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SMT-May2016

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8 SMT Magazine • May 2016 by Stephen Las Marias i-coNNect007 Strategies to Reduce Handling Errors Despite the advancement in manufacturing technologies, processes in assembly lines con- tinue to involve multiple opportunities for er- rors or defects to happen. Sometimes, these pro- cesses involve factory workers doing repetitive, dull tasks that do not add much value into the overall productivity of the company. More of- ten than not, such causes of errors also involve out-of-date or legacy equipment that electron- ics manufacturers are hesitant to replace, as do- ing so entails a significant investment. Nowadays, the electronics assembly indus- try is looking more and more into automating their production lines as automation offers sev- eral benefits, including a return on investment in the long run; reduced variation; and higher reliability. In our recent survey, the majority of respondents said automation helps them reduce handling errors—or operator errors—in their processes. It also enables faster throughput, as well as reduces the number of processing steps. During my visit to the IPC APEX EXPO in March, I witnessed one demonstration that can be related to our topic for this issue of SMT Mag- azine—strategies for reducing handling errors. It was Sawyer, a collaborative robot by Rethink Robotics. (You can watch my interview with Rethink Robotics' Carl Palme here.) In Rethink Robotics' demonstration, Sawyer was integrated into a legacy testing equipment. What the robot does is open the tester, put the board assembly to be tested into the proper test- ing area, and then close the equipment. After testing, the robot will open the tester, take the board out (and probably place it on a conveyor or somewhere for the next process—the demo didn't show this), and then take the next board due for testing. And on and on it goes. "One of the nice things about a robot is that it can do the same thing over and over every single time. Robots are very good at repetitive, dull tasks, while humans can actually add a lot of value in many different tasks. I think what is going to happen is robots will take over jobs that are very low value-add—where operators don't feel fulfilled; and humans are going to be promoted to jobs where they can add more value to a product, where they get more satis- faction out of their jobs," said Palme. I think what's even better here is that the ro- bot was integrated into legacy equipment, and it was able to offer some level of automation into that process, without having a significant amount of investment into new equipment. Moreover, it reduced the opportunity for han- dling error, as it made sure that the boards were placed accurately and precisely into the fixture, before testing. Sure, a person can do that over and over again. But as Palme said, that person can add more value somewhere else. Going back to our survey, one of the com- ments made was that some smaller-volume E ditoR'S notE

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