DIY Pick and Place

Cartesian PNP machine using Rails/Carriages for high speed and accurate part placement. Affordable open source pick and place is on the way.

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We're building a PNP machine. We need one, but as most startups who are bootstrapping and who have seasoned engineers up to the task, we want something that is better/faster/cheaper. We've tried some of the DIY options for PNP out there, and at the end of the day it became very apparent that if we wanted something that checked our boxes we would need to build it ourselves. Game on.

I'm not looking to try and build the cheapest machine out there, but I am out to build a highly reliable and accurate machine for the least cost possible.

I've been through countless 3D printers, CNC machines, and other various motion projects and have a pretty good feel for what I can live with. For that reason I have chosen to go the rail/slide and belt route as opposed the other various options out there. I think I will be able to find a motion platform for this project that checks all the boxes (cost/quality/simplicity).

Whereas lots of projects have historically started with an XY CNC or 3D printer bones, we're starting from scratch, and we hope that by sharing our findings and making the design available to the community that we'll be able to collectively drive a product that will rival the myriad of expensive machines in the marketplace today.

Happy to say that we've made great progress to this end over the last couple months and are officially placing parts. Lots of tweaking left to make it scream, but we're well on our way.


UPDATE: Eureka! We're picking and placing! (check the video below) In addition, we finally pulled together a BOM and 3D rendering to the point it is ready for you to take and build one yourself. We've tried to consolidate the pieces in order to minimize the number of unique parts on the BOM.

We have heard from several of you who either dont have a mill, dont have a 3D printer, dont have the time, or just would prefer a kit instead we are considering putting together some quick build kits. Still not sure what the kits would include, but likely would be a kit that includes all the custom brackets needed for the machine, and perhaps even a bundle of pre-cut extrusions as well. As for a FULL kit, with all the hardware and electronics, we'd be open to that if there was enough demand.

For now, we'd just like to get as many people enjoying rock solid PNP using OpenPNP, and we feel that this machine accomplishes that and more. To that end we're happy to contribute the design back to the community. We'd love your feedback, collaboration, and know that collectively we can make this thing even better.

  • Drive that passive rail

    anthony.webb03/19/2016 at 05:28 2 comments

    Since we launched the project nearly every nay sayer has the same feedback... "Oh, that passive rail will NEVER work!!" Well, we've proven that it does in fact work, and work very well IF (BIG IF) you have a nice set of rails.

    Well, what if you wanted to roll with the cheap chinese rails instead? First off, I highly suggest getting the nicer rails, its worth the money IMHO. But enough people have asked and so we have added instructions on driving the passive rail.

    The mod to your machine will take about 15 minutes and $20 in parts. It's probably worth the peace of mind although I have not seen any marked improvement to lead me to believe it is necessary.

    The mod consists of a rod which couples to the end of your Y motor. This rod passes through a modified end bracket with a press fitted bearing for support, and holds a toothed pulley that will drive the previously passive rail. NOTE: we were short a 5mm coupler so we used an old toothed pulley we had laying around until our actual coupler arrives.

  • Magnetic parts holder

    anthony.webb01/27/2016 at 00:39 2 comments

    I designed a parametric model in Fusion360 for magnetically holding parts to the bed of our PNP. It has been built to allow you to specify how many lanes of parts you want, how wide the tape is, etc. From there it builds the body of your part which you can then either print or mill. For those of you who need something like this, or would just like to play around with the part, link is here and the covers are here

  • Endstops, Plumbing, and Electrical

    anthony.webb01/26/2016 at 03:06 3 comments

    We've been running with no way to home the machine which has been something we have been putting off until today.

    Its no secret that a lot of these projects, 3D printing, laser cutting, CNC, etc all share very similar components. The good news is that as result these components have dropped in price dramatically. When we went looking for endstops I wanted to stay away from mechanical stops and go with optical endstops. A very popular form factor in the RepRap world are the ones here:

    Of course they were not set up to bolt right on to the aluminum extrusion, but that isnt anything a little printer time wont solve. Here is what we ended up with:

    With endstops out of the way we turned to making sure the plumbing and electrical got all cleaned up. Its not an official enclosure, but definitely makes it easier to cope with. Long term we will do up a proper enclosure which will be really nice, but for now this is clean and tidy. Here a look at the rear of the machine.

  • Camera Setup

    anthony.webb01/25/2016 at 06:28 0 comments

    I've been asked to share some of the details about how the camera is placed and set up. I am using the 6mm lens that came with my device. I dont have an 8mm lens to compare to. It does appear in the camera info that the resolution is 640x480. The lens of my camera is exactly 28mm from the surface of my PCB. The calibration wizard in openpnp calculated values of .23 for both x and y. Distortion does not appear to be a problem.

    I'm unclear on the amount of settle time that is ideal for these ELP cameras as compared to other models, I think we are using 250ms now. What I am shocked at is how well the image looks in simple ambient lighting, the ELP is more of a "microscope" than my USB microscope ever was.

