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Robotic Soldering Station Adapts to Special Needs
The Luna 8S automated soldering system.
By Ken Schiffer, Apollo Seiko, Bridgman, MI
There has long been a need to automate the labor-intensive process of hand soldering. There are several possible approaches to meeting this need in order to increase output and quality. One method that has been very successful has been to provide a repeatable robotic process. In perfecting this process, Apollo Seiko has patented many advances in selective solder technology.
Areas that have seen significant development include soldering iron tip design, solder feeding techniques and integrating Nitrogen to provide a low-cost, lead-free soldering solution for both robotic and hand soldering applications.
Apollo Seiko provides soldering solutions for all sectors of automation starting with hand soldering through complete pass-thru conveyorized systems. The L-CAT EVO is a 4-axis Gantry robot for table-top or in-line use. A 30 watt laser diode or an automated iron unit can be utilized to provide the best technology to meet application requirements.
The Luna 8S Soldering Work Station system can be tailored to utilize between 4 and 12 individual Luna soldering heads. Each station has its own automated soldering iron with a precise solder feeder; both the iron and feeder technologies have a patented design. Each feeder can handle solder from 0.34mm up to 1.6mm diameter. The solder wire is fed at an adjustment rate of 0.1mm per second, up to 50mm per second. An important system option available is for an integrated nitrogen capability for lead-free RoHS soldering. The solder feeder is equipped with a patented roulette cutting blade feed mechanism that pierces the flux core with evenly spaced holes to precisely feed the solder wire, allowing the flux to outgas as it nears the heat source. This prevents the flux from creating a micro-explosion and therefore virtually eliminates solder balls. The flux begins to boil and expand at 120°C while the rigid solder outer shell will maintain its shape up to its 183 to 220°C melting point.
Infinite Temperature Adjustment
The Luna system has an infinite temperature adjustment range from 100° up to 500°C. There is also a temperature adjustment for a high and low limit with an alarm notification.
The type "K" thermocouple for the iron tip is located within the tip itself very near the heat source. This offers precise temperature monitoring, and excellent recovery during the solder process. With the thermocouple in such a strategic location, a minimal temperature drop can be detected so recovery is extremely fast. This is confirmed by the iron tip reaching a solderable 300°C within 6 seconds. The quick-change iron tip cartridge provides for a positive keyed location and precise tip positioning with each tip change. Many styles of iron tips are available from stock or a custom iron tip can be designed for any specific application. The Luna 8S has solved process challenges with integrators and specialty machine manufacturers at a fraction of the cost required for multiple robotic stations.
Specialty requirements, like adding components that cannot be exposed to the normal elevated temperatures of wave or reflow operations are suitable for assembly on this system. The unit can be programmed to deliver the exact temperature required for just about any soldering application. The specific amount of solder is fed to the position to be soldered precisely when the substrate reaches the desired temperature, normally 0.5 to 2 seconds. A second solder feeding position for the iron tip can be set adjusting the stoppers' up and down positions; the first solder feed is for wetting and can be deposited between the solder tip and the substrate using this function. This setup achieves optimal heat transfer and activates flux more efficiently. The solder wire feeding position is adjustable and can be set to precisely deliver the solder to the desired location. This system virtually eliminates any "keep-out" areas for odd-form components in high-density locations.
The soldering iron unit on all systems will automatically switch over to a standby mode after an adjustable time period has elapsed — going to a standby temperature of 100 to 300°C. This function will extend solder tip life when the system is not being utilized to its full capacity.
Multiple sensors are built in to detect a solder outage from an empty spool of solder, and to detect any solder clog in the feed tube mechanism. An exhaust system is available to remove any fumes resulting from the soldering process.
The exhaust module consists of two separate filters. It has a gas and HEPA filter. All filters are tested to conform to B53928. A comprehensive range of specialized filters is available to fulfill more demanding or diverse applications.
Programmable cylinders/actuators provide the multiple movements of the substrate, and are controlled by a PLC to perform the necessary tasks at hand. A SMEMA-compatible pass-thru conveyor can be incorporated for maximum productivity.
The company provides soldering solutions for all sectors of automation starting with hand soldering through complex pass-thru conveyorized systems. The L-CAT EVO is a 4-axis Gantry robot for tabletop or in-line use. A 30 watt laser diode or an automated iron unit can be utilized to provide the best technology to meet application requirements. The Luna and Terra controllers can be easily integrated into dial table or conveyorized work cells providing low cost solutions in single or multiple unit scenarios. These machines accept a wide voltage input range to provide easy installation at facilities worldwide.
Contact: Apollo Seiko, 3969 West Lemon Creek Rd., Bridgman, MI 49106
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