Help day focus – SMT technology – Solder paste and what we should know about it


May 28th in Olimex training building we will have our Help day.

There we will discuss everything around electronics, but we want to add small twist to these meetings, so each time we make Help day we will add small focus theme with slide presentations and transfer some know how we have.

This help day focus will be around SMT technology and production and specially one of it’s very important componets – the Solder paste.

There are lot of myths and mysteries around solder pastes and we will try to remove them, so at the end of the day you know:

  • what is solder paste
  • what are solder paste most important characteristics
  • what types of solder paste exist
  • how solder paste should be handled
  • what happens after solder paste expire date
  • can we bring back to life old solder paste
  • how to trouble shoot problems related to solder paste

We will share things we learned during the last 25 years dealing with electronic design and production.



SMT component sizes and metric – imperial confusion


The picture above show the SMT component sizes.

Normally component sizes were used with imperial units, like 1206, 0805 etc. The problem occur when after 0201 (20 x 10 mils) new component was introduced with 10 x 5 mils the new name 01005 didn’t sound so well. So most SMT machine manufacturers switched to metric system and all parameters in Samsung and Sony machines for instance are in metric units.

My first confusion was when I decided to buy Sony machine in the specs I read: can place components with size from 0603 up to 40×40 mm. I told myself WTF? So expensive machine and works just with 0603 components????

But then the Sony technical support explained to me that 0603 is metric and corresponds to 0201 imperial units. Later when Sony closed their business we were looking aroung for our next machine and reading Samsnug specs:


We already know that 0603 is metric and corresponds to 0201 imperial.

So the bottom line is when you speak for SMT components with size 0402 or 0603 always mention in what units you are talking or confusions could be possible 😉

Open Source SMT PCB assembly production :)


We deal with electronic boards design and assembly for more than 25 years. During this time we got lot of experience and passed through many technologies and equipment so we know the + and – in all these approaches to produce. In other hand most of the people who work in the SMT production area are not quite willing to share their knowledge, sure there is money behind the production, so everyone would love to “consult” you for a nice amount of money, in most of the cases you got nothing for your money or far less than you expected.

We had to go through this path by our own and to learn how things work the hard way. Sure there are lot of internet resources and books about SMT manufacturing and troubleshooting, but at least in Bulgaria people who do PCB assembly do not like to share, as they think they will lost their advantage or will grow up competition.  Once you learn things you see that this is not rocket science, but if you have to work on this road alone you can waste lot of time. Now we do our SMT equipment installation, service, calibration, maintenance by our own. In the rare cases we needed SMT equipment manufacturer-distributor-service advice on problems we had to wait months and usually they suggest replace with new this or that while later we found this was not the problem at all and not necessary.

We believe that knowledge sharing is good, this rise the competence of the people around you with which you share, and you both can move forward faster instead to re-invent the wheel again and again.

So here is our proposal: If you want to start your own SMT electronic board assembly and have questions on the technology or about machines you need to set your own production send us email describing what do you want, what is the type of boards you want to assembly, quantities and your rough budget and we can advise you if this is possible and eventually what equipment you will need to accomplish this.

On our wiki there is dedicated page with more information.


New Product in stock: Open Source Hardware SMT-PROTOBOARD with many SMT component footprints and KiCAD files


SMT-PROTOBOARD is Open Source Hardware prototyping board with these features:

  • FR-4, 1.55 mm, gold plating
  • dimensions: 124.46 x 101.6 mm
  • SMT footprints:
  • LQFP 32, 44, 52, 64 at 0.8 mm step
  • TQFP 32, 44, 52, 64, 80, 100 at 0.50 mm step
  • x4 SOT23-6
  • x3  SOT89
  • x3 buttons 6×6 mm
  • micro SD card
  • mini USB connector
  • JTAG connector
  • UEXT connector
  • x6 LEDs 0805 + R0805
  • TSSOP 2*92 at 25 mils
  • TSSOP 2*32 at 50 mils
  • PROTO x3 16×4 0.1″ step
  • PROTO x2 16×8 0.1″ step

Board is designed with KiCAD and files are available at GitHub

Stencil Printer SD-240 back in stock


Our popular SD-240 Stencil Solder Mask printers are back in stock. They were out of stock for several months as the producer Technoprint closed their SMT machine production.