  • A new camera

    anthony.webb01/25/2016 at 06:25 0 comments

    As I mentioned yesterday, we were enable to extend the USB on our microscope camera we had been using for downward vision. This ended up being a huge benefit for us because after looking at the images from the ELP camera (same used in Jasons reference machine) we were blown away at how bad the USB microscope was in comparison to the ELP. So, we went to work designing a bracket to mount the ELP, We recessed in the PCB so it would nice and flat, turned out great.

    The camera I bought is this one:

    They have them all over ebay and amazon. I've seen the 5MP versions as well, mine is only 1MP but I almost think the lower resolution will mean easier/quicker image processing? The picture is beautiful, even with only average lighting conditions.

    The image quality and focus of the endoscope/microscope is not even comparable to the ELP. In addition, the endoscope/microscope did not have the same low light characteristics. Finally we were not able to extend the microscope USB cable enough to route through our cable chain. I had originally planned on only using the ELP on the upward looking camera, but now I may use it on both. I still need to run some PNP jobs with the new camera, but it looks pretty good so far.

    With the new camera in place we were able to return to getting the cable chain wrapped up.

    We're now getting a mount together for all the plumbing and we can return to more testing in a more final type configuration. Wishing there were more hours in the day.

  • Wiring up the machine

    anthony.webb01/25/2016 at 06:21 0 comments

    Spent the day rewiring all the electric in cable chain and generally tying up loose ends. Of course there were some hiccups. First, the USB microscope we were using would not work once we extended the USB cable. This was odd because I think we were overall only like 8-10 feet which should be within spec. I had one of the ELP cameras laying around, and was able to extend the cable on that just fine, so I am thinking we're going to make a new bracket to accommodate that camera instead, the quality of the ELP was strikingly better in every way, it's probably just a superior solution. Designing the mount and will install tomorrow, I'll add a pic once it is done. Milled part holders for both 12mm and 16mm strips. Other than that things will look really nice with all the wires tucked away in the chain.

  • Picking and placing

    anthony.webb01/25/2016 at 06:20 0 comments

    Its starting to feel more and more like we will be able to pick and place board flawlessly. There's very little that is lacking. We placed and entire board flawlessly a couple times now. Just a few little things to iron out, mostly just learning how things work. Here is a shot of us placing parts in a pretty deliberate and steady manner:

  • Unlocking your nozzle stepper

    anthony.webb01/25/2016 at 06:19 0 comments

    We ran into an issue where our NEMA8 steppers for the nozzle tips were not powerful enough to twist the rubber tube attached to it, even with the 180degree limit enabled. Looks like a couple people have gone with NEMA11 and special (expensive) adapters. We opted to print a little boot for the top of the motor that leaves the shaft to freely rotate inside. Problem solved!

    The part is up on thingiverse here

    3D files can be downoaded here

  • Why rails and slides for our PNP?

    anthony.webb01/25/2016 at 06:16 0 comments

    Many people who are looking at this project may notice some similarity between it an the reference design Jason from the project posted. His design (and great software project) gave me the confidence to know that building a cartesian design could work.

    The designs Jason and I have posted are very similar. Let me explain the main difference and why I went the way I did. The main difference is his design uses wheels that ride in a slot on the extrusion, and mine use steel rail and slides. The reasons I chose rail/slide as opposed to openbuilds:

    1. I had experience with other x/y platforms like the shapeoko and quickly grew tired of tinkering with the eccentric nuts dialing in the tension. Too tight and it wouldnt move (or skip steps), too loose and there was slop. And even worse (perhaps because it was CNC) it changed every time you used it so you had to go over the machine regularly tinkering to keep things operational. I have heard from several people that this wasnt their experience, but as I evaluated my options, and give my experience, I knew that if I designed around wheels on extrusion, and it didnt give me the accuracy or precision I needed for small pitch PNP parts, then I would have effectively painted myself into a corner.

    2. The rail/slide option gave me a variety of options in quality/cost which would be easily swapped if an option was not able to deliver the speed/accuracy/precision I was after. Had the cheap chinese rails works (they didn't) they would have been a more cost effective solution than the openbuilds option.

    3. Slide/Rail were already proven to deliver great speed/accuracy/precision over a long lifespan with minimal maintenance, I wasnt sure the openbuilds solution could deliver that.

    4. I wanted to have a passive rail and avoid the complication/expense of having a second stepper to drive the Y axis. Only rail/slide could deliver the kind of butter smooth motion that I would need to do that.

    5. I love clearpath closed loop servos, and wanted to leave the door open to jump from cheap steppers over to the more capable servos which come in a nema23, the openbuilds brackets dont come in a nema23, so building my own gave me that flexibility.

    It obvious that either route will give you the ability to pick and place parts. I would bet that the openbuilds route may come in a little cheaper, but I think long term we will be able to eek out more performance, with lower maintenance, from a rail/slide based solution.

