Today, people want fast, smart and reliable devices at affordable prices. These demands require us to find ways of increasing throughput without incurring significant costs. Through the years, manufacturers and assemblers engage in numerous projects for the advancement of the PCB assembly process and machineries. Budding electronics engineers and entrepreneurs introduce innovations on the production of these machines. We gather these technological inventions and share this information with you.
Manual to Automation
For many centuries, manual assembly is the usual way of attaching the electronic components to a PCB. The industry was labor extensive but the environmental, health, and quality issues prompted manufacturers to develop sophisticated machines and to automate the assembly process. The invention of computers created a whole new level of doing the assembly.
Nowadays, we use robots that imitate human movements, but placing electronic components with even greater accuracy. With these machines, we eliminate the probability of human error. We can increase output without adversely affecting the health of our employees. These machines aid us in achieving both quality and quantity.
However, we still require human input during the assembly process. These activities involve the checking of the machines if they are still working efficiently or not, random inspections of PCBs before shipping, and repairs of defective PCBs. Although robots are efficient additions in our PCB assembly, we can never eliminate the analytical skills that our workforce can bring to our process.
The Z movement
The first assembly machines were only capable of moving in the X and Y coordinates. These machines were only able to place components on a linear fashion. However, with continued developments, these machines can now move up and down the stacks of PCB. We can now assemble more PCBs. Aside from horizontal movement, the machines can now move vertically and can place more than one component at a time.
Ink Jet Technology
This technology eliminates the need for expensive stencil printing. It solves the issues on incorrect installation of stencil templates before solder printing, and increases output. Furthermore, the technology enhances the quality of the PCBs. What is ink jet technology? The process involves the direct printing of the solder paste on the copper tracks. This advancement enables us to place solder paste on the smallest PCB you could ever imagine.
Improvement of the solder paste
All PCB assemblers and manufacturers are experiencing the constant reproof from environmentalists, and sociologists of the harmful effects of the PCB assembly. For years, the electronics industry finds ways to eliminate the use of lead on the solder paste and on the other conducting materials in a PCB. Luckily, the current technology that we have enables us to formulate a solution and use lead at a minimal quantity, if not eliminated.
The disadvantages of lead-free solder paste are the increase in cost and the high melting point of non-lead materials. This extremely high boiling or reflow point may affect the components. To solve this dilemma, we use excellent insulators on the electrical components to protect them from high heat.
As to the increase in cost, we find suppliers that offer non-lead solder paste at an affordable cost. With the rising demand on the use of no-lead products, suppliers are beginning to shift their marketing efforts. More and more suppliers are catering to these demands and thereby effectively decreasing the overall costs of manufacturing and assembling the PCBs.
The demand on smaller, faster and smarter products is the reason manufacturers introduced the laser drills. These machines enable us to drill the smallest holes on the smallest PCBs in the world of electronics devices. Aside from the decrease in PCB size, these laser machines are placing components at high speed – this reduces PCB assembly time. Thus, we can deliver the orders earlier than expected.
These machines also are capable of embedding electrical components on a sub-PCB. We use this sub-PCB and assemble it on another PCB, increasing the functionality and speed of the final output without affecting the size.
Smart Barcodes and Inspection
We use a system that monitors the PCBs as we assemble them. These smart barcodes aid us in pinpointing the defective PCBs along the way. The automatic inspection using an enlarged image of the PCB enables us to see the defective areas and refine our PCB assembly procedures. This smart barcode system helps in the reconfiguration of our machines and reduction of the defective output.
The improvements in the assembly technology makes us competitive. They provide us an edge that our competitors may not have. As new developments arise, we adopt these changes to continue offering excellent electronic PCBs to out clients. These high-tech machines may be expensive but increased throughput and its quality compensates and offsets the investment costs on our part. The innovators do not stop in introducing new technologies and we will be on the lookout and introduce our new innovations as well.