Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of SMT Magazine.
Equipment specializing in new product introduction (NPI) runs is normally different from equipment used for volume production. NPI machines offer an entire set of features for handling new product or evaluation runs efficiently. Unfortunately, all the tweaks needed to get a working product out of the NPI line are lost when translated into the program used by the volume production equipment. That means re-doing many steps. Even using the same make or model of equipment for NPI is no guarantee for success if the actual production line differs in options, head types, runs other software, or requires tweaking per individual machine. Volume production lines usually have too high an output to be used as a dedicated NPI line. But, with careful line design, the two can be combined on a single machine.
NPI and volume production simultaneously in one machine is only doable with more than one lane. Dual-lane machines are quite common and are regularly used in very-high-volume products. For mobile phones, for example, producing top and bottom simultaneously can boost factory efficiency. This is more widely applicable with a feature called independent dual lane.
Setting Up NPI Correctly
Setting up NPI can be time-consuming, particularly when it must be repeated on other equipment. Many parameters may have to be redefined (vision files, process parameters, pick positions, feeder types, pick angles, and more). And you don’t want to repeat the work for every module in your factory running the same component type. No, things should be done only once!
Figure 1: One alignment type for small components and one alignment type for larger components can cover the entire range for any existing equipment.
Performing a step only once for each machine not only saves time, but also tests the repeatability of your equipment. No production variation should exist between similar equipment types. That means no differences in heads, camera types, equipment software, nozzles, or anything else--and particularly no difference in software versions that may influence process parameters. Less choice paradoxically contributes to more production flexibility. This is also true for similar equipment in the same production line.