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Nico Fahrner, application engineer at Rehm Thermal Systems, talks with Barry Matties about the benefits prospective customers get from being able to fully test their systems in-line at Rehm’s technology centers before purchasing.
Barry Matties: Welcome, Nico. First, can you give me an overview of what your company does?
Nico Fahrner: Rehm Thermal Systems produces thermal systems mainly for the production of electronic components. Our core business is the automotive industry, but we also have systems in the avionics, consumer, aerospace and military sectors. The company was originally formed producing reflow convection soldering systems, but we saw the needs of the customers and for many years now we have also been manufacturing a variety of other machines – such as systems for vapor phase soldering, drying, coating, dosing or testing. We can offer all our customers the right application for their products, which is decided at the first interaction with the customer. Our systems are used worldwide.
Matties: You’re an application engineer for the company, so you work with customers to solve their problems and meet their needs. Are there occasions when a customer will call and say they’re having a problem with a job in their existing process and you help solve those as well?
Fahrner: Yes, as an application engineer, the main task is when the sales department brings us customers to do tests, we will find the best temperature profile for their applications. This depends on the system the customers want or have, such as convection or vapor phase, and with or without vacuum. In our technology center we work together with our customers to reproduce the entire assembly line. We can place a machine directly on site and provide the right system. Then we try to find the best solution for the customer. We also visit customers directly on site if they have a problem. We look at what is happening on the machine, and if the machine is functioning as expected, we can say, "It's not the machine, so let's look at the product." Sometimes something changes and a problem arises. But it's not always clear to the customer where the mistake comes from. If, for example, they have changed the paste or stencil: Older stencils cause problems when printing, which can lead to problems in the soldering process.
Matties: When we look at the equipment itself, we know that there’s a big push for automated data and data collection. For your machines to work in a data-driven environment, whether it’s CFX or some other language, how are you addressing 4.0?
Fahrner: We have several options in our systems to give our customers access to the cached data during the process. Thus, our customers have access to the data and can use it accordingly. Usually they collect it into a package, especially for production and traceability, so the data is available for the local MES system. We also have our Rehm Open Interface (ROI) as an open standard to connect to any line master. Also, our client-server based software allows to connect to it remotely for remote access and monitoring. Basically, the machine can be fully operated from a remote location. An interesting tool is ViCON connect, it is used to monitor the entire machine park. ViCON Connect makes managing and monitoring multiple production lines much more efficient. Interconnectivity between facilities allows you to follow production constantly, while managing and monitoring processes without long distances in production.
Matties: When someone looks to streamline their process to make it more efficient, what recommendations would you give?
Fahrner: Firstly, we would want to see the customers processes in production – and then we can see step by step what the customer can improve on his assembly line. We have technicians who go through the complete assembly line – including each machine – and discuss with the customer what can be changed on the machine or whether it is possible to replace the machine with another more efficient system.
Matties: One of your machines is labeled “CFX,” so we know that you’re embedded in smart factory operations along with hundreds of other companies. When someone comes into your test center, you help them with the entire process, including connection.
Fahrner: For us it is a good advantage because the customer can see many different systems. We can show them the machines. Usually they come directly to us and say: "We want to do tests on a convection reflow system, vapor phase system or coating system". So, we plan the schedule and work with the customers for a whole day to see the problems or targets and find solutions with their products. They can develop a product, or they could have a finished product and want to improve the process efficiency. This is another big advantage of our technology center. As far as connection is concerned, we have already equipped machines with ‘The Hermes Standard’ and you can also use IPC CFX to make your electronic production more efficiently.
Matties: What I hear you say is, “Find a vendor with a technology center.” Then, you can test the equipment before you buy it. That’s a big advantage for your prospects.
Fahrner: Exactly. We have some new customers who have less experience with the chosen process so we can show them how to get the best results. We look into the system, explain the system and exchange our experiences with the customer. This is helpful for our customers. Long-time customers who know our technology for a long time come regularly to see what is new in technology and research. You see, we are always connected.