Bill Cardoso Discusses Creative Electron’s Inspection Strategy


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Haag: What does the remainder of the show hold for you?

Cardoso: We have a couple of other meetings, and I am looking forward to catching up with a lot of the vendors and customers that we have here. From what I can tell so far, it's a very successful show.

Barry Matties: You said you're really inspecting a lot of solder joints. What have you learned from all the inspection? Is there a common problem that keeps reoccurring?

Cardoso: That’s a good question. BGA voids are always there; it's a problem that doesn't go away. Voids in QFNs are also increasingly prevalent because of the way the QFN package has been designed, and the uneven thermal dissipation or distribution outside the package. But we've seen quite a resurgence on through-hole via fill inspection. That's where some of the automotive companies are trying to get away from cleaning that requires less and less flux, making wetting of the solder harder into the barrel fill. So, we've seen a resurgence of customers asking for automated barrel fill inspection.

That's another area where AI is critical for giving those customers pass/fail decisions instead of just giving them an image they have to figure out what to do with. We like to go one step further, and instead of giving the customers data, we like to give them information they can act on.

Matties: So, go backward in that process and improve. When in the selling process, if someone asks you what sort of advice you would give them on their inspection strategies, what would you say?

Cardoso: Inspection is graduating. Inspection for 20–30 years has been a cost center. In this new generation of connected equipment—thanks to Industry 4.0, CFX, and other initiatives—it is graduating into a data center.

Matties: A value add.

Cardoso: Yes. If you look at an SMT line or a process, the only machines giving information or data are the inspection machines. Now, the challenge when designing an inspection strategy is to understand how to turn the data into information. Data you don't use is just noise, and noise only creates a problem in your process. So, think hard about how to design a strategy that can maximize the data you're collecting from inspection instruments, and turn that information into action so you can close the process loop for continuous improvement, efficiency, etc.

Matties: In terms of Industry 4.0 and CFX, how is your equipment integrating into that?

Cardoso: We are in the committee for CFX. At IPC APEX EXPO, we were a part of the demonstration for the CFX both with our parts counter and our inline X-ray inspection machine—the TruView Fusion AXI. But let's be clear; CFX is just one small step towards what we envision as a fully connected factory. CFX gives us that ability, and it's a very important step, but it's that very first step to having machines share messages. The next evolutionary step in this process is to create intelligence that can take that data and connect a void on the X-ray image to a broken stencil on the printer.

Matties: Who's driving that conversation right now?

Cardoso: Right now, that thought is spread out. One of the features of our industry is the fragmentation of ideas. We are putting a lot of the intelligence now in our machine related to X-ray inspection. The future of this company, and for companies like ours, to be successful is to have the ability to deal with the data we generate—to have the data science on top of domain expertise. If you have only one of those two, you don't have anything. If you're a domain expert but don't know what to do with the data, you don't have anything. If you only deal with data but don't have any domain expertise, you're also not very valuable.

So, what we have in our company is data science—AI and machine learning—sitting on top of a lot of domain expertise. We have people with Ph.D.s and scientists who know everything about X-ray inspection. That combination is very powerful. We are driving that from an inspection perspective, and we hope that other companies—the big players in the market from pick and place to printing—will join us and converge in what we think is going to be the future of the factory.

Matties: Is there anything we haven't talked about that you feel we should share with the industry?

Cardoso: It's an exciting time. We've been talking about the lights-out factory for 30 years now, and I think we're getting closer. There are a lot of very interesting conversations related to what jobs will be available in the future, and not only what jobs will be available, but where they will be available. Again, we just the class about the iPhone X, how it was fabricated, and what level of infrastructure was required to make a device like that happen.

Matties: But the history of manufacturing going back to Henry Ford. Where did all of those jobs go when he created the assembly line? The new economy will have to create new opportunities for employment. It doesn't mean we shouldn't have manufacturing that's automated because we're afraid.

Cardoso: Absolutely. I think that's a healthy way to approach the topic. If you approach it from a protectionist perspective, you think, "We need to protect jobs and delay automation because we want to make sure that these classes are protected." It's not as productive because it's going to happen anyway, and in this case, it's better to be a leader than a follower. Followers tend to get a much smaller share of the market.

Matties: Thanks very much for that, Bill.

Haag: Thank you.

Cardoso: Thank you so much for your time.

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