This month, we talked with Ben from our Discord server about how the LumenPnP has aided him in making it possible to turn his hobby into a business. He makes parts for the Super GameBoy and has modded his LumenPnP to be perfect for his needs. We had a blast learning about what Ben does and we hope you do too!
Tell us a bit about yourself, and what you make.
My name is Ben, I'm a systems admin by day, but an electronics hobbyist in my spare time. I'm a big fan of retro gaming, and the recent explosion of the modding scene for things like high-quality video outputs, power supply replacements, and other improvements really got me interested in electronics, enough to pick up a second major and actually study electronics at college.
Initially, I just got into it as a personal hobby, but over the last few years I've started branching out into selling some of my designs, and trying to grow that hobby into a successful side business.
What are you building with your LumenPnP?
I mostly make small mod kits for retro gaming hardware. My most popular item is a clock generator that corrects the slightly-too-fast main clock speed of the Super GameBoy. I've recently started branching out into IoT/Smart Home devices as well.
Did you build or buy a LumenPnP? Have you made any modifications from the original build?
I built my own machine. I got really excited when Stephen posted the video of the machine building its own motherboard, but there were no kits available at the time, so I went ahead with a DIY build.
I've installed a lot of mods in my machine, many of which I've designed myself, including custom ring lights using LED strips instead of a PCB, a cable chain, custom power supply and mini PCB mounts on the bottom of the staging plate, custom legs to allow for the use of both feeder rails with a 3x sized staging plate, and I'm also running linear rails.
How many boards a month do you produce with your machines?
It varies a lot, because I'm still a pretty small shop, but on a good month it can be as many as a few hundred. I'm currently moving/rebuilding my lab, but once I have the new place set up, I hope to ramp up my production capabilities quite a bit, and the Lumen will be a huge help in that endeavor.
How were you building these boards before the LumenPnP?
Mostly by hand, but in a lot of cases, I just wasn't. A lot of designs that I've made over the years were just way more than I could have handled myself by hand, so the projects ended up stalling out without ever going into production.
Now that I have the Lumen, I'm pulling a lot of those older designs out and giving them the chance to see the light of day, where they never would have otherwise.
What is the single most important piece of advice for running an SMT line?
Organize your space. Organize your tools. Organize your components (still working on this one, if anybody has any suggestions, I'm all ears...). SMT assembly involves so many TINY pieces that eventually collect over time, and if you don't have a system to know what you have and where it is, it very quickly becomes an unmanageable mess.
Something I picked up from a Voidstar Labs video is that parts that you don't know you have are worse than useless, because not only do you not know you have them, or where they are when you need them, but they're also taking up space and leading to clutter.
What's your solder paste of choice? Any advice for others?
Currently ChipQuik TS391AX50 thermally stable eutectic lead solder. Though, I really should switch to lead-free, and I'll probably go with Loctite GC-10.
For more information about what Ben does, please feel free to check it out on his Linktree or catch him on our community Discord.