3D printed magnetic holders for pick & place

The LE40V pick & place PCB holders consist of 2 adjustable brackets that are meant to hold the PCB tightly on 2 sides (let’s call them TOP and BOTTOM) while the machine pounds the panel with parts. Typically you’d set the TOP side bracket to a fixed position that is perpendicular to the machine rails and only adjust the BOTTOM bracket depending on the PCB panel size, and hope you won’t snap your freshly solder pasted panel in half when you tighten it in. Also worth noting that by default there is empty space (ie. nothing) below the PCB for support, so I had to add some supports to stop panels from vibrating during placement. While this bracket is perfect for holding trays and very rigid panels, after only a few uses it becomes obvious this is a pretty terrible design for scored/thin panels which buckle under the 2 sided pressure and un/screwing hex nuts every time a new size panel goes in the machine gets old super fast. And yes – I snapped V-scored PCB panels to pieces on more than a few occasions thanks to this mechanism. Now being a super awesome customer oriented company, DDM Novastar will surely take note and improve the PCB holder immediately, maybe using the ideas below.

After some time I added a rigid metal sheet base to properly support panels in the machine during placement and that allowed using magnets to hold the panels instead, a no-brainer makeshift solution. That worked pretty well for a few years but strong magnets are not easy to handle. I thought maybe I can really fix this with a new magnetic bracket and shoot a video of making it happen. The result is below. I am quite thrilled with these holders that can secure the panels quickly and are a snap to adjust without overlapping much PCB area. Here’s a video showing how these work and how I modeled the parts:

You can find the models on Thingiverse or download a Zipped archive below.

3D prints remover from scrap stencil

After you finally figure out the right settings and calibrate your 3D printer head and it makes prints that stick very well to your printer bed, it’s time to figure out how to remove the prints without damaging them. I went to HomeDepot to find a scraper but all are too thick and very rigid, and … $5+. I can do better.

There are many designs for a DIY print remover and most seem to be designed for razors. I see a few potential problems with razors:

  • too small
  • the utility knife blades are not flexible
  • if you’re not careful they can cut/damage:
    • the print bed if you’re not careful
    • you or loved ones 🙁

I have tons of old stainless steel stencils of various thicknesses, and all are very nice and flexible, perfectly thin to squeeze under a print and pry it off the bed.

I tried using one bare handed a few times and while its not as dangerous as a razor it’s still thin and if I try long and hard enough I will get injured. Sure you can dull it but I don’t like how short razors are, I wanted more of a proper scraper size. Continue reading