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Massachusetts-based VJ Electronix provides SMT rework systems and X-ray inspection solutions for the electronics assembly industry. Their systems are suitable for applications ranging from high-volume consumer products such as mobile phones, netbooks, set-top boxes, game consoles to ultra-precision, challenging applications found in aerospace, medical devices, and automotive electronics.
In this interview during the recent IPC APEX EXPO in Las Vegas, Donald Naugler, president and general manager of VJ Electronix, discusses rework challenges and strategies to help customers reduce handling errors in their processes. He also talks about automation, and the impact of Industry 4.0 in the electronics assembly industry.
Stephen Las Marias: Don, what are some of the challenges that your customers are experiencing in this industry?
Donald Naugler: It all comes down to productivity. It always is productivity and price, and you’ve got to perform in both areas. But we see a growing need, or a growing desire I should say, to start being more automated. We have a lot of our customers saying, “What do you have in the field of automation? How can I reduce the number of touches or even eliminate the touches by the operator?” So, we are working with a couple of the large companies both EMS as well as OEMs to adapt our equipment and take what has been kind of a minimal level of automation to the next level and try to, if not totally, eliminate the operator, minimize the number of touches.
Our history really goes back to something we used to call semi-automation. We focused hard on taking out any variability that an operator could have. So we still relied on operators to do material handling and some of the more basic functions—interface with the job tickets or travelers or whatever the customer may have to track the rework or the inspection process, and then automate the areas where the operator has influence.
We have been doing that for a number of years, now it is just a matter of taking the next step and trying to do some of the material handling using conveyors or robots and take a step up in eliminating some of the other operator interventions, such as manual alignments and placing the boards onto the system itself. So that is something that you will see coming down the road from us as well as suppliers across the industry.
Las Marias: What strategies can you think of that will help OEMs and EMS reduce handling errors in their process?
Naugler: I think there are a couple different approaches that are required actually on the equipment side for both rework and inspection. We have to make sure we put in some form of validation to make sure that if an operator loads a printed circuit board, that it is what the system expects it to be. We can do that with anything from operator aids to what we call interlocks, in a way. It actually is a method of using bar codes or other methods to make sure that it is the correct product put on in the right orientation and so on.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of SMT Magazine.