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In the previous three chapters on selective soldering, we covered the different applications well-suited to this technology, the various types of fluxing and soldering methods available, and nitrogen inerting. In this chapter, we’ll cover programming software.
How Selective Programming Works
Hybrid boards can be challenging to program because of the interface with SMT components and the nature and arrangement of addressable through-hole points. Figuring out the best sequence to optimize production speed is usually a combination of common sense along with available software features.
The first step is to “acquire” the board into the software, and there are a number of methods to get started:
1. Scan the bottom of the board with a flatbed scanner.
2. Take a digital photo of the board, such as with a cell phone.
3. Import data from a CAD file.
4. Teach the software.
Starting with the last one, the teach-in method is no longer widely used because it can be more difficult to manage than the other methods, which are also far more common.
More often than not, if a board has been designed in a CAD system, using the exported data will result in the easiest and most reliable method of importing the data. This data is known as a Gerber file, a 2D vector file that describes everything about the board for manufacturing, as well as populating and assembling them. It defines multiple layers of images that make up the board, including the size of pads, centroids, through-hole locations, etc.
Once the board has been acquired, the methods for programming the board vary widely, so evaluating the available methods against your particular processing needs will help guide the selection process. It’s easy to add expensive bells and whistles, but for a low volume application or shop, they may not be necessary. On the other hand, some medium to high volume applications will benefit significantly from the time-saving options that improve productivity.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of SMT Magazine.