If I want to manufacture boards on a small scale (say I build a laser tag or gps puzzle box board and want to make a few. Like 100), and I don't want to solder them all by hand, then I'll need a business partner or a pick and place machine. Since doing it myself will be cheaper and potentially more fun to learn, I've looked a bit into pick and place machines. Since I'm trying to keep costs down to as low as possible, I'm looking into DIY or other low cost alternatives. I found a few pick and place machines on the internet, and here they are (this is not exhaustive. It's just some cool things I found).
Open Source Pick and Place: This is an open source pick and place project. They use a raspberry pi as the processor and they are trying to get the machine to cost around $2000. They're trying to do a kickstarter come summer 2013.
Dangerous Prototypes blog: TM220A: This is a chinese pick and place machine that does not do any vision processing (aka, doesn't auto correct by looking at the parts and the board to see if it is placing things correctly). It is around $3600.
Hoektronics meet a Shenzhen Maker: This is a cool article about a person who wanted to learn about pick and place machines and went to see someone who has his own fabrication lab in his house. It's a neat article. The guy who runs the blog, Hoektronics, also has some other cool projects, like the blinkyboard, an Atmega 32u4, which is the same processor that is in the arduino Leonardo (the blinkyboard is made to control LED strips).
Build a Pick and Place Machine: The guys from build your own CNC machine have made a pick and place machine for DIY enthusiasts to build. It's around $3700 and requires a good amount of knowledge to assemble it. Which means more time I'm spending putting a machine together instead of making parts.
Pick and Place Assistent: This one isn't an automated pick and place machine, but it does look like a handy tool to help with picking and placing components by hand. It's about $100.
However, in order for a purchase such as this to be a good idea, I need to make a case that the time saved using the machine outweighs the time I would have spent making the darn things by hand. Therefore, before I dive in, I need to clearly estimate the number of boards I will be making (aka actually building the product and testing it out) and do a cost benefit analysis before I get the machine. In the meantime, this is notes for me for the future, because knowledge is power. And power is Voltage times Amperage.