Small parts, high speeds, precise placement. These are typical requirements in electronics manufacturing. Human assembly, dispensing and inspection just aren’t feasible at the rate demanded by modern production operations, and electronic components are too miniaturized for human assembly. Intense cost pressures push manufacturers to process, assemble and pack faster than ever while simultaneously maximizing yields. The only answer is robotic manufacturing.
At Eneron understand the special challenges of this sector and offer systems for electronic manufacturing automation to suit these needs.
Robotics in electronics manufacturing lowers costs and improves quality throughout the entire production process. Robots can handle display screens, assemble connectors, build subassemblies, and populate and coat circuit boards. They can apply adhesives and sealants, perform inspections, test operations, and pack and palletize finished products.
Component placement tasks are a good robot application. Delta-style robots in particular offer high speed and low inertia. Accommodating part-to-part variation (especially important with circuit board features), means vision and force sensing are essential in electronic assembly.
High-resolution cameras locate features within a few thousandths of an inch and supply offsets to robots on the fly. Force sensing allows for parts to be finessed into place. When coupled with flexible part feeders and vision systems, robots add versatility to electronic assembly systems.
Inspection and Functional Testing
These activities are standard in electronics manufacturing, and the robot contribution is indispensable. Arm-mounted cameras can verify correct assembly or solder joint quality or read unique identification codes for product traceability.
When a circuit board is turned on, an IR camera can look for hot spots signaling possible premature failure. Touch-screen functional testing is another good robot application, with the machine applying consistent pressure for exactly the same duration on every cycle.
Robots kit and pack assembled product at high speed while leaving nothing out. Individual packages are packed into cartons robotically and the cartons are palletized – all without human intervention.
Electronic products often need sealants and selectively applied coatings for protection against environmental degradation, vibration and temperature. In assembly, adhesives are sometimes used to secure components, housings or screens. When a robot does the dispensing, waste is minimal and part-to-part repeatability is high.
Cost, Quality, Health and Flexibility
Throughput maximization is essential to lower unit costs, and electronics manufacturing automation offers several advantages over human workers:
Faster when moving from point to point, they don’t tire, take breaks or make mistakes. Every cycle is performed the same way, so each electronic assembly produced is identical. That means better quality, higher yields, and potentially, fewer customer returns.
Deploying robots in electronic manufacturing also protects workers from jobs that are dirty or dangerous. In electronics assembly, repetitive motion may lead to a range of musculoskeletal disorders. Twisting and lifting in handling, packaging and particularly palletizing tasks can have the same effect. Solvents in sealing materials and adhesives may also have health implications so using a robot avoids this risk.
When product lifecycles are measured in months, it’s essential that manufacturing has the flexibility to respond quickly. Dedicated automation often takes expensive retooling to handle even a minor redesign of an electronic assembly. In a robotic system, the same change might only need a program modification, saving money and reducing downtime.
The Changing Nature of Electronic Product Manufacturing
Robotics in electronics manufacturing is enabling two changes:
MINIATURIZATION: Some jobs, especially electronic assembly work, are just not possible for humans to do because the components are too small, and their placement needs are too precise. In parallel, product engineers increasingly understand what robotic technology can do and are designing for it.
RESHORING: As robotics in electronics manufacturing becomes ever more essential, businesses around the world are switching away from manual processes. With labor becoming a smaller part of total costs, the case for bringing production home grows.
Underpinning this is the need to reduce supply chain length and delivery lead time. Robotic manufacturing provides the flexibility to switch quickly between product variants. If demand shifts suddenly, robotic technology is more easily reconfigured and redeployed than hard automation, highlighting one more benefit: Reduced financial risk.