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In the last column, we discussed the attributes of the various types of wave solder systems, the most common through-hole assembly system for small- to mid-volume operations. In this chapter, we will dive a little deeper and address board handling techniques. For wave soldering, there are three common methods of running boards:
1. Automated in-line system
2. Manual conveyor system
3. Palletized carrier system
Automated Inline System
This arrangement is usually tied in to a total PC board assembly line, where the conveyor simply moves assembled boards from the assembly stage through the wave solder machine and on to cleaning, finishing and other secondary operations. There is no manual interference at the solder machine; it’s a totally hands-off operation from beginning to end. Wave machines that run this way are usually very expensive and are used in high-volume repetitive operations. The Surface Mount Equipment Manufacturers Association (SMEMA) defines uniform specifications for in-line systems to assure that all the operations in an assembly environment transfer boards seamlessly from one machine to another, regardless of the manufacturer, machine model, etc.
- Pros: very efficient; reduces or virtually eliminates handling and manual labor
- Cons: very expensive; usually out of reach of low- to mid-volume contract assembly shops
- Typical cost range: often in excess of $100,000
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of SMT Magazine.