Building vacuum tweezers

I'm going to build a small run of boards, and was looking for a vacuum tweezers to simplify my work. I couldn't find any for sale, so I built them myself; here are some notes on the construction.

Tweezers tip

I ordered the cheapest vacuum tweezers on eBay. I received the tweezers and rubber tip extensions. Just for fun, I tried to use them as intended and they are terribly bad. I couldn't pick single 0805 resistor with them. There is a small balloon inside, which I replaced by the tubing, and kept the rest. This gets me a handle, and more importantly, a nice tip, just wide enough to pick, but not suck, 0805 (I will need to get smaller tip for smaller parts).

Plastic tubing

Another important part is the tubing. You want something thick enough, so it won't bend too much and restrict airflow, but thin enough so it can be bent as needed. I bought 10mm tube with 5mm inner diameter, and its way too much rigid, and I will probably replace it with something half the thickness.

Motor & power

I used the cheapest motor (about 5W) that has intake and outtake, and it performs well. I can lift many parts without problems, and can even pick a micro-SD card, although that requires some fiddling and is on the edge. If you need to lift larger packages, you should get something more powerful. Also, my tubing is 30cm long, so if you plan to use longer tube, you should get more powerful motor, otherwise the pickup might be delayed.

Construction

The construction can be as simple as connecting motor to a power supply and joining the motor with tweezers tip with a tubing. I initially tested it like this, but later on I built a nice box, and attached a foot pedal.

There are no advanced electronics inside, its just a motor connected to 12V brick, and two switches in series (a foot pedal, and a switch on the box, just in case I want to disable the pedal).

The motor, power connector and a switch are all mounted in an old recycled project box.

The messy inside.Finished enclosure on my desk.Foot pedal.

Conclusion

It works reasonably well. I have yet to test it on some bigger build, but so far I'm pretty happy.

One thing I'm not sure of is the foot pedal. I wanted to avoid using my hand to turn the airflow on/off, as the hand needs to be steady during picking and placing the part. The problem with the pedal is that it's too high, and my foot isn't really in a comfortable position while using it. I will try to remedy this somehow (putting something under my foot). If that fails, I can always cut a hole in the tubing, so I can run the motor all the time and apply/release the pressure by plugging that hole.

Another thing I was worried about is the reaction time. As I'm turning on/off the motor to pick/place, the pressure needs to propagate through the tubing. This turned out to be OK, and they delay is not noticeable. If it turns out to be a problem, I can remedy this with the hole and hand switch as well.

I know pictures are not that exciting, but here they are, me holding a 0805 resistor and an SD card.

Putting down a resistor.Picking up a resistor.SD card picked.SD card picked.SD card picked.SD card picked.