Technological innovation forces the electronics industry to keep pace with global developments to stay competitive. The skill to adapt quickly has become a key to the success of electronics manufacturers, believes Otto Richard Pukk, the Managing Director of Incap Electronics Estonia.
Pukk assures that the use of automated robotics is now being taken for granted in plants. “Every industrial business is seeking to further improve the efficiency of their production process and to optimise every operation to have the end product ready quicker,” he explains. To launch new methods successfully and make new ideas easier to implement, a business has to be ready to quickly adapt to new situations – in terms motivation and ambition as well as technological readiness.
Exactly a year ago today, Incap in Saaremaa took a major step toward industrial innovation, being among the first in Estonia to introduce a new adaptable SMT production line using rent-based financing. Today, Pukk assures that it was a wise decision, as the innovative line has already proved its value in every sense.
FROM A ONE-PRODUCT-FACTORY TO FLEXIBLE SOLUTIONS
Pukk notes that the electronics industry will have to overcome several challenges in the coming years. He points out the global market demand for the rapid implementation of various innovative products and the readiness and need to adjust production to quickly offer appropriate solutions, while maintaining quality and competitive price levels. This is why Incap Electronics Estonia, which already had three SMT lines, installed a novel production line to render its production process more flexible.
“Rent-based production lines are playing an increasing role in a changing industrial sector, as their main advantage is the potential to rent various additional devices for the line and thus adjust production to specific projects or customer needs,” Pukk explains. “While it used to be common for industry to reject projects that would only run for a few months because of the complex setup process or the need for new machinery, it is now much easier to switch from one project to another, as the various parts of a rent-based production line can easily be replaced and the line can be supplemented according to need,” Pukk adds.
“Although we at Incap mount components on seemingly identical printed circuit boards, the result is different for each product and project. It is therefore important for the factory to have not just one expensive machine for one type of board, but to be able to reorganise the way our machinery works according to need; for example, when we start working on a new project or want to meet a short-term order,” says Pukk, describing how the new solution allows the user to rent exactly the amount of equipment needed and avoid unreasonable investments in a large machine that will be idle when production changes.
INDUSTRIAL CAPACITIES WILL MULTIPLY
Pukk notes that the triumph of robotics is helping to multiply the capacity of the electronics industry with increasing ease and so remain competitive on a global scale. Today, one no longer thinks about how the new technology is performing the work of so many people compared to the manual mounting of components on boards. “It wouldn’t actually be thinkable, as some details are extremely small, about 0.5 x 1 mm,” says Pukk, according to whom the Incap factory can now mount 60,000 more components on printed circuit boards every hour thanks to the new line.
To produce one printed circuit board, the machine first mounts the components on the board and then takes a picture of them to assure quality and identify any mistakes. The rate of defects has been reduced to a minimum owing to such robots, but the new machinery has not diminished the need for specialists and engineers who help with the setup and take charge of operations that robots cannot yet perform independently.
According to Pukk, the main advantage of innovative robotics and new production lines in the electronics industry is that businesses will be able to offer flexible solutions to customers all over the world. For example Incap Estonia is offering its products to customers around the world, from Scandinavia and North America to businesses operating on the Chinese market.
“Robotics and advanced technology in electronics factories already allow us to maximize the quality of electronics products and further development with the help of digitised data analysis. In cooperation with other industries, we could even find more ways to add value to our products,” says Pukk.