The Monster in Munich

Productronica was, as usual, slightly surreal. The enormity of it cannot be overstated. Attendance at the Munich-based event was up 20% from two years ago to 44,000, per exhibition officials, although it’s not clear how many of those visitors were for SemiCon Europa, which colocated  with the biennial show for the first time. Still, for those in the market for new equipment, or just perusing to see the trends, there was more than enough to keep them busy the four full days. For a full report, click here.

 

 

Live, from Productronica!

We will be reporting from the Productronica trade show in Munich next week. For the uninitiated, Productronica is the largest electronics assembly show in the world, filling more than six halls the sizes of aircraft hangers at the Messe Fairgrounds.

Each day, I’ll report what I saw and heard at the show for our new podcast, PCB Chat. Tune in at upmg.podbean.com for the recaps. And for real-time updates, follow me on Twitter (twitter.com/mikebuetow). And if you are headed to the show, feel free to drop me a line at mbuetow@upmediagroup.com or connect with me via LinkedIn.

Safe travels!

 

Robots on the Move

As mentioned in our last post, robots were a huge part of Productronica this year. Check out some of the video footage at the CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY YouTube channel.

 

Robots on Parade at Productronica

Robots are the rage this year at Productronica.

Robot

An 8′ tall robot greets visitors at Productronica.

While German companies are talking up Industry 4.0 (also known as the somewhat misnamed smart factory), the more significant development we’ve seen has to do with the variety and number of robots being demonstrated performing real-world tasks. (This ignores, of course, the oversized Transformer-styled edition that greeted visitors on Day 1 of the show, shown at the right.)

The other visible trend involves established equipment vendors filling out their line cards.

DEK

Redesigned DEK NeoHorizon printer

There are quite a few new placement machines. ASM has the TX series, a high-speed dual lane machine in a smaller footprint aimed at the handheld market. The company redesigned the DEK NeoHorizon screen printer; it’s lost its bubble shape in favor of cleaner, more industrial-looking straight lines that match the boxes of the Siplace placement machines. ASM also rolled out a novel feeder that ditches the traditional program and pick routine for a vision-based approach whereby an upward-looking camera directs the nozzle to the appropriate part lying loose on a tray. Reels are eliminated, as are tape and splicing. Programming is reduced to describing feeder and part number. It sounds a bit chaotic, but the cartridge used by the Bulk Feeder X can hold up to 1.5 million 01005 components (the current pickable range is 01005 to 0402; the company is working on metric 0201 and 0603 parts).

Panasonic is showing two demo lines, the NPM DX and NPM VF. The latter is a high-speed odd-form placement machine with a clinching option that feature insertion height check and PCB hole recognition. The DX is a dual-gantry, dual-lane machine with four heads (4, 8 or 16 nozzles) that is said to perform “nonstop data correction.”

The Samsung Decan S2 double-headed chipshooter is rated at 92,000 cph and handles boards up to 510 x 460 mm, with an optional 1,200 x 460mm upgrade. Component range is 03015 to 12mm.

Siemens TX placement lines

ASM Siplace TX placement lines

Speedline is showing the MPM Edison printer, which is aimed at high-volume applications such as handhelds and automotive. The machine was also shown at SMTAI and SMT Nuremburg earlier this year. Its Vitronics Soltec cousin has the ZEVAm selective soldering platform, which is lower priced than its other lines but can process three PCBs simultaneously thanks to three full-size preheating units. The machine has tilt soldering capability for pitches under 2mm.

Heller reportedly has a fluxless reflow oven that relies on formic acid. The system reportedly was developed in a joint venture with IBM. Echoes of years (decades?) ago: The concept actually isn’t new: sources say Nokia among others experimented with it back in the day.

The partnership of ASYS and Rehm has spawned a slick reel-to-reel printed electronics line, leveraging ASYS’s handlers with EKRA printers and a Rehm infrared soldering system.

ASYS reel-to-reel handler for printed electronics

ASYS reel-to-reel handler for printed electronics.

It’s hard to move around all the test and inspection equipment, which takes up more about 1.5 halls, or about as much as all the printing, placement and soldering equipment combined. Again, this is where one really can see companies stretching their product ranges. Viscom debuted the X7058 inline x-ray, its fifth generation AXI which targets the EMS industry, and the X7056, a “partial” AXI aimed at the automotive market.

Saki showed its third generation 3D AOI (called 3D ID), which among its eight cameras is a four-way side angle camera for viewing and inspection. The machine is capable of running 50% faster than the second generation model and can be programmed offline. Also new is the BF-X3, a sealed tube, 130kV x-ray which offers adjustable slicing up to 2,000 slices.

TRI rolled out a new 3D AOI (TR7700Q), SPI (TR7007QI), and upgraded its CT on the TR7600 series 3D AXI.

Vi Technology has the 5K3D inline AOI, based on its 2D AOI, featuring two laser cameras and one beam. The 3D sensor is said to have 1 micron resolution.

