Automated assembly lines aren’t a new concept. For some of us, the term conjures memories of pictures or videos shown in grade school about the Industrial Revolution or Henry Ford’s Model-T lines. For many of us in the semiconductor industry, especially in-factory employees, witnessing lines of equipment producing everything imaginable to a consumer-driven market is a common sight.
Palomar Technologies has been the automated line business for decades, and have been constantly challenged to help our customers streamline a high-throughput production without compromising product integrity. Early on, we saw the benefits to our customers to collaborate with one manufacturer through the design, build and implementation of an automated solution. After decades of successful line deployments, we’ve collected the top five competencies companies strive for when choosing an automated microelectronic packaging line manufacturer:
- Experience and expertise. An automated assembly line manufacturer needs to have history with both manual and automated equipment in order to fully evolve a process from the conceptual-level to a completely automated level. An experienced engineering team should be included in this knowledge base to help determine the best path forward. First steps often include decisions in regards to how handle the part—such as J-boats, flat boats or custom pallets. Also, a decision on whether it is best suited to have an entire line automated or to break up certain processes into the “Islands of Automation” approach. While most of us would probably want to feed parts in on the front of the line, and get finished parts out on the end of the line, this actually may not be the best production decision. There may be opportunities to eliminate cost and take full advantage of the equipment by executing certain processes separately from the main line. This may include steps like die sorting, ovens or precision dispensing—although it varies from situation to situation.
- Flexible, leading-edge process equipment. Clean room and factory floor space is not cheap. When developing an automated assembly line, choosing equipment that is capable of several precision assembly steps is key to maintain complexity and throughput without breaking your budget or taking up too much valuable real estate. Equipment providing features and capabilities such as a large work area, deep access and flexible programming—all while maintaining high accuracy and throughput—offers solutions to difficult automation requirements without having to create complex custom equipment or having to purchase more machines. The end goal is equipment that can provide many different process solutions on the same platform. For example, a die bonder capable of both eutectic and epoxy solutions including UV on the same platform; or a wire bonder with the versatility to complete both standard ball bonding and complex loops or ball bumping.
- External partners and alliances. Just like any other time you’re trying to get the best deal, it can come down to who you know. Working with an automated assembly line manufacturer who has established partnerships with other leading equipment providers will result in a complete solution. Companies offering precision dispensing or hi-rel bond testing are a great resource to an equipment-line manufacturer as they bring their own automation expertise into the equation without having to provide complex or custom solutions.
- Process development. There are two sides to a quality assembly line—great equipment and a great process. These don’t have to be mutually exclusive, either. Choosing a manufacturer that offers in-house engineering and process development experts will excel your product ingenuity and help you get the most out of your automated line.
- Superior service. Owning automated equipment shouldn’t begin and end with the purchase. Just like many other technologies we use on a daily basis, automated equipment requires system health checks and preventative maintenance to optimize equipment performance. Choosing a manufacturer with a strong stance for a successful, long-term use of your bonders and a focus on maximizing system uptime will keep your organization in production.
Regional Sales Manager, Eastern North America