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18 SMT007 MAGAZINE I MAY 2022 It's fair to say there's a big distinction between what you need to do for different production mixes. As I talk with my peers in the industry, one of our biggest challenges for the higher mix, lower volume placement is component packaging. Packaging—Tape, Reels, and Tubes... Oh My! Barry Matties: When we talk about packaging, do you mean part of the components? Rowland: In this case, we're specifically talking about tape and reel vs. matrix tray vs. tubes. e ideal scenario if you're running high vol- umes is to buy full-size reels. When you're in the high-mix business, you're typically dealing with much shorter strips of tape, and not all the machines on the market are well- designed to deal with that. It's a major chal- lenge for domestic companies, and one that the placement industry has not stepped up to address as much as I would like. We had to develop a process that enables us to deal with shorter strips of tape; it's typically one of our bigger headaches from a board build stand- point. Johnson: Is that sort of packaging challenge worse when you're dealing with very small components or is it consistent across the board? Kevin Bennett: It's worse when you're dealing with smaller components, because there are different methods for loading them onto the placement machine. e components are pre- sented in the pockets of the carrier tape with cover tape over the top of each pocket to keep them from falling out. When you have a short strip of tape, there needs to be enough carrier tape length for the feeder to advance correctly. In that case you must prep the strip with an extra length of cover tape, so the mechanism that peels the cover tape back will expose the component for the nozzle to pick from. If you're placing short strips of tape on a matrix tray platform, the entire length of cover tape needs to be peeled back before attempt- ing to pick. If the short strip contains small components, a slight bump could cause all the components to come out of the carrier tape with potential loss due to attrition. Johnson: Even a stray gust of air can do that. Bennett: Exactly. Ideally with short strips of tape, you want to use tape-and-reel feeders, so the cover tape keeps the components in the carrier tape until they're ready to be picked. Feeder types vary by equipment manufac- turers. Non-mechanical feeders are small and have a peeling method for the cover tape as the base they're mounted in advances the carrier tape. Mechanical feeders tend to be large and require a longer length of cover tape to weave through the feeder so it will advance correctly. Increasingly Smaller Components Johnson: What are some of the other chal- lenges happening specific to high density com- pared to more traditional, larger-sized compo- nent work? Rob Rowland

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