Publisher's Executive Council Survey


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Q: How did you develop the rotary turret design for today's chipshooters?

NAKAMURA: In the early 1970s, Sanyo began to develop assembly systems for use within our own company, Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. Within Sanyo Electric Co., the Product Engineering Center was responsible for designing systems to assemble these products. At the time, the Japanese economy was growing rapidly, so speed and automation were critical factors in meeting market and management requirements.

In 1970, when I entered the company as a design engineer, my first assignment was to find a way to minimize the time required to deliver components for a condenser. The leaded components were supplied in bulk and aligned in a vibratory feeder. The challenge was to pick up each component at the fastest speed and simultaneously mount it on the board. There were a number of restrictions because the components were delicate and had to be protected from potential damage. The operators could not touch them and mechanical chucks or metal parts could not be used. When everything that could not be done was eliminated, the concept that remained was vacuum.

The original mechanical concept of the rotary turret, developed in the early 1970s, consisted of a drum or rotor made of plastic, to avoid bruising the components, with a vacuum on/off system. As the drum rotated, the vacuum-on action took components from the feeder, held them in the proper alignment and delivered them to the board, where vacuum-off action released them. Pick-up and mounting were accomplished simultaneously and automatically, at a much faster speed than could be achieved by X-Y robots, another type of placement system used at the time.

Later in the 1970s, another Sanyo division required an assembly system to build a calculator using leadless surface mount device (SMD) chips on a printed circuit board (PCB). By this time, the challenge of minimization was added to speed and automation. One of the issues encountered in this project was that leadless components were then supplied in tubes, stacked one on top of another. It was difficult to remove just a single component from the bottom of the tube because of the weight of the stack. Instead, tape delivery systems, which were coming into use, were adopted and combined with the original mechanical turret design.

The challenge was to coordinate the three different types of movement that occurred simultaneously: the side-to-side movement of the tape feeders, the rotation of the turret and the X-Y movement of the table holding the PCB. The components must be picked up and held in the correct orientation, and delivered to the correct location on the board. In the course of resolving all of these complex issues, we developed the rotary turret.

Q: How has the turret design affected the industry? What is its contribution to the industry?

NAKAMURA: When it was introduced, and for many years after, Sanyo's rotary turret was the fastest chip mounting system on the market. Other Japanese manufacturers realized the value of the turret design immediately and began to use the design, under a variety of licensing agreements. Sanyo systems were marketed to manufacturers in many other countries by 1982.

Another way to assess the significance of the turret design is to consider its message for engineers. Remember, this major advance began with a single, simple task to deliver components quickly from one step to the next. When I spoke with the freshman engineers at Sanyo this past spring, I said that even though a task may involve a very small job or piece of equipment, think about the details, because it can eventually make a big impression on the market. The main priority is to always do the best job possible.

Q: What are the turret design's key characteristics that set it apart from its competition?

NAKAMURA: High speed, which is the key to mass production and automation. The ability to do two jobs, picking up and placing components, simultaneously is another key feature. Also, a high degree of reliability is very important. From the beginning of my work with the rotary turret, the machine was designed to work continuously, so that it would last virtually forever. With good maintenance and scheduled exchange of worn parts, turret machines can have a longer useful life than other systems. That is important to us and to our customers. I know of at least one facility in the United States where four generations of Sanyo machines are continuing to operate and make money for the manufacturer.

The main competition to the turret is the X-Y robot, which is not as fast because it performs only one operation at a time, picking up or placing components. In order to achieve the speed of one turret machine, it is necessary to place two or three X-Y machines in line. The X-Y robot also requires more maintenance than the turret design does.

For these reasons, Japanese manufacturers who use the turret design have led the market with high-speed pick-and-place machines. As far as I know, some American and European manufacturers have tried, but have not been able to match our speed.

Q: How would you characterize business today?

NAKAMURA: In 1998, equipment sales were down 20 to 30 percent for Japanese manufacturers. In the first part of this year, we still struggled but, by the second half, we expect to catch up with the same volume we experienced in 1997. Gradually, the Asian market is beginning to get better than it was last year, as the various economies in the region are showing signs of improvement.

Q: Where is the surface mount industry headed over the next five years?

NAKAMURA: This is a very difficult question. If we know the right answer, we will be successful. What makes the issue so complicated is that many different types of companies and products are involved. The ongoing trends in components must be considered, as should the final products, such as personal computers, VCRs and other microprocessor-powered devices.

One trend that will have a major impact on the industry is that the size of the components is getting smaller. Chip scale packaging (CSP), flip chip, chip on board (COB) and other miniaturized packages are getting very popular. In fact, the SMT and semiconductor industries are getting closer even overlapping in some areas.

