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I have known the Ucamco people for over 30 years and recognise their company as an industry-leading provider of PCB CAM and pre-CAM software, as well as laser photoplotters and direct imaging systems. The team has always endeavoured to understand customer needs—often to anticipate them—and to respond with innovative solutions.
At the 2019 productronica exhibition in Munich last November, in a conversation with Ucamco managing director Karel Tavernier, I learned about a new concept in front-end software: iamcam, with “iam” standing for intelligence-aided manufacturing. Later, at this year’s IPC APEX EXPO, I had the opportunity to speak with Luc Maesen, director of Ucamco USA, and learn a little more about an automated workflow system using artificial intelligence on top of Ucamco’s automation engine to do the same for CAM as had been done for pre-CAM with Integr8tor software.
In the words of Tavernier, “The main goal is to take the drudgery out of CAM work. For standard boards, there’s no reason why the CAM process can’t be done completely automatically.” Maesen commented, “We don’t necessarily see it as a replacement of every CAM operator, but the vast majority of the work can be done by this fully-automated programme, which allows your experts to concentrate on the ones where you really need to pay attention because they have special requirements.”
When it was announced that there would be a webinar to describe the details of iamcam, I immediately signed up. The event was professionally presented by Ucamco applications engineers. Adam Newington provided the commentary, Denis Morin drove the live demonstration, and Sylvia Liemer responded to questions from the audience.
Newington introduced iamcam as a new, automated PCB front-end workflow, designed to overcome the challenges faced daily by typical PCB fabricators of tooling-up many low-added-value standard jobs with manual CAM—expensive, time-consuming, and with potentially inconsistent quality. It offers a client/server solution for off-loading routine PCB CAM data preparation, reducing front-end processing time and costs, avoiding human error, and enabling higher throughput with less manpower. He set out to explain how iamcam fitted in and how it worked.
Generally, as-received data is not good enough to go straight into production without a series of checks and setting-up operations, monotonous if performed manually. The primary purpose of iamcam is to help the PCB fabricator to automate the CAM process. In the majority of cases, the iamcam workflow-based solution takes care of all those manual operations necessary to get the job into production as quickly as possible. Combining the workflow system with a web-server allows it to work in the background as an “automation engine.”
The heart of the iamcam system is a suite of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that examine and analyse the data, filter out good from bad, and make assessments and judgments that enable the system to output production-ready, single-image data of the required quality. Iamcam has the proven capability to run a large percentage of jobs through the front-end in a fully automatic mode.
To read this entire article, which appeared in the December 2020 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.