Inspection and Design for Testability


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I recently spoke with Matthias Müller of Goepel electronic about test and inspection technologies, especially in the automotive industry. In this interview, Mathias also discussed design for testing (DFT) and the benefits technologists can gain from DFT.

Barry Matties: First, why don't you tell us a little bit about your organization and what you do.

Matthias Müller: Goepel electronic is based in East Germany, and founded in 1991. We specialize in test and inspection technologies for the electronics, manufacturing, and automotive industries. This means we have solutions for the development of electronics, electronics production, and even for end-of-line tests of ECUs for cars and the automotive industry. We also have inspection systems for bigger components, like entire car seats.

Matties: For car seats?

Müller: Yes, for car seats. Goepel electronic offers an end-of-line platform called OsCAR which can test, for example, airbags, belt buckles, seat occupancy detection or movement modes. We now have a system that works a little bit like a 3D AOI system for PCBs where you can inspect an entire car seat and find out if there is any fault, failure, or anything that’s not what it's supposed to be.

Matties: What sort of defects? Like stitching defects?

Müller: Yes, or for example, local deformations. But there are also a lot of electronics and motors in the seats of more modern cars with many dynamic functions for increasing security and comfort, such as massage functions. You see, the test system can be utilized across a wide range of requirements. We provide test and inspection solutions from the development of electronics until end-of-line tests of the entire car seat.

Matties: Fantastic. We're here at the electronics show primarily for assembly on the SMT side and you carry a wide range of products for this segment of the supply chain from solder paste to 3D final inspection. Can you talk about your philosophy when it comes to testing? What's your approach here?

Müller: Yes. Our approach is to cover almost 100% test coverage and offer solutions for various requirements. A lot of our customers are mid-sized companies and they may have other test and inspection strategies as a global manufacturer, so we always talk with the customers to find out what they really need. For instance, some customers need X-ray inspection for the PCBs and we have two solutions. Some of them need a 100% X-ray inspection of the PCBs, and others need a selective inspection of just some components. Our approach is to give the customers the best solutions to meet their needs.

Matties: There's a lot of competition in the inspection area in this segment. How do you position yourself to stand out from all the others?

Müller: One point, of course, is that our products are made in Germany. A lot of customers are interested in products made in Germany, and the demand is increasing! Not just because of the good quality of the products, but also, and this is the second point, the good support we can offer. Our philosophy is to give the customers the best support we can give them.

Matties: What kind of support would they need? Is it a process challenge or is there an actual issue with the equipment?

Müller: It depends. For the most issues, telephone support and remote access are the right choice. In the unusual case of a hardware problem we send our engineers.

Matties: Yeah, things do wear out and break down or whatever the case may be.

Müller: Sometimes there is 24/7 production and you know the machines are working non-stop, and sometimes they need to be adjusted or something has to be replaced.

Matties: When I look at the choices people make, not to say your service isn't outstanding, but I think  every one of your so-called competitors would say the same thing—we offer great service, we are customer-centric, etc. But from a technological point of view, what sets you apart?

Müller: Yes, the competition is hard. But our systems offer a flexibility for a wide range of inspection tasks, within one machine. For instance, the AOI systems have various illumination techniques, so that the customer can chose between ultraviolet or infrared illumination, depending on the components. But of course, sometimes it's just a decision by the price.

Matties: Price is always a factor.

Müller: Yes, price is always a factor. In Europe, and in Germany, we do not have the lowest prices, and we are not the cheapest, but we aim to give the customer reliable and intelligent products, especially when it comes to networking or smart factories. We want to provide interfaces in our machines that will fit into the production process and into our customers’ smart factories.

Matties: Can you talk about the smart factory?

Müller: At the moment, the Hermes standard is starting here in Europe and in Germany, where a lot of companies, even competitive companies, take part to develop interfaces to allow data transformation between different systems of different suppliers.

Matties: Are the customers coming in and asking for this, or is this a feature you guys are taking to market?

Müller: Both. Sometimes, the customers of our customer (EMS customer) demands traceability. On the other hand, a smart factory makes production processes more efficient. The central multi-line verification that we offer can increase the production throughput significantly. MES connections and interfaces like SMEMA have existed for years, and the new standard is a more-advanced step towards machine-to-machine communication.

Matties: When customers are looking for data, what sort of data are they coming and asking you for? Are there any special requests?

Müller: Yes, of course. Inspection results from different inspection systems need to be stored so that you can trace the product after a long time if there was an SPI or AOI problem before and adjust your printing process. This is the data customers are asking for so they can find out if there is a problem in the printing process, and if so, why and where. This is an example for the quality data of the PCBs in every step of the production.

Matties: And they can find it out in real time so that they can make adjustments?

Müller: Yes, they can find it in real time very easily. They don't have to stand directly on the side of the production lines. Some customers have five, six, or seven production lines. Sometimes it's just enough to sit in your office at your desk on a tablet or mobile device. You can see the status of your production line and every system. You can see how many PCBs are on this system or on this conveyor, so you have an easy way to control your smart factory.

Matties: When it comes to testing, if a fabricator came to you and said, "What's the best advice you could give me regarding testing or inspection," what would that be?

Müller: That's not so easy to say because it depends on the products and what the customer is producing.

Matties: Is there a general approach that people should consider when they're taking testing or inspection into consideration?

Müller: Yes, we would say inspection of the components, like AOI, is a very important factor. 3D AOIs are a very big phrase, but sometimes it's just enough to do a good 2D AOI. After all, it depends if the customer is an OEM or EMS provider. You have to consider the component range and the volumes of production.

Matties: There's a lot of choices out here, from 2D to 3D, types of imaging that you can get from a machine, different approaches you can take, and all the shadowing that you must take into consideration. You’re introducing some new equipment today or this week for large THT, right?

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