Adibhatla Krishna Rao, NMTronics India Pvt. Ltd.
Hyper automation is a dream for industry players, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, investors, technology developers, OEMs, scientists, researchers including you as a reader and me as an Engineer. There was a saying “Imagination always becomes fact “. It is true and witnessed in all sectors. Twenty first century inventions towards Aero Space, Medical, Consumer electronics, Communications, optical, Energy, Automotive, robots, Defence, Renewable energy like many are once dreams which we are benefiting and enjoying today. Still moving towards extended dreams where there is no question of “ Cannot happen”.
Significant developments happened in semiconductor technology, which forced OEMs to develop automation Equipments and further improvements happened in Electronic manufacturing industry in Twentieth century. Transformation of traditional manufacturing plants into automation was a good achievement and implemented globally. The taste of benefits towards automation, promoted further drive towards automated production lines, flexible manufacturing systems, Smart factory which significantly happened in phase wise. That means technology driving towards Industry 4.0 .
Ultimately what is the Goal? The ambition is – switch Off all lights in production lines or even whole manufacturing plant itself and expecting production happen from raw material to finished product as per the programmed schedules without intervention of humans. Which means, material handling, moving material, loading, and unloading should happen through robots. All automated assembly Equipments should perform their specific tasks and manage with changes in production mix, production schedule as per demand patterns for different products made on the system change over time. That means auto changeovers. Similarly, automated machines should be capable for self-monitoring, self-diagnosis , analytical process, and machine to machine communication without intervention of humans. Hence Hyper automation can be most appropriate solution.
Electronic manufacturing PCB assembly automated production lines consists of a series of workstations or several automated machines linked together through automated PCB conveying system to move the PCB assembly between the specific process stages since assembly constructed in step wise .
This process assembly is a combination of Process related machines (such as Screen printers, reflow, Wave soldering) , Component placement machines(such as pick and Place , Auto insertion) , Inspection machines like SPI, AOI, X Ray and testing equipments like and Test and measuring machines like ICT , Flying probe Testers and dedicated test and measuring solutions. Apart from these, different types of PCB assembly handling /carrier equipments between stages to handle assembly and to link production line equipments.
Automation is very much essential for assembly of electronic Circuit products as assembly involves surface mount components, through hole components, electrical components, mechanical components and harnessing etc. and industrial robots playing vital role to accomplish assembly requirements. All industrial robot applications, robots provide substitution for human labor because humans cannot operate repetitive, involving same basic work motions every cycle. Sometimes work operation is hazardous or uncomfortable for human worker. For example, placement of surface mount devices for which components dimensions are so tiny, that can neither seen by naked eye nor mount on PCB manually. Similarly, situation is valid for high density , odd form components, fine pitch components etc.
Industrial automation justified its own importance in all aspects. Automation performed manufacturing process with less variability. Given justice to the terms – consistency, repeatability, productivity , safety , product quality , efficient material handling and most importantly profits.
Industrial revolution officially initiated from 18th century and more focus from first world war. It was a major shift in revolution phase by phase. The first three revolutions covered almost two centuries 18th and 19th century. Industrial 1.0 was focused on mechanical production in which equipments were powered by steam whereas Industry 2.0 revolution gained towards mass production assembly . equipments required Labor and electrical energy.
Industry 3.0 witnessed Automated production using electronics and Information and technology. Now we are in aggressive phase of industry 4.0 intelligent production Incorporated with Internet, IoT internet of things, Cloud and moving towards Industry 5.0 along with Big Data, Artificial intelligence. Technology innovations towards sensors, storage and Industrial robot’s technology, industrial robotic technologies, digital computers and derivation of mathematical algorithms and many others ,altogether contributed to progress in Automation technology. Feedback control system machine programming and industrial internet of things are another set of elements which driving the automation a big success.
Hence the combination of robotic technology and sensor technology, OEMs built their automated equipments as a smart machine. It means machines using self-optimization, self-configuration, and even can handle complex tasks with Internet of things (IoT). Large scale machine to machine communication and IoT are integrated for increased automation , improved communication forced the production of Smart machines that can analyze diagnose issues without need for Human intervention.
Electronic Manufacturing Industry :
Strategic implementation of industry 4.0 transformation towards Electronic Industry manufacturing happening phase by phase. The countries like Japan, Germany and china adopted the strategy with a concept to increase efficiency, product quality and to reduce cost while the countries UK ,USA focused on developing business and standardization models. Ultimately goal is thriving towards Hyper Automation.
