I figure this will be of interest to a few here.
JLCPCB which is one of the large pool pcb prototype service suppliers in China have been running a unique SMD assembly service internal to China. They’re advertising this as coming soon to the rest of the world, and some enquiries said it was going to be last month, so should be soon.
Essentially they have a heap of P&P machines lined up end to end with a bunch of stock parts loaded (some have suggested 20 machines), you order the boards with parts from their standard library and as the panel comes out of the fab it then goes through their assembly line. They have a much larger library you can order from, but you have to pay and extra fee for each additional part.
This kind of pools the assembly cost as well. So on their website at the moment it’s a min charge of just over $10USD + 0.003 per joint with a 24hr additional time to the PCB fab. The turn time is pretty much unheard of from other suppliers at the moment and what has me really interested.
To put this in perspective, it normally costs me the PCB fab cost + $8USD for a stencil + maybe an extra $10USD freight due to the shape of the stencil and packing. So for less than the cost of buying a stencil, we’ll be able to order PCBs already assembled (or at least all the jellybean parts.)
This has probably just made building a P&P machine pretty much redundant!