Automating as many steps as possible delivers significant benefits in modern electronics production and is an essential factor on the path to the integrated smart factory. The more time-consuming and error-prone manual tasks you eliminate, the more time your workers will have to keep the production lines running. This, in turn, affects your productivity and quality. Technology leader ASM offers its customers a broad range of solutions for moving toward the integrated smart factory in stages.
Increasingly complex production systems, rising quality requirements, shorter lead times and smaller lot sizes are just a few of the challenges facing electronics manufacturers today. In addition, limited storage space paired with more component diversity makes it desirable to deliver materials to the line as needed (just-in-time), while many manual operations slow things down and harbor potential mistakes.
The goal of the integrated smart factory involves not only automation but also a full resource integration to optimally synchronize people, equipment, processes, and materials with each other and with the production flow.
Connectivity and process integration form the basis for automation
Total connectivity forms the indispensable basis for fully automated and optimized assembly processes. ASM is the first equipment supplier that can ensure the continuous flow of data from individual line components to site-based manufacturing execution systems to global cloud solutions; thanks to open standard interfaces such as IPC-9852-Hermes for machine-to-machine communication which enables board-related data exchange along the line and protocols such as ASM OIB and IPC-CFX for a standardized and simplified machine-to-business communication. Standards like these make it possible to integrate ASM equipment along with other suppliers’ systems.
Comprehensive automation can only be achieved with open interfaces that permit the exchange of data between machines and across the whole enterprise.
Once this level of connectivity is provided, modern modular software solutions control the machines, synchronize all process steps in a flexible, highly automated workflow, and transfer valuable information to the operations staff.
Central software components for automated material logistics include the ASM Production Planner for due-date-based setup sequencing across multiple lines, the ASM Material Manager for integrating all material-related processes in the warehouse, setup preparation offline and material supply online, and the ASM Command Center for organizing the line staff in smart operator pools that work across lines for more overall efficiency. And since electronics manufacturing is critically dependent on efficient production management, ASM supplies through its Portuguese subsidiary Critical Manufacturing modular MES solutions that can be custom-tailored to meet the needs of each user.
ASM Storage systems for automated and optimized material issues to robots
The ASM Material Tower collects component reels based on upcoming setups in special carriers before they are issued to autonomous intelligent vehicles (AIVs) that carry them to the setup preparation area or the assembly line. Multiple towers can be combined into a cluster and exchange items between them via an internal conveyor system. Thanks to the integration of the ASM Material Tower into the ASM’s material management solution and the manufacturer’s MES, the system has access to all setup sequences and material requirements so that the material can be issued to the AIVs with the smallest possible number of carriers and trips.
Automated setup changeovers
Mobile robots that transport materials are common in today’s factories. As a next step, appropriately equipped AIVs will carry out fully automated setup changeovers in the integrated smart factory – without any operator intervention. To do this, the so-called low-pad AIVs will move underneath the properly equipped components carts, lift them up, and transport them into or out of the machine. Since ASM changeover tables require no physical power connection, the AIVs don’t have to plug in or unplug anything.
The software can coordinate multiple AIVs in a pool to carry out setup changeovers along the entire line quickly and efficiently. Even when all operators are busy elsewhere, the machines get the new supplies automatically when they need them. And thanks to the machine’s ability to communicate, the system is aware of current consumption data or upcoming setups and can trigger the necessary activities automatically. ASM has already demonstrated all these processes live last year at various trade shows.
Tape waste removal
Automating line supplies requires more than new materials. Placement machines also generate waste. ASM addresses this with its ASM Waste Removal System. It involves a modular conveyor system underneath the machines that collects shredded tape leftovers and transports them to the end of the line where they are dumped into a container. When the container has filled up, an AIV picks it up and replaces it with an empty one. The conveyor system consists of individual modules (one per machine) and can be extended or shortened as needed.
New methods of working: Smart operator pool replaces rigid structures
Transmitting tasks and order data and information to the line operators can also be synchronized and optimized with smart solutions. With ASM Command Center, information no longer needs to be picked up. Instead, all tasks and associated information are communicated automatically and employees are instantly notified. As a result, the rigid assignment of people to individual lines or areas such as the warehouse or the setup preparation area becomes obsolete. Since everything and everyone is connected, the software is aware of the current material consumption, knows about upcoming production jobs, setups or maintenance operations, and receives trouble messages from the machines instantly.
Based on the above information, the software alerts operators who are trained in the respective task and are available. By being aware of each operator’s skills, the ASM Command Center can assign them and coordinate and prioritize all tasks appropriately via various mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets or smart watches – automatically, timely, and without delay. In this way, the employees can be used flexibly and as needed on the lines and in various other areas, turning individual operators into smart operator pools.
Autonomous process optimization
The ASM ProcessExpert, the world’s first self-learning SPI inline expert system which is already in use in many electronics factories, shows how far smart technologies have already come. The system combines the highly precise ASM ProcessLens SPI system with the ASM ProcessEngine expert software. For the first time, the system does not just control the paste printing process, it optimizes it proactively. And at the user’s request, it can even do all this entirely on its own with no manual assists.
To do this, it stores measurement data in databases along with sensor data and settings from the stencil printers, which it evaluates in real time with the help of big-data technologies. The system learns with each printed PCB by detecting the interdependencies between printing process results, stencil designs and printer settings. Instead of responding like classic SPI systems to violations of critical tolerance thresholds with alarms and line stops, the ASM ProcessExpert detects the slightest trends and makes appropriate corrections proactively before the printer exceeds the process window.
Modular and retrofittable
Since no two integrated smart factories are exactly alike, there is no single way to achieve them, which is why modularity and upgradeability are important basic concepts for ASM solutions. Users can move towards autonomous automation in stages based on their individual needs and capabilities. For example, the road to automated material logistics could start with smartly coordinated, AIV-supported material transports from storage systems like the ASM Material Tower to the setup preparation area or directly to the line. This could be followed by the introduction of smart operator pools or fully automated setup changeovers. Depending on the user’s needs, this strategy could then be continued until the desired level of automation has been achieved. An approach like this allows the user to stretch out his investments and minimize risks.