Robots are Played major role in implementing Fixed automation. Robotic applications divided into three categories. 1. Material handling 2. Process operation 3. Assembly and inspection. Application of Industrial robots used for the purpose of Loading ,Unloading and storing of electronic PCB assemblies through magazines. Similarly, for the process operation auto tooling, back up pin placement. Manual throughput of PCBs eliminated. Industrial robots used in the form of Placement heads in pick and place machine to perform complex ,high density component placement on PCB assembly. Robots use grippers and Nozzles to grasp the minute, odd shaped, fine pitch components with grippers or with Vacuum technology.
Since robots are programmable, one strategy in assembly work is to produce multiple style in products and reprogramming of robots between Models. For Improvements in accepting and executing the program commands and feedback control system were the major progress towards assembly products. SMT automated production line, robotic technology applied for Inspection and Measurement for the purpose inspecting solder paste deposition geometry and solder joint inspection after soldering process. Example -3D SPI Solder paste inspection Machine and 3D-AOI Automated optical inspection.
Flexible Manufacturing System FMS :
This is one more advanced technology towards Smart Factory beyond capability of Fixed automation. Technology innovation within the automation equipments where production equipments capable to process more than one product. With help of dual conveyers and multiple robots, at any moment each machine in the system or production line, can process different model product.
Introduction of dual auto conveyor width adjustment, dynamic head exchange system in Component placement Machines ( Pick and Place) and their versatile capabilities witnessed improvements towards flexibility. OEMs developed dual conveyor process even for Screen printing and reflow, where these are critical process for Electronic production assembly lines. Likewise, PCB depanelling ,solder paste inspection and AOI machines ventured similar technology to cope up advanced automation.
Robots provided substitution for production process operations like functional testing( for example – ICT In circuit Testing, flying probe tester where functional testing can happen through programs without need of fixtures), and adhesive process for the applications conformal coating, underfill and selective dispensing.
Though the technology progress is a part of industry 4.0 road map, but intention of OEMs technology drive seems to be quite different. Consistent productivity, Optimum efficiency, high quality performance, speed and material handling were the main agenda to win the customer satisfaction levels.
As a result, features like reduction of change over time, automatic data creation, on line machine editing, preventing defects, defect diagnosis capability, development of maintenance tools to work at optimum efficiency and remote monitoring of production state where mangers can check the production status remotely and can issue work instructions instantly Complete solution for automation and labor saving.
Simultaneously, improvements in sensor technology achieved major revolution in Traceability. , Image processing, machine and product performance index results and analysis and automating production program change by simply scanning the bar code on the PCB. Industrial Internet of things (IIoT) and statistical software packages played vital role based on lean Six sigma approaches and complete digital transformation. Software solutions is another segment for the success of complete Industrial automation. For example, software solutions like NEXIM (Integrated Production system), MENTOR (Complete manufacturing, monitoring and control systems), KSMART (smart factory solution suit), TEST AWAY(Design for test analysis tools ) etc. like many are become key elements for the progress of Smart factory concepts.
Smart factory Concept :
A step a head towards hyper automation. Further automation and atomization. ERP, Integrated production systems, Big Data, internet of things and artificial intelligence are integrated with complete automated production to fulfill objectives of Smart factory.
OEMs developed and designed automated production equipments based on Smart factory platform. Service providers and solution providers have come with systematic solutions with automation technology in all processes and segments from planning and production to management and analysis to optimize entire factory.
Automated warehouse, automatic maintenance, progress monitoring entire factory which accumulates the knowledge and closed loop to provide instant optimum counter measure actions and automatically determins the effectiveness of the process. Detects incidents in real time. Production equipments flexible to support various production types, exchange of material without stropping machines, various types of tools that support production equipments from material preparation for performing maintenance which ensures smooth production that does not depend on skill of operator.
I ntegrated production system software’s are capable for automatic schedule creations where external changeovers , Machine changeovers happen as per programmed product work orders. Similarly, automatic change overs at machine level. Result in seamless change overs. Means auto tool change, auto conveyor width adjustment, auto backup pin position change, nozzle exchange, placement head exchange and auto program change when ever panel ID differs while sensing.
