Escatec invests in major SMT facility upgrade

ESCATEC is upgrading the SMT line at its facility in Heerbrugg, Switzerland. Two existing SMT lines will be replaced with a new single line based on an ASM-Siplace system in an investment program totalling more than two million dollars (1.5 Million Euros).

“This is a key step in our move to lean production,” explained Gerhard Klauser, General Manager at ESCATEC Switzerland. “The new line will be up to five times faster than the existing set up, partly from the much faster machine and partly from other improvements in the overall work flow. This will give us a return on investment within two years. We have selected a machine that is one of the most advanced currently available, and which can handle the smallest commercial packages – 01005 components that are smaller than a pin-head, and measure 0.25mm by 0.125mm – to ensure many years of use.”

The Siplace SX machine has several features that help it achieve both high throughput and zero downtime between jobs. There is a high degree of intelligence built into the system. For example, all the jobs for the week are programmed in at the start of the week. The system knows which components are common to the job being done at the moment, and for the next scheduled job, so that only new components are picked from store and kitted for production. The system also knows what will be required in the next few days so that those components can be kept on hand rather than unloaded and returned to store. As all the feeders for the next job can be prepared while the current job is running, there is zero down time – the new set of feeders can be simply connected and the next job started. This ‘rolling kitting’ approach can save up to 30% of the kitting time and effort according to ESCATEC. Up to fifty thousand components an hour can be placed by the new machine as it uses two heads so that while one is picking the other is placing.

Throughput of the SMT line is further enhanced by the installation of a laser marking machine that writes unique production numbers onto each board for quality control purposes. The work flow for a PCB from store, to preparation, to line, is also being optimized, reducing throughput time by two days for each production order. All these improvements will enable ESCATEC to be more responsive to changes in short term demand for high mix, low volume production as well as being able to do high volume production runs when required.

The new machine and facilities upgrade will take place in Q2 2012.

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