Community Spotlight: Andy Ortman

This month, we talked with Andy Ortman. When he joined the community, he hit the ground running with creating an amazing design of 3D Printable nozzles for the LumenPnP. It was great learning more about him and what he does in his free time. Check it out below.


Tell us a bit about yourself and what you make.

Hi! My name is Andy Ortman, and I am a Data Scientist / Software Engineer by day and a hardware enthusiast by night. I’m an avid athlete, and play several competitive sports, one of them is dodgeball! It’s a little different than the movie, but I actually do travel the United States playing in competitive tournaments a couple of times a year.

I have extremely shaky hands, which is caused by a nervous system condition called Essential Tremor. There’s not much I can do for it until it gets bad enough as I age. For now, I have to cope with it. This, unfortunately, meant my electronics hobby was limited to larger components and a LOT of patience under a microscope. I got frustrated and decided to spend some money on a small pick and place machine. The LumenPNP was a good fit: it was open source (so I could hack on it!), it was small, and it could handle 0402 and 0603 components - the ones I really struggle with.


What are you building with your LumenPnP? 

I have a few ideas running around now, and all of them are just hobbies. The LumenPNP helps me take ideas quickly from schematic to proven design without having to worry about whether I am able to place the components by hand successfully. 

Right now, I am working on something that might be a little too ambitious - but it combines all of my interests into one - IMUs, sensor fusion, low power radio (LORA), and ultra low power sensors. It’s called the “BallTrak.” 

The device is small, only about 40mmx40mm, and is powered by a soldered on CR3032 battery. It is powered by an STM32U5 microcontroller and features an accelerometer, gyro, magnetometer, microphone, and a precise barometer for height estimation. All of these parts were selected for battery efficiency as all of this is permanently stuffed into a foam dodgeball, with the idea that the dodgeball will wear out before the battery goes completely empty. **

I plan to measure the different forces applied to a dodgeball when thrown by professional players. The ultimate goal is to make the device smart, able to tell how fast it was thrown, how much spin it had, and if it hit a player or the ground first. With that data, I hope to build an automatic logger for every game, able to produce stats for individual players and offer comparisons with competitors to improve your play.

** Hopefully - my obviously correct (;P) napkin math says I should be able to get at least 40-60 hours of play in, and by then, the ball is probably ready to be recycled. Figuring out how to save as much energy as possible is going to be the fun part.


Did you build or buy a LumenPnP? Have you made any modifications from the original build?

I was honestly a little intimidated by building a Lumen, so I bought a prebuilt one directly from Opulo. It was pretty easy to set up, and over time, I became more comfortable with how everything was put together. I eventually had the guts to take it apart to do the Linear Rail mod, and was really happy I did. 

I’ve also contributed back a mod of my own, the resin printed nozzle system. Vision Pipelines with the standard black oxide/steel nozzles work pretty well, but can sometimes take quite a bit of tuning to get right, especially with darker parts. The oxide layer sometimes scratches - and that can also cause problems with OpenCV. I decided to see if I could make a better nozzle.

First, I wanted green nozzles. Of course, I could have figured out a way to integrate Juki nozzles, but I decided instead to find an economical way of producing nozzles all the way down the 0.45mm nozzle using an off the shelf 3d printer. This way, if I break a nozzle or want a custom nozzle design, it’s trivial - plus, anyone can print one on their own. After about 3 dozen prototypes, I figured out the method of postprocessing the resin prints to get the nozzles just right. I posted all the instructions on my printable page

How many boards a month do you produce with your machines?

I usually do one-off boards, usually in panels of 2-4. I plan on producing a few dozen of the BallTrak devices for testing, and with ~65 components on each board, I’m glad I have a Lumen - once the setup is done, I can crank these boards out no problem.


How were you building these boards before the LumenPnP?

Very tedious microscope work! I hated every minute of it!

Other than the PnP, I have a Controleo3 Reflow Oven, which I absolutely love—it really makes the reflow process easy and super repeatable. You can build one yourself using a kit, or you can buy a fully assembled one from them yourself. I chose the latter, as getting the insulation just right involves quite a bit of involvement.

I also have a 3d printed SMD stencil frame that connects to a vacuum. The vacuum helps keep the stencil perfectly flat against the boards. It is based on this design. It really helps with reproducibility and the perfect application of solder paste. I found that solder paste application is about 80% of the hard work involved with making perfect boards. Parts can be misaligned slightly, but if there is too much solder paste on a pad, or too little, or even a small smear, then you will suffer from a variety of issues - especially bridging on small QFN chips and solder balls.

What is the single most important piece of advice for running an SMT line?

The biggest advice is to really nail down the solder paste printing - especially if you are working on anything smaller than 0603 parts. If you are working with 0402’s, use a thinner stencil to control the amount of paste applied to the board. I use 0.1mm stencils, and that’s perfect - if you use JLCPCB or PCBWay, they offer thinner stencils at no extra cost.

What's your solder paste of choice? Any advice for others?

For boards with 0603 and bigger, I use Loctite’s GC 32 SAC305T3 No Clean Lead-Free paste. This Type 3 paste is good for most applications. For boards with 0402s or ICs with very fine pitches, I like to use the more expensive Kester NP560 - it is a Type 4 paste, meaning the solder ball sizes are much smaller, so it works well with parts like 0402s. 

I keep both of the pastes in a miniature refrigerator meant for makeup. It works really well and is completely silent, which is good for my workspace!


To keep up to date with Andy,
check out his GitHub and LinkedIn Profile.