The Mannifest: Resourceful Solutions During Nationwide Shortages

Emmalee_Gagnon_300.jpgAs supply chain issues and chip shortages continue plaguing the world, companies are still struggling to get SMT components. A variety of solutions have risen to combat these struggles. The main methods being used are preservation of existing parts, reworking of PCBs, reclaiming of placed parts, and—if surface-mount technology isn’t enough—turning to through-hole technology to fill the gaps.

Secure SMT Production With Counters, Dry Boxes, and Rework Machines
Preservation of existing parts, as well as reuse and reclamation of placed boards, are all critical elements of getting through the shortage. Keep precise count of components, keep them protected from moisture, and be ready to rework when necessary to retain the number of parts you have with the right equipment. Here are the top three equipment categories for achieving these goals.

Preserve

  • Component counters: Having accurate counts of your components ensures control over inventory, which means management is aware when specific parts are running low (so they can order ahead of time and prepare for wait times appropriately) and can catch shrinkage through misuse, theft, or waste of SMD parts.
  • Dry boxes: It is crucial to keep components safe from moisture damage, especially in this time of short supply. Ensure the parts you have are usable by storing them safely in dry boxes and using baking dry boxes to restore affected moisture-sensitive devices.

Rework and Reclaim

Rework systems

  1. Reworking boards in need of repair, or that need to perform a new function, helps to reduce the number of PCBs disposed of and the number needing to be ordered.
  2. Reclaiming the placed parts (including SMDs, BGAs, QFPs, and LEDs) on existing boards limits the number of new parts that must be sourced. Previously placed parts can be cleaned of residual solder after salvage and then re-balled with either tin-lead solder, or lead-free solder to be reused on new boards.

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Printed circuit boards often contain valuable and difficult-to-source electronic components. You can avoid letting any of these parts go to waste by having control over inventory, reworking existing parts and boards, and by keeping critical components safe from moisture. The result will be fewer parts needing to be sourced, combatting unnecessary drains on the already-parched system.

Replace the SMT Parts You Can’t Get by Converting to THT Parts
In cases where preservation and reclamation of SMT parts are not enough to keep production going, some manufacturers have begun converting to through-hole parts over surface mount technology as a short-term solution. Equipment suppliers are now seeing an uptick in orders of through-hole equipment, especially for lead-forming and soldering equipment. Here’s why it may be a good idea to look back in time to look forward in manufacturing.

By repurposing existing parts to function as through-hole technology, manufacturers can combat the current crisis—not letting the part shortage halt production. The top pieces of equipment needed for this part conversion (which are being purchased at a rate not seen in over a decade) include:

  • Wave soldering machines: With either single or dual waves, wave soldering machines permit automated lead-free or tin-lead processing of through-hole and surface-mount boards.
  • Selective soldering machines: Selective soldering is a precise, low-price-point, benchtop alternative to hand soldering; in this time of labor shortage, selective soldering machines reduce the number of workers needed by doing the work of four to six people doing hand soldering.
  • Lead formers: Axial and radial lead-forming machines are available to efficiently cut, bend, and form taped and loose components for through-hole assembly.

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As many companies with in-house production (and those looking to start with their own product assembly) have been confronted by shortages of parts, through-hole (THT) production has emerged as a possible solution for many. Since the components necessary for THT are more readily available than those for SMT, reconfiguring can help manufacturers reduce wait times and increase output. If your company has been struggling to get the SMT parts necessary for production, it may be worth considering adding THT capability to your production.

Continuing Production Despite Shortages
In this time of short supply, American manufacturers have shown resiliency and ingenuity. Equipment suppliers are ready to meet the changing needs of the market by supplying the necessary tools. With the right equipment, manufacturers operating in-house equipment can continue production. By taking precautions to safeguard the components available, and by being able to have the flexibility to pivot from SMT to THT when necessary, small and medium manufacturers can survive despite adversity.

This column was written by Emmalee Gagnon and originally appeared in the June 2022 issue of SMT007 Magazine.

 

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2022

The Mannifest: Resourceful Solutions During Nationwide Shortages

06-08-2022

As supply chain issues and chip shortages continue plaguing the world, companies are still struggling to get SMT components. A variety of solutions have risen up to combat these struggles. The main methods being used are preservation of existing parts, reworking of PCBs, reclaiming of placed parts, and—if surface-mount technology isn’t enough—turning to through-hole technology as a way to fill the gaps.

