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Items to Help You Improve Electronics Assembly Processes

Books and Educational Materials

This book is intended to provide a highly indexed reference for process engineers or assembly technicians. It will help those who are faced with a particular problem or would like to learn about how others have dealt with myriad SMT assembly issues.

Phil Zarrow and Jim Hall have surveyed and audited hundreds (maybe thousands) of assembly facilities, lines, and processes. With ITM Consulting, they have seen a lot of "stuff," including ones that are good, bad, and indifferent. That's what BoardTalk and this book are all about.

Ten years and 200 episodes of BoardTalk with Phil and Jim later, the "Assembly Brothers - Pick and Place" prevail. Thanks to, BoardTalk is heard all over the world ("Keep on Troubleshooting in the Free World"). The advice on those shows is still relevant and applicable today. This decade of "wisdom" has been compiled in this book. At the time of publishing, it is the only book of its kind on troubleshooting electronic assembly processes, equipment, and materials.

For each episode, Phil and Jim read and discuss the questions and their take on the problem off the air. However, once they are recording, all their conversations are unscripted, verbatim, and taken in one take. They occasionally disagree with each other but usually come to terms by the end of the episode (and without incurring any violence). Each episode is based upon their experience and those of their wide network of friends and colleagues who contribute an enormous wealth of experience and information.

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This is the coursebook for ITM Consulting’s world-famous Best Practices in Electronic Assembly Workshop. The content of the book was presented at APEX, SMTAI, NEPCON-Asia, SMTPC-Australia, and IPC-Europe, which all had various attendees.

Written and compiled by Phil Zarrow and Jim Hall with contributions by Joe Belmonte, Ron Lasky, and Bob Klenke of ITM, this book presents a comprehensive perspective on problem issues is developed for the most currently critical electronic assembly process, materials (both existing and emerging), equipment, procedures, and methods.

Most importantly, practical solutions are presented. Key issues that consistently result in assembly problems and low yields are identified and resolved. This book is intended for anyone involved in directing, developing, managing, and/or executing assembly line operations. This includes managers, line supervisors, and line engineers involved in manufacturing, design, and quality engineering.

The circuit board assembler is constantly challenged by components that seem to defy logic and manufacturability. Passives, such as 0201s and 01005s, while bringing happiness to the designer with regard to layout densities are the bane of the assembler.

IC packaging also has adhered to the mantra of “smaller, faster” taunting the assembler with land-grid arrays (or no-lead packages) and high-density CSPs and flip-chips. Yet, manufacturing PCBAs with these “bleeding edge” components is not insurmountable, (though not for the weak of heart).

This coursebook, from the ITM “Implementing Advanced ‘Bleeding Edge’ Component Technologies” workshop is intended to provide the experienced participant with a practical approach towards dealing with the most challenging of component packages. Optimizing the SMT assembly process, as it pertains to very small and high-density components is covered. Step by step, we will teach you DFM guidelines, solder paste, screen and stencil printing, component placement, and reflow.

In many regards, a low-volume electronic assembly can be far more demanding than manufacturing high volumes of a product. A high mix of products and the challenges involved in maintaining quality and efficiency become also make it very perplexing. Sadly, many low-volume – high-mix manufacturers succumb to the difficulties, and this becomes apparent at the bottom line.

This coursebook (as used in the ITM Low-Volume – High-Mix SMT Manufacturing Workshop) examines the complications of low-volume assembly and presents concepts and adaptations that work. Based upon the collective low-volume – high-mix manufacturing experiences of ITM consultants (Joe Belmonte, Phil Zarrow, Jim Hall, Bob Klenke, and Ron Lasky), it discusses the design of process, documentation and inventory management, and application of SPC.

The “Deadly Sins” of SMT can make your assembly process “pure hell.” During the course of assembly process audits and troubleshooting work, people tend to see trends in the types of errors and problems. In other words, a lot of us make the same mistakes.

As a result, the process problems wreak havoc with an impact on assembly yields ranging from 5% to 20%. In addition to this direct cost, there is also additional financial impact with regard to time spent reworking and repairing, the on corrective action and do-overs by QC, engineering, and management.

This coursebook, from the world-famous ITM Consulting workshop “The 10 Deadly Sins of SMT and Lead-free Manufacturing” identifies the “deadly sins” of SMT assembly, for Pb-free and “leaded” processes. Besides the symptoms and consequences of each type of error, root cause, rectification, and prevention techniques will be presented.

The workshop will, thus, provide the participant with an understanding of how to identify and correct the most common SMT assembly problems. It will include identification of vendor and source problems including components and materials as well as design-related problems.

