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PCB/PCBA knowledge
What Are the Types of SMT Machines And How To Select

During PCBA, there are several ways to place the components on the circuit board. Traditional methods used drilling holes and putting the component pins in them before soldering. But that’s a little hassling, which is why different mounting methods have been developed over time.

In this article, you’ll take a look at some SMT machines that are prevalent in the electronics industry today.

Table of Contents

What’s Surface Mount Technology?

So, a surface mount technology is one of the trending technologies in the electronics industry in the 21st century, which focuses on non-hole drilling technique. Under this technology, there are no holes drilled in the PCB plate, which helps in saving time, cutting down the manufacturing costs, and increasing the overall strength of the PCB.

The technology focuses on using robotic arms, cameras, and a highly precise set of tools to place the component on the PCB at the right place and mount them. Once the components such as relays, resistors, capacitors, etc., are fine placed on the PCB, they’re sent for soldering.

IBE SMT production process

What Does A Surface Mount Machine Do?

In order to achieve precise placement of a component on the circuit board, a surface mount SMT machine is used. This machine has all the robots, cameras, and tools (discussed above), to make sure that the right component is picked and is placed at the right place. That’s why it’s sometimes called a “pick and place machine”.

There are a lot of components in this machine, which helps in implementing the surface mount technology. In order to make the machine work the right way, it’s backed by a software interface, and an expert IT technician with a keen knowledge in mechanical and electrical engineering is needed.

What Are the SMT Processes?

What are the SMT process
What are the SMT process

1.Stencil Printing
In this process, solder paste is applied to the PCB using a SMT stencil with the SMT machines. The stencil has openings that align with the solder pads on the PCB, and the solder paste is forced through these openings onto the pads. This prepares the PCB for component placement.

2.Component Placement
SMT machines (pick-and-place machines) accurately pick up electronic components from reels or trays and place them onto the solder paste on the PCB. Vision systems help ensure precise alignment and orientation of the components.

3.Reflow Soldering
After component placement, the entire PCB is passed through a reflow oven. The oven heats the assembly, melting the solder paste and forming solder joints between the components and the PCB.

What Are the Types of SMT Assembly Machines?

1.Pick-and-Place Machines
These are the most common types of assembly SMT machines. The components are put in a tray and the robotic arm will proceed, pick up, and place the right component at its place on the solder pad on the circuit board. There’s also a vision system, which helps in monitoring the entire assembly process.

2.Stencil Printers
These SMT machines use a stencil, which is placed on the circuit board before the assembly process. The solder mask is applied on the circuit board, and due to cut outs in the stencil, the solder mask is applied only on the required places on the circuit board. The stencils help in putting the solder mask and solder pad only on the required places.

3.Reflow Ovens
Now, after all the components are placed on the circuit board through SMT machines, they need to be bonded. To do that, the entire PCBA is put in an oven and the temperature is set depending on the raw materials. The oven heats up the solder mask and the component pins get permanently bonded to the circuit board.

4.Wave Soldering Machines
It’s quite possible that the manufacturers have to embed partial components through the hole. For that, a wave of solder is used on the circuit board for these through-hole components on the SMT machines. The molten solder flows on the PCB and bonds to the through-hole component pins.

5.Reflow Selective Soldering Machines
Sometimes not all the components are soldered. That’s when selective soldering SMT machines are used. These SMT machines work only on the selected and targeted areas where the target components are placed on the PCB. Only the targeted components are mounted, leaving other components untouched.

How to Choose The Best SMT Machines?

How to choose the best SMT machines
How to choose the best SMT machines

1.Find Out Your Requirements
You just read above that there are so many types of SMT machines and each of them are suited for different scenarios. That’s why, it’s very important for you to analyze the entire scenario and determine which type of machine is the best one for your requirements.

2.Ensure Machine Compatibility
If you’re planning on using multiple SMT machines in your production plant, it’s very important to find out that they’re all compatible with each other. An automatic machine, oven, etc., are some SMT machines that you’ll be using. If they’re not compatible with each other, you might have to put in some manual work as well, such as manually feeding your oven the circuit boards, etc.

3.Accuracy Of The Machines Is Must
There are so many machines manufactured by different manufacturers, but not all of them give the same performance. That’s why, it’s your job to analyze the machines, see demos, and make sure that they can place the components precisely on the circuit board. In SMT, high precision is a must.

4.Cost & Return On Investment
Find out the operating cost of the machine, actual cost of the machine, machine transportation cost, installation cost, and the cost of hiring a technician who’ll operate the machine to find out the overall cost.

Then calculate the time you’ll need to get the return on your investment. For that, you should have a good sales team that can get you regular orders, or else your ROI will drop drastically.

Conclusion

So far you learnt so much about SMT machines. If you’re wondering that SMT machines are such a hassle, you can simply get rid of all the hassle by opting for IBE Electronics. IBE Electronics has all the types of SMT machines readily available in operating condition. 

IBE Electronics will choose the best SMT machine that’s fit for your requirements. So, you can rely on IBE Electronics for any future electronics projects.

FAQ
  • Stencil Printing
  • Component Placement
  • Reflow Soldering
  • Pick-and-Place Machines
  • Stencil Printers
  • Reflow Ovens
  • Wave Soldering Machines
  • Reflow Selective Soldering Machines
  • Find Out Your Requirements
  • Ensure Machine Compatibility
  • Accuracy Of The Machines Is Must
  • Cost & Return On Investment

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