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FirePick Delta, the Open Source MicroFactory

An affordable electronics manufacturing system for hobbyists, students, & small businesses. Inspired by RepRap. Powered by OpenPnP/FirePick.

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This project was created on 04/29/2014 and last updated 15 days ago.

Description
FirePick Delta is an open-source electronics manufacturing system, inspired by RepRap and powered by OpenPnP and FirePick's own Computer Vision software. We are taking the beginning steps towards a smart appliance that can manufacture electronic circuit boards in a home or office environment. Our machine is able to assemble open-source hardware boards like Arduino and Raspberry Pi accessories, and also has the capability to 3D print. It features an auto-tool changer that allows multiple plastic extruders, and/or multiple SMT vacuum nozzles. Other tools and applications will be available as our product matures.

We will be launching a Kickstarter campaign once we have a working prototype.
Details

Introduction

FirePick Delta is an affordable, open-source electronics manufacturing system that sits on your desktop. It's capable of building complex electronic circuit assemblies, like Arduino and Raspberry Pi accessories. It is also able to 3D print plastic parts, just like a standard 3D printer. It assembles circuit boards just like a conventional pick-and-place machine, by using a vacuum nozzle and camera with computer vision to pick up surface-mount parts from component feeders, and precisely place them down on the circuit board. Our machine has an auto-tool changer, and we're working on designing other tools besides the SMT vacuum tip and the 3D print hotend. The system is capable of holding up to four tools and interchanging between them automatically. This also makes it one of the most versatile 3D printers out there, because it can print in four colors of plastic (or in four separate types of plastic, which would allow a single model to have a mixture of PLA, ABS, nylon, and NinjaFlex, for example). 

Pick and place machines are used around the world to assemble electronic circuit assemblies, however they usually sell for $50,000 to $500,000. Our machine has a price point of $300 to $5000, depending on modules installed. We should be able to hit that price point by leveraging the open-source technology of the RepRap 3D printer movement. The FirePick Delta is designed to almost completely self-replicate. It is capable of 3d printing its own parts out of PLA or ESD-sensitive ABS plastic. It will also be capable of assembling its own electronic circuit boards. We plan to be the first successful, commercially available RepRap 3d printer to have the power of electronics self-replication. We envision a future where anyone can design (or download existing) electronic projects, and manufacture them in their own home, rather than outsourcing to a traditional factory. This approach saves time and money, and is a much more sustainable solution. FirePick Delta will enable a new wave of small businesses and entrepreneurs to provide unique, bespoke, niche items to the general public, that would be unprofitable for a large conglomerate corporation to manufacture. If you've ever had an electronic project that involved soldering surface-mount electronics, this machine is an incredibly cheap and fun way to do it. If you've ever wanted to sell an electronic board that you've created, and need a way to make lots of them, this machine is for you.

Important Documents and Links

Bill of Materials

Note: Our BOM will eventually be in our custom FireBOM system, but we’re still in the process of getting that populated (Note: the official hackaday.io “Components” page links there). We have written some clever python scripts to get this data transferred over to the new system, but in the meantime, it’s spread across a few sources:

Project Logs and Other Hackaday.io Pages:

Videos

NOTE: The Hackaday.io CMS is kind of wonky at the moment), use the links below if the Youtube previews aren't showing up...

HaD Video #1 (Quarterfinals, July 20, 2014):

HaD Video #2 (Semifinals, September 28, 2014):

Youtube Playlist for other FirePick Delta related videos :-)

Features / Specs

Intended Usage:

  • Prototyping and small runs of PCB’s (under 100 per run). Not intended to be used for mass production.
  • Hobbyists, Makerspaces, high school and college students, entrepreneurs,...
Read more »

Components

See all components

Project logs
  • We're No Longer the $300 Pick and Place / 3D Printer

    15 days ago • 5 comments

    There's been a lot of cool stuff going on in our project, even though I haven't updated this Hackaday.io page a much in the last six months or so. Here' s a quick summary:

    DEC. 2014 - COMPANY LAUNCHED

    Established in December 2014, I started Tin Whiskers Technology, LLC in order to provide a platform to sell kits and finished units to various people around the world. I realized early on that my business skills were lacking, so I brought on Felix Banuchi as a co-founder. Between his MBA and startup experience, and my technical leadership, we're hoping that we can avoid the common pitfalls that open-source companies have made recently (some bad for the community, like Makerbot going closed source, and some bad for the companies like Arduino LLC vs. Arduino SRL)

