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58 SMT007 MAGAZINE I DECEMBER 2019 ter chip integration, but this is done far away from the design and assembly of the actual end products. We are evolving layers upon layers of technology, each of which is a building block to the next. And one revolution fuels the path for the next. Layers of Manufacturing Hardware It is a similar situation in the assembly man- ufacturing industry. Attend any IPC committee meeting, for instance, and you will meet those who have pioneered every exhaustive aspect of how to make and assemble a PCB. These peo- ple have explored the technologies involved in etching laminates all the way through to avoid- ing the unwanted creation of the minutest of solder "whiskers," just to name a few exam- ples. The technologies discovered and solu- tions created to make their way into commer- cial products, such that the user of the resultant machine, material, or solution can be insulated against the issues that were once prevalent. Of course, we continue to strive to improve the core technologies even more, but the domain in which this happens has narrowed significantly, and more is in the hands of the developers of the related machines and materi- als used in the various processes. We don't all need to know these core technologies as much anymore in assembly manufacturing, so fewer resources are required for this kind of special- ization. This is just as well because, as the refinement and complexity of such technology increases, so does the cost of specialized skills. The original owners of these skills are also leaving the industry now as they mature into other areas of specialization, such as golf. All of their blood, sweat, and tears are embedded in solutions they helped create. The focus of active assembly manufacturing can now move on towards applications at a layer above. Layers of Software Many people are now saying that the impor- tance of software in assembly manufacturing is at least as important as the hardware, even with its half-century of built-in technology. The layering of software technologies applies just as much as it does to hardware. Many of us started out coding in "assembler"—the base language of microprocessors. Programming languages—such as "Basic," "Fortran," "Pas- cal," and "C"—soon provided a way to create assembly code automatically from a higher- level language. Pre-written functions in these languages became available in the form of software librar- ies, such that developers could use them to build the core and foundation of their applica- tions (most famously, of course, for Windows). More than 95% of actual executable code run- ning in software applications today is pre-writ- ten and already part of a library or software development kit. Software architects can now quickly create complex applications without thinking about the layers of processor execu- tion commands, the appearance of windows and controls, etc. Layers of Manufacturing Technology Hardware and software are the constituent components of the tools and machines that manufacturing uses. Significant changes in each of these areas promotes corresponding change opportunities in manufacturing prac- tices. One simple example is related to the incoming inspection of materials as they enter the factory. Today, this is just one of the hun- dreds of added value functions that make up the modern, digital, IIoT-driven MES solution. Incoming inspection policies are simply con- figured through the selection of simple, intu- itive options that reflect the initial incoming testing requirement to satisfy conformance and compliance to business needs and cus- tomer requests. The software then qualifies and guides anyone with basic operational skills to perform complex and precise incom- ing material testing, ensuring the right mate- rial selection and testing instruction, sample size, and frequency. Should a material show increased variation in quality, for example, the rules within the software automatically adjust to provide more rigorous screening. The entire operation is automated, based on accumulated know-how and experience gained over years of incoming inspection prac- tices. Operators and managers performing such

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