Maker Stephen Hawes has published a video showcasing the next-generation Index PnP controller, a "circuit board that builds circuit boards" by powering a homebrew pick and place machine.
Hawes' Index PNP has been covered on Hackster before, as well it should: The impressive project, in constant flux, is designed to be affordable enough for the hobbyist while supporting advanced features including control of up to 30 individual component feeders at once — meaning it can pick and place for surprisingly complex board designs without human intervention.
In the latest upgrade, the Index PnP gets a new controller board based on the STMicro STM32F4 system-on-chip. "It's no joke," Hawes explains, "it also has like a million different peripherals in it, like it has four UARTs or something crazy or like five or six — actually, it's a lot. It's got native USB just like the ATmega32U4, it's a cool chip, it's got a lot of stuff on it.
"All those feeder ports are gone - look how much board space this takes up just to talk to the feeders," Hawes continues in his walkthrough of the upgrades. "We are switching to RS485. RS485 is differential, so there's two lines that go back and forth which means it's really really good for electrically noisy environments. It's gonna be a good call for an environment like a pick and place."
"But a good chunk of this board is the same. It still has a 5V buck converter, it still has the USB hub in the same configuration, it's got ports for limit switches, six stepper motor drivers, all that kind of stuff, and then a bunch of auxiliary inputs and outputs. I'm really happy with it it looks cool."
Hawes' full video walks through assembly and testing of the new board, along with more information about the Index PnP project itself.