    The name Tin Whiskers is sort of a dual-meaning. Most veteran electrical engineers and other folks in the world of electronics manufacturing know about tin whisker growth all too well. It's the metallurgical phenomenon where little metallic tendrils seem to grow out of a flat metallic surface. This problem has worsened since the switch to lead-free solders and other repercussions of RoHS. On the other hand, tin whiskers also means something to the lay person, it brings up images of cats, hipster beards, and robots... Which seems very fitting for such a cool company.

    MARCH 2015 - PRE-ORDER KITS GO ON SALE

    This week, we've begun selling pre-orders to our initial group of beta testers. We're doing 50 units for the first run, followed by possibly more after that. The idea is to get hardware in the hands of as many developers as we can, so that we can get immediate feedback on a common hardware platform. This is much better than a DIY approach where everyone ends up with different machines. Obviously, hardware incompatibilities, lighting conditions, feeder types, machine accuracy and precision, differences between DIY machines vary greatly... And that added complexity makes software development a real nightmare.. that is, unless we can get identical kits in the hands of our testers. We set out to do that in late December, and now in March, a few months later, we're to that point, albeit a few months behind where we wanted to be.

    PRICING ISN'T $300, BUT IT'S STILL CHEAP COMPARED TO EVERYTHING ELSE

    In order to make this happen, we've had to do a lot of parts sourcing, cost estimation, BOM analysis, design-for-manufacturing changes, etc. I quickly realized that my original estimate of $300 was off by quite a bit. Those that have been following this project for a while, remember that this project was initially titled "the $300 Pick and Place / 3D printer". I REALLY did want to make a machine this cheap, and that number was based on what I wanted the final price to be.. Our BOM cost has hovered from $300-700 depending on options... I figured that assuming I got some wholesale accounts, and get some sourcing lined up, that I could get the price down to 1/2 of that, sell for a bit of a markup, and still meet the $300 goal. Well, after Felix joined the team, I quickly realized that's not the way things work. Once our company was formed and we actually tried to secure these wholesale and vendor accounts, we've not gotten a single 50% price break. That simply won't happen unless we're selling 5000+ units. That might actually happen someday, if I get my wish. We also have to make enough markup as to not go out of business quickly. We're not getting rich by any means -- We'd get better markups manufacturing women's perfume or costume jewelry... Or social media web-apps, e.g. the next AirBnb or Instagram.. Hardware companies are very capital intensive, ours is no different. We've got a lot of money tied up in this, with not much to show for it at this point, other than a lot of hope, and some excited and eager beta testers.

    In the meantime, FirePick Delta will not cost $300. I take full responsibility for anyone that's disappointed in the price difference, by the way. We're even still hesitant to...

    Read more »

  • Beta Test Kits, Coming to a Hacker Near You...

    a month ago • 0 comments

  • Has 3D Printing Jumped the Shark? (And other questions that you were afraid to ask)

    6 months ago • 10 comments

    In this project log entry, I'm going to answer some questions and misconceptions about this project. This entry just happened to coincide with our departure from the Hackaday Prize, which is just coincidental, I had already planned on putting it up this week. Now that our schedule has freed up a bit, I'm not in a panicky-mode to get stuff done, and I can actually spend some time communicating what I've not been able to thus far.

    3D Printing has Jumped the Shark! Does it cheapen the machine?

    I got this question at NY Maker Faire 2014, and it wasn't in the form of a question. I was being told that by a very prominent power couple in the Hacker/Maker clique. Their advice to me was to get rid of the 3D printer functionality in the machine, because it cheapens the machine. Distancing myself from the Printrbots RepRaps, they said, would be the only way people would ever take me seriously.

    Apparently in 2014, 3D printing isn't in fashion any more, like bell bottoms or platform shoes. My retort was pretty much as follows:

    The unique thing about this machine is the ability to print out SMT component feeders out of ESD-safe conductive ABS plastic. When considering that the average feeder for a Manncorp FVX is $500, ours are two orders of magnitude cheaper. When you consider that there probably dozens, if not hundreds of different styles of tape, tube, and tray styles out there, it makes sense to just print these yourself, rather than to order them and then wait days or weeks.

