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80 The PCB Magazine • June 2016 cess segments. The Whelen fully automated line con- tains 38 integrated pieces of equipment in a single piece- flow digital process. Process-to-process trans- fers are most economically accomplished when the pro- cess steps are laid out in a continuous inline fashion, although autonomous trans- port systems can also be uti- lized where the luxury of an open floor plan does not ex- ist. With an inline configura- tion, the cost of automation equipment and associated floor space for said equip- ment can be reduced by more than 35% since there is no longer a need for separate loaders/unloaders. Inline QC inspection (AOI) and even electrical test can also be in- tegrated using tools on the market today. An inline AOI scanner was incorporated di- rectly into the primary im- age process, which proved to have few enough defect escapes to qualify as the only necessary solution for the entire circuit patterning pro- cess. As cycle time decreases due to process efficiency gains, the cost of produc- tion control also decreases. The short cycle times of in- line processes limits produc- tion control to only two de- cisions, which can then be highly automated: 1)Deciding the priority order to feed jobs through, with no concern for in-pro- cess priority changes. 2)Determining if remakes are necessary based upon Figure 2: Process flow (50 panels/hr. outer layer and 18 panels/hr. multilayer). Figure 3: Head count to produce 50, 18 x 24 outer layer panels per hour. THE 21ST CENTURY PCB FACTORY—DESIGNED TO ELIMINATE OFFSHORE COST ADVANTAGES

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