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The biennial’s show attendance and scale remain stellar, but the attention was on
the next generation of miniature packages.

At first blush, the biennial Productronica trade show in November looked eerily similar to the 2011 event. The attendance and number of exhibitors were similar in numbers to years’ past, and several exhibitors even opted for the same booth locations as in 2011.

But upon closer inspection, several new technical trends were emerging, with 03015 packages the clear winner among them. A significant number of new machines made their debut, and the assembly segment of the show was consistently hopping, even while the fabrication side continued to flail.

For those readers who have not been to Productronica, it is massive. It occupies six large convention halls, most of which are tightly packed with booths. Unlike Asian or other Western shows, most exhibitors are grouped according to their products. Thus, for instance, if one were looking for digital microscopes, they could choose from the likes of Leica, Tagarno, Optilia and so on, side-by-side along the same wall. One hall was dedicated to test and inspection. There, Agilent, Aeroflex, atg, Goepel, JTAG, Landrex, Omron, Seica, Sonoscan, and Teradyne were among scores of vendors duking it out for attention. Despite its size, at Productronica there’s no hiding from the competition.

About 38,000 visitors from 83 countries participated in the international trade fair for innovative electronics production in Munich. Over half – 52% – were from outside Germany. The numbers remain impressive, albeit down slightly from 2011, when a reported 38,500 passed through the Messe doors, 18,480 from abroad.
Some 1,220 companies exhibited, up 2.6% from 2011. A bit surprisingly, the show was larger in terms of area, at 41,242 sq. m., up from 41,016 sq. m.

Shrinking fab base. The number of exhibitors is so great in part because many local and regional suppliers show up. If there was a surprise among them, it’s the number of EMS companies that chose to exhibit this year. We counted close to 20 in all, most of which were congregated in the “Fabrication” hall. Outside of UMC, the $1.2 billion Japanese EMS that has about 140 SMT lines across eight facilities in Japan and Southeast Asia, they were regional players, many from Eastern Europe.

The fabrication portion of Productronica is truly representative of the European (and Western, really) PCB market: an ever-shrinking number of suppliers. Of the actual fabricator suppliers, Orbotech and Schmoll had significant presences. Orbotech showed the new PerFix 200 automated rework machine, which is three times faster than the 100 model. As for Schmoll, one would think it was (the missing) Hitachi’s much bigger brother.

It was a bit eye-opening to hear how Isola has cut its workforce in Duren, Germany, by 700 workers over the past decade, yet its laminate output remains the same. Ucamco demonstrated the latest version of its Integr8or software, which includes Checkpoint 1.1, a DfM review tool that checks copper, drill, and solder mask files, among others, and indicates critical errors. The firm also rolled out UCAM-X 1.1, a 64-bit CAM tool that ultimately will replace UCAM, featuring a new GUI and user-defined windows. The company’s Karel Tavernier also explained the company is working on an updated version of Gerber with attributes (see "Around the World").

One clear crowd-pleaser was Beta Layout’s embedded RFID technology. The company has partnered with Schmoll to develop a robotic placer that picks RFID tags from a reel and places them into cavities routed or milled in a standard panel up to 18 x 24". An epoxy dispenser then fills the cavity, followed by a 4-min. UV cure. The parts are sized at 3.6 x 1.2 x 0.55mm, and the keep-out zone is 10 x 2.3mm, Tony Shoot of Beta Layout said. The chips, from Murata, can be pre-programmed, and come with 512Mb of memory and operate in the 860-960MHz range. The display drew consistent traffic, making it the standout in what was otherwise a somewhat tepid event for board fabrication.

That said, most major materials vendors were here, but for equipment, the story was different. Hitachi, which was recently sold, was not. Neither was ESI, the laser drill maker. Imaging equipment was very common, from vendors such as Orbotech, Walter Lemmen, Schmoll, KLG and others.

Schmid had several new machines, including a vertical transport D/E/S line, and a digital exposer aimed at more cost-conscious fabricators.

Schmoll showed the Direct Digital Imager, which uses diodes that are bunched together and focused in a polygon scanner (right) instead of a UV laser. It’s not as fast but highly reliable and low maintenance. Schmoll offers both a manual version and the DDI DT, which has a dual table for higher throughput. Also new at Schmoll, among its four laser drill platforms shown, was the PicoDrill.

LPKF also had a number of new machines, ranging from the ProtoMat D104 plotter, which uses UV laser to mill insulation channels into the conductive layer, instead of cutting out circuit structures from coated base materials; the MicroLine 2820 Si inline singulator, the latest edition to the 2000 Series, which has a 6W laser and is capable of +/-0.025mm accuracy, and the ProtoLaser 3D rapid prototyping and process optimization system.

Rainbow Technology displayed its Panda coater, which heretofore had been much discussed but not seen.

Polar Instruments showed the Atlas Si SET2DIL, its second-generation insertion loss tester. It also had the latest version of its SpeedStack layer stackup design tool, which now handles rigid-flex and automatically documents press cycles for sequential lamination.

Dynachem had its SmartLam 5000 dry film laminator, one of which has been sold to Neuschafer Electronik. It also had the CVA 7125 HP6, a new automatic vacuum lamination line. First EIE had several machines, including the EDI-500 direct imaging system.

Small parts. Among the more than 75 assembly suppliers Circuits Assembly visited, several touted 03015 capability, ASYS, Juki and Mirtec among them.

We heard comments that Nordson Dage, which is already doing some really neat stuff with its X-plane x-ray technology, which uses a CT technique to create 2D “slices” in any plane of the PCB, is now able to look at the layers of the die and calculate the size of any void. (Dage declined comment.)

