SMT topics in focus
Temperature control solution specialist JULABO relies on highly-flexible ASMPT E-Solutions mid-speed systems for its in-house production of circuit boards that control its high-tech systems. The new line consisting of an E by DEK stencil printer and two E by SIPLACE placement machines improves the speed of the production four-fold compared to the previous solution while delivering significant improvements in component diversity, quality, and flexibility. For JULABO, the solution from technology leader ASMPT also represents an investment in its future because the machines offer sufficient capacity reserves to accommodate the company’s planned annual growth of roughly 10 percent for many years to come. Further smart options and solutions such as the WORKS Material Manager and WORKS Line Monitor expand JULABO’s benefits even further.
With its E by DEK and E by SIPLACE machines from ASM’s E-Solutions line, JULABO today manufactures up to four times faster than before with a significantly increased level of quality and future-proof capacity reserves.
JULABO is one of the world’s leading makers of temperature control solutions for research, industrial and scientific applications.
No product leaves JULABO’s factory without having successfully passed a function and quality test. The new ASM E-Solutions line plays a significant role for the products’ ability to meet the company’s strict requirements.
“By implementing the project with systems from ASM’s E-Solutions line, JULABO benefits from outstanding quality and process control and is able to break new ground in our assembly operations,” says Andreas Heuberger, head of JULABO’s electronics manufacturing operations.
“Delivering top-quality products is JULABO’s overarching priority, which is why we have imposed very strict standards on ourselves with DIN ISO 9001 and DIN ISO 140001,” explains Andreas Heuberger, who heads JULABO’s electronics manufacturing operations. “Our electronics production plays a key role in this, and our new SMT line from ASM at the heart of our factory guarantees that our control elements deliver performance, quality, and reliability. With our ASMPT solution we manufacture many times faster than before and with top quality. We handle both the smallest components and OSCs with total process reliability, which enables us to ensure our competitiveness for the long term.”
ASMPT account manager Kai Käpplein adds: “With our E-Solutions line, we could offer a complete solution that was custom-tailored for JULABO’s needs. Powerful hardware with great capacity reserves is supplemented by premium ASMPT software for comprehensive control and programming along with integrated workflows for enhanced efficiency. In this way, medium-sized electronics manufacturing companies benefit from optimum performance, flexibility and possibilities – from prototype production for NPIs to small and medium batch sizes with uncomplicated and rapid setup changeovers to contract manufacturing applications.”
Founded in 1967 and owner-managed, JULABO GmbH is one of the world’s leading makers of temperature control solutions for research, industrial and scientific applications. More than 400 employees generate worldwide sales of more than 50 million euros at the company’s main location in Seelbach in the Black Forest and at 11 locations in Europe, America, and Asia. Together with 100 sales and service partners, JULABO forms a global network that is always close to its customers and ensures that temperature control processes run smoothly and efficiently in labs as well as production and research facilities. To express JULABO’s attachment to its hometown, CEO Markus Juchheim established on the occasion of the company’s 50th anniversary in 2017 the JULABO Foundation, which supports non-profits, associations and other institutions in the region surrounding the company’s headquarters.
Manufacturing had outgrown demand
JULABO manufactures circuit boards exclusively for its own temperature control systems in currently 301 variants, of which roughly half are populated with surface-mount devices. Lot sizes range from as little as five units to high-volume models with quantities of 7,000 units annually.
“Shortly after taking over the management of our electronics production at JULABO in 2016, I subjected the existing SMD production to a thorough analysis together with my colleague Hans Dirksen from the work preparation department,” remembers Andreas Heuberger. “We concluded that an upgrade in the near future was unavoidable. The machines were approaching the end of their life cycles, and getting replacement parts became more and more critical. In addition, the machines were operated as standalones, which tied up lots of personnel for the handling activities alone. On top of that, developments of new circuit boards with growing technological demands and ever smaller components were accelerating rapidly. We also began to suffer from machine downtimes as a result of increasingly complex repairs. The old systems would soon have been unable to perform the increasingly demanding production duties. There was no doubt that the assembly process had to move toward inline production and that we had to generate more capacity through extensive automation.” In 2018, top management gave the green light for adding a new state-of-the-art SMT line.
Drawing information directly from the factory floor
After taking an initial look at the equipment market at the SMT trade show in Nuremberg, JULABO talked with various suppliers to narrow down its choices. To obtain as much unbiased information as possible, project manager Andreas Heuberger took a rather unusual approach: He contacted other companies they had a relationship with, examined their SMT lines, and talked with them about the pros and cons of their respective installations, all while paying special attention to the integrability of upstream and downstream processes.
JULABO chooses an E-Solutions line from ASM
For JULABO, it was of utmost importance to find a competent and experienced supplier who would be able to deliver everything they needed for their SMT production from a single source – a company that had a good reputation, mature and proven technology, and decades of experience and know-how. The equipment had to be characterized by its quality and placement performance as well as first-class user-friendliness and ease of maintenance, along with an attractive price-performance ratio. “We chose ASMPT because the systems in the E-Solutions line impressed us not only with their technological features,” explains Andreas Heuberger. “We were able to test the machines with our own circuit boards in ASMPT’s Center of Competence in Munich. The ASM experts demonstrated everything from placement program generation to maintenance before they ran our test boards. We always had the feeling that ASMPT offered us precisely what we needed and were looking for. The cooperation was always first-class and has remained so to this day.”
