Craig Curk - The Early History of Surface Mount Pick and Place Machines

As the founder of QC Electronics, Craig Curk has a high level of expertise in surface mount pick and place machines, which have been an important part of the electronic component manufacturing process since the 1980s thanks to their precision and speed. Over the years, the technology has advanced enormously from when it first came to prominence and began to achieve high usage.

Craig Curk

Early History

Early pick and place machines were generally designed for speed over precision, with rapid placement machines soon starting to appear on a number of assembly lines. Sometimes called “chip shooters,” these machines would place low-precision, simple components, such as resistors and capacitors. They were usually built around a single turret design, with a conveyor passing around the turret. The belt would pass an optical station that deciphered the angle that a part was placed at, with the machine itself compensating for this before placing the component. At optimal levels, such machines were capable of placing 15 parts every second, massively speeding up the manufacturing process.

However, due to the fact that the belt moved, rather than the turret itself, they could only be used to place fairly low-precision components on parts that would not move of their own accord during transit.


Craig Curk has experience of working with more precise machines, which started to gain prominence in the 1990s. Such machines were capable of working with smaller components and irregular parts, often relying on gantry supported moving heads and high resolution verification cameras that allowed for finer adjustments to be made.


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