Essemtec to Increase Accuracy of Traceability Data

Pick-and-place featuring integrated labeling and identification

(PresseBox) ( Aesch/LU, )
A traceability solution should be able to assign assembly data to products without any doubt. Many systems, however, are likely to fail if there is manual intervention. Essemtec has now invented the integrated PCB identification system that no longer can be bypassed.

Manual intervention is poison for traceability systems in automatic production. Most user actions are not registered and interfere with the data collection. This is due to the separation of the identification system from the production machine. Usually the identification device is located in front of the pick-and-place machine. If an operator manually exchanges a board inside the machine, the data collection system is not aware of the change. As a consequence, assembly data is allocated to the wrong PCB, which is fatal for quality assurance and traceability.

Essemtec, the leading Swiss manufacturer of production systems for electronics, has now invented the integrated identification system for Cobra (fig. 1) and Paraquda placement machines to avoid such problems. The new system cannot be bypassed and, furthermore, saves expensive production space.

Make Use of Existing Resources

Modern assembly machines feature high-resolution cameras for detecting reference marks on PCBs, measuring component dimensions or detecting feeder positions. These cameras and their image processing system are of high speed and precision as they are directly responsible for the machine placement accuracy.

Essemtec's integrated identification system makes use of these existing resources. The function of the pick-and-place head camera (fig. 2) is enhanced to scan bar codes or data matrix labels on the PCB. As such, the system cannot be bypassed by manual interference because the pick-and-place rescans codes before placing components.

Increased Flexibility

The integrated identification system is more secure, reliable and flexible than other solutions. The bandwidth of recognizable codes is higher and ranges up to highly complex, high-density data matrix codes. Furthermore, existing labels can be used and codes can be placed anywhere and in any angle on the boards.

In a pick-and-place program, the machine treats identification labels in a way similar to reference marks. Therefore, the label is defined in board layout and the coordinates are transferred with the standard CAD file. Thus, traceability is automatically integrated in the normal workflow of printed circuit boards and does not require any additional programming steps. Also, labels can be manually taught-in if required.

Reliable Detection of Panels

Usually there are two different methods to identify panels. In the first method, only the panel itself is identified with code and each individual circuit board gets a position number, e.g. #123_1, #123_2, #123_3. The second method is to use an identifying code for each individual circuit that will automatically be detected by the traceability system.

Essemtec's integrated identification system can deal with both methods and even supports mixtures of both: If a circuit has a label, the code will be detected and used. If it has no label, a position number is assigned instead.

Assembling Code Labels Like Components

There are several technologies for applying codes to PCBs such as laser printing, printing or sticking a code label. Where and when a PCB receives a code depends on the requirements for data recording and traceability.

Usually, a labeling machine is placed in front of the pick-and-place machine and data recording begins with the placement of SMD components. Such labeling modules, however, are not very flexible. They use expensive production floor space and require additional programming for each new job.

Essemtec's SMD pick-and-place machines now feature an alternative solution: The label feeder. It presents pre-printed code labels that are picked and placed just like other SMD components. As such, the labeling is integrated in the pick-and-place area and saves production floor space and machine programming time.

More than Just Data Collection

The integrated traceability solution from Essemtec offers the additional benefit of production planning and control. Data recorded include all types of component and placement information, moisture sensitivity level data (MSL), information about operators, assembly programs, feeders, reels, PCB and more.

From these data, information such as consumption values, error messages, machine setup and configuration are supplied to the control system where they are used for short-term production optimization, trigger actions for quality assurance or influence the purchase process.

Job and Inventory Planning

For production planning and control, Essemtec has developed the eMis software package. The software connects production machines, component storage and ERP systems. In this network, eMis always knows the current machine setup, planned production, and the availability and the expected expiry date of components.

Therefore, eMIS is the ideal tool for the planning and the preparation of future production. For example, eMIS can calculate the optimum machine setup and can simulate and optimize jobs according to different criteria such as maximum placement speed or minimal feeder changes.

eMIS can preview the future component requirements taking into consideration the remaining MSL floor lifetime or other expiry data. In conjunction with Essemtec's automatic Tower storage system, perfect FIFO component storage system can be realized.

No Additional Work for Operators

Data collection results in no extra work for machine operators. The necessary conditions are automatically created when setting up feeders. The operator simply scans codes on the component reel and the feeder, which links both.

The intelligent feeders are then automatically recognized by the pick-and -lace machine. Component specifications and feeder configuration data are called from the data base and are linked to the identified PCB.

Essemtec's integrated traceability and identification system can easily be installed in production. It does not require additional work from operators and saves valuable production floor space. It offers consistent and reliable traceability data for SMD manufacturing and allows simulation and optimization for future production.
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