The A Leader Pro Series AOI has a grid laser for coplanarity checking. The machine is said to be 50% faster than its predecessor.

Yamaha upgraded its 3D x-ray called YSI-X with a 7-micron resolution high-speed option.

Landrex has a new robotic test cell, a three-way collaboration with Omni and Precise Robotics. The demonstration involved a robot picking up boards and putting them in a fixture, then returning them to their rack. The grippers and media presented could be customized, says Landrex president Jim Gibson.

We saw some LED test machines, led by Premosys, but only two flying probe testers.

ASM showed its first SPI, called Process Lens, which was built in-house (so much for the rumors they would buy Koh Young), as well as a new software tool called ProcessExpert that assesses the SPI data and can automatically reset several print parameters (printer height, pressure, stencil wipe, x-y offset).

Several companies showed industrial robots, some of which were simply flying during basic final assembly operations. Multiple cold test environmental chambers (Rehm, SMT) and vacuum soldering lines (Asscon, Rehm, Eightech Tectron, SMT) are on display as well.

Asscon vacuum soldering

Asscon  VP6000 vacuum soldering

There’s not as much talk about closed loop feedback this year, probably because it’s been supplanted by Industry 4.0.

What’s also apparent is that no company has emerged to displace the established world order. So while there are companies not known on the world stage everywhere at the Munich show this week, it’s clear that the next two years will bring more of the same.

Ed.: Check out the robots in action on the CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY YouTube channel.

 

January Issue Now Available

Hi, and Happy New Year!

Our January issue is now available. Highlights this month include a profile of APCT, the Silicon Valley board shop; a recap of Productronica (including highlights of the new fab equipment); a fabricator’s take on rebuilding America’s manufacturing base; plus some great technical columns on centroid files and designing flex boards.

Here’s the link to the online version, or if you’d prefer the digital version, click here.

Happy reading!

Productronica: Still the Big Player on the Block

Productronica, the trade show that’s so big, they can only hold it every other year, enters its final day today.

The PCB fabrication exhibits have shrunk over the years and are now down to about one hall (although exhibitors were spread over two, intermingled with large lounge areas and contract assemblers). Like the (much bigger) assembly sections, the exhibitors felt Tuesday’s traffic was slow, but Wednesday and Thursday were strong. While China may have spirited away most of the production, this is still the event outside of the Pacific Rim.

Take a look at PCD&F today; our recap of the fab hall is now up.

Productronica, Day 1

Initial thoughts from Productronica:

Traffic was a bit slow relative to past years. The show itself seems smaller — and again, this is relative, as it remains bigger than almost all the other major electronics assembly trade shows combined — with traditional powerhouses like Siemens, Universal Instruments and other placement companies occupying booths that, while they would still qualify as monstrous at any other show, no longer fill entire halls on their own. (This is a good thing.)

Assembleon introduced its iFlex placement line, consisting of two multifunctional (with up to eight heads each) machines and a high-speed chipshooter. The dual-lane line uses the same feeders as the A series, is well-priced for all regions and is said to be capable of 400 cph placement speeds and less than 10 defects per million.

Speaking of Assembleon, the company reupped its licensing agreement with Yamaha, which, according to CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY sources, is for one year with a one year option. We saw Scott Zerkle, the new GM of Yamaha IM America.

Other products of note on Day 1:

  • Juki introduced multiple lines and made upgrades to several others, including a new vision system (called Sentry), which combine multiple cameras in the pick-and-place head with an integrated AOI, all of which reportedly require no additional programming time. Also on display was the JX series of low-cost high-speed placement machines; the JX-200 features a high-resolution camera for vision placement.
  • Kyzen debuted  the E5321 alkaline cleaner for pallets and general maintenance.
  • Speedprint added a glue and paste dispenser to its SP 710 printer.
  • Goepel’s Opticon AOI can handle up to 32 devices under test simultaneously.

Notes:

  • Chris Fussner, whom readers will remember from TransTechnology, is setting up a US division.
  • Aqueous Technologies CEO Mike Konrad says 85% of its customers are cleaning no-clean flux.
  • News out of Bangkok is that the flooding was so bad, some factories are soaked even on their second floors. Expect a big wave of new machines to replace the thousands lost in the flood.
  • The big drop in the solar market will claim many victims. Some folks think, once all the bloodletting is over, there will be only a handful of companies left. Others aren’t so dire, but the clear consensus is that there is tremendous overcapacity in solar (estimates run north of 35%) and that it will be two to three years before demand and supply reach equilibrium again.
  • Most equipment advances seen so far are evolutionary, with incremental improvements in speed and accuracy.

 

Making the Rounds

We will be at several events over the next six weeks.

On Thursday, senior editor Chelsey Drysdale will attend IMAPS’ annual symposium in Long Beach, CA. There’s a number of EMS companies focused on medical electronics exhibiting and it will be interesting to hear what the latest trends are.

