Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Publication Date: 06/1/2008
Archive >  June 2008 Issue >  Partnering > 
Outsourcing Rework, Reball & X-Ray

Our motto is "Rework Solutions" and it is the very essence of what Mini Micro Stencil is all about. Ask us which branch of our business is the fastest growing, and the answer is simple: contract rework. This is an area that is becoming increasingly cost-prohibitive for OEMs and EMS providers to do in-house.

In the real world, rework requires special skills, including on-the-fly engineering, and most of the time, staff engineers are busy working on new product designs and other areas where their high-priced engineering expertise is most needed. Rework is not very high on that list for most OEMs and EMS providers.

As true partners to our customers, what we do at Mini Micro Stencil is provide specialized services — providing a place where the manufacturer can outsource the parts that are not profitable for them to do themselves. We're able to step in and provide both rework and x-ray inspection on a contract basis.

Rework is not like loading a pick-and-place machine; highly developed skills are required. Not only is it a highly skilled procedure, but it takes place in a fluid environment; nothing is repeated because the requirements are constantly changing. The technician doing the rework learns to work on different kinds of boards; and the thermal characteristics of one side of a board will be different from the other. The operator must be disciplined and work in a controlled environment in order to be able to carry out this process. And a really good rework operator is very hard to find these days. The job requires engineering skills, patience, and time a skill set that is too costly for many manufacturers. Thus it becomes easier and cheaper to contract it out.

Highly Specialized
Rework is a very highly specialized form of outsourcing. The bottom line is that we have done some really big jobs for the contract manufacturers, since we specialize in rework and repair.

This all goes back to our founding idea which was to manufacture tools for repair of printed circuit boards. We were the first ones to bring to market mini stencils for printing a single component site onto a PC board. We invented a little stencil and a printer to hold it and print it on a tiny unpopulated portion of the PC board. We still make those tiny stencils today, and while this segment represents the foundation of our company, it was just a stepping stone to get us into the larger arena of outsourcing repair and x-ray inspection.

Many small-to-medium EMS providers do not own x-ray equipment; it's just too expensive for their type of operation. They may bid on a job, knowing that Mini Micro Stencil can help them with their x-ray needs. They can send product to us for x-ray inspection, or we can rent a small x-ray system to them to use until they get their process verified for the new job.

We have a small portable x-ray machine that we ship to a customer overnight. This system is simple to use and the end user can easily learn its operation quickly. Very rarely do we have to send a technician with the machine. We also have a large x-ray system in-house so nearby customers can drive up with their boards for x-ray services. Small and mid-range EMS providers will not buy an x-ray machine because of the cost, and they may only need it for one customer's new product line. Instead, because they know they can rent an x-ray system from us, they are able to quote on the job, get the job, and then rent the machine from us until their process is verified. The x-ray doesn't make them any money, but it lets them quote on the job, where they know they will need it during the initial process runs.

So many shops are small now, and cash flow is so critical that they need to get the job before they can set out to get the equipment; to conserve cash flow, they will rent or use our service.

X-ray on a Budget
For customers who want a budget-oriented way to purchase their own x-ray equipment, we can supply pre-owned machines that we have refurbished. We refurbish rework machines since our focus is strictly on rework and repair. We offer not only contract services, we also sell the tools needed by our customers, including those mini stencils. We also will provide turnkey packages of refurbished x-ray machines, installing and teach and train our customer's people to use the equipment. We also design tools around the application for rework. It's all something of a micro niche that we have found for our partnering services.

We use Glenbrook x-ray equipment because at an affordable price, you get a quality machine that does most x-ray operations. We have found that a high-resolution, low-power system is more than sufficient for most customer requirements.

In addition to x-ray equipment, we also offer rework machines, reballing kits, handtools, inspection mirrors — anything that has to do with rework and repair. But we don't see equipment sales as our big growth area. Based on past and present performance, our service areas will continue to provide our major growth. As more and more Mom and Pop assembly houses cut budgets, they will send out an increasing amount of contract rework. That has become the bread and butter of our operation, and will probably continue to do so.

Contact: Mini Micro Stencil, Inc., 1165 Linda Vista Drive, Suite 107, San Marcos, CA 92078 760-891-0111 fax: 760-471-8459  

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