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Getting to Know Your Designer
In this issue, we examine how fabs work with their design customers, educating them on the critical elements of fabrication needed to be successful, as well as the many tradeoffs involved. How well do you really know your customer? What makes for a closer, more synchronized working relationship?
In this issue, the biggest names in PCB manufacturing share their economic outlook for the upcoming year and beyond. As you will see, they were all bullish on our industry, but there was some apprehension as well. No one wants to get burned by another the supply chain disruption.
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Driving Down Cost with Process EngineeringApril 20, 2021 | I-Connect007 Editorial Team
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Nolan Johnson and Barry Matties speak with Matt Mack, a process engineer at ICM Controls. Matt shares how he’s driving down cost through continuous improvement. He also discusses planning for the future with automation and AI. Matt started with ICM Controls in 2019. Prior, he worked at Whelen Engineering (now GreenSource Fabrication) for about five years. His career in the PCB industry began at Sanmina.
Nolan Johnson: We’re interested in learning about your approach to process engineering. What’s your thinking for identifying processes that are in need of improvement?
Matt Mack: I start with our price per panels and the costs that are associated with it. I start to think, how can we make the process smoother, more efficient, where I don’t need to have as much human interaction with chemicals? That all starts with gathering data with chemical data. I’ll do titrations, for example. I’ll pick one line at a time that I will not have any dosing on, and I’ll calculate the square footage of panels through X amount of time, how much it dropped in concentration, and I’ll adjust dosing based on panel count. Then you have to optimize speed.
You can also do line speed, increasing or decreasing to optimize quality. I always strive for the 1.33 Cpk for the parts. It’s not always possible, but we come pretty close. It took about six months to really get dosing right. Right now, we do chemical analysis about twice a week. That’s much lower than recommended, but the data is not driving us to analyze it more. I asked our software guy to develop a chemical database that allows me to input the chemical data and track Cpk, track trends up and down, and in-spec/out-of-spec; if any of those rules are violated, it notifies me through an email.
Some of those are deemed critical, some are not. If any of it is deemed critical, we’ll trigger the production’s halt. If it’s not critical, we might be able to do it on the fly. For instance, let’s look at the copper concentration in a microetch. I might empty the line out before its formal dump, but it’s not going to impact quality on the product. Those are some of the rules that I observe. Any time you see a trend of five points decreasing, it could be a dosing issue, so I would jump right on the dosing, and verify it’s dosing what I’ve asked it to dose; second, maybe the chemical ran out and there’s an airlock. I get a lot of those emails where it’ll show you process control.
Matties: When you stand back as a process engineer and take that 30,000-foot view of a process, what do you want to improve to optimize it? What’s your process for doing that?
Mack: The first thing I monitor is speed. We track panels through and panels out. I would always start with asking: What are some of the slower ones, and how do I increase throughput on that piece of production? If you’re going to have funnels where, let’s say, the score machine is not putting out as many panels as the plating line, I might need to buy either a faster score machine or an additional score machine to maximize output. As we’re ramping up here, there is some capex equipment that we’re looking to quote in order to increase production on the floor. Generally, speed is what I look at.
The second thing would be chemical usage. If it costs us X to run one panel, what is the impact of that one piece of chemical on the panel? I look at price per panel by operation, as well. Can I get away with dosing less? For instance, for the pre-treat line, they recommended running something like 20 milliliters a panel. I actually optimized it to only run at about 8 milliliters. It saved us $18,000 over the course of a year. A lot of what drives me to look at process either optimizes panel production or price. Regarding price, for example, every six months I’ll review price per panel to determine where we can improve and where we can’t.
To read this entire interview, which appeared in the April 2021 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.
After working for a capital equipment supplier for almost 50 years, I’ve found that the most important part of getting to know your vendor is good communication among all parties. While contact between fabricators of a constantly changing product line and the designers of those products may occur daily or weekly, conversations between you and your equipment supplier may be years apart. That lengthy gap often means that previous contacts may have been promoted, retired, or moved on to other opportunities. You may have also migrated to a new supplier with whom you have little or no history. In either case, you will be interacting with someone you are unfamiliar with (as they are with you). Therefore, it is essential for both sides to communicate clearly so expectations will align.
The opening session of the second day’s conference proceedings focused on global PCB trends and was introduced and moderated by Dr. Michele Stampanoni, vice president of strategic sales and business development at Cicor Group in Switzerland. He opened the session with Dr. Hayao Nakahara’s knowledgeable and enlightening video presentation on the IC substrates industry.
The 2024 Winter Conference of the EIPC took place January 30 and 31 at the IHK Academie in Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany. The keynote session will be reported separately. Here is my review of the first day’s conference proceedings.
Electrodeposition comes down to fundamentals. In the early days of plating, many users considered the nuances of metallization as black magic. Those days are long gone. Having a thorough understanding of the critical parameters that influence electrodeposition will determine success.
High Density Packaging User Group (HDP) is pleased to announce that Shikoku Chemicals Corporation (Shikoku) has become a member.