Electrical circuits such as printed wiring boards or hybrid microcircuits designed to utilize surface mount electrical components are commonly assembled by computer-controlled automated equipment. These machines typically use a vacuum nozzle to pick up and handle the components during assembly. Three methods are commonly used to feed surface mount components to automatic assembly equipment: tape reel feeders, linear or bowl-type vibratory feeders, or waffle-style packages.
Very small mechanical components for micromechanical assemblies are often generated by wet manufacturing processes such as LIGA or micro-wire-EDM. These manufacturing processes result in the components being in a loose bulk state needing to be manipulated and organized for pickup by automated equipment.
As both microelectrical and mechanical components get smaller, it becomes more difficult to manipulate and orient components that are not prepackaged in a reel, linear, or waffle package, and these smaller components do not move well with vibratory feeders.
This feed mechanism is designed to automatically present small components that are supplied in bulk into a repeatable position to allow them to be picked up by automated equipment. Using a series of sliding shelves and wiping arms, this mechanism can operate on components as small as the width of a human hair (0.002 — 0.010") to single out one component from a bulk supply of components. It will then orient the component and present that one component into an exact location for pickup. All other small-component feeders used in automated assembly equipment require the components to be placed to be prepackaged in an equidistant organized pattern.
As a bulk feeder for miniature electronic or mechanical components and solder preforms, this product would benefit manufacturers of microelectronic or mechanical assembly equipment; circuit board assembly manufacturers; and in automated and hand operations.