Evolution in Action Print E-mail
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Written by Mike Buetow   
Monday, 31 December 2007 19:00

At Productronica, the most radical sight was the transit strike. But the venerable show didn’t disappoint.

We waited two years for the show to end all shows, and in the end, the catch phrase was evolution, not revolution.

Materials, printing and deposition took center stage at the biennial Productronica trade show in November. Asymtek (asymtek.com) rolled out a jet-based dispenser, while ERSA (ersa.de) and Mydata Automation (mydata.com) showed new printers, the latter also a jet design. (As usual, because of space, I try to discuss only lines not previously covered in these pages.)

Asymtek’s SC-400 PreciseCoat Conformal Coating Jet applies coating materials to selective areas. It uses a needle design with jetting action and fast pulse-width modulated control to deliver line widths down to a reported 1.2 mm wide. It even eliminates masking, the company says, because the flow is so closely controlled. A dual-valve configuration is available.

It’s hard to mention Asymtek without also commenting on Mydata. During the show, the companies announced an agreement on earlier IP issues, clearing the way for Mydata to bring its second-generation MY500 jet printer to the worldwide market. The machine offers offline programming said to permit setups and changeovers in seconds. The machine now permits adjustments on –the spot, in three dimensions, and comes with 2-D inspection and repair. The paste syringe and ejection technology has “snap-to-machine” loading, said to permit quick paste refill as needed or switches from lead to Pb-free solder paste in seconds.

ImageOvation Products’ (grid-lok.com) patent-pending Smart-Stencil transforms any inline screen printer (29 x 29" frame) into a fluid dispenser in minutes. A proprietary servo robot cassette is inserted (as a stencil would be) into the printer. Dispense routines are programmed via Windows-based software. The dispense valve accommodates a variety of adhesives and pastes, and disconnects quickly for maintenance.

ersa, known for its soldering equipment, has entered the printer world. The Versaprint, integrates traditional printing capability with a complete post-print AOI. The line scan camera nested in the printer is capable of images for type recognition and AOI. Novel software eases set-up, operation and process optimization. Versaprint includes a substrate positioning and triple rail transport to enhance speed and accuracy.

Panasonic (panasonic.co.jp/pfsc/en) also showed a new printer: the SP18P-L. With a cycle time of 8 sec. and 12.5 µm repeatability, the machine holds promise.

On the placement side, Siemens (siemens.com) has raised the bar with a pick-and-place machine said to be capable of 100,000 cph rates per IPC-9850. The X4i placement machine, based on the company’s X-Series platform, comes with a dual conveyor, configurable to use the space remaining between boards as a third track. Boards in the so-called "Productivity Lane" are passed through the placement area, to be processed on one of the other machines down the line. That way, the company says, two or more machines can place the same contents simultaneously. Another function treats two boards as one and populates them simultaneously.

Assembléon (assembleon.com) showed the MG-1 and MG-8 series of multifunctional placement machines, which integrate self-calibrating 3-D coplanarity and side-view cameras said to eliminate placement defects.

Panasonic also had a new gantry pick-and-place that features three head options: a 3-nozzle multifunctional, 8-nozzle flexible, and 12-nozzle high-speed version. The CM101-D is capable of 25,000 cph (21,650 per IPC-9850), and reportedly handles 01005s at 40 µm accuracy.

ImageEssemtec (essemtec.com) showed the CDS6700 printer/dispenser, which has a peizo flow valve capable of 15,000 dots per hour. A batch solution has been added to its FLX placement machine, which can now handle larger boards with high feeder counts. Its lower-cost Pantera placement line has laser-centering.

A new player, Photonium (photonium.fi), showed the Conveyor Top Concept, a gantry style machine with a fixed camera and a wide range of grippers; in short, a way to automate what would otherwise be manual placement.

Between rising commodity metals prices and end-product pricing pressures, solder suppliers are getting crushed. Pat Trippel, president of Henkel’s (henkel.com/electronics) Electronics and Aerospace units, allowed that eventually inflation “will affect the overall market.” In fact, customers are concerned that suppliers might not be able to withstand the crunch, he said. Trippel predicts contraction will be ahead among solder suppliers.

