Ça devrait intéresser au moins Godzil
One of the things I’ve been working on when I need a break from optimizing code is automating parts of the assembly process. As the board count grew (>300) it became increasingly difficult to justify assembling the boards by hand, but I ended up sticking with the decision because this always was a passion project, and I loved the idea of assembling them here. This allowed greater flexibility for the design, lower risk, and lower cost at the expense of (lots of) manual labor.
I've struck a unique balance between complete manual placement and a fully fledged pick and place machine (>$20K USD for a reputable unit). Surface mount components typically come in carriers on tape reels, from which we used to manually remove components, then place them on the board. It gets messy quick with piles of the covering film, spent tape, and the potential of placing parts out of orientation.
I've designed a modular component feeder system that can be 3D printed / laser cut for those who wish to dispense parts but still place them by hand. If you have access to these machines then each feeder costs <$10 in components. The window size that reveals the parts contain the exact amount required for each panel of 5 boards, this allows me to keep track of how many components were dispensed and ensure that every panel received all of the required parts without counting or inspection.
I'm happy to announce that I'll be open sourcing this system after the project is over, and that your support will hopefully empower others to manufacture their own small runs of electronics. Everything is parametric so people will be able to customize the system for their particular project.
I'm looking forward to writing up my experiences in the process when the game is delivered, I'm hoping that others can use the information and learn.