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Driving SMT Solutions for the Automotive Industry
Strict certification of automobile makers' supply chains makes it necessary to validate at all times all equipment involved in production. SIPLACE machine verifications help ensure that the placement machines are working within required standards.

Electronic content has been increasing steadily in automobiles, and the large and growing automotive markets in North and South America offer great business opportunities for electronics components manufacturers. But those suppliers must consider some special requirements of the automotive industry. Original equipment manufacturers and contractors have developed highly specialized production processes for this industry and must comply with specific regulations for the automotive industry. Any electronics manufacturers hoping to be successful in this market must be familiar with these special requirements. One of these requirements is the strict certification of the supply chains for auto makers. An OEM or automotive supplier inspects the automotive production lines and stipulates line configurations along with many details for the production process. Once this has been finalized, only a few minor details can be changed, otherwise the lines must be recertified. Electronics manufacturers often depend on assistance from partners and equipment suppliers when it comes to meeting the demands of automotive customers.

For example, electronic component placement machines from SIPLACE, which has been part of the ASM Group since early 2011, have been among the leading solutions for automotive electronic markets in both Europe and in North and South America. The firm has worked closely with both small and large automotive suppliers, providing high-quality support at production sites all over the world through its global sales and service network. Services include machine inspection, machine capability certifications and the provision of test tools. These services help automotive manufacturers test and verify the electronic component placement accuracy and the camera settings of their equipment as well as the exact pickup position at the feeder.
Tracing back components becomes much easier with features like forced setup verification where required data is scanned and saved via barcodes.

Because automobiles and automotive products must be safe, automotive manufacturers place great value on production reliability and traceability. Accordingly, the industry has highest traceability requirements in electronics production. Safety-critical modules have a barcode on each cluster which makes it possible to record which machine placed which component or part during the production process. SIPLACE machines are available with needed options for the automotive industry, including optical readers on each machine, whispering-down-the-line, automatic feeder registration, forced setup verification, and splice-detection sensors. Such features help to deliver maximum electronic-assembly process reliability. With appropriate software options, the traceability data recorded on the machines can be displayed for operators and/or forwarded via standard interfaces to higher-level systems of manufacturers and OEMs.

Should something go wrong on a production line, EMS providers typically follow procedures that enable them to achieve their on-time deliveries by shifting production to other production lines or even to other facilities. Such options are not available to most automotive manufacturers, however, since they are not permitted to use non-certified lines or external suppliers - even in emergencies. SIPLACE service strategies guarantee short response times as needed, with worldwide support to ensure that unscheduled production-line downtimes are kept to an absolute minimum. With globally distributed spare-parts warehouses and the global SIPLACE network, electronics manufacturers receive the kind of quick support that enables them to comply with delivery schedules even in exceptional cases - a critical requirement in the automotive field.

ASM Pacific Technology (ASMPT) is another subsidiary of ASM International, supporting chip assembly, bonding, and packaging systems and solutions. With plants in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Malaysia, and Germany, ASMPT produces and markets machines for front-end and back-end chip assembly and semiconductor packaging.

Handling Odd-Shaped Components
Placement and handling systems for automotive electronics applications must face somewhat different challenges compared to applications in the computer and mobile telephone industries, where emphasis is on continued miniaturization. For automotive electronics, components are characterized by odd shapes and sizes, by parts that must snap in place, and even by very large connectors compared to electronics applications in other industries. In addition, large components with snap-in fasteners must be placed with high force.
The SX Series uses highly innovative gantries which can be added or removed in only a few minutes, as capacity needs are changed.

Fortunately, the Very High Force Head developed for SIPLACE systems can handle components as large as 38mm high and with as much as 70N placement force.

When such large placement forces are applied, circuit boards must be properly supported and with SIPLACE systems, this done by automated SIPLACE Smart Pin Support, with programmed positions where a board must be supported to prevent warping under high force. For two-sided placements, the software even issues a warning if the pin position would damage a previously placed component, so that pin positions are an integral part of the program. Each board receives the support it needs with no manual intervention and can be populated even with very high placement forces.

Glue is sometimes needed in the positioning of large components. To avoid the use of expensive gluing stations, the SIPLACE Glue Feeder is a dispenser that can be installed on a system like a feeder, wherever it is needed. The system's placement head moves components needing to be glued over the glue feeder, where glue is applied in a jet in the form of small dots. Once the glue has been applied, the head places the component onto the circuit board. This gluing approach is more efficient and effective than other methods, since the placement machine's vision system can check for the presence of glue before the component is placed on the PCB. This also prevents the circuit board from warping. These glue feeders are much smaller and less expensive than traditional fixed gluing stations.

Expansion Requires Flexibility
Lot sizes of electronic components continue to be small in the automotive industry, by contrast to the high volumes common to the computer and consumer electronics industries. Even with these smaller lot sizes, automobile manufacturers attempt to keep development and quality management costs low. Model differences and convenience options are handled with variant options. In support of this need for manufacturing flexibility, SIPLACE engineers have created manufacturing systems that can readily adapt to changes. Instead of expending a great deal of effort to optimize individual products by frequently changing heads and line configurations, small lots can be produced much more efficiently by adapting the line to the product with no reconfigurations, with no time lost for changing setups. The greatest advantage for automotive suppliers, however, is the fact that they can produce many different products on the same lines with no need to have them recertified.

Changing a placement head for automotive manufacturing usually means a violation in certification. By using flexible SIPLACE MultiStar placement heads, the need for change is avoided. Controlled by software, the placement head can operate in three different modes: Collect & Place for efficient placement of standard components; Pick & Place for larger components; and a special Mixed Mode that provides a combination of the first two placement modes. The SIPLACE MultiStar head can handle a wider component spectrum than conventional heads through its programmable flexibility. It allows automotive manufacturers to run many variants on the same line without head changes and the risk of recertification and/or downtime.

The SIPLACE SX Series machines use highly innovative gantries which can be added or removed in only a few minutes, making it possible to increase the capacity of lines quickly and without having to change the certified line configuration. When a head-equipped gantry has been added, the machine recognizes it, calibrates it, and automatically optimizes the upcoming placement programs. For example, an SX1 can be converted into an SX2 in less than 30 minutes to almost double the placement performance without having to make any other modifications.

Color Fidelity
Automobile manufacturers are quite particular about color fidelity and evenness of illumination from dashboard lights and interior lighting. Since light-emitting-diode (LED) brightness classes fluctuate, and most light colors require combinations of different-color LEDs, LED placement in an automobile involves special requirements and processes. Differences in brightness can be adjusted by combining LEDs with different resistors. To do this, a placement machine must place these resistors according to an individual LED's brightness class, sometimes in different locations and on the top and bottoms of PCBs. SIPLACE LED Pairing is an innovative solution for brightness class management. The required various combinations of LED brightness classes and resistors are loaded on the placement program as a list. Depending on the LEDs and their brightness classes, the system then places them along with their corresponding resistors. Also, because many LEDs have plastic or glass lenses that are pressure-sensitive or easily scratched, they must be properly handled. These components are one example where electronic component manufacturers ideally work with manufacturing equipment makers to create special nozzles and grippers suited to these LEDs.

Contact: ASM Assembly Systems, LLC, 3975 Lakefield Court, Suite 106, Suwanee, GA 30024 888-768-4357 or 770-797-3000 fax: 770-797-3091 E-mail: Web:

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