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48 SMT Magazine • September 2014 feATure There has been much discussion about the increasing amount of automation in the world of electronics assembly. SMT Editor Richard Ayes recently asked Gelston Howell, senior vice president at Sanmina, to provide perspective on the state of manufacturing automation. San- mina knows something about automation: The company is a $6 billion integrated manufactur- ing solutions provider with extensive experi- ence in helping OEMs design and manufacture complex electronic products. In this interview, Howell discusses the cur- rent state of automated electronics assembly systems, the inherent risks and challenges, and the future of robotics in manufacturing. SMT: Which production operations can be easily automated? Gelston Howell: Products as diverse as automobiles and con- sumer products have been produced using various levels of auto- mation for more than 40 years. What's new is that more complex elec- tronic products, such as some smart phones and sophisticated medi- cal devices, are being produced using factory automation. Apple's phenomenally successful iPhones and notebook computers for example, traditionally assembled using primarily manual processes, are now beginning to employ more automated assembly lines. The medical device industry has been go- ing through a similar transition, with dispos- able medical device manufacturers designing machines to automate complex and precise operations. Of course, driving down costs is a by richard Ayes I-ConneCT007 Sanmina: Automation in Production Lines

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