    Furthermore, this IS a cheap machine. That's pretty much the whole point. Our innovations have been in getting the price point so low. If you have a makerspace around with a 3D printer, you can print almost everything in the entire machine. In the last few weeks, people in our Google groups dev mailing list have pushed 3D printed springs and other brackets that were originally purchased. (And those springs replaced expensive magnets or bearings). Now they're looking to print the delta rods (previously carbon fiber) in either one or several pieces. Not everyone has an Amazon Prime and lots of distributors catering to them.

    The original goal of the RepRap project was to replicate an entire machine. Our project may be the closest to that original idea. We are not only able to replicate almost all of the plastic pieces, but we are also able to replicate the electronic circuit board assemblies via pick and place, and solder paste application (and maybe in the not-to-distant future, replication of the circuit boards as well).

    Jack of all trades? Master of None?

    This is another question that I've gotten before, from HaD contest judge Dave Jones, back in late July:

    To me, those are words from someone that just doesn't understand open source philosophy. That's very much akin to criticizing the Linux operating system for doing more than word processing. Or saying that a mobile phone that plays Angry Birds AND checks your email is destined for failure.

    Why is it OK that a mobile phone or an operating system is allowed to do more than one thing? Well for one, because they're intended to be used as a platform. From an engineering and software perspective, a platform is the foundation in which great things are built upon. To put it another way: a technology that enables the creation of products and processes that support present or future development

    FirePick Delta was intended from the start to be a platform for the personal manufacturing movement. In that way, it's very similar to what Linux and BSD did for computing. We didn't just retrofit an existing 3D printing system and write a Ruby script to do simple functionality. Collectively, we've spent the last year doing things like computer vision, motion control, and a modular tooling system, in a way that can be used for lots of different things.

    Here's a few different scenarios to think about:

    • Solder paste dispense, with closed-loop vision to ensure that each dot was placed at the correct position, and has the correct size. Any air bubbles...
    Read more »

View all 12 project logs

Discussions

malvasio.christophe wrote a month ago point

interesting but pcb use is outdated this days so why don't you work on a more interesting tool that make a circuit in 3d from the components ?

i'm disabled i need a tool that make soldering itself !

(soldering filaments extruder ???)

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PointyOintment wrote a month ago 1 point

Do you have a source for your statement that PCBs are outdated?

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Neil Jansen wrote a month ago 2 points

PCB use is NOT outdated, regardless of what you've heard.  Who told you that?  The global printed circuit board market was over 60 billion dollars in 2012.  This will increase to 74 billion dollars by 2018.

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malvasio.christophe wrote a month ago point

Neil,Po i assume pcb use is outdated in term of  technology not in market

my comment was about to handle more than the old pcb tech and also about handle soldering

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safe wrote 2 months ago point

3 d printers, unexpectedly is incredible

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ZaidPirwani wrote 5 months ago point
Thinking of starting on this project now...

so where do I start...
am actually swarmed by all the links and the data already here..

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tom wrote 5 months ago point
Congrats on your progress so far, I can't wait to see what's next!

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Wire wrote 6 months ago 1 point
Do you guys have a twitter account or mailing list that you make announcements on? Want to make sure I don't miss when the kickstarter opens.

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Neil Jansen wrote 6 months ago point
Sure, we have a developers mailing list, and a beta test signup page at: http://delta.firepick.org/developers/

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Mathieu Stephan wrote 6 months ago 2 points
I'm very sorry you didn't make the cut :/

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Neil Jansen wrote 6 months ago point
Our project is much bigger than the Hackaday Prize. The $200k would have been
sweet, but that's a drop in the bucket compared to where this is going. The
competition was great motivation to get to this point. But now, we've got a
decent size community built around our idea, and that spirit will be what brings
us forward and causes us to do great things. As one of the members on our dev
mailing list just quoted:

“All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed; Second, it is
violently opposed; Third, it is accepted as self-evident.”
― Arthur Schopenhauer

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coflynn wrote 6 months ago 1 point
Looking forward to the eventual success of this project! Even your consideration of ESD-safe material is definitely showing that this will be a serious P&P machine, compared to some other hacked-together open-source ones. Anyway as a quick note I've seen some mention of solder paste dispensing - if you haven't seen those cheap paste dispenser tools from Aliexpress or similar, it might be an easy way to hack one on as a test. I got one for $100 or so, there's a quick video of it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhU52foegfU . But would be easy to computer-control the paste solenoid in that system... I'm sure you'll come up with something better long-term, but hell for $100 it's hard to beat the zero work it requires ;-)

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Neil Jansen wrote 5 months ago point
Very cool. I've got a shot dispense system very similar to that, already wired into our machine. But I payed a lot for it years ago. Glad to know there's a cheaper alternative. We will 100% support these air/vacuum powered units, in addition to our cheap printed ones. Thanks for the link!

