Panasonic Reaching New Heights
Panasonic’s factory automation goals reached a new level in July with the opening of their cloud9 Innovation Center in Buffalo Grove, IL.
This exciting new facility was host to around 50 of Panasonic’s key customers plus partners at a technology-filled Open Day event on July 19-20. Here customers could browse and see demonstrations of the latest Panasonic equipment in action and also take a close look at many of the partner solutions that Panasonic can offer in their ‘Total Line Solutions’.
But, as President Faisal Pandit makes clear “The cloud9 Innovation Center is much more than simply a demo facility”. Customers can bring boards and NPI products to work with the Innovation Team to optimize production, before transferring it to a real-time environment.
A severe shortage of skilled engineering talent is one of the key drivers behind the need for the new Innovation Center. Panasonic can act as the single point of contact for planning, financing, logistics, installation and in many cases ongoing maintenance.
Panasonic Factory Solutions are at the forefront of the race to introduce total line solutions that provide increased automation and reduce labor costs, while increasing reliability, traceability and yield. Mr. Pandit firmly believes that the Panasonic approach to Industry 4.0 and factory automation is the best strategy. He says “We could have gone out and bought a bunch of companies, but we believe in collaboration and creating an eco-system which is powerful.”
This fact was borne out by the many conversations the Panasonic team were having with their partner companies before and during the Open Day event. This collaborative approach brings many benefits including:
• A wider range of equipment, especially for specialist applications such as LED manufacturing.
• Greater and more in-depth technical knowledge in each process area.
• A holistic approach using PanaCIM as the central nervous system connecting the line.
• The ability to work alongside customers’ existing installed equipment base.
• A single point of contact for finance, project management and maintenance.
During the opening of the cloud9 Innovation Center we conducted a number of interviews with partners who work alongside Panasonic to provide full line solutions. These included:
Inovaxe manufactures a range of intelligent storage systems that make the picking function seemless and foolproof. Reel locations are illuminated in pick order to assist the operator in making up an accurate pick list in a short time frame. The system also controls the inventory through bar code scanning and a sophisticated software control system. Inovaxe also manufactures an advanced humidity storage system for sensitive devices.
CTI is one of Panasonic’s longest established partners, manufacturing conveyors, buffers, gates, laser markers and depanellers. The CTI range integrates well with PanaCIM and feeds location information back to the central system at multiple information locations throughout the manufacturing process.
Koh Young are universally identified as the leader in SPI systems. The SPI systems integrate with PanaCIM to pass corrective instructions to the printer regarding offsets, squeegee pressure and other parameters. Additionally, Panasonic’s patented APC collects the SPI data and communicates to the mounter to ensure the component is placed on the solder, which leverages self-alignment during reflow. Koh Young also provides a pre-reflow AOI system that passes corrective information to both the pick and place machine and upstream to the SPI system.
As manufacturers of reflow ovens, Heller reports many of the process variables taking place during reflow, including nitrogen levels, belt speed, profile and condition of the machine. The Heller advanced ovens are also dual-lane capable and can run two different products in each lane by adjusting the belt speeds independently.
Apex FA demonstrated an LED printer from SJ Innotech, a Korean manufacturer of LED and large format printing solutions. On display at cloud9 was a printer designed for long 1,500mm LED boards. With the print head travelling along the X axis, this solution is much more stable and reliable than alternative printers that print across the Y axis and have the challenge of board and stencil warpage.
Kolb is a German manufacturer of advanced cleaning systems that are now also based in Colorado, United States and distributed through A-Tek Systems, who represent other lines such as ASSCON, EBSO, MP Electronik, and Schunk Automation. Kolb CT also produce the cleaning chemistries that are specifically designed for the Kolb systems.
Simplimatic is another intelligent conveyor partner with Panasonic. The unique feature provided by Simplimatic is the integration of rework and/or assembly information from PanaCIM which appears on a monitor at the operator’s workstation. Simplimatic also have a range of robotic solutions that are used in final box build and a variety of other labor-saving applications throughout the factory.
All of the partners have been closely engaged with the integration of PanaCIM and most have already been involved in providing total line or partial line solutions to Panasonic customers. It was refreshing to hear how easily these installations went and it bodes well for a bright future for the cloud9 team.