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68 SMT007 MAGAZINE I APRIL 2019 If your PCB company is growing, you'll even- tually encounter the inconvenient question of, "How can I increase my production to keep up with rising demand while keeping my operat- ing costs reasonable?" Once you're there, you'll inevitably start seeing steps in your produc- tion process that you can automate to save yourself time, money, and headache. While it can be tempting to go all-in and convert your entire production process to a fully automated assembly line, it may be more advantageous to start with low-volume assembly and convert more gradually. In any case, when you find that the demand for your product is starting to outstrip the number of units you can feasibly produce in a month, it's time to consider your automation options. Depending on your production requirements, a prototyping line could be the right solution for you. A low-volume SMT workcell solution is often the first step towards a fully automated inline production facility in the future. The increase in production over an on-site manual assembly will let you keep up with increasing demand from your customers without an egre- gious investment of capital or floor space. If you currently source your assembled boards overseas, a low-volume line may not meet your current production demands, that would likely require an upgrade to a more substantial line. However, a small line could provide you with a fast, reliable prototyping solution and a way to better produce small runs without the hassle of involving an outside production source. These lines aren't the be-all, end-all of SMT production, but they can be a great, conve- nient option for on-site prototyping as well as R&D work, and can also work for companies that have small production requirements that they need to meet. When Is It the Right Time to Automate? The Mannifest by Mike Fiorilla, MANNCORP INC.

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