Interview – Volker Pape
Viscom is one of the most established names in the optical inspection business. Headquartered in northern Germany, Trevor Galbraith spoke to it’s co-founder and Geschaftsfuehrer, Volker Pape about the evolution and the future for this innovative company.
Viscom celebrated its 30 year birthday last year. What would you say were the milestones along the way
My business partner Martin Heuser and I started Viscom as a general machine vision company with various projects throughout all branches. In those early years, the first milestone was the step into the SMT industry, which took us into an almost newly developing production technology with drastically growing market expansion toward the end of the 1980s.
In the mid-1990s, Viscom expanded into X-ray technology with its own machines – and with proprietary X-ray equipment – still at the base of many solutions offered today.
Going public in 2006 was a remarkable organizational step, advancing Viscom to an increased level of stability and sustainability on the financial side, but also to a state of transparency that allows any customer to visualize the economic health of the company.
Finally, during that same period of time, Viscom decided to be a full-range supplier of SMT inspection equipment and software – AOI, SPI and AXI and to become even more involved with wire bond, conformal coating and other inspection tools. In 2014, the investment into better positioning in the consumer electronics high-volume production market carried out the first harvest of higher volume orders.
What is the oldest working Viscom AOI system still in operation?
We know that there are inspection systems, e.g. for bottle inspection, that have been active in the field for more than 20 years. In SMT AOI, we recently found a system that is over 18 years old and still in operation. Although support has been discontinued for the past seven years, it is still used for training, programming and single check tasks. Additionally, it has been updated to a newer sensor level and the current software version so that it can utilize its high compatibility level and still be used as side tool to the newer inline workhorse machines.
Today, 3D technology is talked about a lot in the media and at conferences. Do you think 3D, coupled with 2D inspection will become mandatory in the future, and if so, why?
Actually, everybody is already talking about optical 3D inspection, saying that it will be the next big step that will be integrated into the inspection setup. Viscom already has been doing this for the past few years. Even before that, Viscom’s strength was the evaluation of 3D features by utilizing 5 or 9 viewing direction
Nevertheless, even the long-time 3D-only gurus have to admit that while 3D provides significant additional information for inspection, it alone can not cover all the tasks that a high-level inspection needs to accomplish. As a result, we are seeing many 3D-only systems now retrofitting angular view cameras – and for good reason.
Viscom always combines multi-view inspection, colour inspection and 3D measurement in the systems equipped with our XM sensor head to be able to utilize all potential features to evaluate. On the X-ray side, 3D technologies have been long used, albeit in a slow and low-quality manner. Viscom is working on an approach that will give this application a new kick in speed, precision and quality. We will introduce the new system, X7058, later this year.
Is board warpage still a large problem today? What sort of issues can this create in the manufacturing process?
Board warpage can be an issue if the overall inspection technology is not appropriate. For example, having a 3D inspection range of 6 to 8 mm is already critical – board warpage may eat that up or at least reduce the effective range – you have to invest a lot to overcome this. That is why we designed our measurement range to be adjustable by software with a standard to 25 mm height. This range can cover higher board warpage easily and can almost eliminate its influence.
Sensor and camera technologies are critical components in AOI. Do you have a unique and close development relationship with your sensor and camera suppliers?
We have close relationships with all our suppliers. Especially in the field of X-ray technology, we utilize components from a selected range of external suppliers.
The best relationship we have is with our main camera supplier: All the camera technology used in our 8M and the already-mentioned XM module is Viscom’s own development with optimum cost effectiveness, highest speed and best availability. Viscom’s philosophy to develop and utilize its own core technology leads to excellent results in these products.
Looking at your new inline X-ray system, what unique features does this machine offer users?
The current X7056fpd offers the com- bination of high-quality direct imaging devices and the XM module in the optical inspection segment. The basic version just replaces the image intensifiers from the previous versions with up to five fixed
FPDs. A completely new alternative ver- sion uses a single FPD on a separate fast x-y-unit. With this setup we can perform a very fast optical, high-speed 2D X-ray inspection with adjustable X-ray direction, but especially a very high-quality selective 3D inspection with as many directional images as a recalculation base as desired. This is a spectacular high-quality solution for many applications.
Nevertheless, the full range inline 3D solutions with very high speed will be shown later this year with an X-ray-only system called X7058. It already has been shipped to select customers, but will be presented to the public in the second half of the year as the ultimate inline 3D X-ray inspection system – high speed, high quality, high precision – and will have all the capability of replacing older systems that no longer are appropriate for state- of-the-art production requirements.
What is the maximum board size that you can inspect using tomosynthesis and is it non-destructive?
Surely tomosynthesis is non-destructive, as inline inspection has to be. With our manual load offline systems we offer standard solutions for board sizes up to 650 mm (approx. 25.5”) board sizes, with optional customizable cabin solutions. The inline X-ray systems can handle a maximum board size of up to approximately 55.9 x 762 mm (30 x 22”), depending on model and configuration.
How do Viscom’s systems support Industry 4.0 requirements?
Industry 4.0 means a higher, standardized level of interaction between machinery and automation. For years Viscom has been developing and offering software tools around its range of inspection systems, handling communication with factory integration software (MES, ERP), design standards (CAD, Gerber etc.), among Viscom inspection systems and even with other machinery (SPI closed loop to printers, forward loop to pick-and-place). We also provide all selected data access to management, operators and customers to give a full range of information about process stability, quality and productivity.
Additionally, the Viscom uplink package is the base for a communication and control network along the line. It even has the capability of adjusting the operation of Viscom’s own and third-party machines, depending on inspection results.
A manufacturing setup includes much more than just inspection. Viscom machines are ready to communicate and interact with their environment in both directions. These features combined provide an Industry 4.0 strategy for our customers.
Can you tell us what benefits users can gain from TrueYield?
In the field, we often are confronted with the term First Pass Yield. We also find that generally it is misunderstood or at least used in a misleading way. It often is mentioned or understood as “how many boards pass without recognizing a fault”. However, this does not present the real quality of an AOI nor is it relevant for the process quality. Viscom TrueYield is a concept that uses every potential tool to make the process the most effective that it can be to generate the optimum result: no escapes, no false flags. The resulting benefit of applying TrueYield is a manufacturing process that simultaneously delivers the highest possible quality and the highest effectiveness and productivity.
Where do you think the next 30 years will take Viscom?
First I would like to mention that I will be almost 90 years old by then. It is good to assume that we will have placed the operational leadership into trustworthy hands long before that time. Viscom is investing heavily into technologically advanced products to best meet the needs of customers. This has been the declared company policy for years and will remain the policy in the future. Viscom is also a company with high sustainability, transparency and respect. We work hard every day to make the foundation rock solid for the future of Viscom. This makes me imagine that Viscom has the capabilities to be a clear leader in industrial inspection in SMT and some neighboring application fields in the near future.
– TREVOR GALBRAITH