not to forgot that pick palce was only one item of a whole system
you first need a good stencil printer ,since you all begin whit a good past deposit
next you need a good reflwo ,forgot china drawer type ,hacked toaster ,all that <2KW
personally i put lot of time ,to find a good and "small" reflow and end-up whit a 6 feet long 300lbs 8KW beast
but that the key of the system if you what reliable production
at this stage you may done hand assembly whit past of BGA ,QFN and everything
optionally you may got batch cleaner or build one yourself, since even no clean need cleaning ...
now your ready to got a pick place for save time and human error
on my side i chose a used machine and do what machine cannot made by hand ..
I pretty much agree with what you say. I figure a reasonable set of equipment for PCB assembly will cost $50,000 or so. I base that on the APS Novastar LE40V pick-and-place, a bunch of component feeders, and their low-end $8500 multi-zone conveyor oven. My second choice is the MDC 7722V unit that everyone here seems to favor. Of course, I'm just making an educated guess. I wonder whether anyone has enough experience with [close to] all modern pick-and-place machines to make a reliable comparison.
About the "no clean" question. I also have come to the same conclusion as you - that we should plan to clean our PCBs no matter what solderpaste we adopt. That's why I decided to order "water soluble" solderpaste rather than "no clean". However, I have not figured out what chemicals I should mix with distilled water to clean the PCBs. Also, is cleaning in an ultrasonic cleaner plausible for this purpose? I suspect not, but what do I know? (Answer: zip, zero, nada). Can anyone help me understand the options for cleaning the PCBs?