Manufacturing Tools

For any firm assembling SMT circuit board assemblies (OEM or CEM), there are two essential documents, which are the workmanship standards and DFM guidelines. While most facilities use workmanship standards, some have implemented the DFMA Guidelines.

This document is vital to optimized and high-yield assembly and contributes greatly to product reliability. It can be used to establish a communications link between design, manufacturing, quality, and procurement as well as set operational standards for board and assembly design, manufacture, inspection, test, and rework. Furthermore, it can help established design practices so they match the operational parameters demanded by the production equipment.

Putting together a DFMA Guideline document can be an expensive, daunting, and time-consuming task. Yet, it must be done. Each facility is different with regard to the equipment and processes used, and thus, each requires its own set of rules. A copy of IPC-782 on the reference shelf doesn’t quite cut it.

ITM Consulting has helped many of its clients compile and launch their company’s DFMA Guidelines. With our experience and expertise, ITM Consulting has put together a product that will allow any SMT assembly facility to easily, expeditiously, and economically produce their own document. This item is called the “Design for Manufacturability and Assembly Guidelines Template.”

What we offer is a complete document – less the particulars of your company’s facility and line(s). You simply take this MS Word™ document and fill in the blanks regarding equipment and their specifications (i.e. maximum and minimum board width handled by each machine, etc.), responsible personnel, and other process information. In no time, your facility will a comprehensive DFMA Guideline document.

The DFMA Guideline is also a “living” document that allows for changes in equipment, materials, and processes. You simply modify or expand the tables and edit any other information.

If you are an OEM or a CEM, the ITM Design for Manufacturability and Assembly Guideline Template can guide your supplier or your client on the necessity of designing printed circuit boards so the product can be assembled.

This troubleshooting guide outlines all the probable causes of through hole soldering and their respective causes. This is a must-have for anyone involved in any wave solder process.

Profit is the motive for the electronics assembly industry. Therefore, understanding assembly costs should be a prime concern. The stakes are indeed great as approximately 10% to 15% of the $1.5 trillion electronics industry is assembly cost. Surprisingly, there does not appear to be a systematic approach to cost estimating in the industry.

ProfitPro™ was developed to meet this need. This Excel®-based software tool enables real-time analysis and estimates of cost scenarios. Even if you don’t know all of your cost metrics, ProfitPro™ has default metrics and many saved scenarios to help you to understand and improve your profitability.

A manual is included with many helpful examples.

Helping calculate proper aperture dimensions in printing solder paste, the StencilPro 3.0 is an easy-to-use spreadsheet-based tool. It was developed by Dr. Ron Lasky and assures that best practices are being observed and not violated in stencil aperture design. This is to ensure the best solder paste transfer with regard to filling and releasing. It is a handy and important tool for process engineers.

Market Reports

This benchmark report is an in-depth look at automated optical inspection equipment for the SMT and electronics manufacturing market. It gives a comprehensive analysis of the automated optical inspection (AOI) systems offerings for the electronics manufacturing market from both an equipment supplier and end-user perspective.

With more than 50 pages and more than 40 tables and graphs, the report is based on extensive research, in-depth first-person interviews, and real-world consulting practice. It provides valuable information, including price/performance benchmarks, supplier perception ratings, and verbatim response based on equipment suppliers and end-user interview.

The consensus among end-users suggests that current AOI systems offer the capability of detecting assembly defects, such as missing, polarity, rotation, X-Y offset as well as some solder defects. As a result, this enhances product quality and reduces operating costs. However, the installed base of AOI systems overall is not performing at the level or standards needed to meet the demands of CEMs and OEMs for consistency in quality and ease of programming.

Furthermore, end-users are often forced to justify the value-added quality that an AOI system brings to an assembly line. The issue of where to strategically place an AOI system or where it is best suited in an assembly process, without extending lines beyond minimal footprints, is also a concern. Manufacturing managers are concerned with many variables when determining where to optimally place an AOI system.

Critical Questions Answered

  • What automated optical inspection characteristics are most desired by CEM and OEM end-users?
  • What is the competitive positioning of the major AOI suppliers in terms of key specifications, features, and capabilities?
  • How do the major AOI equipment suppliers perform with respect to fulfilling end-user application requirements?
  • Who should read this report?

Equipment Selection Teams

  • Cross-Functional Evaluation Teams
  • Equipment Analysts

CEM, ODM, and OEM End-Users

  • Engineering Management
  • Procurement Personnel
  • Equipment Suppliers

White Papers

Statistical Process Control (SPC) is a science that has been applied and misapplied to electronic assemblies for many years. This paper takes a new look at how to use SPC more effectively.

This paper will give you the insight you need to create a printing process for challenging 0201 and 01005 passives components.