Reading time ( words)
When gathering info for this month’s topic on handling strategies, I knew there was much happening in the automation end of things and all that it can do for handling. But I also knew it was not something that is easy for the “little guy” to do—automation is expensive, in general, and it is not always conducive to the high mix of small lot sizes typical of the many prototypeplus facilities in North America and Europe.
I talked with upper management at a few of these shops, to get their thoughts on handling errors and automation, and they agreed:
It is difficult to automate when you are running prototypes and small lots. For example, Yash Sutariya of Saturn Flex told me that some years ago they had abandoned a type of auto unloader at the end of a line because it actually caused defects. The solution was a totally different type that worked much better. More on that in Yash’s short feature this month.
In conversations with IMI Inc.’s Peter Bigelow and Nilesh Naik of Eagle Circuits, while at IMPACT Washington, D.C. (another story, another time), they both agreed that handling and people-related mistakes and defects are always a concern, mainly because of the frequently changing requirements from one quick-turn proto job to the next. Their answer was training, training, and more training, reducing as many opportunities for error as possible and requiring everyone, from bottom to top, to constantly question and be aware of every step in the entire manufacturing process. It’s not perfect, but perhaps it is what works best when capital funds are limited and every job is non-standard.
All this being said, let’s not forget that the standard DES (develop-etch-strip) line is an automated process, as is that plating line with the automated hoist, as is the drill machine that is programmed to pick up and dispose of drills automatically. So you probably have already eliminated some handling issues. Read on for more pointers on how to further reduce handling and errors in your facility.
First up this month we have an interesting article on roll-to-roll processing of flex by Mark Wegner of Northfield Automation and Patrick Riechel from ESI. As flex applications grow and as technology forces ever finer and thinner circuits and materials, automated web handling may prove to be the most sensible and cost effective solution—even for small facilities. Next, Steve Williams of The Right Approach Consulting provides a clear and easy to understand discussion of 6S methodology.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of The PCB Magazine.