When you’re prototyping electronics, there’s a good chance you’re working with through hole components, where the leads are literally pushed through a hole to solder. On the other hand, there’s an entire separate world of components out there known as surface-mount devices, or SMD. Alternatively, the “D” can be swapped out for “T” to mean surface-mount technology, referring to the process of making these boards. The terms, however, are more or less used interchangeably.
Semantics aside, what we do know is that adding these little buggers into your design by hand requires patience and coordination, both of which we could all use a little more of. On the other hand, some technology is only available in this format, and using these components can help you save board space. Because of this, you may be forced to break out your fine-tipped iron, tweezers, and perhaps even magnifying instruments, and go to work. The video below will give you some clue as to what you’ll be up against:
Though the video makes the process look approachable, this isn’t presenter Collin Cunningham’s first try at soldering! For a bit of help through the process, a manual pick and place tool like the ezPick Manual Pick and Place Tool found here could be very helpful. It allows you to pick up the components with a vacuum head, rotate them as needed, then place them on your board. According to the item’s writeup:
ezPick transformed a laborious awkward task into a joyful simple task, always resulting in BIG smiles and a precisely assembled board that rivals the big guys.
Though I can’t guarantee that you’ll be smiling every time when using this, it sounds like it’s at least worth checking out!