Ten key SMT trends you need to know

Text: David Gray

Photo: Mycronic

The ten trends to keep an eye out for; automation, big data, AI, robotics, two global ecosystems, shorter production cycles, the full line's throughput, sustainability, connectivity and flexible equipment. 


1. AUTOMATION IS EXPLODING: Anything that can be automated in and around the SMT line will be, reducing the dependency on humans and minimizing errors. Under-automated areas in the pre-SMT and post-SMT processes will get more attention, as will PCBA “material automation,” with heightened productivity gains enabled by better M2M optimization.

We can now capture and store massive amounts of both structured and unstructured data, but this will require greater processing capacity. Time to beef up your computer processing and data storage capabilities in the cloud?

3. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IS COMING: In the not-too-distant-future, machines will be programmed to think like humans and make decisions on their own as well as learn and solve problems. Basically, it means faster and smarter decision-making.

4. THE ROBOTS ARE TAKING OVER: This is nothing new for factories with SMT machines that are, in effect, robots themselves. But they’ll soon be made even smarter with AI and joined by new friends like AGVs, flying drones and other robotic tools to help optimized the process.

5. TWO GLOBAL ECOSYSTEMS: The world of manufacturing is undergoing a transformation both globally and locally. Japan, South Korea, China and other Asia Pacific countries are pouring in money to R&D, leading to two separate ecosystems between East and West.

6. SHORTER PRODUCTION CYCLES: The path from development to finished product is shortening, meaning the pressure is on to deliver speed and greater customization to customer needs with shorter production cycles.

7. FORGET FEATURES, THINK THROUGHPUT: The focus on individual machine features and specifications is diminishing as operators focus more on how well the total line is producing.

8. MAKE IT SUSTAINABLE: Heightened initiatives in this area now extend far beyond lead-free solder paste to include meeting EU directives like REACH, WEEE and RoHS for removing hazardous chemicals, securing recycling procedures and promoting safe, environmentally friendly SMT processes.

9. FACTORY-WIDE CONNECTIVITY: Customers who have previously focused mainly on machines will need to embrace the growing importance of software in everything, to connect their processes.

10. NEED FOR FLEXIBLE, HIGH-MIX EQUIPMENT: The trend towards customization and shorter batches will continue, driving a need for more flexible equipment and processes – even for high volume manufacturing.

Text: David Gray

Photo: Mycronic

Published: 6 April 2020

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