Remember that old saying, the more things change, the more they stay the same? Well, forget that. Things are changing and they will never be the same, at least in electronic product development.
Newer technology led by very advanced computing abilities, including enough power to enable new software with semi-artificial intelligence, has been combined with very forward-thinking concepts to enable an unstoppable new factory environment. The new vision systems are a major improvement in manufacturing, utilizing all aspects of electronics with character recognition able to see parts, read numbers and find holes to calculate scaling. The new smart vision systems on pick and place machines, as well as PCB manufacturing tools such as laser drills, enables advanced manufacturing precision and greater tolerance, allowing smaller holes and finer lines at high production speeds.
Technological advances speed up new inventions, many of which are destructive to the old way of business. Such technology, like the new ink jet solder paste printer, is in the future for every assembly manufacturing plant owner.
The new ink jet solder paste printer eliminates the time and cost of stencil production. There is no need to store thousands of old used stencils, waiting for a reorder that may never come. The new technology and advanced computer software in the inkjet stencil 3D paste printers allows for changes on the fly in solder placement on a particular pad, eliminating the need to reorder a new stencil when problems arise. The stencil-less ink jet printer can lay down very predictable solder volumes and placement with 3D, applying solder paste on copper pads with different paste heights on the same PCB, such as heavy multi-layer copper or build up chip technology.
In general, inkjet printing technology has advanced so significantly in such a short time that these machines are now the favorite with PCB manufacturers for printing solder mask and identification marking inks, along with recent inroads into image printing, replacing dry film exposure and developer machines.
All this new high technology to buy and play with is right here waiting to burst onto the scene with unbelievable, major disruptive changes to
PCB manufacturing and electronic assembly. The biggest game changer will be 3D printing. The most advanced car racing teams of Formula 1 now transport fewer parts to the races. They instead arrive with trailers hauling huge 3D printing machines, each worth many millions, printing upon demand large carbon fiber nose pieces, titanium parts so precise they don’t need machining, and tough fiber reinforced plastic thingamajigs on the car that get damaged in minor scuffles.
The Future is here…now!
Imagine the factory of the future; a dedicated 3D printer is manufacturing the exact part you need at the side of the assembly line. There would be no stock to store, almost zero shipping headaches and parts would be available on demand. In fact, factories such as Boeing are already placing 3D printers on their assembly lines. Parts print and go directly onto the plane. One factory stated 20 percent of its parts were 3D printed. All this will be coming our way very soon to various industries. Even bakers now have 3D printers that print the icing on cakes and pastries, from simple messages to 3D flowers. We haven’t quite reached the point of replicating our every desire, like in Star Trek, but we’re not far from it. In the electronics business, we are very close to 3D printed PCBs with printed layers of dielectric fiber glass and printed layers of copper including micro vias in hours, not days.
One of the biggest changes to productivity must be the Internet. Where else can you find the quick answer to any question, no matter how complicated? The internet allows you to bond with others in the same occupation through forums, to ask important questions and get instant knowledgeable answers. The days of shipping films and rolls of pick and place CNC punched tape are over. The computerized world has taken over. Let’s sit back in our autonomous self-driving electric car while it communicates with other cars, on the Internet, to coordinate each other’s moves while we enjoy the ride.
Even electronic design has changed dramatically over the last few years. In the past, we sat at electronic benches for days, even weeks, soldering and testing the circuit until it worked. Today, we have computer design tools, which allow the designer to create a circuit in the cloud. The design engineer knows how the complicated circuit works, and he did not solder a single component. The finite-element structural analysis program design tools engineers now use daily, allow for complicated thermal profiling and high-speed computations that few humans can do.
A Smart Factory in Cloud
One new idea coming from Europe is Industry 4.0, which is a new way of thinking about technologies and concepts by evaluating their importance in the value chain. By using the technological concepts of the Internet, you create the vision of the smart factory in the cloud, creating modular structured, smart factories that make decentralized decisions while manufacturing varied products. Multiple smart computerized machinery are communicating over the Internet by autonomous systems, co-operating
with each other and humans in real time.
A Glimpse into the Future Present
Advantages of the smart factories all interconnected are cross-use R&D, instant operating information, parts supply, human utilization, accounting and maintenance before the machine needs it in one neat package. The aim of the smart factory is to enable physically separate manufacturing units to
form collaborative R&D, implementation and skunk work groups for quick development of new products, new advanced manufacturing standards and shared infrastructure of manufacturing knowledge. The new smart factory utilizes powerful advances in computing, information and communication systems created by the Internet revolution. It combines three elements, which are the very essence of the Industrial Internet: highly intelligent machines, advanced analytics and energetic, informed people at work. The light-speed advancements we are now experiencing will be a major game changer in the next few years. Those who can see and are willing to take a chance in the future will be at the forefront of significant jumps in manufacturing electronic products.