The following week, I will be at SMTA International, covering it for the magazine and cochairing (with CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY columnist Sue Mucha) the session “Global Strategies for Lowering EMS Costs” on Oct. 18 from 10:30-1 pm. CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY also is taking part as an exhibitor (booth 528).

On Nov. 8, I am honored to be speaking at Zuken’s US ZDAC users group meeting. We also will be out in force in mid November at Productronica, the biennial trade show to end all trade shows.

Looking forward to seeing you … somewhere.

Productronica – The Fab Side

Time was, Productronica was equal parts assembly and fabrication. No more. While assembly commands four-plus halls, the fab side has been reduced to a single hall. On the fabrication side, laminate makers Isola, Arlon, Kingboard, Ventec and others were on hand, many in booths more in tune with the current market conditions and expectations for the show.

David Rund, president of Taiyo America, called the show “excellent,” adding that with 80% market share in the US, Europe was the next big market for the soldermask supplier to target. He added that many attendees appeared concerned about the supply chain, and were attempting to assess their supplier’s financial viability before ordering product.

I did see a few sales were made. Teknek sold a CM8 clean machine to Graphic. David Westwood will become GM of Teknek US and, with marketing manager (and wife) Jenni Westwood, will be moving to Charlotte, North Carolina, to launch the company’s operations.

LPKF had a sharp BMW motorcycle on display, a vehicle (get it?) to hightlight LPKF’s micromachining and LDS laser process that the automaker uses in a number of its products, mostly for steering control boards.

Holmuller is quickly coalescing with parent company Rena.

Kodak rolled out a Accumax, a new red-sensitive film. The company agreed that not many visitors were from outside Europe.

Staff I spoke with at Ventec, Isola and others remarked that the show was smaller than in the past.

Rogers called the show “smaller than usual, but not too bad,” estimating perhaps 20% of the attendees they saw were from outside Europe. Interestingly enough, the attendees were almost all PCB manufacturers, not the OEM designers the company typically targets. John Hendricks says it could be because the visitors want to see the company’s tech support staff, and because they are now offering more high temperature products that would appeal to fabricators. The company is ending its polyimide lines because, as Hendricks told me, that is “a dogfight we don’t want to be in.”

Meanwhile, Arlon was showing EP-2, its enhanced polyimide for high-speed digital applications, which features a Tg of 250®C, lower moisture absorption and lower electrical loss.

Productronica Wrap Up

We’re down to the last hour of Productronica. All in all, it was a better-than-expected show, modest by historical standards but strong compared to everything else this year. Perhaps more important, after a year of malaise, there is a noticeable improvement in the general outlook for 2010. The optimists far outnumbered the pessimists this week.

Time was, Productronica was equal parts assembly and fabrication. No more. While assembly commands four-plus halls, the fab side has been reduced to a single hall. On the fabrication side, laminate makers Isola, Arlon, Kingboard, Ventec and others were on hand, many in booths more in tune with the current market conditions and expectations for the show. Precious little equipment was being shown. Gone are the days when visitors could see 40 to 60 ft. plating lines in action.

David Rund, president of Taiyo America, called the show “excellent,” adding that with 80% market share in the US, Europe was the next big market for the soldermask supplier to target. He added that many attendees appeared concerned about the supply chain, and were attempting to assess their supplier’s financial viability before ordering product.

I did see a few sales were made. Teknek sold a CM8 clean machine to Graphic. David Westwood will become GM of Teknek US and, with marketing manager (and wife) Jenni Westwood, will be moving to Charlotte, North Carolina, to launch the company’s operations.

LPKF was drawing a crowd to gawk at the sharp BMW motorcycle on display, a vehicle (get it?) to hightlight LPKF’s micromachining and LDS laser process that the automaker uses in a number of its products, mostly for steering control boards.

Holmuller is quickly coalescing with parent company Rena. It was a little odd not seeing Joe Kresky there, however.

Electrolube introduced some 13 products this week, most of which were non-VOC flavors of conformal coatings. Customer demand is driving its push into that technology, Karen Harrison said.

Kodak rolled out Accumax, a new red-sensitive film. The company agreed that not many visitors were from outside Europe.

Staff I spoke with at Ventec, Isola and others remarked that the show was smaller than in the past.

Rogers called the show “smaller than usual, but not too bad,” estimating perhaps 20% of the attendees they saw were from outside Europe. Interestingly enough, the attendees were almost all PCB manufacturers, not the OEM designers the company typically targets. John Hendricks says it could be because the visitors want to see the company’s tech support staff, and because they are now offering more high temperature products that would appeal to fabricators. The company is ending its polyimide lines because, as Hendricks told me, that is “a dogfight we don’t want to be in.”

Meanwhile, Arlon was showing EP-2, its enhanced polyimide for high-speed digital applications, which features a Tg of 250®C, lower moisture absorption and lower electrical loss.

Notes

Saw old friend Hans Friedrichkeit, the longtime Photo Print PCB maven, now with PCB-Network. He’s also a board member for the Productronica show.