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.

 

Hitachi’s SMT Exit

And then there were … 27?

Hitachi’s board today announced plans to exit the SMT component placement business, selling off certain parts of the division and closing the rest. In a press release, the firm said it would transfer the sales organization to Yamaha and cease its development and manufacturing activities.

Japan has always been the major provider of the world’s component mounters, headed such major conglomerates as Fuji, Yamaha, Juki, Sony and Panasonic. And while Hitachi’s competitors will welcome one fewer player in the market, this in all likelihood won’t shake up the industry.

Over the years it’s been widely assumed consolidation was inevitable, yet it’s taken more than a decade since the Great Tech Recession of 2001-03 for any major moves to be made.

There have been several transactions and reshufflings, of course: ASM bought Siplace (Siemens), Universal was acquired by a private equity group, as was Assembleon. Mydata was acquired by a fellow Swedish OEM. And earlier this week Dima, a small European player, was snatched up by Nordson. None of these deals has truly changed the shape of the market.

In fact, the June 2013 merger of Juki and Sony was the first major deal in which a serious player ceased to exist. Hitachi’s will be the second.

The 27 (at least) remaining players will welcome the chance to grab Hitachi’s roughly $68 million in equipment sales now in play as result of this decision. Someone’s bottom line will look at least marginally better in the coming year. But more moves will be needed before the SMT market can truly regain the types of margins needed to inspire significant commitments to innovation that were standard fare in the 1990s.

 

 

 

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.