Save yourself the heartache

Providing the right information to your CEM supplier, in the right format, can save a lot of heartache. Naturally, software helps manipulate and keep track of that essential data As any contract electronics manufacturer (CEM) will verify, it is essential to be able to take customers PCB data and manipulate it quickly and effectively for use during product manufacture. For CEM customers, providing the right data in the right format can save time and money as well as potential heartache later.

The key to getting it right lies in the electronic files that contain PCB manufacturing detail, usually in the form of Gerber data. This can include PCB design / manufacturing details and layout, plus parts lists and X-Y coordinates for all components.

The ability to use such data can significantly reduce the cost of set up and tooling when it comes to new products, since much of the work can be automated or semi-automated.
Using this data, CEMs such as CT Production, can carry out an advance check on design for manufacture (DFM) criteria including spacing, lead pitches, pad sizes, fiducial marks and how best to panellise the PCB blank for process handling and efficiency. This makes it possible to provide feedback to the customer regarding potential problems or required improvements before costs are incurred.

From the Gerber data, it is possible to order SMT stencils. This can entail data manipulation to adjust paste aperture shapes and sizes to ensure joints have sufficient solder or to avoid short circuits and clean printing within pads. If not enough attention is paid to these details, process yield can suffer.

Next, data is used for SMT placement programming prior to PCB population. Software derives the correct information in the correct format for the machines concerned, such as part number, position, orientation and package. For conventional assembly, the data can be used to generate automatic component insertion (ACI) programmes. Similar information will be required for automatic optical inspection (AOI ) and automatic test equipment (ATE), to enable correct identification at verification stages.

Finally, the data can also be used to create diagrams for hand assembly with process or care notes for tricky areas. Diagrams and dimensions for jigging and tooling can also be extracted for equipment such as wave solder pallets.

To ensure it offers customers the latest features, CT Production has upgraded its GC Powerplace software package to 10.2.2.

Efficient data management is also vital for the control and handling of materials, which can increase costs without adding value in a manufacturing environment. A number of stages are required to maintain traceability, with each stage generally requiring some computer entry to: order, count and check-in, store, kit, load to process and record GRN, unload, de-kit, store.

These eight stages have been reduced to three since CT Production introduced two-dimensional ECC200 bar coding.

Managing director, Alan Trevarton, explained: With the number of products we process, materials handling represents a significant cost, which does not add tangible benefits to the customer or product. Our SMT equipment supplier, Europlacer, offered to introduce its bar code system to trial with our new Xpress 25T machine. A year on, we have lineside storage of most SMT reels of resistors and capacitors. They arrive, are ‘goods in’ checked and bar coded and entered into lineside stock, scanned onto the machine feeder and off again. This provides easier control and total traceability with lead times and costs kept to a minimum.