Important factors for investing in total line solutions

Hawker Richardson

Wednesday, 01 March, 2023

Important factors for investing in total line solutions

With the buoyancy of the SMT market in Australia in the last couple of years, there’s been an increase in manufacturers in Australasia seeking solutions that’ll serve their needs of expansion, including investing in total line solutions (TLS) of SMT equipment.

There is often a myriad of questions and decision-making around investing in a TLS and the ‘project’ is something not undertaken lightly. With that in mind we have outlined some important considerations in investing in TLSs, ensuring expectations are met and with no hidden disasters.

1. Data transfer — communication between machines is important to ensure that the printer is printing solder accurately and feedback to the printer from the solder printing inspection (SPI) system can stop production in its tracks if an error of alignment, height error or issue with the volume of paste is flagged. Similarly, communication between the mounter and an automated optical inspection (AOI) system can stop production if the AOI system inspects the board and sees the wrong component has been mounted in the wrong place or a component has been mounted using the wrong orientation. Data transfer between machines can obviously be difficult if you have ‘mixed and matched’ your supplier and machines are manufactured by different OEMs. If this proactive approach to checking boards is essential then choosing something like Yamaha and its machine-to-machine (M2M) software can provide that piece of mind and stop production, minimising downtime and waste.

2. Multiple processes — are often required if the systems within the line do not talk to each other. Third-party software is often requested with additional investment required to ensure data can be exported. Some protocols such as HERMES (published under IPC-HERMES-9852) are non-proprietary open protocols, based on TCP/IP- and XML. HERMES takes the exchange of PCB-related data to enable M2M communication. Ensuring each system in the line including conveyors is equipped with the HERMES protocol comes at additional investment, so ensuring the line you invest in exchanges data as standard — such as a line consisting of Yamaha printers, mounters, SPI and AOI, Heller oven and Nutek conveyors, loaders and unloaders — is worth serious consideration from the outset.

Once commissioned, M2M software can deliver efficiencies at every stage of the process, enabling the identification of the board′s journey from one end of the line to the other, as well as the performance of each machine. This might include feeder information, nozzle performance, head performance and efficiency, timings between machines. Analysis of this data can help an organisation to make adjustments, ensuring continual improvement whether it’s through marginal gains or a radical overhaul of processes.

3. One line, one supplier — Once the benefits of the TLS have been realised, an organisation can further benefit from seeking a supplier that can help with installation of all equipment. This takes away the potential headaches with facilitating deliveries and organising the commissioning of each machine. Utilising one supplier not only ensures the hardware is all integrated and working from the first magazine loader to the magazine unloader, but it can ensure the software is programmed to talk up and down the line for the M2M benefits as mentioned above. Further communication with MRP and MEP can be considered, so production can be streamlined across the whole business and not just the line in isolation. For organisations running high volume PCBs, this is essential. Further benefits of utilising one supplier include training and traceability. Understanding what success looks like from the start can align expectations and ensures high-value investments remain flexible and optimised for decades.

Image supplied by Hawker Richardson.

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