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idrik1 wrote 6 months ago point
I hope your project will be production via kickstarter, because he deserves;)

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Vincent Pilate wrote 6 months ago point
Really Really great work.
Hope you will win your ticket for space.

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peter.chen wrote 6 months ago point
very cool

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James wrote 6 months ago point
more updates please!

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Neil Jansen wrote 6 months ago point
Hi James, we'll have everything up by the September 29th milestone hopefully.. We're a bit behind at the moment, working on BOM and mechanical issues, but we'll have to get everything posted in the next few days if we want to move on to the HaD Contest Finals :)

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Albert Huang wrote 6 months ago point
Hi there! Just to clarify, this project intends to give the average user the ability to:

1) Print their own PCB board (3D print + print the connections);
2) Pick + place components on the PCB board;
3) Solder these components;
4) 3D print a enclosure of sorts for the project;
5) (Bonus) assemble the enclosure and board together? :D

Just curious as to how far this project will go!

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James wrote 6 months ago point
I'm pretty sure it can do all that, except the pcb board part. unless you want a chunky plastic board that is made out of conductive plastics ; )

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Neil Jansen wrote 6 months ago point
Hi Albert, James is correct, we do not print PCB's. There is a company that I saw at NY World Maker Faire, called Cartesian Co., that has a machine that will print working PCB's. I feel that it will take them a few years to perfect it, but they're making low-res double-sided PCB's right now, with plated holes (assuming you have a third machine to drill them). If they open-source one day, there's a chance that we can retrofit their silver inkjet head onto our machine or vice-versa. I also saw the Squink machine (another PCB printer) at NY Maker Faire, but wasn't as impressed with it.

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James wrote 6 months ago point
hey, by the way, I looked every where for you guys at the maker faire, but couldn't find you. where were you?

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Neil Jansen wrote 6 months ago point
We were in the 3D printing village, across from ZeGo Robotics. I guess there's always next year. We will be applying for that and probably Bay Area as well.

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Dashack wrote 7 months ago point
You will create a revolution under 300.00 .ultimately we(self start hackers, cottage industrialists ) want a turn key system at our homes / workbenches. This is a critical link in that chain . The hack space will open out and we will start seeing long term a super explosion of innovation. Great work .

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Jasmine wrote 8 months ago point
Hello Neil, Your video looks good, and you've got more than 4 project logs. I couldn't see your system design doc. Maybe you can highlight it in your details? Overall your documentation is great, and we're really pleased you entered. Get in touch if you have any questions.

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Neil Jansen wrote 8 months ago point
Hi, I've been out of town the last few weeks, but I'm back and will get the system design document done this week hopefully. We've been working on a moving target, so we've left this step off until the last possible minute :) As far as documentation goes, we still have a lot of stuff to add (I'd consider everything up now as more of an introduction to the project). We plan on adding a considerable amount of information to what we have in the forthcoming weeks / months.

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Jasmine wrote 8 months ago point
Great stuff. Get as much as you can up before the 20th of August as that's when we will review it for the next round.

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Neil Jansen wrote 7 months ago point
Jasmine, I added the system design document at: https://hackaday.io/project/963/log/7557-firepick-delta-system-design-document-and-youtube-video
If you can take a look before the deadline, that would be great. Thanks!

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spackl3r wrote 8 months ago 1 point
Can't wait to see it work (not to mention a kickstarter campain :)
"Shut up and take my money" meme on standby...

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Michael Sampson wrote 8 months ago point
Guys this is awesome... It really is. Where do i sign up to buy one!!!!!!!

