Conformal Coatings and Legacy X-Rays

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Viscom President Ed Moll talks about test and inspection, specifically the company’s X-ray technologies and current state-of-the-art conformal coating inspection.

Nolan Johnson: Ed, what’s happening in the test and inspection marketplace? What are the pain points for customers, and where is that driving the market?

Ed Moll: It depends on the product line, whether its solder paste inspection, optical inspection, or X-ray inspection; a new recent trend would be conformal coating inspection. We are doing quite a bit of work in conformal coating inspection, which is being driven by the auto manufacturers requiring that those who are doing conformal coating are collecting data, not just visually inspecting, using a black light, and determining that it’s good. They want to see some actual data. That’s been a growth factor over the last several years.

Another area of high activity is replacing aging X-ray machines that many of the contract manufacturers and OEMs have been using for many years. The Agilent machines are now 20+ years old. Many customers have kept their machines running by cannibalizing parts from other machines. To address that we have introduced a new line of inline X-ray machines to provide a go-forward solution. The customers who see the machine are very impressed because they’re used to looking at 20-year-old technology and the strides that have been made in digital flat panels in the last few years are creating eye-popping images now at high production line speeds.

Our products can handle boards up to 26 inches wide by up to 63 inches long and they can weigh up to 15 kilos (33 pounds). We already have applications for it. We are doing demos in our office in Atlanta, and of course, at Viscom in Hanover, Germany, our corporate headquarters. We are very confident this new addition to our product line will be well received in the marketplace.

Johnson: Let’s start with conformal coatings. Often, inspection is simply looking for coverage of the board. But automotive applications have more detailed expectations. Are those expectations changing the data-gathering for automotive?

Moll: Basically, it’s the same as when you’re doing any optical inspection. The conformal coating inspection machine will clearly show that the conformal coating is in areas that it should be while making sure that it’s not in the keep-out areas. We use angular cameras to look at the sides of the components. Rather than just looking at it from the top-down view, we’re looking at it from the side and that’s the kind of information that customers want. If you just have an operator looking at it and he says it’s good, fills out the tracking paperwork, and off it goes, there’s no traceability.

Johnson: Does this play into inter-machine operability?

Moll: All our in-line machines are Industry 4.0, CFX, and Hermes compatible.

Johnson: For Industry 4.0, taking that data and turning it into analysis or operational knowledge seems to be the next step. How is Viscom making that data more available?

Moll: For example, we have software for artificial intelligence where we’re collecting images to build up a history that will also help the operator with his classification. In other words, it’s based on the classified data that we’ve already collected. The software will assist the operator when classifying a flagged image.

To read the full interview, which appeared in the November issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.


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