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Test and Measurement in a Smart Factory

This Month in SMT007 Magazine: Test and Measurement in a Smart Factory

I spoke with MIRTEC President Brian D’Amico about how the role of test and measurement equipment is changing in the smart factory and how shops can adjust to make use of the new technology. D’Amico shares this insight: “While approximately 90% of U.S. electronics manufacturers recognize the potential of Industry 4.0 to improve productivity, many are slow to adopt smart factory solutions within the manufacturing process.”

Nolan Johnson: What are the changes to test and inspection’s role in the factory? Does it differ depending on whether you’re in the U.S., Europe, or Asia?

Brian D’Amico: Industry 4.0 is a topic of much discussion within the electronics manufacturing industry. Manufacturers and vendors are trying to come to terms with what that means. In the most simplistic of terms, Industry 4.0 is a trend toward automation and data exchange within the manufacturing process. This basically requires connectivity and communication from machine to machine within the manufacturing line. The challenge is to collect data from each of the systems within the line and make that data available to the rest of the machines.

Without test and inspection, there is no Industry 4.0. The whole purpose of test and inspection is to collect actionable data that may be used to reduce defects and maximize efficiency within the manufacturing line. The goal is to minimize scrap and get a really good handle on those process parameters that need to be put in place to manufacture products the right way the first time.

For maximum efficiency, three inspection systems are required within the production line. These are solder paste inspection (SPI) post-solder deposition, automated optical inspection (AOI) post-placement, and AOI post-reflow. This requires a substantial investment; however, the combination of all three inspection machines is really the only true way to provide feedback for each stage of the manufacturing process.

Johnson: You mentioned three places to put test and inspection. In a more traditional “red light, green light” approach, test and inspection is an end-of-the line process.

D’Amico: While I understand and agree that most manufacturers rely on a single post-reflow AOI system, the problem is that it becomes more difficult to diagnose and resolve where an issue may have occurred within the manufacturing line because you’re only looking at a snapshot of the final result of all the other assembly equipment within the line. From there, you’re kind of guessing where the issue occurred.

An SPI system, for example, would provide immediate feedback on issues such as insufficient or excessive solder, solder bridging, or solder offset directly after solder deposition. These issues are typically related to process parameters, such as stroke speed for a screen printer, squeegee pressure, under-stencil cleaning, etc. The bottom line is that it is more difficult to diagnose screen printing issues based on data collected by post-reflow AOI.

To read this entire interview, which appeared in the November 2020 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.

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