Automatic parts supply through Industrial robots from automated warehouse to production line, machine to machine , across multiple lines and even unit to unit. Further anomaly detection using robots . detects error signs using chronological data from devices such as machine sensors.
In nutshell OEMs constantly introducing production equipments with a concept of Artificial intelligence and with newly developed sensing technology.
Industry 4.0 Hyper Automation :
Hyper automation is a state in which Organizations use combination of multiple technologies such as Robotic Process automation, Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine learning (ML) collect vast amount of data to repeatedly identify, analyze and automate all possible business processes. It is an end to end automation for all processes that need to be include segments like Intelligent Document processing, Analytics & Insights, and Intelligent process discovery as well. Simultaneously, Manufacturers, OEMs and service providers should be adherent to Factory, Asset management, Facility Management, Logistics, Predictive maintenance, quality control &production flow of monitoring and most important factor is Customer Preferences.
Hence, integrated system should have visibility of production floor and field operations, visibility of manufacturer supply chain and visibility of remote and outsourced operations. If these objectives fulfilled , it means real digital transformation
High Capital expenditure required to invest in automation. To adopt Hyper automation solutions, all systems present in the organization shall be integrated and end to end automation for all processes. Around 30% of Entrepreneurs adopted Industry 4.0 globally and witnessed the value for manufacturing Industry that were not imagined. Though digital transformation providing substantial benefits, as per sources, only 5-6 % Electronic manufacturing Industries adopted complete automation. The challenges associated with adoption can be high initial cost, market conditions, lack of established standards, education, and training .
- Entrepreneurs Adaptiveness
There can be many challenges for Small, Medium, or even Big companies when implementing hyper automation concepts. But their intension towards advanced technology makes a difference. Attitude like “Optimistic” is very important in this age of digitization. Company policies matters a lot. If objectives of company policy towards passion, proactiveness , focus and willingness to uplift company brand, culture, and ethics from beginning to end, then the values of Smart automation come from all levels.
Though the intention of present industrial revolution is for complete automation, people still need to manage the system. Skilled human labor required to drive most innovation and strategies. Hence lack of qualified employees can be a hindrance for the hyper automation adoption rate.
There is a huge barrier between the present education system and the real world technology . Real life learning projects must for development of competencies required today’s world. So, the necessity of project based, and research driven, relevant, laborious need to be incorporate in present education system to cope up the speed of real world technology.
Standards are very much essential to increase hyper automation adoption rate. . Multiple technologies and data flowing between machines, systems, software, or any data exchanges must be within the scope of Automization. We have already experienced impact of non-standardization. In 1999, Nasa space craft lost in space due to trouble in conversion of Unit measurement metric and Imperial. This is one of the classic examples for Non standardization. Similarly, still there is no common platform for Mobile phone charging Points(Lighting cable for iPhone, USB type C & MicroUSB for other smart phones) power Plug points and Power inputs. If OEMs and Automation solution Providers make their own protocols , stands on proprietary, then it affects the manufacturer’s choice of interoperability within the manufacturing. So, communication protocols, interfaces, data formats need to be standardized internationally , just like SMEMA , Hermes (IPC – Hermes-9852) IPC standards.
Adoption rate in India especially Electronic Manufacturing Industries is less than 5%. Very much behind compared to china, Japan , USA, and some other developed countries. The reasons can be – interested only in short term profits, Inability to perform rapid experimentation, uncertainty about ROI, unstable market trends.
But succuss in business does not require overnight success. To taste fruits of hyper automation, one must adhere to standards, rules and regulations, work ethics, creativity , innovation, and especially quality conscious. There should not be any scope for deviations and adjustments.
To step in complete automation, it may require new strategies, wide changes in physical infra structure , organization models etc. but it is not necessary to create new Industries, rather the existing industries and enterprises can be transformed inti digitization phase by phase.
About the Author
The author of this report is Mr. Adibhatla Krishna Rao, presently associated with NMTronics India Pvt ltd for 15years having 26 years’ experience in SMT manufacturing and service industry. This technical content includes detailed descriptions about Electronic manufacturing processes and the manufacturing enterprise that can help aspirants, students and readers of these articles will come to know “a little about everything” Chosen Fuji as a role model in this context due to vast experience with Fuji Machines
References: The relevant content of this report made based on authors experience on Fuji machines, material absorbed from various articles, white papers, technical documents that are published/ released and uploaded by famous scientists, SMT professionals and design engineers of OEMs.