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84 SMT007 MAGAZINE I OCTOBER 2019 I remember back in the day when pick-and- place machines used mechanical centering, and the smallest chips were 0805, if not larger. Now, the industry calls for smaller and smaller components, such as 01005 or 0201 chips, which are no larger than a flake of pepper and hard for an old guy like me to even see. But it's a cakewalk for most pick-and-place machines nowadays to inspect these and place them per- fectly. The use of micro BGAs and ultra-fine pitch QFPs has become more popular, yet machine technology has evolved to the point that they can inspect down to the ball level and determine if one solder ball is missing or insuf- ficiently sized, automatically avoiding poten- tial failures down the line. Software is also becoming more intuitive and user-friendly. A lot of the guesswork is now removed across the board, including automatic stencil printer setup, optimization of pick-and- place machines, and profile selection on reflow ovens. Further, Industry 4.0 is becoming more prevalent in all of these processes, and U.S. manufacturers are benefiting as they bring their production back home. Another reason I see a lot of OEMs "onshor- ing" is intellectual property. Companies are seeing competitive products appearing on the market that are essentially carbon copies of their own products. Over 70% of the people I've talked with discuss moving their manufac- turing back to the U.S., which is a very com- mon problem. It is, of course, another issue that hurts the bottom line and decreases prof- its. A lot of the time, it forces companies to reduce sales margins of the end product. Lastly, the turnaround time and expense of building prototypes often is a costly part of the design/build cycle, particularly with premium fees for setup on low-volume runs. Some high- volume OEMs have been investing in smaller in-house prototyping equipment to shorten the turnaround time for prototypes. These design teams go from two to (up to) six weeks when outsourcing prototypes down to a just few days when building them in-house. Conclusion In general, I see a very positive outlook for the U.S. right now in the manufacturing sec- tor. A lot of OEMs realize that the cost of equipment is not as much as they think it will be. I commonly run across questions like, "I thought it would be a million-dollar acquisi- tion to get started in this, but is that the case?" The short answer is no, not at all. Depend- ing on the products and volumes, some com- panies start for as little as $50,000—even less for low-volume production and up to approx- imately $300,000 for mid-volume production with around 10,000 components placed per hour. Of course, if it is higher volumes than this, the costs can increase, but for the aver- age electronics manufacturer in the U.S., the investment isn't very high at all, especially when compared to the return. SMT007 Chris Ellis is a sales manager/engineer for Manncorp Inc. To read past columns or contact Ellis, click here. EPTAC Continues Its Expansion Andy Shaughnessy and Brenda Clunie, VP of opera- tions for EPTAC, discuss the company's current growth plans and how its training facilities serve the needs of OEMs who are bringing in new, younger talent. Click on the image to watch this interview.

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