Sunday, May 27, 2018
Publication Date:09/1/2007
Archive >  September 2007 Issue >  Production > 
Value-Added Device Programming for Small-Medium Sized Companies

Benchtop automatic programming system.

In our world of increasing global competition and the lure of cost-down manufacturing in Asia, too often device programming has been judged too complex a process step to manage in-house or too low in volume to add significant value to the manufacture of electronic products. If you have made these decisions, you may be overlooking a significant opportunity to control your costs and improve your profit margins.

Where manufacturing involves circuit board assembly containing programmable ICs, automated technology is now available that can save significant process steps and expensive rework. Many companies often do not know the true costs of their programming operation or how automated systems can contribute significantly to their operating income. Acquisition cost (because of cash outlay) often gets more attention than a careful quantitative review of cost savings or quality improvement.

Ninety percent of manual device programming problems are caused by operators. Field studies of millions of programmable devices (memories and microcontrollers) repeatedly show that manual operators select the wrong data file, mishandle the device and damage the leads, mix failed and passed devices, misplace the device in the socket, or create a host of other process issues that cause rework. Further studies have shown that the cost of rework can overwhelm the cost of implementing automated systems that remove the opportunities for operator errors. In fact, the cost of fixing a single operator error can be greater than the daily cost of owning an automated system.

The Presumption of Volume
While the many benefits of automated processes are known, some companies still presume their unit volumes are too small to leverage automated systems in their applications, hesitate to invest, and continue to suffer unneeded production costs.

Many companies with high device mix and lower volumes presume a monster capital budget is needed to amortize the acquisition cost of the equipment. Simple financial justification often leans on computed cost-per-part which is affected by system acquisition cost. But automated systems are now available for less than the daily expense of renting a car. Programmable devices can be successfully processed for pennies per device at low volumes, and duty cycles (machine utilization times) on the machines can be far less than full shift operations and still produce significant economic value.

Simple to Operate
Device programming systems are now available that are as simple to operate as your DVD player and use symbols and menus instead of confusing text to process the ICs. Machine setup, configuration, and calibration are also lesser issues as more intelligence is designed into automated programming systems that transfer those operator burdens to the machine. Operator tasks can be simplified to the point of simply loading and unloading the devices.

Machine setup by the user can take a matter of minutes instead hours or days of setup by technical staff. The latest automated systems have built-in means of knowing which modules are installed in the programming/handling system and include local coordinate reference points for precise device placement. These intelligent conventions minimize the amount of "teaching" the user must provide to the programming system for proper registration and processing. Automating your device programming does not mean changing your production facility or installing special power or air supplies. Small desktop automated programming systems are now available and are as easy to install as plugging in a copy machine to a standard power outlet.

No Changeover Pain
Changing job files and device fixtures (e.g., adapters, modules) can now be completed in minutes rather than hours. Initiating a programming operating involves loading the data pattern into the memory of the programming system, selecting the device to be programmed, and confirming the device has been properly programmed. The latest automated systems include the connectivity conventions, such as LAN ports and USB connections. Some systems include "smart" connectors that recognize which modules are installed without the operator having to teach the machine.

Affordable Desktop Technology
Data I/O's new FLX500 represents the state-of-the-art in automation simplicity. This compact desktop programming solution is self-contained and was designed with customer assistance to fully address the previous barriers users faced when implementing automated programming/handling systems. Electronic products manufacturers with lower mix and volume production can now enjoy the benefits of automated device programming that was previously available only to very high volume producers.

For more information, contact: Data I/O Corp., 10525 Willows Road N.E., Redmond, WA 98052 425-881-6444 fax: 425-881-6856 Web: 

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