Commissioning the new line
JULABO’s management made the final decision to invest in its electronics production in Seelbach in January 2019. On October 11, only about 10 months later, the first circuit board was successfully manufactured on the new ASMPT E-Solutions line. “The changeover was as easy as it could be. The professional support from ASM and its experts played a significant role in the speed of the implementation,” says Andreas Heuberger, “not only in the preparatory stages, but also during the delivery, installation and commissioning of the new line. We had a time window of only five days for starting up the line and training the employees before the production had to run at full speed again. The ASMPT technicians made this possible for us in the smoothest manner possible. After the successful start-up, we also received support from an experienced ASM service technician who accompanied the ramp-up phase of our production.”
A powerful and flexible package for the mid-speed sector
The E by DEK stencil printer features a machine accuracy rating of up to ±25 microns @ 2.0 Cmk and a standard cycle time of 11 seconds, which can be optionally reduced to as little as 8 seconds. In addition, the machine is equipped with a dispenser module that can reliably perform adhesive processes, and the Hawkeye 750 inspection solution allows JULABO to control and verify the solder paste printing process with efficiency and precision.
For the placement process, JULABO employs two machines from the E by SIPLACE line. In the first machine, a CP12 head handles the speedy and highly accurate placement of smaller components down to the 0402m size factor at speeds of up to 24,300 components per hour with a precision of up to ±25 microns @ 2 Cmk. The second machine is equipped with a CP12/PP head which switches between collect-and-place and pick-and-place modes on demand, making the machine a highly flexible universal placement system. JULABO uses it for larger components such as processors, connectors, SD card slots, and exceptionally large components. The CP12/PP is additionally equipped with a tray changer that makes it possible to operate with various tray levels. Both placement machines use interchangeable component carts, which accelerates the setup processes considerably.
E-Solutions elevate JULABO’s production to unprecedented levels
“Our previous configuration made it difficult if not impossible for us to place smaller components, not to mention 0402m components. Today, this is a standard process for us,” says Andreas Heuberger. “In addition, the new line’s high degree of automation allows us to use employees more productively somewhere else, which means that JULABO benefits in two ways. The line operates up to four times as fast and precise as the old one with a significantly higher level of quality. We can also run significantly larger lot sizes, which reduces the manufacturing costs considerably. On the other hand, we can also run small sample series very efficiently because changing setups is so quick and easy.”
The company churned out 60,000 circuit boards in 2020, 45,000 of which were manufactured on the new E-Solutions line. “We expect our circuit board production to grow by roughly 10 percent annually. With our new line, we have invested in the future in terms of technology as well as capacity because it has the necessary reserves – even if we grow faster than expected,” says Andreas Heuberger.
Smart ASM solutions deliver more benefits
JULABO currently uses ASM Material Manager to manage its inventory of surface-mount devices. To shorten storage times and reconcile inventories, the system will soon be integrated into the company’s ERP system. “This also provides us with comprehensive track-and-trace capabilities from receiving to assembly. We see for which orders and circuit boards which material from which manufacturer was used. This allows us to respond quickly and reliably in case of quality problems,” explains Andreas Heuberger. And since WORKS Material Manager also controls and saves the exposure times of moisture-sensitive devices, JULABO can ensure that only checked and approved components are installed in its products.
The WORKS Line Monitor provides a fast and clear information platform for operators directly on the line. It shows, for example, which component will run out in the next few minutes so that operators can splice on a new reel or request a refill from the warehouse. As Andreas Heuberger explains: “Downtimes have been reduced significantly, and our production times are rising. We can see at a glance which job is currently running and how many boards have been or still need to be assembled. The 55-inch monitor directly above the line provides all employees with an instant overview of the most important information, which makes everyone’s job a lot easier.”
Thinking about the future
Roughly one-and-a-half years after starting up the new E-Solutions line, JULABO is already thinking about future projects, one of which involves automating the SMD warehouse with Material Towers. “This is an area where we can save more time in connection with material storage and withdrawals, which will once again free up people to do other things. When the Material Towers are linked to WORKS Material Manager and the WORKS Line Monitor, everything will be networked so that all three systems can take full advantage of their respective capabilities,” says Andreas Heuberger. He continues: “Since we currently handle THT placements as projects, this is another area where systems and processes need to be replaced and expanded – taking into account the previous SMT processes, of course.”
The new line is a complete success for JULABO
“In summary, we can say that implementing the project with ASMPT E-Solutions systems allows us to benefit from their excellent quality and process control capabilities while breaking new ground in our assembly operations. We produce reliably and highly automated with an enormous increase in speed and a much higher level of quality. Our E-Solutions line is digitally linked to upstream and downstream production and logistics processes, which moves us much closer towards Industry 4.0 and will allow JULABO to respond more quickly and flexibly to customer requirements in the future,” summarizes Andreas Heuberger. “I would like to thank all those involved at ASMPT as well as my colleague Hans Dirksen and the various participating departments at JULABO for their outstanding cooperation and the successful and trouble-free realization of this project.”
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