New Year, New Equipment—Right?


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To bring in the new year, we’ve made a few changes to our magazines. You may have noticed that our name has changed from The PCB Magazine to PCB007 Magazine. Not only did we update our magazine’s name, we refreshed the interior pages of the publication, as well. As an I-Connect007 publication, PCB007 Magazine fits nicely with our other publications, which also carry through with the naming convention starting this month: SMT007 Magazine and Design007 Magazine. We hope you enjoy this fresh new look.

This month, we will discuss the equipment purchasing decision-making process. How many of you can recall the earliest “dippy dunk” PCB shops, so-called because that’s exactly how it was done? There were no conveyorized lines, no automatic hoists, no load/unload stations, maybe not even a lab for analyzing the plating baths. Plating or etch resist was screen-printed onto the boards, or in some cases sprayed or dip-coated, imaged and developed in a small vertical spray developing tank. A few shops had small conveyorized etchers.

We have come so far and become so sophisticated! Equipment for making a PCB is many orders of magnitude more involved and far, far more capable than those ancient days—and many orders of magnitude more expensive. But as equipment has become more sophisticated and costly, determining what equipment you need has become far more complicated, too. Choosing wisely—and correctly anticipating your and the market’s needs—has never been more critical, and can involve hundreds of thousands and indeed millions of dollars. Being wrong is not only costly but could put your whole operation in jeopardy. Yikes.

As usual, we conducted a survey on this month’s topic to see what was most important to our readers. Interestingly, the most common two reasons for buying new equipment were to improve an existing capability and to increase capacity; adding a new capability placed third.

Apparently, we neglected to include “to improve quality” as an option because this was mentioned repeatedly in the comment section. Additionally, you are researching your equipment needs and purchases through many venues like publications, tradeshows and, most notably, by benchmarking with other companies (Figure 2).

PattyFig1.jpg

PattyFig2.jpg

Let’s move on to our line-up for the month, starting with our discussion on the decision-making process for choosing the right equipment. We invited a couple of veteran industry people, Matt Turpin, resident and CEO of Zentech Manufacturing, and Kathy Nargi-Toth, president of Eltek-USA. They provide some sane advice on evaluating your equipment needs in line with your customer-partners, the value of creating a roadmap and having a plan, and, as always, open communication lines with your supply chain.

As I mentioned last month, the buzz around is all about Whelen Engineering, certainly a top equipment purchaser in our industry. Naturally, we’ve got an article by Alex Stepinski, president of Whelen Engineering’s newly formed division, Greensource Fabrication. Alex’s vision is clear as he delineates the steps he has followed to build a new PCB manufacturing plant here in the USA. Considering the magnitude of this undertaking, it was imperative that a strict evaluation process be followed.

A sidebar interview with Jochen Zeller and Henk Van der Meij, VPs at AWP Group, one of Alex’s major equipment suppliers, is also included—which may or may not be illuminating. As Alex says, they are doers and thinkers, not talkers. But one can clearly see they extent of the partnership that has been formed. Taking a slightly different tack is Chemcut’s Jim Hall, who carries us through the thought process for choosing conveyorized equipment, from physical parameters and construction material choices to the less obvious requirements like ease of maintenance, expansion capability and IoT extras. Here in the middle of the magazine is our IPC APEX EXPO 2018 pre-show special, including a series of interviews with the people at IPC who make it happen. Besides the show, we include details on the conference, CFX (check it out to learn more), and IPC’s Emerging Engineers program. The last interview is about the IPC app for the show and conference. Getting back to our regular content, columnist Mark Ladle from Viking gives us a behind the-scenes look at what it takes for equipment suppliers to show off their wares at an industry show. I’ve witnessed some of that beforethe-show mess and it is always a wonder how everything is perfectly together and neat when the show opens.

Next, we have columnist Mike Carano, RBP Chemical Technology, with the second part of his case study on pits and mouse bites (don’t you love our industry-specific terminology!). Mike’s columns often deal with troubleshooting and his advice is always practical. Steve Williams of Right Approach Consulting gives us a clever analogy on lean manufacturing using “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” His comparisons are most interesting and entertaining, a pleasant way to learn. (Steve, how many times have you watched that movie?) IPC’s John Mitchell wraps up this month with a column on advocacy. Once upon a time, we simply built our factories and companies and ran them without giving politics, legislation or regulation a second thought. Those days are long gone across the globe, and we have learned the importance of having a say in things by speaking with and educating our legislators on the importance of manufacturing and to insist that science be part of legislative decisions.

Patricia Goldman is managing editor of The PCB Magazine. To contact Goldman, click here.

To read the January 2018 issue of PCB007 magazine, click here.

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