Fortunately one of their supplier took over the production and restored it. Now we have SD-240 back in stock and SD-300 will be in stock soon too!

Sad News for SONY – they are looking to sell their mobile and TV divisions


SONY used to be synonym for great products with incredible quality for decades.

There were rumors and corporate legends about how they throw TVs with defects is the sea etc. (nobody knows if this was real or not but these legends sounded good).

The Trinitron CRT technology gave them name for the best TV manufacturer, something like Mercedes brand is for cars.
But being on top for so many years play bad joke to them, they became huge and fat corporation and silently Samsung took the leadership with the new LCD and flat screen technology TVs, so SONY became just yet another TV manufacturer and all the news and improvements were not done by them for the last years.

In 2012 Sony sold their SMT machine business, then they sold the VAIO brand and PC business, now they quit the competitive mobile business and one of their core foundation – the TV business. WTF is happening with Sony? This company was so innovative in the past, how come from leader they become a looser?

Our first hand experience with SONY is with their SMT Pick and Place machines.

Back in 2012 I was looking for upgrade of our SMT machines and spotted SONY machines, they had incredible features on the flyers and we got good price so we ordered line of two machines SONY SI-G200MK3 and SI-F209 in line.

We got the two machines in the middle of 2012 …. in December 2012 Sony sold their SMT division to Juki. These machines are one of the finest Pick and Place machines I have seen. Incredible mechanical strength, precision, speed. The Japanese engineers are well known to be the best mechanics in the world, who ever have dealt with motorcycles knows that one of the finest mechanical part the carburetor where gasoline and air are mixed are manufactured just in Japan, no matter if the motorcycle is German, US, Italian – all they work with Japanese carburetors because it’s very precise mechanical device and nobody else can match Japanese mechanical production quality.

Our SI-200G MK3 places 200 components on A20-OLinuXino-LIME for about 15 seconds! This is incredible and unmatched productivity. Although very expensive their high speed make overall assembly cost several times lower than other machines we have.

I can’t say any good word for the machine software though, when we work with these machines we got the impression that their software is written with HATE to the end user. Everything is made NON logical, incredible hard to use and understand. Components waste during programming and first board pass is incredible. We got the impression that 90% of all road to good user experience was made and they failed or didn’t care to make this final 10% working. Functionality which we have even on the cheapest Chinese made Autotronik machines are MISSING in this HIGH END, HIGH PRECISION, INCREDIBLE masterpiece of mechanical engineering.

Error messages you got are NON sense and confusing. For instance your feeder peel of tape is blocked and simple have to be released – instead to write check your feeder on slot N you get 12 different messages for servo motor problems, and how to contact your Sony FA service.

When you change your machine program you have to place your NOZZLES manually to the machine head, this is the first machine which have no auto Nozzle change feature.

The machine runs Windows and have Ethernet port, but you have to load it’s program with FLOPPY DISK and to pay $2000 more if you want to use your Ethernet? WTF??? Needless to say this ‘feature’ can be enabled by any student who ever used to use Windows but the bitter taste of being customer used like sheep to shave remains.

Feeders which cost $200-300 by any other manufacturers, cost $2000 for the Sony placers. I have opened Sony feeder but didn’t saw gold or diamonds to be used inside which to justify this price! Maybe the secrets is that inside everything is branded Sankyo – motors, PCBs, etc so actually these feeders are not made by Sony?

Simple nozzle which Chinese vendor (who produces them for Sony) sells for $50 cost $800 if you buy from the Sony representative.

Spare parts are also at unbelievable prices, like CCD camera for $10 000 and etc.

