Tuesday, April 13, 2010

2 for the Price of 1: IPC APEX Expo 2010 Highlights SMT Assembly Machine Integration and Manipulation

Recessions tend to squeeze the highly cyclical capital equipment market. Coming out of this recession, companies look more likely than in 2008 and 2009 to invest in new capital equipment for their manufacturing facilities. Combine these trends, and it’s not surprising that the printer and pick-and-place designs seen at IPC APEX Expo 2010 went beyond typical in-line improvements.

Pemtron and SJ Innotech showcased a printer/SPI combination that — to oversimplify — bolted Pemtron’s TROI solder paste inspection system to the end of an SJ Innotech printer. Milara and Mirea conjoined a printer and pick-and-place system. Siemens and AssemblĂ©on both showcased methods to transform their pick-and-place systems to higher capacities without a change in floor space; Europlacer morphed its iineo placement platform into a chipshooter.

Why are companies gluing two machines together? Consider the benefits on the SMT line, starting with adjustable-capacity component placement machines. Adding pick-and-place onto an existing assembly line via the traditional route means moving around other capital equipment to make room, setting up new conveyors, integrating the new placement system onto the ERP or MES software, etc. Line balancing is a chore. With the more modular idea of adding placement heads to the pick-and-place machine, floor space and set-up time are saved, machine calibration is done automatically within the placer, and companies are more flexible with balancing lines or ramping production. Assembleon states that True Capacity on Demand for the high-volume A-Series can save 20% of initial capital costs. Coming soon in the Assembly center of smtonline.com, watch a technician add a gantry to the Siemens SIPLACE SX placement system during APEX.

The XPii-II from Europlacer was designed to join the line with iineo systems, boosting production to medium-/high-volume. Unlike the set-footprint Assembléon and Siemens systems that hold fewer or more placement heads depending on need, the XPii-II is a separate system with different feeder capacity than the iineo. However, it is the same design, in a smaller footprint. Joined to the iineo, it boosts the throughput of a high-component-mix line.

In some situations, affixing one piece of capital equipment to another is a matter of quality. Pemtron brought the technology from its stand-alone TROI SPI unit onto the SJ printer, in a tighter chassis. Companies willing to pair their equipment — which would otherwise be the user’s choice — seem to be stating that this printer is best served by that SPI system, and so forth. With many assemblers foregoing the staff and expense of a purchasing investigative committee, this is one endorsement for a smoothly functioning new SMT line. We’ll see more detail on the Pemtron/SJ Innotech product in the video demonstration Pemtron gave SMT at APEX. Look for it soon in the Printing center on smtonline.com.

Milara’s paired printer and placement system, the P3, combines a Touch Print Digital TD2929 printer and Mirae’s Mx400LP pick-and-place system with tray and max feeders. Why? Milara says that the set saves floor space, actually adds flexibility, and is faster than working with two different systems. Milara will service the system in the Americas, with annual training from Mirae.

Are you squeezing every inch of floor space on the SMT line, or is machine footprint lower on your priority list? Do production volume changes or line balancing force you to reconfigure lines? Are you glad to see companies integrating two pieces of machinery into one, or do you find it limiting? Let us know your opinions in the comments section.

Meredith Courtemanche, executive editor, mcourtemanche@pennwell.com

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