This month, we talked with Mike Dunston, who has greatly contributed to our community. If you have asked a technical question in the LumenPnP Discord channel, odds are you have spoken with him.
Mike's extensive knowledge and great attitude have made him someone we are proud to have as the first community spotlight of the year. We really enjoyed learning about what he has been up to and about his new project that is debuting this month.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you make.
My name is Mike Dunston, and I've been a software engineer for over 25 years working for various companies. In 2017, I jumped back into my childhood hobby of model trains, this time with enough resources to do what I wanted to do!
In late 2020 and early 2021, I started developing various PCBs for my open source projects. In late 2022, I started working with Model Rectifier Corporation to refresh their product lines, with product announcements being made in January 2024 at the Amherst Railroad Society train show in West Springfield, MA.
What are you building with your LumenPnP?
Right now, the machine is building PCBs for my hobbies and side gig, all relating to model trains. The most recent boards have been for throttles and digital command control (DCC). The most recent board is a DCC decoder to embed inside an HO scale locomotive.
Did you build or buy a LumenPnP? Have you made any modifications from the original build?
I bought the initial kit version of the LumenPnP. Before I even had it fully assembled and producing boards, I was already looking at the creative mods that people were making for the Lumen. I've since rebuilt and reprinted every part of the LumenPnP at least twice. The most recent modifications are the WideBody mod (800mm X axis), Linear Rails, and Starfish/Jellyfish control boards.
How many boards a month do you produce with your machines?
10-20, possibly 250-500 per month in 2024
How were you building these boards before the LumenPnP?
Most boards were assembled by JLCPCB, in part or in whole, with some of the later boards fully hand-assembled. After assembling a couple of boards with 200+ components, I was convinced of the need for a PnP machine.
What is the single most important piece of advice for running an SMT line?
Have plenty of patience, and don't give up when things don't work as you expect them to. Keep trying and experimenting, as there is a solution for every problem that might be encountered.
What's your solder paste of choice? Any advice for others?
ChipQuik low temp and regular temp followed closely by GC10.
The commercial boards he is working on will be available in a few months through various online retailers, and his name will be on the PCB and in the firmware.