Our friend Stephen Hawes has been evolving his Index PnP machine for the better part of this year, which is an impressive feat considering the platform costs around $450 and can handle up to 30 feeders for even the most demanding jobs. Hawes' Index boasts an Arduino Mega and RAMPS Shield that drives a series of NEMA 17 stepper motors, a vacuum pump, limit switches, and a downward-facing camera, all packed into a 3D-printed frame.
Earlier in the year, Hawes stated he would be adding a solder paste dispenser, which he recently completed, a reflow oven, and even AOI, but his most recent accomplishment was the addition of a custom motherboard that replaces the electronics hardware mentioned above. The brains of the Universal Pick and Place Controller comes in the form of an ATmega2560, which is still running a modified version of Marlin. It's also equipped with six stepper drivers, six MOSFETs, 32 feeder ports, a relay, vacuum sensor ports, and a convenient USB hub.
Another great feature of Hawes' custom motherboard allows users to plug their webcams directly into the platform, and only use a single cable to connect to a PC. After finalizing his board, he had PCBWay manufacture his design, then went about soldering the AVR microcontroller and the rest of the components by hand, which is a long, tedious process. After a few setbacks, Hawes managed to get most of the components on the motherboard to function correctly and save for the feeders, which he plans to correct using RS-485 for serial communications, as Ring couldn’t be implemented with his new build. Watch the video above for a brief rundown of Hawes' Universal Pick and Place Controller.