Needles to say the salesman who sold us the line hidden lot of these facts when came to sell the machine, the good news is that these machines are so solid build that spare parts would be needed after years of operation (we hope 🙂 ).

The machine programming on separate computer is locked with USB dongle! Why on earth you lock this software which WORKS ONLY WITH YOUR MACHINES?? Not speaking that this is the most buggy and user unfriendly programming software I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot. Once you do mistake there is no step back, you have to start over from scratch and waste your time again and again! If you make machine programming once per month this is OK, but we have 600 different products and we have to change the programs daily.

Elementary small software details which exist on every other machine to make your life easy here are missing. For me it seems the software of these machines is made by secod grade student who never have been seen pick and place machine before and was learning how to make something.

No wonder why at the end of 2012 Sony sold they SMT machines business to Juki, Juki engineer earlier told me that even in the Sony factories they prefer to use Juki instead of their own Sony Pick and Place machines. I don’t know if this is true or not, but seems logical.

Do not get me wrong! SONY machines are excellent as mechanics, productivity, precision. If they made some small enhancement these machines would be the best choice for every PCB assembly shop. Maybe this business model is the reason they keep losing their customers and markets, they have great products which are made in such way that to push away the users providing one of the worst user experience, which easily could be fixed by software!

In the good times when Sony was on top and had pile of cash they bough film producing company in Holywood. Sony Pictures now still seems the only profitable unit in Sony Corp. Will Sony became just a film producing company and will stop doing electronics at all? Time will show.

Workshops at Olimex Training Building – 10th of January – Intel vs ARM, IoT and SMT Technology


2014 is almost gone, New Year is coming and we will start the year with three Workshops on January 10th.

Update your agenda: Starting from 14.00 o’clock on 10th of January in Olimex Training Building there will be three interesting workshops.

First Workshop will be about Intel vs ARM. Minnowboard MAX will be compared to OLinuXino and RK3188-SOM-EVB in terms of productivity, power consumption, Linux support, etc.

Second Workshop will present ESP8266 and RT5350 OSHW boards for IoT applications.

Third Workshop will be about SMT technology, type of components, how to design PCBs for SMT, what is solder paste, how to handle solder paste, how to design stencil for solder paste, how to print solder paste, reflow profiles, how to make profile and how to trouble shoot problems with SMT technology like printing, soldering etc. There will be practical demonstrations and will be shared know-how captured for the 23+ years of experience with electronics manufacturing which cost gold 🙂

Everyone is invited! This is free event.

SMT news from SMT & Hybrid exhibition in Nuremberg Germany


Last week from May 6th to 8th the SMT & Hybrid exhibition for SMT machines and technologies was held in Nuremberg, Germany.

All the big names were there: JUKI, Panasonic, Samsung, Fuji, DEK, Hitachi, Siplace.

Juki became monster source for SMT machines after they bough SONY SMT business. The benefits of this purchase is the newly released RX-7 machine which they were exhibiting which is based on the proven SONY revolver head technology with 12 nozzles and combined with JUKI software and platform.

Something very interesting is the new SMART auto splice feeders. These are offered now by SAMSUNG, HITACHI, FUJI and I guess many other will follow.


you see one such on the picture above. The magic with this kind of feeders is that they can work with cut reels and stripes and the feeder auto load the tape without need of any operator intervention, this way these feeders have no down time during production.

You can see it here in action:

This is very significant innovation, as with the high speed machines the feeder re-loads is the major bottleneck of the productivity.

FUJI are one of the top vendors for high speed machines.


The above machine is one of the top notch SMT machines one could wish to have, but their prices are serious too 🙂

There are lot of small SMT machine vendors too like Fritsch, Autotronik, Essemtec these vendors can’t compete with the big boys in terms of precision, speed, etc. but cost less and have well done software and features which allow fast change overs, so good for small companies with low volumes and high mix.


Overall is good to see that the industry is innovating and moving forward in terms of speed and precision.