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Passives and some small chips and transistors come on tape and reel. Those load into the machine via reel feeders. Feeders range from ~$500 for 8mm size to ~$1000 for 24mm size widths. Each reel needs its own feeder, which means that if you have a design with 20 different parts you will need 20 different feeders. As you can imagine, feeders are a major cost of pick and places. If a $25K machine has 30 feeders, the cost of those can easily reach $20K!

You'll want to figure out the first few types of projects that will be run on the machine and determine what type and number of feeders are necessary. By planning carefully, you can minimize the number of feeders and avoid getting 'stuck' with a bad setup.

For example, 0603-1206/SOT23 parts like passives, LEDs, and small transistors/chips will be in 8mm feeders. Larger parts like 2016 or SOT223 may be in 12mm and chips such as TSSOP's may be in 24mm! Check the datasheets for your parts carefully. The last page usually talks about packaging. You can also buy small "cut tape" strips to measure the parts.

Using a spreadsheet to calculate how many feeds you need for a project can cut the cost before the board is finished. You may end up changing packages (say from TQFP to QFN) just because you have the right sized feeder. The benefits

Tube feeder

Bottom vision


Tray holder