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When I visit factories, I witness what’s happened to our workforce since the pandemic. Sometimes it looks like operator separation for social distancing, working extra shifts to cover for lost or missing employees due to illness, workers who now work from home, or those who have simply found working no longer suits them.
We saw this great shift starting in April 2021, a year into the pandemic. Unemployment jumped by 10.3 percentage points to 14.7%, with the pattern continuing into July when unemployment passed more than 4 million. More people were home and not working, but they continued their same buying habits. This presented a challenge for manufacturers who had fewer workers and increased demand. What could they do?
One possible solution when you can’t hire skilled technicians is to look at automation, particularly automation for soldering. Robotic soldering systems, however, have always shadowed the hand soldering market. For many it was a “feature piece” for the obligatory factory tour just to demonstrate to potential customers they are forward thinking. Now it’s a reality to solve a true workforce shortage issue. But why use a robotic soldering system?
A Robotic Solution
Using a robotic soldering system can increase quality and produce a significantly higher process yield due to increased efficiencies of movement, higher precision for complex soldering locations, and higher repeatability of solder joints. These can only be achieved with properly designed robotic movements. You reduce the need for extensive operator training and overhead, as it’s faster to train the robot “operator” because it requires less skilled technical ability and a faster ramp-up.
But how do you find the right one for your needs?
While it may look simple, the hand-soldering process is a complicated orchestration of subtle hand movements carried out for each solder joint. These movements are combined with constant visual observation and feedback from a highly skilled operator, thus your soldering robot must have several key features to replicate this demanding process.
Continue reading this article in the May issue of SMT007 Magazine.