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The Mannifest: Optimize Throughput for High Mix, Low Volume Manufacturing

05-11-2022

For manufacturers who have high mix, low volume production, there are certain pieces of equipment that can help you optimize your throughput potential. For an application with high mix boards, the most important thing is to choose a pick and place machine that can support many feeders. If you are unsure of the number of feeder slots your production level requires, it is best to speak with an expert who will review your bill of materials (at no extra charge) to determine exact equipment requirements.

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The Mannifest: Reduce Costs with In-House Production and Out-of-the-Box Thinking

02-16-2022

Despite a global shortage of critical components needed for car manufacturing, TESLA’s electric car deliveries have increased by 87%. How did they achieve this unprecedented surge in production? A mix of vertical integration and ingenuity. Elon Musk decided to utilize in-house equipment and in-house software engineers. By not outsourcing the manufacturing of their PCBs, software writing, and other stages of the creative and assembly processes, TESLA has retained control over their production.

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2021

The Mannifest: New Feeder Design for Eliminating Errors Prior to Placement

11-10-2021

As new technology and methods have emerged, companies in the electronics manufacturing field now have new options to consider for improving their best practices. These practices have helped influence the design of new equipment with ground-breaking capabilities. One recent industry advancement is the design of feeders with built-in OLED screens. This innovation helps create a pre-inspection stage that allows for operators to review components before they enter the machine. By having pre-inspection capability at the feeder stage, companies running in-house equipment can avoid manufacturing hiccups before they occur—providing better turnover and less downtime.

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The Mannifest: Financing Simplifies Process Improvement Through Capital Expenditures

10-20-2021

The saying, “You have to spend money to make money,” rings true when it comes to handling in-house production. Having up-to-date equipment is a key aspect of ensuring your SMT assembly process is the best it can be, and that requires a level of capital expenditure.

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The Mannifest: A How-to Guide—Avoiding Pitfalls When Purchasing SMT Equipment

08-16-2021

When weighing your equipment options, you first must decide what you want more: a lower up-front cost or ensured reliability. Choosing used equipment will save your company money, but unexpected problems with the purchased machine may occur. With new equipment, the initial investment will be more, but you can set high expectations for the longevity and quality of the machine.

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2020

The Mannifest: Solutions for Customer Support During Social Distancing

05-15-2020

In this difficult time caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, businesses are being forced to adapt. Business is not as usual, but we have come to appreciate the benefits of remote services. Chris Ellis explains how this recent crisis has also led to their team brainstorming some innovative new ideas.

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2019

The Mannifest: Faster, Cheaper, Simpler

11-12-2019

Looking at the SMT industry right now, I see some very interesting things going on with shifts in production locations, ease of manufacturing, and intellectual property (IP) protection. OEMs are bringing production back to the U.S. in greater numbers—some even back to Mexico. A significant driver of this over the past year has been the tariffs. For the majority of OEMs I speak with, it’s becoming clear how manufacturing in China is affecting their bottom line.

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The Mannifest: Custom Reflow Ovens and Curing

08-20-2019

It seems that a lot of companies in today’s market are buying specialized ovens for curing. Did you know that most SMT reflow ovens can be modified by the manufacturer (and quite easily too) for curing applications? In most cases, these ovens will also still work for SMT reflow, eliminating the need to waste precious floor space on a second oven.

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The Mannifest: Common Machine Errors and How to Avoid Them

07-22-2019

When it comes to the quality of SMT boards you produce, it can be difficult to know where to begin and what features various PCBA machines offer are most important.

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The Mannifest: First Time With In-house SMT Assembly? Start With a Great Design

06-26-2019

One of the best ways to eliminate possible production issues when you handle your SMT work in-house is to ensure that you have a manufacturable design. Thus, there are several factors to keep in mind when reviewing your designs before bringing your production in-house or starting your first run of in-house prototypes.

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Managing Your Double-sided Assemblies

05-01-2019

Using a double-sided board in your finished application allows you to produce more complex circuits while saving space, offering an array of benefits for high-tech applications and electronics. But challenges to double-sided board implementation are plenty, including placement questions, solder processing challenges, and heat dissipation. Read on why planning out a double-sided assembly is not substantially different from handling a single-sided board assembly.

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The Mannifest: When Is It the Right Time to Automate?

04-08-2019

How can you increase your production to keep up with rising demand while keeping your operating costs reasonable? While it can be tempting to go all-in and convert your entire production process to a fully automated assembly line, it may be more advantageous to start with low-volume assembly and convert more gradually.

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