Fareham-based contract electronics manufacturer Phoenix Systems UK Ltd has added in-house X-Ray facilities to its production resources. The company chose a new Unicomp AX-8200HR X-Ray machine from Europlacer. This advanced process verification and improvement machine was delivered and installed in April this year, despite the coronavirus lockdown.
Phoenix delivers bespoke electronic manufacturing services to quality-critical customers in sectors that include aerospace, aeronautical, defence, medical and research. The company boasts an extensive portfolio of production equipment and assets at its Fareham plant but had been outsourcing its X-Ray inspection. Some customer boards contain complex parts that the production team concluded could not be addressed reliably by other inspection methods. Aside from challenging QFA and QFM components, boards often contain heavy copper layers. In addition, one aerospace customer deploys a hybrid device that cannot be inspected optically due to the sophisticated way in which the component is configured.
Fortunately for Phoenix, members of its production engineering staff already possessed X-Ray expertise. Equally fortunate is that a nearby contract manufacturer acquired a Unicomp AX-8200HR machine from Europlacer last year and agreed to provide access for Phoenix production engineers.
Earlier this year, the Phoenix Systems UK management team decided that the time was right to invest in its own, in-house X-Ray capability – a fortuitous decision, as it turns out, with the impact of coronavirus just around the corner.
“Our pre-existing in-house expertise was supported by hands-on experience of the Unicomp machine, thanks to a friendly competitor located close by who generously gave us access to their Unicomp machine,” explains Richard Lynch, Operations Manager at Phoenix Systems. “In addition, as users of Europlacer iineo placement platforms, Speedprint printers, Aleader AOI and Tagarno inspection instruments, we already had a very strong relationship with Europlacer. In fact, being just a few miles along the south coast from Europlacer HQ, we often provide live manufacturing demonstrations of Europlacer equipment, so our confidence in the Unicomp X-Ray machine’s capability was high while our trust in the Europlacer support that would come with it was never in doubt.”
That expected support proved to be a bonus for Phoenix Systems as the X-Ray machine was delivered and installed by Europlacer, in conjunction with the team at Phoenix, using remote technologies at the peak of the Covid-19 lockdown.
As well as proving the integrity of surface mount operations to component level and validating the entire assembly process at Phoenix, the new X-Ray facility provides documented images and statistics, which are valuable in customer reports. “We are running it in anger and already using it on new boards,” says Lynch. “It adds to our speed of response to customers, which is one advantage of in-house ownership. It was the right investment at the right time despite global difficulties. Things must go on, even during a pandemic.”
The Blakell Europlacer Group comprises the Speedprint Technologies, Europlacer, and Blakell Europlacer Distribution business units. All three are active and pre-eminent in the electronic circuit board assembly sector with advanced product and service solutions for electronics manufacturers in the UK and globally. Speedprint Technologies is a provider of screen printing equipment used in surface mount assembly processes. Europlacer is a provider of surface mount component placement equipment. Blakell Europlacer Distribution augments the provision of screen printing and pick & place platforms in the UK, France and Germany with a range of associated equipment, including AOI, reflow and PCB handling.