“Not everything is a drop-in equivalent,” Trippel said. He added that Henkel is “able to get a premium because of the higher level of support it adds,” plus the company’s vertical integration on powder development and distribution. Asked about the company’s underfills, global marketing manager Doug Dixon noted traction in consumer electronics, primarily with handhelds and products with higher processing speeds.

This is something to watch. We saw several major materials companies extending their product lines into areas beyond conventional bar and paste. AIM Solder (aimsolder.com), for example, rolled out its One-Step Underfill 688, a non-odorous, low surface tension, reworkable one-component epoxy resin designed for flip chip, CSP, BGA and µBGAs.

Cobar (cobar.com) is stirring up much interest due to its merger with Balver-Zinn (balverzinn.com) earlier this year. The company, now notably better capitalized, has the potential to become a much larger player on the world soldering materials stage. Among the recent additions is Dr. D Vu, the new head of R&D and an expert in polymers. Balver’s Josef Jost revealed that while solder is one element of the company’s strategy going forward, “other technical products are in the future.”

Over at Indium (indium.com), the latest solder developments include Indium8.9 Pb-free solder paste, a SAC 305 style paste that marks a new platform in the company’s product portfolio. It’s aimed at automotive and portable device products, for which its wide process window permits it to handle long, hot profiles.

The first two days of the four-day show were truly busy, a fact not lost on exhibitors (a partial transit strike may have slowed attendance later in the week). Seen everywhere: accommodations to China’s influence on global pricing. Vitronics-Soltec (vitronics.com), for example, is now offering a 12-zone reflow oven (model MR993) for 45,000 euros, and the Delta 3 wave for 50,000 euros. Both machines are built in China and share most standard features and specifications with their more expensive brethren. Vitronics is expanding in China, and is said to be in talks to enlarge its footprint roughly three times the current size.

It would take a week to cover all the innovation at OK International (okinternational.com). Suffice it to say, among the litany on display were the upgraded DX-350 small-footprint dispenser; the new tweezers for the Metcal MX-500, now more ergonomic and 0201 capable; and the APR 5000-DZ, for reworking components to 0.4 mm pitch with a dual-zone heat and more profiling capability. Oh yes, a lower price, too.

Among other introductions, the two major suppliers of cleaning materials both made announcements. Kyzen (kyzen.com) launched Aquanox A4651US, a low pH ultrasonic immersion cleaner said to be compatible with all the latest flux formulations and capable of brilliant solder joints with no sump side additives and consistent cleaning results with minimal bath monitoring.

Zestron (zestron.com) presented its new Fast Acting Surfactant Technology (FAST), featuring shorter, more agile surfactant structures said to move faster and clean more efficiently than traditional surfactants.

Because of the vast amount of process equipment to check out, we didn’t spend much time in the test and inspection hall. We did see a couple products worth mentioning here, however.

Koh Young (kohyoung.com) launched a new Aspire SPI platform, complete with overhead gantry, faster cameras, improved lighting, faster acceleration and standardized conveyors that speed throughput by 2.5 times. Programming time is less than 10 minutes, Thorsten Niermeyer asserted.

Agilent Technologies (agilent.com) announced a partnership to license certain automotive-network products in the Elektrobit Corp. (elektrobit.com) FlexRay product line, creating an integrated design and test toolset for software and test engineers.

Dage (dage.com) announced the XiDAT XD7500NT digital x-ray inspection system, capable of oblique angle viewing of up to 70° and with feature recognition to 950 nm.

RMD Instruments (rmd-lpa1.com) claims interest in its LeadTracer handheld XRFs is exceptionally high among Europeans at the show, which the company owes to attendees having “clear views of what they want to do” when it comes to identifying counterfeit or contaminated components.

Show organizers claimed more than 40,000 attendees, down by about 3,000 from 2003, but still reminiscent of the glory days of shows past. Sometimes, it doesn’t take a revolution to bring out the masses.

Mike Buetow is editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 January 2008 18:53


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