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October 2015 • SMT Magazine 51 jobs are boring. Next is a safety issue—but that is usually brought up by the company bringing me into the plant. Processes that are boringly repetitive or have injury risk are on the top of the list. Last on the list are processes in which the operator has to use manual dexterity or judgement in determining a part status. Las Marias: what are the risks and challenges that need to be considered when a decision has been finalized to automate certain assembly processes? Williams: First is internal expertise available. Second is how committed is management. Au- tomation is expensive on the front end—always two to three times more expensive than antici- pated. They key is the incremental rate of return (IROR), and how well the manager understands this. Las Marias: From a production standpoint, how will automation benefit a company? Williams: I always steer them away from the 'au- tomation because I think we should' viewpoint. There has to be obvious, quantifiable practical value in CT reduction, quality improvement, and operator safety. My job is to assess and sum- marize those benefits. Las Marias: Do you think robotics will replace hu- man workers in an assembly line? Williams: Never. There will always be situations that automation cannot address. For example, multistep automation cell has a gripper failure. An operator has to troubleshoot, fix, then re- cover all part states and tracking data. Las Marias: what can you say about the future of automation in the smt industry? Williams: It will continue to grow. Technologies not yet invented will always involve some level of automation necessary to make it possible. Las Marias: thank you very much, randy. Williams: Thank you. SMt lMu chemists have developed a photonic crys- tal from ultrathin nanosheets that changes color in response to moisture. The new material could form the basis for humidity-sensitive contactless control of interactive screens on digital devices. "These photonic nanostructures change color in response to variations in local humidity. This makes them ideal candidates for the development of novel user interfaces for touchless devices," says professor bettina lotsch of the Department of chemistry at lMu and the Max Planck institute for Solid State research in Stuttgart. The new sensing platform is described in the journal advanced Materials. The photonic crystals are based on nanosheets of phosphatoantimonic acid. The new nanomate - rial is extremely moisture sensitive and at the same time chemically stable, transparent and easy to fabricate into nanosheets. in comparison with other vapor sensors based on nanosheets, the new photonic architecture displays markedly increased response times, higher sensitiv- ity and long-term stability. "This unique combination of properties enables it to track and color-code finger movements in real time," says Pirmin ganter, who also works in Bettina lotsch's group. in addition, the new system is stable on exposure to air, and therefore functions not just under controlled conditions in the laboratory but also in the constantly varying environment of the real world. lotsch and her collaborators have already ap- plied for patent protection for the novel device and, together with the fraunhofer eMfT in Mu- nich, they are already working on a prototype screen which, in addi- tion to providing for color-coding, will also be equipped with an elec- tronic readout capability. Nanostructures for Contactless Control ProceSS IMProVeMentS For cycLe tIMe reductIon FeATure inTerview

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