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I am thinking to expand business and go with a professional pick and place machine. Not the most expensive, but not the cheaper ones.

I will ask about software licenses/usage, training and post sales support, cost of repairs, and hidden costs. Is there anything else I'm missing?

I am already shipping dozens of boards per week, and I want to expand. I would rewrite the question as: if you are the CTO of a small assembly company, and your boss ask you to buy a pick and place, what is the most critical factor to take into consideration?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Wouldn't we need to know what business you're in? If you breed cats for a living, you probably don't need a pick and place. \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Dec 2 '15 at 15:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ScottSeidman: Misplacing cats is really annoying, I would love to have te precision of a machine for doing it. \$\endgroup\$ – PlasmaHH Dec 2 '15 at 16:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ How many feeders is pretty important and the requirement depends on the your expected mix of components. \$\endgroup\$ – Spehro Pefhany Dec 2 '15 at 16:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question does not seem terribly opinion-based to me. I edited it slightly to make it less open-ended, and I'm nominating it for reopening. \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Haun Dec 2 '15 at 18:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ ok, i will try to reopen \$\endgroup\$ – Javier Loureiro Dec 2 '15 at 19:01
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Scenarios:

You are currently shipping dozens or hundreds of boards per week from a catalog of dozens or more designs that rev frequently

You should get a high end pick and place machine. It will be a money printing machine1 for you. It will let you keep only a small number of any SKU on hand and be able to react quickly to spikes in demand. You will also be able to rev your boards as often as necessary without having to worry about retooling or obsolete inventory costs.

This is the AdaFruit model by the way, so you should do everything you can to copy them because they have mastered it. They have really, really nice machines.

You are currently shipping dozens or hundreds of boards per week from a small and stable catalog

You should probably outsource assembly. By ordering in large batches, you will probably be able to get your boards assembled for the same or less than it will cost you to do it yourself. You will easily be able to cover the float of these large inventory batches using the capital you saved by not purchasing an expensive and quickly depreciating machine.

You are just getting started, but you plan on growing quickly and want to make sure you are ready for when the orders start pouring in

You should not buy a pick and place machine. It will be a big expense that you don't need right now. More importantly, it will be a distraction that steals time that you need to be spending on making your products great, selling them, and generally making your customers happy. Get yourself a toaster oven re-flow machine and a good microscope and tweezers and build at least the first 100 boards yourself. Rev after every batch using the inspiration you gained from building the last batch (nothing like placing that resistor 100 times to motivate you to finally design it out). Once your design is stable, you can start ordering small batches from the many great assembly houses until you get to the point where either of the two other scenarios applies.

1 a direct quote from Phillip Torrone of AdaFruit fame talking about their pick-and-place.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I did the "business" analysis of the purchase. My question is, after you choose to buy one, as the CTO of the company, what should I take into consideration? \$\endgroup\$ – Javier Loureiro Dec 2 '15 at 19:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am not trying to be flip. If you are asking such a broad question about these machines, it is likely you have not had a lot of experience with them. They are not plug-n-play like a laser printer. It takes a huge amount of time to get them working and keep them working. The main point that I was trying to make is that most people (who have not owned a machine!) underestimate these costs. By the time most people should be buying a machine, they typically will know exactly what they should be getting. \$\endgroup\$ – bigjosh Dec 2 '15 at 19:13

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