Making the move towards closed loop intelligent feeder systems

Paul Boughton

Martin Kunz looks at how to intelligently compete against the low-cost Asian electronic suppliers!

Market analysts agree that low volume and safety and security products provide the best alternative to compete against the significant price pressure offered by Asian electronics suppliers. This category includes products which may impact human life, eg medical devises, transportation safety systems, fire safety as well as national defence, etc.

The key to implementing low volume products is the speed to market, efficiency of new product release, and most important the quick production changeover. However, safety and security products focus on absolute reliability (zero defect) and the ability to demonstrate an error free production process with documented evidence. The PCB assembly in a production process is moving toward close loop intelligent feeder system with what is called a traceability function.

A closed loop intelligent feeder systems ensures that the correct component is loaded, and programmed through a verification system.

In addition, the programmed feeder is continually communicating with the system and must be installed in the programmed position. Only in cases where the component, feeder, and position have been successfully verified (reel time) will the machine pick and place the component. Upon feeder removal or replenishing reels, the user is required to verify the feeder to confirm the proper component installation prior to the machine picking any components.

The traceability function logs the lot number (or reel manufacturing code) for the produced boards. The data is then stored in a text or database file which is easily transferable to the factory ERP system.

Juki offered its first Intelligent Feeder System in 1999 which was introduced on their FlexLine assembly machines. The product received positive reviews but needed improvements due to the relatively high cost for the feeders and the mechanical contacts. Recently Juki presented the third generation of their Intelligent Feeder System(IFS-X).

Juki is breaking new ground with the IFS-X generation by using RFID (radio frequency identification) technology as the primary communication method between the feeder and the machine eliminating the contact method of the past. The storage medium on the feeder is passive which removes the requirement for power on the feeder. Therefore, the contact reliability as well as the feeder cost have been improved and the system provides the SMT manufacturer the highest cost/benefit ratio.

Using the Juki standard feeder the RFID technology can be easily retrofitted to existing feeders. Juki's close loop system offers a wide range of features for a fast and secure feeder set up as well as a traceability option which tracks the placed components to the placement level.

Martin Kunz, Juki Automation Systems, Solothurn, Switzerland.