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Tate Technology Says Yes to E by SIPLACE
Scott Tate, president of Tate Technology, and an E by SIPLACE pick-and-place machine.

(FL}Admittedly a lower-volume contract manufacturer, 25-year-old Tate Technology was an unlikely adopter of the market's newest mid-speed placement technology. But, its visionary leader knew that if the company was to grow, its placement capability needed an overhaul. "My job is to say 'yes'," explains Tate Technology president Scott Tate, who runs day-to-day operations at the EMS company that bears his family's name. "We have built our business on taking the jobs that nobody else wants — an approach that has served us well, providing a foot in the door for some amazing opportunities in markets as diverse as telecom, medical, industrial, and military." With production volumes as small as a single board and others in the tens of thousands, choosing a system that would offer a robust, hybrid solution and hold its own against the fast pace of technology was Tate's task.

Evaluating the Field
Armed with a binder, a complex evaluation matrix and a list of eight placement companies with which he had meetings, Tate set off to the 2016 IPC APEX expo to begin his three-day machine analysis marathon.

"When I arrived in Las Vegas, I was definitely leaning toward one particular placement system," recalls Tate, who had spent considerable time evaluating the machine at a local EMS colleague's facility. "But, the more questions I put to the vendors on my list, the more my preconceptions changed."

The word nimble describes Tate's competitive differentiator. "I've had customers walk into my office, put parts on my desk and ask how fast we could build the boards," says Tate. "In one case, we finished the job in four hours while the customer waited in our lobby. That's what sets us apart; everyone has decent people, equipment and processes, but we have the 'yes' mentality. So, our equipment has to be able to manage the work that nobody else will take on, as well as the thousand-board jobs. My decision matrix was designed on this premise."

He sought answers to an impressive array of questions: Does the machine self-calibrate? What is the human-machine interface? How is it programmed? How are parts taught? What are standard options and what are upgrades? How many feeders can the system accommodate and what is the feeder modularity? How long does it take to set up feeders? Are the JEDEC trays bolted or interchangeable? What's the machine's accuracy rating? Does it have edge conveyors, warp sensors, digital vision or laser inspection? How many nozzles on the placement head? What's the cph? What is the machine's footprint? What's the largest-sized part it can accommodate?

And that was only the start. "If you look at Tate Technology and the markets we serve, where we need to be quick and nimble, I needed a placement system that gave me the best opportunity for success in all areas," says Tate. "After countless discussions with multiple suppliers, ASM's new E by SIPLACE stood out as the optimal solution, from both a flexibility and an overall capability perspective."

Making the Difference
Tate Technology was the first E by SIPLACE Americas customer, purchasing two of the placement machines and acknowledging that there was a bit of apprehension. "We are the antithesis of the early adopter," notes Tate with a laugh. "So this was an anomaly for us, but an absolute necessity for our future. I knew we'd have a steep learning curve, though I was confident that I'd made the right decision for many reasons."

E by SIPLACE has emerged as a premier system for the mid-speed market, drawing on the proven and advanced ASM placement technology found in high-speed SIPLACE platforms and building in flexibility for the unique needs of the mid-speed sector. For Tate, the system ticked all the boxes. Every feature addresses Tate Technology's job scenario extremes, from the customer waiting in the lobby for five boards to the 5,000 board jobs, allowing Tate to effectively manage both ends of the spectrum.
E by SIPLACE delivers advanced and economical placement capability to the mid-speed sector.

"This is the best hybrid solution," says Tate. "The feeder technology was a big factor in my decision." With 120, 8 mm (0.31 in.) feeder slots, hot-swappable feeders that simply connect and self-calibrate, and a JEDEC tray elevator that is easily removed and interchanged, E by SIPLACE delivers a high level of flexibility. That the placement system can be a short strip solution is also an important feature, and eliminates the need to spend a lot of additional time splicing or buying extra parts.

Software simplicity, the ability to teach parts, along with system networking capability, were other key considerations for Tate Technology. Using Centroid data, it is easy to panelize, cluster and optimize the job across many various lines. "ASM's E by SIPLACE has the best blending of our two types of business models — the quick-turn NPI and the high-cph, high-repeatability requirements, along with multi-machine job integration," explains Tate, adding that other systems he evaluated had no machine-to-machine network capability. "The ability to be flexible between the two production scenarios is tremendous."

Proof Positive
Since installing the ASM pick-and-place systems, Tate Technology has realized positive, measurable results. Based on the speed and intelligence of the machines, productivity at the company has greatly improved. "The cph is exponentially higher than our older systems," says Tate. He also notes that the placement machines do not derate as much as others with gang-pick heads that claim to deliver the same cph. Tate says that a placement system that he considered was billed as a 25,000 cph machine. But, he was told he wouldn't be able to achieve actual speeds over 8,000 cph, even for simple jobs. "We have no problem getting our E by SIPLACE machines up to 14,000 cph on more complex assemblies, which is very close to the IPC-9850 rating of 14,700 cph. We have speed when we need it," says Tate.

Placement of small and complex parts is also managed easily. One job required the company to handle an oddly-configured BGA. The 1 in. (25.4 mm) square part had rows of solder balls that didn't start until about half an inch inside the perimeter. "The grid was well inside the part, so there was a massive overhang with no solder balls," explains Tate. "We tried to place these with our old system and failed miserably."
Tate Technology’s E by SIPLACE platforms are equipped with the CP12/PP placement head, providing speed, precision and flexibility.

E by SIPLACE's digital vision system inspects 100 percent of leads and bumps — as opposed to only the part's outer edges, which is the technique employed by conventional laser systems. This technology allowed full inspection of the unique BGA and accurate placement. The system was able to place all 300 of the BGA components, solving the placement challenge. The company is now consistently placing BGAs as small as 0.74 mm (0.03 in.) square.

It is not only oddly-configured, difficult parts that make the placement machine earn its keep. "The placement precision is exceptional," says Tate. He adds that since installing the systems, quality has improved and SMT touch-up and rework have been reduced dramatically.

This all translates to a more robust bottom line. From a cost perspective, Tate estimates that the improvements to productivity have already paid dividends. A recent analysis of 14 jobs that were previously run on Tate's older machines was telling. When the identical jobs were run on the ASM machines, the data revealed a nearly 10 percent increase in efficiency, saving over 300 hours of production time. "We can produce far more product with the same staff and can now take on more technologically advanced assemblies," says Tate. "With the ability to accurately place parts as small as 01005s and as large as 45 x 98 mm (1.8 x 3.9 in.), we are well-positioned in our niche and can expand into other areas."

Though he admits it took some time for the Tate Technology team to get up to speed, Tate says that investing in the E by SIPLACE system was one of the best business decisions he's made.

"It's an impressive machine. When it's running happily, I get goosebumps. We can now take on more complex, higher-volume jobs yet still be nimble and flexible. Essentially, I get to say 'yes' to a lot more opportunities."


Contact: ASM Assembly Systems, LLC, 3975 Lakefield Court, Suite 106, Suwanee, GA 30024 770-797-3000 fax: 770-797-3457 E-mail: Web:

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