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XetaWave Achieves Advanced SMT Production With SIPLACE SX
Ian Linn, SMT Manager at XetaWave with one of the company's prized SIPLACE assembly machines.

XetaWave is a manufacturer of high performance, reliable industrial wireless data radios. Customers of XetaWave demand high reliability and robust data transmission in support of mission critical applications. With these stringent requirements in hand, the company went about selecting equipment for its production line to be installed in its production facility. Here, quality and reliability were just two of the reasons why the choice was two SIPLACE SX machines as the placement solution. Now, all XetaWave radios are 100 percent designed, manufactured, and tested at its headquarters in Louisville, Colorado.

XetaWave was co-founded in 2010 by Jonathan Sawyer, an industry renowned pioneer in wireless technology, and Robert Campbell, a technology entrepreneur. With such a high emphasis on quality and reliability, the choice of manufacturing equipment is critical. When asked about manufacturing these radios, Jonathan Sawyer, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of XetaWave, explains: "You have to build them in house." After 30 years of designing and building radios, he explains that quality is essential when selling products for mission-critical applications: "RF devices have a large amount of components packed into a small space. Misplace one of those components and you have a problem." That meant that outsourcing was not an option.
The flexible SIPLACE MultiStar CPP head provides precision control of component placement.

Manufacturing at XetaWave starts with surface-mount-technology (SMT) assembly. The SMT line consists of a best-in-class production line using two SX 1 placement machines from SIPLACE ( equipped with the SIPLACE SpeedStar CP20 head and the flexible SIPLACE MultiStar CPP head. After printing, placement, and reflow, XetaWave radios are assembled and subjected to some intense testing procedures.

When selecting SMT equipment, XetaWave needed machines to be robust and scalable while also being capable of producing best-in-class quality. "Any delta in price between equipment sets soon gets eaten up by lack of throughput, poorer yield and higher attrition when you select a low-cost alternative," notes Ian Linn, SMT Manager at XetaWave. "What we need as an RF device manufacturer is the ability to handle leading-edge, very small components that get designed into our product," said Linn. A typical XetaWave radio will have components from 0201 to 256 pin BGAs, as well as a shield to 30 x 40mm in size. "What we like most about SIPLACE is the ability to control everything in the placement process. Feeders are easy to load and they can be programmed to run at different accelerations for problematic parts. The NPI tools and user interface make it fast and easy to get new products up and running on the line," offers Linn.

Scalability & Flexibility
Another factor that played a role in XetaWave choosing the SX 1 systems was the scalability of the platform. XetaWave's SMT line is now configured to run at the capacity needed at present, but the capacity can easily be scaled to double the output of the SMT line by adding a gantry to each of the SIPLACE machines. In doing so, the rest of the line will remain the same, with no need to reposition the oven or printer or other parts of the production line. The feeder space on 2 SIPLACE SX machines allows XetaWave to establish one side of the production line with a fixed setup of common parts used in most XetaWave products. The other side of the line contains setups "split" onto two sides of the table, allowing fast and easy changeover from one product to the next. This production-line setup allows the company to achieve a build-to-order operation that is a key part of its custom RF solution business model.
Ian Linn shows off DEK Horizon 8 printer, which provides highly precise paste deposits.

Along with the firm's high-quality parts placement capabilities, Linn ensured that the print process was established to give best-in-class results by choosing the Horizon 8 screen printer from DEK ( All of the stencils used at XetaWave are manufactured with a nano-slick coating on the underside which prevents paste sticking to the bottom of the stencil. The result is a high-quality print process. With best-in-class printing and parts placement equipment, the new SMT line provides a tremendous amount of production flexibility. "Not only does our best-in-class SMT line help us deliver quality and build to order," says Linn, "it's a great selling point for our customers. Many of them are really excited about the fact that we do our own manufacturing and its one of the key areas we show them when they come to visit."

"There are two benefits to having a world class manufacturing facility in house," says Selma Salihagic, XetaWave's Director of Manufacturing. "One is being able to build a high quality product and the other is being able to build to order." According to Salihagic: "XetaWave benefits from its manufacturing capability with a very fast turnaround time. New products can be built on the SMT line almost immediately and then brought into test. Any DFX measures can be communicated straight back to development from the SMT area, something you don't always get when working with a contract manufacturer."

Salihagic adds that "the testing, tuning and configuration of the product can then be done without being rushed which ensures maximum quality. (Outsourcing only allows some generic board level testing.) Also, the developers get a very fast turn-around on their designs, which helps with time to market immensely. Communication is also so much quicker and easier when you have design, manufacturing and test under one roof. If you outsource a part of that loop, you end up spending a lot of time communicating."

Testing Guarantees Quality
Testing is critical to maintaining repeatable performance and high quality in the XetaWave radios. During Flash/power up, firmware is written to the radio and some basic functions of the radio (e.g., power supply, current draw, resistance checks) are tested.

Next, the radio is tuned across its frequency range and power settings are calibrated. Due to the harsh environmental operating conditions for which the radios are screened, thermal testing is critical. The radio is tested from -45 to +85°C to check functionality across the entire temperature range to confirm that it meets specifications at all temperatures. It is then given a throughput test. In this phase of manufacturing, the radios are functionally tested to ensure they successfully transmit the required and specified amount of data. Following this, additional testing includes a line stretch, a sensitivity test, and a final test. During final test, after assembly to a serial or Ethernet interface PCB, the entire functionality of the unit is tested against the specification of the radio. With so much testing, in-house capability was absolutely required.


Contact: XetaWave, LLC, 258 South Taylor, Louisville, CO 80027 303-449-1313

E-Mail: Web: or ASM Assembly Systems, 3975 Lakefield Ct., Ste 106, Suwanee, GA 30024 770-797-3189 Web:

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