Change to Yamaha for Netherlands-based A1 Electronics boosts capacity and competitiveness
After more than 30 years in the electronics manufacturing business, Rudy Oude Vrielink, one of the three founders and director of A1 Electronics Netherlands bv in Almelo, has experience with a wide variety of assembly technologies and equipment; he knows when the time is right to make strategic investments. Since A1 began in 2001, the business has grown from three people to 37 and now works with major OEMs across the medical, automotive, infrastructure, industrial and communications sectors.
By continuously enhancing the company’s capabilities to fulfil current projects and strengthen the company for the future, Rudy has established A1’s reputation for high-quality, state-of-the-art surface-mount assembly, box-build, test engineering, prototyping, and repair and maintenance services. In addition to holding ISO 9001 quality certification, A1 is among very few EMS businesses approved to ISO 13485, the quality management system for the medical industry. This puts the company in a particularly strong position to manufacture medical technology ranging from small devices like wearables to high-performance image-processing boards.
Complementing the activities at Almelo, A1’s newly acquired subsidiary company just a few minutes’ drive from the main site employs an 85-strong workforce predominantly engaged in processes such as wiring and system assembly.
A1 Chooses Yamaha
In 2014 Rudy decided the time was right for A1 to invest in cutting-edge surface-mount assembly technology, both to extend capabilities and increase capacity. Unable to get the right deal with the then-current SMT partner, Rudy and his team saw Yamaha’s YS24 and YS24X mounters at Yamaha IM Europe headquarters in Neuss, and agreed terms. The machines were quickly delivered to Almelo and installed with the aid of Yamaha engineers.
With combined specified placement speed of 126,000 cph, the two mounters that are now in action on A1’s production line have significantly boosted placement capacity. “Our line is running five or six times faster with the new Yamaha mounters,” explains Rudy. “With Yamaha’s support, our operators adapted quickly to the change and are now able to get the best performance from the machines.”
The YS24 mounters are dual-beam twin-head machines that deliver super-high placement speed within a compact footprint, which enables assemblers to ensure maximum productivity from every metre of floor space. The YS24 handles package types from 0402 metric (01005) chip-size devices up to 32mm x 32mm. The YS24X gives added flexibility to place large components up to 45mm x 45mm and 15mm high. This is enough for large QFPs or surface-mount electrolytic capacitors. In both machines Yamaha’s multi-camera system with side-light enables high-speed component verification and alignment, and the Multiple Accuracy Compensation System (MACS) eliminates the effects of machine variables to maintain consistent 3-sigma accuracy within ±5µm.
With such a dramatic increase in placement capability, Rudy soon decided to upgrade to inline Automatic Optical Inspection (AOI) post-reflow to keep quality control in step with production throughput. Again, Yamaha had the best solution, not only in terms of inspection throughput but also delivering efficiency advantages by sharing the same software platform as the mounters. A new Yamaha YSi-12 inspection station joined the line in 2015.
The YSi-12 can scan a 330mm x 250mm board in 15 seconds, and captures images at 5-Mpixels resolution from multiple angles and at multiple visible (RGB) wavelengths as well as infrared to ensure unerring defect detection. In addition, laser-based vertical displacement monitoring enhances detection of defects such as partially lifted components or leads, while horizontal alignment checking corrects for variations such as pad size or shape.
The new Yamaha equipment has performed faultlessly since installation, which has helped to minimise the disruption that can be caused by introducing new and unfamiliar mounters on a working SMT line. “We needed to create new programs for our current projects, which was a considerable amount of work but worthwhile for the extra productivity we have achieved,” comments Rudy. “On the other hand, we now have the advantage of a seamless connection between the mounters and AOI.” Yamaha’s one-click AOI programming, based on data from the mounters, eliminates the burden of manually generating an inspection program for each board. Automatically generated programs require only minor fine tuning before being ready to run.
Gaining Capacity, Quality and Productivity
In practice, the YS24 and YS24X mounters have not only increased capacity but have also delivered visible improvements in assembly quality. “We can see that the positioning of components on the pads is more central and more consistent,” explains Rudy. “This inspires confidence in our processes and, more importantly from a productivity standpoint, results in fewer false calls after AOI.”
Rudy’s intention from the start was to increase capacity over and above current requirements, to accommodate anticipated sales growth going forward. Equipped with the new mounters, A1 began winning new customers immediately, and the extra capacity has been taken up remarkably quickly. His next step has been to analyse all the processes that take support the line, to unlock the maximum potential for productivity.
He has reorganised some of the staff into dedicated changeover teams, whose sole responsibility is to ensure that feeders are setup perfectly on the exchange carriages and optimise every aspect to ensure each changeover is as fast as possible and trouble-free. “Sometimes we may need to do five or six product changeovers per day, so every saving can deliver a valuable gain in overall productivity,” he says. “We also plan to introduce a separate SMT line dedicated to prototype work. This will unload some of the frequent-changeover projects and allow us to implement dual-shift working on the Yamaha line to handle more projects and higher volumes.”
With a strategic plan to drive sales growth in Germany in particular, Rudy has recently appointed a sales manager for Germany, and is expecting the Yamaha mounters and AOI to help increase total turnover by 20% over the next year.
“We have worked successfully with major automotive and professional video OEMs based in Germany, and we are looking to build on that and continue growing our business there,” he explains. The productivity gains already achieved by investing in the Yamaha equipment have strengthened his confidence in A1’s ability to compete with assemblers across Europe. As operating costs remain higher in Western Europe, compared to the east, companies like A1 must continue raising productivity to offer competitive prices. “With the new Yamaha equipment boosting our line, we can compete more strongly than ever with manufacturers from anywhere in Europe. This puts us in a good position to achieve our current targets and keep moving forward.”
“Changing to Yamaha mounters and AOI was bold,” he concludes. “It was a significant investment, and everyone here has worked hard to adapt to the change. For A1, it was exactly the right move at the right time.”