most SMD components, including small 0402 passives, larger parts like inductors and ICs, and just about everything in between. The nozzles are held in place by a Luer lock slip fitting that facilitates quick nozzle changes and broad compatibility with third-party nozzles."

Just as with as with the 3D-printed prototypes, the finished Pixel Pump design includes tactile silicone buttons with RGB backlighting for settings feedback, a pressure-release valve triggered by a foot pedal, and a sintered air filter to prevent damage from debris.

"Pixel Pump was designed primarily for individuals and organizations that manufacture one-off prototypes," Reiter explains, "but it's also well suited for small production runs. It’s super easy to use and is actually faster than an automated pick-and-place machine for smaller batch sizes. Pixel Pump is the perfect companion for hobbyists and professionals who love making their own PCBs."

To make assembly an even faster process, Reiter is also launching an accessory: SMD Magazines, injection-molded containers designed to store taped SMD components with a spring-loaded mechanism and an optional rail to allow up to eight magazines to be connected into a single unit for quick component selection and pick-up.

Full details on the project are available on the Pixel Pump Crowd Supply campaign page, where the base kit is priced at $499 with SMD magazines available for $36 for eight and an additional $36 for the eight-magazine rail add-on. All hardware is expected to ship in mid-January 2023. Source code and mainboard design files are already available in Reiter's GitHub repositories under unspecified open source licenses.

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