There were other clear crowd-pleasers. Mirtec was one, garnering plenty of attention for its MV-9 2D/3D AOI with a 25Mp camera. The machine features a top camera and four moire probes that take eight images each, and a total of 37 images per frame, and is capable of viewing 03015s at 7.7µm, Brian D’Amico reported.
About those 03015s. It appears most suppliers think they can be printed using 2 mil stencils, although one suggested that 3 mil could work, provided the stencil quality was sufficient. Inspection might not be so easy with camera-based AOI, however.

ASYS debuted its EKRA 4000 printer platform, which is 03015 ready. The platform has alignment repeatability of ±12.5µm @ 6 Sigma and a sub-12 second cycle time. It’s also upgradable with any option within a few hours. It will make its Asian debut in February and come to North America in March. The company also made several advances with its Mobile Vego handler line, replacing the SMEMA cables with LAN cables, eliminating the light tower, and using an antenna and hot spot configuration to connect the printer to other machines. A “sleep and save” feature cuts energy use by almost half, the company said.

Speedline demonstrated its new Prodigy dispenser, with the Nanoshot pump. On the printer side, the Compact has made significant gains with the high-volume, smaller board end-market. Wolfgang Lentzen said successful 03015 printing would come down primarily to the stencil, remarking that there is great variation between stencil manufacturers.

With its Spectrum II dispenser for solder and underfill, Asymtek has tightened the repeatability to 35µm. A new series, called Quantum, will debut this month.
PVA showed its new jetting valve, called JDX, with a pneumatic driven diaphragm for epoxies, underfill and corner bonding.

Juki has rebranded all the former Sony equipment; the placement machines are now known as the RX series. They won’t be rolled out in the US immediately, however. Combined, the newly merged operations can boast some 36,000 placement machines installed. Juki’s Bob Black said that even with the merger with Sony Manufacturing Services, Juki’s license deal with GKG remains unchanged.

Nihon Superior president Tetsuro Nishimura pointed out that under RoHS 2, as of 2016, automakers will need to convert to lead-free, but the widespread use of tin-lead in cars means the scramble for new solder chemistry and flux is on. Nihon expects to have such a product available in 2014.

Several suppliers proved automated odd-form and axial leaded assembly is alive and well, JOT Automation, Lazpiur and Panasonic, among them. It was probably underappreciated at the time, but a tremendous number of new machines debuted at the IPC Apex show in February, and Productronica was likely the victim. All of Panasonic’s equipment, for instance, was previously shown last spring.

Parmi’s Jeff Mogensen smiled when asked about 03015s, saying, “For us, it’s better. The smaller the market goes, the more people need SPI.” Koh Young’s response was similar, with Andre Myny saying the inspection OEM can already measure to one micron, and therefore, the new parts are inspectable with standard equipment.

CyberOptics’ chairman Kathleen Iverson said the company’s ambitious slate of projects is rounding into form. The SPI/AOI company’s Singapore operation is up and running, and a new slate of high-mix, low-volume products are led by the SE600 SPI, with its height image acquisition software that accurately reflects the actual solder paste shape. “We really see SPI pulling AOI,” she said.

Goepel added an AOI option to its x-ray machine, a new top-down camera (built by Goepel) for checking polarity and missing components.

Vi Tech has made impressive throughput gains with its π SPI, the result of a four-year, $25 million investment. The machine has 32 cameras in all, permitting 362 images per area. The software provides automated programming and first-pass yield data.

LaserJob was among those suggesting a 2 mil stencil would be necessary for 03015 part printing, although the stencil maker has not performed tests on the new parts yet.

Quite a few companies remain that don’t push products outside of Europe. Of them, Dima SMT, a supplier of full-line SMT process equipment, might be the largest, but many other smaller firms are here as well. Iemme Group showed a 6-ft. lead-free wave and a 24-zone (20 heating, four cooling) convection reflow oven. A Korean distributor was promoting an all-Korea SMT line, a novelty.

It was a bit strange knowing that it would likely be the last show for DEK as a Dover company. (A formal announcement that ASM would buy DEK was made in December; see "Around the World.") While DEK didn’t roll out anything new, president Michael Brianda highlighted what users might see in the future. He said the company’s applications knowledge will inform future printer platforms, and that improvements in data capture and transfer between the SPI and printer were inevitable. “Checking and advising is what we want to do. Operators should not be changing things; the software should be sufficiently intelligent to do that.” Calling up the evolution of digital cameras from manual to programmable to fully automatic, he said, “I think that’s how our printer will work in the future.”

Finally, with the smorgasbord of equipment on hand, it’s easy to overlook the software advances. But Aegis Software is morphing from a company focused on PCB tools to one that will make software directly for end-markets such as medical and aerospace. The company’s InStock Mobile Material Management program assigns unique identifiers to reels and stock shelves, generates pick lists for operations and has stock ID and part number tracking capability.

The tenor of Productronica was upbeat, which was somewhat surprising considering 2013 was for most a good year only in the context of a tepid 2012. During a presentation on the show floor, Christoph Stoppok, director at ZVEI (German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association), forecast 3% industry growth in Europe and 3.5% in North America for the coming year.

Mike Buetow is editor-in-chief of PCD&F and CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY;

Ed.: Due to an editing error, the print version of this article credited Schmid with the Direct Digital Imager and four laser drill platforms including the PicoDrill. In fact, these systems are from Schmoll. We regret the error.


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