After several people messaged me with questions about the TVM802A or TVM802B pick and place machines from QiHe (China), I decided to create this page to write down what I shared so far.
I might update the page if I’m asked something that’s not on here.
Ask my anything using the ‘Contact’ button above this page.
[Updated: 23 May 2021]
Before ordering the machine, or doing anything, take 2 weeks (yes! you read that just fine) to study this forum:
It’s the #1 place to visit to get to learn this machine.
If you do not want to spend that time on it, you should not buy this machine.
My YouTube videos
I’m not the best looking, but the machine is.
So if you want to see it in action, check out: https://www.youtube.com/c/ByteDelight/search?query=pick
This is the needle that forwards a reel.
This budget machine does not have automated reel feeders.
The solution QiHe choose, is a thick needle that will be pushed in the holes of the reel, and then moved to forward the reel.
The cassettes the smd parts arrive in.
For e.g. 0805 size parts, often 5000 are on a reel that fits on this machine.
There are larger reels, which won’t fit on this machine.
It’s wise to keep empty reels, to ‘re-reel’ parts yourself, if you accidentally get a reel that is too big.
Is it simple to use?
It’s far from a fully automated machine.
The TVM802A or B requires a lot of time to get to know, configure, fine-tune, and start using.
You will get frustrated by the prick (needle) that gets stuck, bends, brake in the beginning, when you’re not used to pay the attention that this machine requires.
Also parts will not always be picked up or positioned correctly on the pcb, however much effort you spend on calibrating.
Especially these aspects will costs you a lot of time, and will require you to master how the machine behaves:
- Understanding the Chinese-dialect English (‘translated’) manual
- Calibrating how the reels are forwarded (feeded) by the prick
- Calibrating where parts are picked up
- Setting up the choices for camera checks, so-called ‘visual’
- Keep a close look on the empty part of tape from reels not ‘sticking out’, causing the head (prick) to crash
Is it a good machine?
If you spend the effort on calibrating to a point where it is as good as it gets, it is quite fast and reliable.
With my boards, the machine needs 3-5 minutes only per pcb, with dozens of parts.
I just love it.
For the amount of money, this is IMHO the best you can get.
I did also consider Liteplacer, but didn’t want to spend weeks on getting the machine assembled.
I often dare to increase the speed during production, so I can feed my reflow oven quick enough.
Depending on the size of the pcb, I can put 1, 2, 3, 4 or more boards in the reflow oven at once.
Yes, you need one.
I bought a cheap IR oven, and added the Controleo3 kit to it – takes a day or 2 to install and calibrate.
This will reflow the solder paste just fine.
Yes, you need solder paste.
Get good one, like Loctite.
I use Loctite lead-free solder paste, that does not need to be stored in the fridge. Just perfect stuff.
Want to know the Loctite type I use? Ask me.
You apply solder paste to a pcb using a stencil, and stencilling setup.
I order the thinnest stencils I can find, and combined with Loctite, that has been enough so far.
To create a setup to apply solder paste with a stencil, you need somehing surrounding the pcb where you apply the solder paste one.
Obviously you want the surrounding material to be exactly as thick, so I use discared pcbs for that.
Want a photo of these? Ask me.
Placing a pcb
This is really simple: push a rod aside, which is held on the place you set by springs.
You only need to change the default position of the rod, when getting to another pcb.
In the ‘configuration file’ paragraph, there is some more info about calibrating the pcb – no 2 pcbs are exactly the same size.
Spare parts – order with the machine!
You will need spare parts, like new pricks and nozzles, to make it through a couple of years.
Make sure to order them with the machine!
When I orderd my machine, the QiHe employee asked me if I wanted some spare parts with it.
I didn’t expect this, but I’m glad I did order some with the machine.
I actually ordered some more spare parts later, since I have no clue how long these will be available.
Manual visual checks after pick and place
I check each and every board when it’s done on the pick and place machine.
Almost always one or more parts need a little push to get in the proper position, especially fine-pitch chips.
Surface tension in the reflowing process will do the rest – get the parts aligned ‘perfectly’.
Manual reflow with hot air station
It happens from time to time that I missed a part with the visual inspection, causing it not to sit at the correct position or so.
Using a hot air station will solve that in seconds.
Parts with large surfaces
My reflow oven is not the fastest, causing some parts with a larger surface to heat up too much, causing them to get faulty.
So with some projects, I decide to not place a large chip by the pick and place machine, but solder them on manually (with a solder iron, not with hot air) after reflowing is done.
Yes, that requires removing reflowed solder on the pads first, with solder wick.
You create one configuration file for a project, which will include:
- The parts coordinates and rotations on the pcb
- The installed reels and larger parts in the trays, with pickup coordinates, height of parts and nozzle selection
- A photo and rough coordinates of a location on the pcb to calibrate to
One challenge with this single config file solution, is that if you calibrate the pickup locations for one project, you have to change this data in all other configuration files that use the same parts as well.
It can be done quite easily, but it would have been better if the coordinates and other details of installed reels and components in the trays, would have been stored separately.
I guess someone could create a script to copy-past the latest reel/tray config to other project files though.
I could do it myself in e.g. VBA or C# or so – done it manually so far.
Windows7 32 bit
I’ve read that W10 causes problems when it comes to the PC communicating with the machine: it seems on W10 data packages are dropped.
So I use a stand-alone machine with a Windows 7 (x86 / 32 bit) install on it.
Stand-alone (not connected to internet) because I do not trust the pick and place machine software – some reported it is flagged for malware.
But that’s no problem to use Windows 7 if you’re not connecting it to the internet.
However I do also check if there is nothing odd written to the USB stick I use for the config files.
Using the ‘vision’ feature – the bottom camera
You have options for checking how the the part is pickup up exactly by the nozzle, using the bottom camera.
Using the ‘precise’ option didn’t always work (it kept checking) or didn’t improve the placement.
So I mostly use ‘fast’ checking with the camera.
For most small parts I disable visual checking by the camera completely.
How big can parts be?
There are plenty of parts, like chips, that won’t fit on a reel.
For these, there is a tray that can hold just over a dozen of parts.
Whereas you need to install a reel with hundreds of parts, for a certain amount of boards, you probably need to put new parts in the trays after each pcb is done.
Some parts are too big for the camera to pick up!
So I just disable visual checks by the camera for those.
How small can parts be?
I mostly work with 0805 parts, since I can also assemble these manually if I have to.
But 0603 can be done as well on this machine, and I think 0402 is also possible, but I haven’t tried that myself.