System-Driven Approach Ensures Automotive Electronics Assembly Success

Stephen Las Marias, I-Connect007 | 05-11-2018

Based in Neuilly-Plaisance, France, Asteelflash Group is an EMS firm offering services from NPI to mass production within a broad range of markets, including defense, military and aerospace, automotive, medical, industrial, telecommunications, and consumer electronics. 

The automotive electronics and systems market accounts for nearly 20% of the company’s global revenue. It is spread out around the key sub-segments (or end applications) including, but not limited to, infotainment, battery management system, power electronic modules, gateway and communication electronics, door controls, smart-lighting modules, and new technologies targeted towards the autonomous or self-driving cars such as vehicle to grid or V2X integration systems. 

According to Mathieu Kury, business development manager at Asteelflash USA Corp., in Fremont, California, growth has been pretty aggressive over the past year and they expect it to continue with new technologies and strong players in the industry coming up with new vehicles and/or technology breakthroughs.

To successfully support its customers and capture new business in this segment, Asteelflash has developed its automotive-specific footprint, including Tijuana, Mexico; Suzhou, China; Bad Herzfeld, Germany, and coming soon, La Soukra, Tunisia.

In an interview with SMT007 Magazine, Kury talks about the new challenges and customer requirements when it comes to automotive electronics assembly, trends driving the growth of the market, and where the industry is headed. 

Stephen Las Marias: Have you seen an increase in automotive electronics assembly jobs over the past two to three years? What are the main drivers for this? 

Mathieu Kury: We have indeed. These assembly jobs are mostly focused on PCB assemblies and sub-assemblies, including the full array of testing services and conformal coating, among other steps of the manufacturing process. This is a trend we expect to see again this year, along with higher volumes for customers/projects we started to support only recently and for which we have very strong and positive outlooks within the next few months.

Las Marias: What are the greatest challenges when it comes to electronics assembly for automotive electronics?

Kury:More than the assembly itself, I would say the main challenges reside in the level of quality processes, procedures, and containment/contingency plans you need to have in place. This is something we’re not new to, of course, and therefore have mastered over time. Traceability is another one. With the increasing level of electronics in cars on the market, a lot of EMS/CM players are attracted to penetrate this industry. However, not all of them are able to provide the quality commitments and results needed to succeed on the long run. 

On another note, dealing with new technologies can also be a challenge and the self-driving vehicle sub-segment will change the way we assemble automotive products as the liability on the field will be even higher—but this is something we’re ready to tackle. 

Las Marias: What new requirements or demands are being placed upon you by your automotive electronics customers? 

Kury:More than new demands or sub-applications, our customers require shorter and shorter lead times, which is something we can help with by engaging at the early stage of the project—most specifically during the design stage. This will allow us to guide and support the customer in keeping the mass production context in mind, which is something overlooked too often. 

Las Marias: How are you helping customers address their challenges? 

Kury:We’ve integrated design for excellence (DFE) and design for manufacturability (DFM) principles into our processes. That helps us in providing our customers with design support services, with the right tools, at the right time. Qualifying alternate parts, identifying possible roadblocks to volume production, among others, are services we provide more and more to our customers to make sure lead time is optimized, component selection is relevant and in line with customer’s requirements, and allows mass production ramps up smoothly. Testing strategy is another area where we’re investing additional resources, supporting our customers in defining the right testing strategy according to their specific use case, and supporting the associated tooling development. 

Las Marias: What recent trends or developments in automotive electronics are changing the way electronics assemblies are being manufactured? 

Kury: Not sure if these latest developments are changing the way products are assembled, however we do see a lot more opportunities to bring our expertise inside a vehicle. From sensors to infotainment and an ever-increasing role of the screens and touchpads for interior control, we are regularly consulted to support these types of assembly, in addition to historical applications such as lighting or door controls. In addition, green technologies and the overall Smart City ecosystem is bringing additional opportunities to support the electric vehicle industry especially the charging infrastructure, for example.

To read the full version of this article, which appeared in the April 2018 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.