Printed Circuit Board Assembly & PCB Design SMT Electronics Assembly Manufacturing Forum

Printed Circuit Board Assembly & PCB Design Forum

SMT electronics assembly manufacturing forum.

seeking better process



seeking better process | 16 March, 2001

C-Tech is the 8th fastest growing company in New Jersey, yet we are so small and can not afford to buy expensive assembly equipment. Currently in production, we have 8 different through-hole boards and 1 surface nount board. In the past we have had the smt boards asembled by a contract manufacturer which was ok but very expensive. We have since been assembling this board in-houseusing the simplest process known to man, but this still requires much time to complete even one panel (16 boards). This board consists of: 2 elec. caps, 4 ceramic chip caps, 8 chip resistors, 2 transistors, a diode and 1 IC. The package sizes include 0805, 1206, SOT-23, FM-1, and SOIC-14. I am currently screening the paste on by hand, then placing the parts on by hand and using a hot air iron to complete the process. This process does work for the quantities, but i am the only one here who can do this and i am up to my neck in protos. Would anyone be able to direct me towards a new method or maybe some cheap equipment?

Thanks, Ed Hart

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J.D. of Panasonic


seeking better process | 16 March, 2001

Ed, You certainly are ready for some equipment. I noticed in your message that you mentioned cost three times. So it is a very big issue to you. What everything depends on is where you see your company going in the next few years. Do you want to continue on your growth pattern that you have set? Do you have the capitol to sustain that growth? I am sure you have wrestled with all of these questions but, they are big issues to think about when purchasing equipment. Also, be very careful about the bargain basement equipment. If you buy used make sure you talk with the everyone from the maintenance technician would takes care of the equipment to the operators who ran it and not just the owner. Their is always a reason why they are selling the equipment you must find that out.

A natural progression for equipment can go from

1. manual screen printing, table top SMT placer, and stand alone reflow oven. 2. Semi-automatic screen printers, entry level Chip placers and small automatic reflow ovens.

3.The highest level is of course the equipment I sell automatic screen printers, high CPH chip placers and chip shooters, and multi-function machines

Depending on where you are at in your growth you can expect to spend anywhere from 100-200K on table top to 250K-500K and finally 750K to 1500K. These are conservative estimates but this gives you an idea of what can be spent on a basic line of SMT equipment.

Good luck!


J.D. Talken Panasonic FA - Create group

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seeking better process | 16 March, 2001

ED, We have grown quite a bit in the past few years and we experienced the same dilemma you are experiencing. We decided to finally bite the bullet and get ourselves some high speed placement machines and a pretty large convection oven but you probably arent ready for that yet. If you dont want to spend a ton of money on a machine that will probably sit idle 90% of day with the small amount of work you will be trowing at it,I suggest looking at a manual placement machine. It uses shop air and the head is set on an x-y table enabling an operator to move the head around mannually. Their neat little machines and it seems like it would be perfect for your application. If you prefer you can contact me and I will be glad to set you up with the rep. who sells this machine. Jake

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seeking better process | 16 March, 2001

A most evocative title to the tread, Ed. Few companies in Joysee named "C-Tech", eh? I assume we�re talking "C TECH is a distributor of low vision aids and adaptive technology for the blind, visually impaired and learning disabled." []

I�ll try to steer in the direction of a new method. I�m sure there will be no shortage of folk rattling on about the wonderfulness of and how happy they are with their million dollar production line.

Most of the high growth companies I�m aware of have strategies for the different activities within their companies. Usually these strategies are developed to conserve scarce resources [cash] and help focus the actions of the folk working in the activities. I know nothing about your company, but I have been involved in fast growing companies for many years. I think you [your company] should �

1 Figure-out * What you do better than other people *What is absolutely essential for you to do to help maintain your company�s distinctive advantage to the customer. [This list is probably very short, may be one or two items. Say, design and sales. That�s it!!!]

2 Focus on getting better at doing JUST those things.

3 Find some one else to do ALL the other things.

I would speculate that doing production runs of boards is not on that list. [Buying production equipment or hiring a designer? Buying production equipment or hiring a designer? Hmmm? MAAAAP!!! Hire the designer. Do not think about this.] Possibly box build, integration, and test are on the list, dunno. Building prototypes to help engineering develop new products is most likely on the list, although not necessarily.

You say � "In the past we have had the SMT boards assembled by a contract manufacturer, which was OK, but very expensive." That sounds about correct. When you calculate "very expensive", are you balancing this outside cost versus the cost of doing the same work in-house? Sounds more expensive to do it in-house. � ["We missed our targets this month." "Tell me about it. We slipped schedule on the revised Alpha 3B Yammervo." "Yano we�re lucky though, Ed�s doing the SMT production boards. He�s the only one on the whole planet that can do them. He a real resource that Ed." "Really? I wonder how other companies do that? So, what are all those other people out in the shop doing? What ever, the thing that chaps me is that Ed can�t seem to get our proto boards done." "Yano, I think Ed�s in over his head. May be we should bring someone else in and have Ed go back to being a tech."]

What makes these boards expensive? What�s expensive � LT 5 bucks after materials [which ya gotta pay either way]? You probably piss-away $5 just setting-up to build the board [not to talk about all the soldering rework through the process]. And that doesn�t count the opportunity cost of the other stuff that you should be doing!!!

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seeking better process | 21 March, 2001

Dave, always a breath of fresh air!

But wait, you're talking 'em out of being a manufacturing OEM. Don't do that, they are already a dying breed, and we need more of 'em. (OEM's are usually better to work for than the contract shops)

Good overview Dave!


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seeking better process | 21 March, 2001

Ed, Although I will have to agree with Boca that building your own boards is probably the way you eventually want to go, that is not a reason to go out and buy whatever machines you can afford at this point in time. Have you thought of sub-contracting everything you can't do manually until you can afford the machines you really want. The worst investment you can do is to buy machines that are not able to handle future expansion and won't see ROI for five+ years.....

That's just my opinion, I could be wrong!!!

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seeking better process | 21 March, 2001

ED- We can help you. It is our specialty and we are right next door at the Philadelphia Airport. Please touch base with me. 610-362-1200 x 272

Cal Have I got a machine for you

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seeking better process | 31 March, 2001

JAX Is right. ROI. How much will it cost to subcontract your assembly for the next 3 years vs. buying your own equipment AND staffing (ie: Process Eng, Maintenance, Skilled operators, etc.). Then, ask how much will it cost you to buy new equipment for your next jump in technology? I've actually worked for a company (OEM) that restricted their engineers designs to the capability of the production floor... I've also worked for a company that spent $1.5M on a fully automated SMT line because they wanted to do SMT assembly only to build less than 2000 boards on that line the 15 months I was there (they now contract that out).

Years ago, many OEMs built their own PCBs 'till they found it was too capital intensive to keep up with technology so they started to outsource their PCBs. How many OEMs make their own PCBs today? Assembling the PCBs into PCAs is starting to follow that same path...

Keep the assembly processes that makes your product unique and leave the generic stuff to those who are the pros.

Just my thoughts, Scott

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seeking better process | 2 April, 2001

Hi Ed,

Identify what equipment you really need as there are a hell of equipment in the market that would suit your desired throughput. Before buying or investing on capital equipment, calculate your expected ROI. Also don't forget to include the future trend of your company e.g 2 or 3 years from now.


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