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SMT topics in focus


SMT topics in focus

More productive with new equipment

KATEK expands its capacities with ASMPT

When electronics company KATEK took over the circuit board production of a large electronics group and some of the equipment was moved to KATEK’s factory in Mauerstetten, Germany, a comprehensive modernization of the production lines with solutions from ASMTP enabled the company to increase its productivity significantly.

As one of Europe’s leading service providers in the electronics field, KATEK has covered the entire value chain in SMT manufacturing as well as sought-after special competencies for more than 40 years at its Mauerstetten location. The range of services offered by its Embedded Systems Competence Center covers the entire product life cycle from development and rapid prototyping to material and project management, volume production and testing technology to logistics and after-sales. Throughout the entire process, KATEK’s track-and-trace system ensures that all the assemblies it produces are fully traceable.
“Maximum flexibility despite great complexity” is how Marc Lauter, Group Head Technology at KATEK SE, describes the core competencies of the Mauerstetten plant. “Our strengths lie in high-mix production for low and mid volume products, and we are a technology leader in high-value electronics.”

Manufacturing as a service
KATEK also benefited from its reputation as a highly competent and reliable EMS provider in connection with a large outsourcing project when Kontron, one of the world’s leading providers of IoT/embedded computer technology (ECT) took over Fujitsu’s industrial mainboard division and then decided to completely outsource the production to KATEK. “We also took over lots of manufacturing systems as part of this deal,” explains Lauter. “Although they served their purpose, many of them were unable to achieve the unit numbers we envisioned. Moreover, the printed circuit boards we had to produce are sometimes highly complex, with unusual designs and layouts, so it is not only speed that counts, but precision as well.”
The acquired production equipment included a number of systems from ASMPT that had already proven themselves during regular operations but were slowed down by machines from other manufacturers. To fix this problem, KATEK decided to switch to ASMPT systems throughout: “ASMPT was of course known to us as a provider of industry-leading solutions, and KATEK Mauerstetten had thought about investing in appropriate equipment to increase our productivity for a while. Now the time had come. We started out by buying a new ASMPT production line and then gradually upgraded the lines we had taken over, fixed existing systems, and put everything into operation in Mauerstetten,” Lauter explains.

Four production lines in operation
KATEK now uses the tried and tested high-performance placement machines of the SIPLACE SX platform – three in each of the three production lines and two in the prototype manufacturing line. Lauter explains: “We decided from the start to invest in the fully equipped version with two gantries per machine because we don’t use the lines to just make products for the outsourcing job but for many other customers – about 40,000 boards per month that are populated with roughly 36 million components.” About 200 employees work in the KATEK plant in three shifts. The focus on high-mix/high-complexity requires maximum flexibility with parts ranging from the smallest 0201 (metric) components to large and heavy OSCs and THT components.”
The SIPLACE SX platform has a lot to offer, especially in terms of flexibility and integration, with its many feeder options that accommodate tapes, sticks, bowls, trays and many more, the fast triple conveyor, and the automatic clinching of THT components. In addition, it can optionally process printed circuit boards measuring up to 1,525 mm by 560 mm and be equipped with a fully automated PCB support system called Smart Pin Placement. Intelligent self-healing, self-learning and self-verification functions reduce operator assists to a new minimum.
In addition to producing the most complex and high-quality electronic assemblies, the SIPLACE SX generates valuable status and process data. Open transmission standards such as the WORKS Operations Information Broker, IPC-CFX and IPC-HERMES-9852 transmit this information both downstream and upstream. The standardized interfaces link the SIPLACE placement machines to the workflow, MES, traceability and cloud applications from ASMPT as needed. With their modularity and retrofitability, all SIPLACE systems comply with ASMPT’s Open Automation concept that enables the gradual upgrading of production facilities to an integrated smart factory. With this openness in M2M and M2H communication, even solutions from other machine manufacturers and software providers can be easily integrated.
The KATEK production lines are made even more efficient by the SIPLACE Vision Teach Station. With its auto-learn function, the optical system automatically detects the shape and dimensions of new components and instantly transfers this data to the SIPLACE Pro programming system. “This separates the component teaching process from the production operations,” says Lauter. “We can capture new components offline and introduce new products while the lines continue to run and earn money.”

Monitoring and service
At the Mauerstetten site, employees keep track of each SMT line with the WORKS Line Monitor, whose software collects all production-relevant status information generated by the SIPLACE placement machines. Signal lights warn of critical situations such as material bottlenecks and allow operators to take corrective action long before a line stop occurs. “The WORKS Line Monitor supplies our employees with all the information they need on a large display that is mounted above the line,” says Lauter. “This allows us to intervene long before a problem might become expensive for KATEK and stressful for the line staff.” 
The production technology in use at KATEK is also trend-setting in terms of service. The Remote Smart Factory system uses special connector hardware to integrate all ASMPT machines, systems and tools in a separate LAN. A global high-security infrastructure ensures direct connections between the ASMPT support teams and the hardware as well as the on-site technicians.
“Of course, working with new systems always means that the team has to make certain changes as well,” says the KATEK manager. “That’s why we took advantage of ASMPT’s comprehensive training offerings and made them available to our employees as part of the modernization. As a result, they were able to get started immediately and achieve our production targets without any problems.

Future-proof concept
All in all, the project’s bottom line is very positive, says Lauter: “By gradually modernizing the inherited production systems with ASMPT solutions we were able to multiply our output – something that would have been impossible with the old equipment. In addition, the offline component teaching has made us quick and flexible in new product introductions. We especially like the very open and flexible product portfolio of ASMPT, where things fit together by design. At the same time, the open interface guarantees that even third-party equipment can be seamlessly integrated. With ASMPT, we can automate in areas where this step delivers the best return on investment for us.”
The outlook for the joint future of KATEK and ASMPT is equally positive: “We continue to expand very actively, which means that we will need to make more investments very soon. ASMPT is one of the KATEK Group’s preferred suppliers who will continue to support us in achieving our ambitious goals,” concludes Lauter.


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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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