Manual Vs. Automatic Pick & Place Machines For PCB AssemblyYou need to get delicate surface mount components onto your printed circuit boards (PCB) quickly and accurately. Is it better to rely on manual techniques, or is automatic pick and place the way to go? Learn more about the pros and cons of manual methods and automatic pick and place machines to find out which SMT (surface mount technology) solution will work best for your business.

Manual PCB Component Placement

As the name suggests, any type of pick and place involves first picking up a small component and then placing it precisely onto your PCB. It sounds simple enough. In manual pick and place, tweezers or a vacuum pipette are used to grab parts and add them to circuit boards.

Unfortunately, this method of PCB assembly is prone to many operator-related errors. Many passive components lack part markings, and tweezers make component rotation difficult.

Although manual pick and place may seem to cost less upfront in machinery purchases, you may be paying for it in quality, accuracy, and time.


  • Low Upfront Costs
  • Short Turnaround Times For Use In Prototypes
  • Can Work Well For Low-Volume Production


  • Unreliable Component Placement
  • High Possibility Of Parts Mix-Ups
  • Higher Chance Of Wrong Component Orientations
  • Placement Accuracy Is Operator Dependent
  • Manual Placement Is Slow
  • Rejects & Reworks Waste Take

Machine-Assisted Pick & Place

For growing businesses that need more volume and precision, machine-assisted pick and place can make a difference. Benchtop or desktop pick and place machines have electronic heads that are manually moved along the x and y-axis by your technician.

Where fully the manual process requires your technician to hand solder, these desktop setups can usually include solder paste dispensing as well.


  • Less Operator Fatigue
  • Fewer Placement Errors
  • Better Placement & Soldering Control
  • Improved Yield
  • Less Need For Rework


  • Placement Accuracy Is Still Operator Dependent
  • Takes More Time Than Automatic Placement
  • More Capabilities Mean Purchasing More Complicated Bench Top Machines

Automatic Pick & Place Machines

Even if you’re starting off small, it’s important to consider the future when choosing your PCB assembly methods. Automatic Pick and place machines have been around for decades and are the industry standard for SMT manufacturing for good reason.

Your PCB components are loaded into specialized feeders and accessed by a robotic head and arm. The head is programmed to pick up each part and set it accurately onto the printed circuit board.


  • Better For High Volume Production
  • High Placement Speed
  • Consistent Quality, Accuracy & Repeatability
  • Can Place Very Fine Components Accurately
  • Can Handle Many Different Board Sizes
  • Can Handle A Variety Of Components
  • Software Maximizes Ease Of Use


  • Higher Upfront Cost
  • Initial Programming Takes Time
  • You Still Need To Test For Accuracy
  • Maintenance & Upkeep Is Necessary

Save With Used SMT Pick & Place Machines

If upfront costs are causing you to hesitate on purchasing automatic pick and place machines, consider buying used SMT equipment. You get the benefit of today’s technologies with less to invest at startup.

Order Your PCB Assembly Equipment

Now that you know more about the differences between manual and automatic methods of pick and place for PCB assembly, we invite you to explore the inventory of used SMT equipment at Capital Equipment Exchange. Contact us to start your order or get more information about a specific pick and place machine.