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Intelligent Automation Enables Flexibility: Integrated SMD Production Reduces Manufacturing Costs
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 | Adrian Schärli, Azular GmbH, for Essemtec AG

Quality from the Beginning

It is always better to produce quality from the beginning instead of controlling it later. Rework and repair is both expensive and time consuming. Quality assurance measures in electronics production include high levels of experience and motivation from all employees, continuous service on production machines, and setup checks before the start of production. An important principle to follow is “the easier the machine operation, the fewer errors that will occur.”

eeZ software technology has been developed to increase production quality and flexibility. eeZ is the base of the ePlace machine operation software and eMIS production management software suite. eeZ technology supports touch screens and simplifies the operation of complex systems. It supports operators with a multi-lingual help system, automatic command completion, input validation, and other features that are standard on modern software.

Intelligent feeders and barcode-based setup verification is the base for strict quality assurance. Furthermore, Essemtec’s pick-and-place machines feature “Virtual View,” a combination of a live PCB view with virtual components. This allows positioning and alignment to be verified before production start, similar to the combination of satellite images with virtual streets on Web-based map systems.

Simulate Line-Balancing

Even if a machine does not produce, it still creates costs in the form of capital interest, service, and space. Inline automated production lines with multiple pick-and-place machines often have standstill times. The reason is bad balancing of the placement work to the individual modules.

Such complex plans are not feasible without integrated computer assistance. The simulation tool must have all data of the current situation as well as all production details of each individual component. With eMIS it is possible to simulate, optimize, and test production in advance. The software even allows virtual assembly lines to be set up for more complex what-if analyses.

Store Components within Production

In the past, components were prepared for specific jobs, transported to production, and sent back to storage after job completion. This was reliable; however, it involved high material inventory as well as increased logistics and stock movement efforts.

Today, very compact automatic component storage systems, such as the Tower, offer new possibilities. The Tower can bring the required component reel directly to the pick-and-place system. After production, the machine operator can replace the reel in the stock. This simple system avoids feeder setup errors. The stock motion is registered, the inventory is automatically corrected and transport routes are eliminated.

A tower can even store MSL-classified components safely without any additional packing. Due to a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment, floor live time is kept constant after a reel has been stored inside the Tower. As such, the automatic storage system can save a great amount of expensive MSL packaging material.

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