Industry 4.0 is Changing the Electronics Landscape

Looking back over the history of SMT, the art of choosing the right equipment and materials to produce assembled boards has changed considerably. However, one thing that has not changed is it is the responsibility of the production manager or plant manager to make the right choice because very often his/her job is on the line.

In the early 70’s when SMT lines first appeared, it was common for buyers to purchase a turnkey line. Not enough was known about the process, so the safest route to this new technology was to buy a complete line that they knew worked.

As time passed and the technology became ever-more sophisticated, buyers opted for ‘best-in-class’ machines to try and gain an edge on their competitors.

But electronics manufacturing, like many things in life has gone full circle. With the emergence of the new Competence Centers or Centers of Excellence from some of the larger equipment manufacturers, these facilities more closely resemble applications labs than they do showrooms.

The key purpose is to demonstrate the process and help manufacturers’ trial “New Product Introductions” and leave with physical evidence of how using a complete line solution can leverage the latest technology to increase yield, provide greater traceability and supply line integration.

Examples of companies who have already invested in these types of facilities are Panasonic, ASM and Hanwha Techwin. The latest company to join these ranks is the Comet Group, who will open a state-of-the-art inspection laboratory in San Jose, CA on October 4th, called Lab ONE.

Lab ONE provides all the inspection facilities and services of the Comet Group under one roof with experts from their RF Power (Semiconductor), YXLON (X-ray) and Ebeam (Laser systems) divisions. The aim is by locating the venue in the heart of Silicon Valley, where much of the innovation emanates, researchers and scientists will see new opportunities to leverage the substantial depth and experience the company has to offer across its diverse test product range.

No doubt, there will be many more applications labs opening in the future as the industry moves towards more tailored, process related solutions, where small increases in yield and improvements in quality translate to substantial increases in profit.

– Trevor Galbraith Editor-in-Chief


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