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Neil Jansen wrote 8 months ago point
You can sign up here: http://delta.firepick.org/developers/

(:

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Andrew wrote 8 months ago point
I'd really like to see this come together. Especially the vision part of it.
We have a Madell Technologies Pick & Place machine here in lab, and it's vision system is pretty piss-poor, leaving a machine that can't really do it's intended job of finding and placing parts. Not to mention all the rest of the crummy parts software.

So, I'm anxiously awaiting the release of the mechanical CAD files! I'll add another nag onto the pile for those.

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Neil Jansen wrote 8 months ago 1 point
CAD files will start to go up tonight! And the rest will follow thereafter. we've got several repo's, it will be going in the github.com/firepick-delta/firepick-delta repo.

We feel you on the Madell Technologies stuff, they're so bad I'm surprised they're still around. We hope to put 'em out of business, or force them to improve their quality ;)

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Neil Jansen wrote 8 months ago 1 point
Github mechanical files are up!! I'm still getting them all added, but it's a start. https://github.com/firepick-delta/firepick-delta/tree/dev/mechanical

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Boz wrote 9 months ago point
Awesome! Gets my vote if it works

Especially love the idea of a optional solder paste dispenser to complete the package.

Doing solder paste by hand is messy and time consuming and requires a real steady hand, and having a good template made is so expensive.

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Minimum Effective Dose wrote 9 months ago point
The first time I paid for a steel solder stencil was also the last time. Rough-cut edges, and the "solder paste squeegee" included in the $20 accessory add-on was a scrap piece of steel with tape on the sharp edges. F that.

Now I laser cut them out of Mylar (which is a trade name of DuPont, look for "Dura-lar" at art supply / drafting supply stores.) Much faster, and literally 200 times cheaper.

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Pixel Pirate wrote 9 months ago point
So... can it place BGA packages? *shifts eyes left and right*

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Neil Jansen wrote 9 months ago point
Yes, we are designing it in such a way that it should be able to place BGA packages, and have computer vision to make up for various tolerances in placement and rotation. But we're still verifying how accurate we can actually place. We'll be ordering a few BGA test kits from Topline, that include dummy BGA's and PCB's that are wired in daisy-chain pattern through each pin. That will let us know if we can do it consistently, without breaking the bank buying expensive BGA's and writing verification tests.

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D1plo1d wrote 9 months ago 1 point
Greetings from RetroPopulator, the new team on the open source pick and place block!

Check it out, our RetroPopulator's already done it's first successful pick and place demonstration: http://hackaday.io/project/1605/log/4353-retro-populator-in-action

*And* that was all done from a .brd file automatically parsed by our PopCAM software!

Ok, so it's time for some friendly competition. The ball's in your court now and all that. Can't wait to see your demo! :)

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Juha Kuusama wrote 9 months ago point
Greetings from LitePlacer, the third pick and place project in the competition, too! My project is at http://hackaday.io/project/1755-LitePlacer---a-low-cost-Pick-and-Place-machine

May the best picker-placer win!

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Neil Jansen wrote 9 months ago point
Great, we love competition! Don't get too comfortable, although we've been quiet the last few weeks, we've got some really cool stuff in store. We've got working vision, AND rotation! Not to mention a bunch of other cool stuff.

Btw, the only thing we love more than competition is collaboration! Don'tn be afraid to get in contact with us if you would like to work towards standard feeders or vision software, or anything else.

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D1plo1d wrote 9 months ago point
For sure! We've got a lot of basic testing left to do but I think once we've got reliability and setup sorted out a bit more we should start looking at how the two projects can cross-pollinate.

PS. Check it out, we just pick and placed 2 boards in one run at full speed: http://hackaday.io/project/1605/log/4715

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Blecky wrote 9 months ago point
Cheeky :P
Keep it up guys, a little feather ruffling makes for an interesting competition.

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Krinkleneck wrote 9 months ago 1 point
Call me crazy, but if the designs are mainly 1 sided pcbs then you could make it have a heated bed. That way you can place and solder in one machine maybe? Or, you could have the machine move the boards directly into an oven to reflow. You could connect boards to a conveyor system that starts with blank pcbs, they go under a roller with the pcb pattern, through a slow etching bath, through a preset robotic QC for connectors, into a tinning solution, under a soldermask roller, under a masked uv source, cleaned, More QC to make sure the connectors aren't covered, through a pasting station, in and out of the placement, through an oven, colling station and one final qc to make sure everything is connected.

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