  • First Blood!

    anthony.webb01/25/2016 at 06:11 0 comments

    First pick and place in the books! Note that in our dry run, we enabled both nozzles and it was a lot faster to grab and place both parts in a single pass, but for this video Jason disabled the 2nd nozzle because we have a HIWIN rail/slide on the head that keeps sticking. Not sure if we should get a more powerful spring or what. Robotdigg was kind enough to send us a new rail/slide to replace it with, but it is just a rough as the one it replaces.

    Here is the successful pick/place:

    Here is a dry run with 2 nozzles enabled:

View all 20 project logs

Enjoy this project?



Ritta Clark wrote 08/09/2023 at 04:47 point

It's impressive to see your dedication to building an open-source pick and place machine using a unique approach with rails and carriages. Your emphasis on reliability, accuracy, and cost-effectiveness is admirable. The progress you've made so far, especially with the successful picking and placing shown in the video, is inspiring. Your willingness to share your findings and contribute the design to the community shows a true spirit of collaboration. Keep up the great work!

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TruePathFinderX wrote 06/28/2022 at 21:27 point

whats the placement accuracy please?

Is there a kit available to purchase?

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Marc-Antoine Lalonde wrote 05/19/2022 at 05:44 point

Any idea how this compares to the LitePlacer?

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kmorris1077 wrote 06/10/2021 at 18:43 point

Is this project dead?  There doesn't appear a way to download the 3D design from autodesk My Hub.

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tahseen wrote 01/22/2021 at 01:24 point

hi  I need the wiring diagram ,can you help me how connect the PC with smoothie board ??

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engrusmanyaqoob wrote 01/20/2021 at 16:47 point

Hello dear.

I just done with hardware like yours , Can u please share firmware and config file for smothie as the website firmware and config are not working with this

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Wu wrote 01/08/2021 at 11:29 point

I can't download the print file from autodesk 360, can you help me?

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Pedro Ferreira wrote 11/30/2020 at 11:13 point

Hi, did you make the V2 as said in one of your Youtube video comments?

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abdelrahman.m.galal22 wrote 01/13/2020 at 15:23 point

Hi Great Work...
i was wondering how did u choose the camera ....that would really help us in our project
thanks in advance

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Camden wrote 01/24/2019 at 10:47 point

I'd like to build one of these. Is there a detailed Tutorial i can follow?

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apollokit wrote 07/02/2020 at 20:48 point

Bumping this question. Is there a tutorial, or do we kinda just piece it together from the logs and the 3d model?

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420371791 wrote 01/27/2018 at 02:52 point

It's easy to get these in China

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Nohtal wrote 01/08/2018 at 08:55 point

I am pretty sure this thread is dead, however, I would like to know why you think driving the Y-axis on one side is ok with a linear rail system? There will still be a moment caused by the uneven loading on the gantry...I can see by your earlier pictures they were coupled, what happened?

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smtguide wrote 08/12/2017 at 14:59 point

Hi, Ignore my last message my son press on enter before I could write the rest, I would like to base a new project partly based on this project, using this project motors and mechanic rails and nozzle, and some more parts not for an Pick and place but a rework station,  not automatic rework station but manual electrical assistant one, would simply need an electric motor to move X-Y-Z (for nozzle) and and hot plate to dissolder and solder components.

If I could ask for some help from you guys it would be more than welcome, I have very easy acces to any materiel since I live in Shenzhen and any help  I can bring to anyone would be a pleasure as well.

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smtguide wrote 08/12/2017 at 14:45 point


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buglyo.balazs wrote 07/28/2017 at 08:20 point

Can you share the design of the Vacum part? In the BOM only 2pc 24v Solenoid but isnot should be 4? 

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420371791 wrote 01/27/2018 at 02:53 point

It's easy to get these in China

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buglyo.balazs wrote 07/27/2017 at 12:07 point


Thank you for sharing your work, it looks fantactic ! I want to build one myself, before I start, I have a few questions.
Can you share your BOM or 3D file list. Or if you allready did it , where can i find it couse i did not find it.

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AVR wrote 07/27/2017 at 12:23 point

there should be an autodesk link where you have to manually download all the parts and there should be a google docs link with the bom on this page.

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buglyo.balazs wrote 07/27/2017 at 13:38 point

got it on the left side! :) 

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Julien Gueritte wrote 06/06/2017 at 15:51 point


Thank you for sharing your work, it looks fantactic ! I want to build one myself, before I start, I have a few questions.

Concerning the milled/printed parts, can they all be 3D printed without reducing the machine accurency (or just a little) ; and of course be "strong" enouth so they won't brake ?

As you use openpnp, I guess it would be possible to make a hole in the plate and add a bottom camera ?

Thank you.

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Tom Sp wrote 04/23/2017 at 08:44 point

Hello, what an excellent project. WIth an electonics background, is there anywhere I can buy ( or someone sell to me ) the printed/milled parts? Everything else, seems easy to follow, but do not know where to start on those parts. Hopefully, someone can help.

Thank you


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Thomas Hoppe wrote 04/01/2017 at 12:27 point

Hi, I would like to know what the Status of the machine is, can you recommend trying me to build my own one at this stage?

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Aleksandr wrote 01/10/2017 at 16:34 point

Thank you. I'm going to ask.

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