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I am planning to create few circuit boards. I am considering getting the PCB printed from a manufacturer and do the SMT via a machine my self. Do you think it is good idea.

The reason i an planning to do is i need 50-100 circuits boards every few weeks and the cost of PCB printing is less but PCBA SMT is huge. As manufacturer charges around $400 for any new design. So i thought of getting a machine like SMT460 Youtube so i can do it my self.

I am not sure if it is a good idea or not. I have no experience in doing that so would like to get some opinions.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by PlasmaHH, Voltage Spike, PeterJ, Chupacabras, Harry Svensson Dec 4 '17 at 18:51

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you had a look at how much those things cost? \$\endgroup\$ – PlasmaHH Nov 27 '17 at 12:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Every time you change your design you'll have to get new stencils cut and setup the machine again. $400 doesn't seem bad at all. Perhaps you should focus on why you need to keep changing your design. The volumes you are talking should mean you'll get some sharp prices on assembly work. \$\endgroup\$ – Jon Nov 27 '17 at 12:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Pick a new manufacturer. I used Macrofab that didn't charge me set up fees for a small 2 run board. It was a relatively complicated board and pretty large (bigger than Eagles free size), and manufacturing costs for the board were about $90, not including parts. \$\endgroup\$ – Ron Beyer Nov 27 '17 at 12:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Setting up the machine, speeds, reels, etc can be quite a hassle... \$\endgroup\$ – Wesley Lee Nov 27 '17 at 14:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you have no experience, and nobody on hand to learn from, you'll spend huge amounts on waste due to mistakes. \$\endgroup\$ – pjc50 Nov 27 '17 at 16:03
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I have looked at this in some detail. Even the most inexpensive Chinese P&P machine is many thousands of dollars (probably over $10K with enough feeders (covering a range of parts) and with vision). They don't run all that fast, the cheap ones, and you seem to have to run them at half speed to get reliable placement and vision slows it further.

The larger professional ones are very heavy and expensive, probably $30-$100K USD and may require 3-phase power. You will also need a decent oven (the batch type ones are not great, especially for Pb-free) and a decent stencil printer. You will have to keep all the various chemicals in stock and fresh.

None of those are really deal killers. The real issue is the setup time, initially for each board and when you change boards, assuming you will be making several products.

Using actual numbers a Youtuber mentioned for his experience and allowing for some improvements with experience I figured the return would be, at best, marginal. You still have to manually inspect the boards and do any necessary rework, you are responsible for controlling the processes, maintaining the machines and ordering spare parts etc., and often there will be parts that have to be manually attached later because they are incompatible with some part of the process (too tall to go through the conveyor oven, through-hole for mechanical or cost reasons etc.)

I strongly suggest you concentrate on your strengths (presumably designing and marketing) and leave the grunt work to someone else. Shop around.

If you are still interested, look carefully at the procedure you need to go through to program a board the first time. It's not just a matter of uploading the file from your PCB program.

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Intuition says that for 50-100 circuits boards every few weeks, using a good assembler will be your best bet. Things that you need to think about include the time it will take to train yourself to use the device, the time it will take to run the device, the money it will take to maintain the device, the lifetime of the device, the cost of assembly line failures, etc.

Unless you share much more about your situation, it will be difficult to run the numbers for your particular case, so I won't even try. But, keep in mind that if you go down this route of in-house SMT assembly, then you're gearing up to do something that you don't do right now, and that you don't necessarily want to do. Off the top of my head, getting this running will amount to pretty darn near a full time job for a few weeks, and it may never fall below a 20% job.

Your time is probably more effective if you can design the PCB with some flexibility in it, so you're not constantly paying NRE's (Non Recurring Engineering Costs) associated with a new design (though $400 doesn't necessarily seem excessive). Also, strike up a conversation with some reputable local assemblers to see how they can help you with your situation. Give them a chance to let them earn your business.

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