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SMT topics in focus

WORKS
OnDemand - Facts on open automation
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SMT topics in focus

WORKS
OnDemand - Facts on open automation

In-house SMT production at the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research

GSI and equipment from ASMPT – inseparable for more than 10 years

The GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research operates a large ion accelerator that has no equal in the world. Since the research institution manufactures important electronic components in-house, it has relied for more than 10 years on the performance, precision and reliability of ASMPT printing and placement solutions.

Researchers from all over the world use the GSI facility for experiments that allow them to gain new insights into the structure of matter and the development of the universe. Innovative applications in technology and medical science are also developed here – for example, for cancer therapy with ion beams. Over the coming years, GSI will also build the new international FAIR accelerator, one of the largest research projects anywhere. FAIR will enable an unprecedented variety of experiments on research with antiprotons and ions. To analyze the results, a computer with more than 300,000 processor cores is available.

“We require highly complex and innovative electronic components and circuit boards for our research projects,” explains Gabriele Zeitträger, the lab technician for placement and rework at GSI. “Since no supplier offers these off-the-shelf, we normally handle the entire development process ourselves, including the design of circuit boards and stencils. Printing, assembly and soldering are also handled in-house for small and ultra-small lot sizes, down to single units. Since we first installed it, our ASMPT equipment has been an indispensable part of the production of control components for our high-tech systems. For us, it still delivers the optimum in precision, performance, flexibility and durability and more than meets the highest requirements we place on it.”

High component density demands maximum precision

Up to 3,000 components are packed onto one of the circuit boards measuring up to 30 by 40 centimeters that are printed, populated and soldered at GSI. Speed matters less than maximum precision during their production. “Until the late 1990s, the placement process was exclusively manual,” Zeitträger recalls. Starting in the year 2000, the rising component quantities and their ever smaller sizes made automation necessary. “Our first paste printer from DEK was a 248, which was replaced by a DEK Horizon stencil printer in 2010. Because of its great flexibility and precision, we then decided in 2014 to purchase a SIPLACE SX1 placement machine. Both machines continue to be in use as standalones – with the same level of performance and quality they delivered on day one. Whether we make a prototype, a one-off unit or small and larger lots – our ASMPT equipment has never let us down and delivers exactly what we need and expect.”

Our custom-tailored products require large numbers of different components to be placed. Accordingly, we need many feeders of various types. “Since many components get delivered on trays, a tray changer is ideal for us. It takes up so little space that it leaves room for more feeders. We can also refill the trays while the machine keeps running,” says the lab technician. “Our SIPLACE SX places even the smallest components reliably and accurately. It is also highly flexible and quick when it comes to its handling. We can manage the operation directly on the machine and even access the programming remotely from home.

Since the CPP head is extremely practical even for large components measuring up to 40 by 50 millimeters, very few components, usually OSCs, do not get placed with the SIPLACE SX but manually. And with the MultiStar head, the machine can process the smallest components (01005) via its collect-and-place mode and larger components via its pick-and-place mode, even within the same sequence.

After they have been printed, the circuit boards are first given a visual inspection. After the soldering process, an AOI system does the work. GSI uses the finished circuit boards for, among other things, medical technology and research projects, for example in the particle accelerator or in highly sensitive sensors. “With these complex custom-made products, reliability is the most important requirement,” emphasizes Zeitträger, “because first time right is the main motto on the production floor. That’s why GSI’s products are also in demand elsewhere: “When we have free capacities, we also produce for external entities such as the University of Frankfurt,” says Zeitträger. “In the research community, we like to help each other.”

Also for larger lots

Since the SIPLACE SX is also well-suited for larger volumes, the GSI sometimes runs lots of 5,000 to 6,000 boards. “This shows you the enormous performance reserves of the DEK Horizon and SIPLACE SX combination,” says the GSI expert, “and the high volumes have no impact on the precision.” “The OSC Package from ASMPT is another feature that may be of interest in the future,” Zeitträger thinks. Partly in connection with special placement heads and cameras, the software option offers additional features for the processing of unusual components, such as a placement force of up to 100 N, reliable and automatic snap-in detection, stereo measurement for THT pins and pin 1 recognition, or the automatic determination of maximum acceleration values for the placement process. The OSC Package makes it easy to automate the placement of highly exotic components with great reliability.

Zeitträger also praises ASMPT’s technical support: “It is available around the clock, seven days a week, whenever we have questions, must teach new components, or face other new technical challenges.”

“Although our SIPLACE SX is no longer the latest model, we are still very happy with it,” says the lab technician. “There is nothing better in terms of precision, flexibility and performance – except maybe a new SIPLACE machine. ‘Horsti’, which is what we lovingly call our SIPLACE placement machine, has almost become something like a colleague for me over the years. I believe I’ll miss him when I leave here.”

Best-in-class solutions

As the industry’s technology leader, ASMPT offers a broad portfolio of best-in-class products. Our solutions stand out with their perfect interaction of hardware, software and service components – powerful, smart, and ready to raise your production to a new level.

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