Q: How much further do you believe manufacturers can realistically push "smaller, faster, cheaper"?

NAKAMURA: Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to say that we don't know how much further we can push machine capabilities, but that has not stopped us from trying. We are moving ahead through a policy of continuous development. The first chipshooters were able to place 7,000 components per hour. The standard was 9,000 approximately 15 years ago. Today, chipshooters can place 36,000 components per hour. And we are continuing to develop the next generation machine, which we anticipate will have the capability to place as many as 45,000 to 48,000 components per hour.

We are definitely pushing the envelope on faster machines and more compact designs. Cheaper is a relative term. The cost of the equipment to the customer has remained approximately the same as it was 10 to 15 years ago, but the performance has improved by three to four times. Manufacturers are getting greater capability, and therefore greater value, for their investments.

Q: What has most driven developments in equipment capabilities? In material characteristics? In devices?

NAKAMURA: For equipment, the driving force in the industry remains the requirements of the SMT marketplace. Recently, this has been most apparent in the diversity of components that need to be handled. For flexible placement machines, components are now longer, taller and larger, with more unique shapes. For chipshooters, components continue to grow smaller and manufacturers continue to require faster placement rates.

Another factor for equipment suppliers to consider is how to make placement systems more user-friendly for engineers and operators. As assembly requirements become more complex and the equipment becomes more complicated, it's important to retain that ease of use.

Q: What do you feel is the most important consideration in the development of equipment/materials/components that sets your company apart from others?

NAKAMURA: For any manufacturer, the easiest way to set up a production line is to buy assembly equipment. But Sanyo has followed a more difficult route. The company develops its own equipment and systems to do the jobs that need to be done. This gives us insight into what the challenges are, and the best way to overcome them. Today, the engineers continue to follow the approach started back in the early 1970s.

The company is unique in another way. While we continue to advance technology, we still produce three generations of machines. There's almost a seven-year gap between each generation, but the older machines keep on producing efficiently. Some customers still want to buy the older systems because they do not need the higher speed, higher cost machines. Sanyo is willing to fit our machines to the customer's needs, rather than the other way around.

Q: As a supplier, what steps has your company implemented to address the environmental issues that affect the global PCB assembly industry?

NAKAMURA: Sanyo has developed a sophisticated new bulk feeder system that minimizes several areas of concern: materials waste, dust in the factory environ-ment and paper waste associated with tape feeders.

The advanced bulk feeding system also supports shorter changeover times, leading to less machine downtime. One bulk feeder can hold 70,000 to 80,000 components. By comparison, a regular tape reel holds 4,000 components. That means the operator does not have to stop the machine as often to change the tape feeder. When the machine can run continuously for longer periods of time, it minimizes operating costs and wasted materials.

Q: Any other comments on the state of the industry?

NAKAMURA: The central policy for the way my company conducts business is to listen to our customers' requirements, and to build machines that meet those requirements. That's why I visit our major customers frequently and why my company works closely with a number of beta-site customers. What I hear from our customers is that they require high speed and high reliability, along with a high degree of accuracy. All of these capabilities need to improve as components shrink in size. It is becoming more difficult to pick up and mount these smaller components, particularly as PCBs also get smaller and the components are packed in at higher densities. The customers need faster, higher reliability, more accurate systems to maintain their yield and productivity.

It is critical for an equipment supplier to develop a close relationship with customers and to understand their requirements to be successful in the SMT marketplace.

SMT Magazine's Publisher's Executive Council consists of 38 electronic industry executives hand-picked by group publisher Marsha Robertson. They share their expertise and insights with our editorial staff and act as a sounding board for new ideas and concepts. These individuals also contribute much to the industry in general, working as leaders within their companies. This month's Publisher's Executive Council Survey features one of the council's newest members, Sanyo's Masafumi Nakamura.

Innovation. Leadership. Hard work. None of these concepts are foreign to Sanyo High Technology Co. Ltd.'s president and CEO, Masafumi Nakamura.

After receiving a Master's Degree in Production Machinery Engineering from the University of Yamaguchi, Japan, in 1970, he joined the Design Section of the Production Engineering Center at Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. Later, he was named manager of Design First Section in the Automatic Machinery Department and received patents in 1989 and 1990 for the single- and multiple-head turret designs used on surface mount placement systems throughout the world. After several additional promotions, Nakamura was named president and CEO of Sanyo High Technology in 1997.

During a visit to the United States in May 1999, he answered questions posed by the editorial board of SMT about the contributions that he and Sanyo have made to electronics assembly, and discussed his views on the state of the industry.

Masafumi NakamuraPresident Sanyo High Technology Co. Ltd.

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