By Bartosz Mazurek, VP Electronics Segment, Bright Machines
manufacturing has seen a good deal of transformation in the last few decades –
the implementation of advanced pick and place was a revolution that allowed
manufacturing to automate front end. Unfortunately, the back end hasn’t seen
that same transformation, and as a result, remains labor intensive.
has reached an inflection point, thanks to continuously raising demand from
consumers, the rise of the middle class, and new developments in technology,
both in product and production. With the proliferation of IoT, there are now an
ever-increasing variety of electronic products to produce. At the same time,
it’s become more costly to acquire, train and retain employees to perform the
tasks needed to build the cutting-edge products that consumers now demand.
The good news? The
majority of manufacturing companies understand the issues at hand – 60% plan to
invest in new tech. But first-generation automation has reached its limits:
each automation solution is so custom, which results in an incredibly long lead
time for deployment, while also driving costs. And worse, these solutions are
not reusable or flexible, and don’t allow manufacturers to scale production up
We see a bright
future for EMS though – a better way to manage the situation.
It begins with
shifting the way we think about hardware. Making hardware both modular and
standard should be a top priority, so that like Lego bricks, manufacturers are
using building blocks of the same construction standard to build their lines.
In designing Bright
Machines Microfactories, we made sure
modularity was a key feature. Our hardware is plug and play, ready-to-go, and
comes equipped with a full range of robotics solutions needed to complete tasks
– a range of end of arm tools, along with feeding and transport systems – as
well as machine vision.
Not only are
microfactories configured out of these production-ready building blocks,
they’re programmed using Brightware™, our intelligent software, which is
pre-integrated with all elements of the hardware. Brightware support for the
hardware building blocks makes the overall process of deployment and
programming quick and easy, and it doesn’t require a highly skilled expert to
The result of this
modular hardware powered by software approach is high quality performance,
predictable outcomes, and a super flexible automation solution. Suddenly,
scalability and reusability are possible – manufacturers can repurpose or
reconfigure a production line for a different configuration of a product, or
even an entirely different product.
And this isn’t a
hypothetical – we’re already seeing the real-world impact of this type of
automation in action.
Case Study: Heatsink
networking equipment manufacturer was struggling to automate their heatsink
assembly line because of many different configurations and variants. They were
using seven manual stations to manage 15 different product variations and 11
different heatsinks. This manufacturer knew, too, that the number of
configurations would only continue to increase, if they wanted to offer the
best support for end customers.
What they deployed:
A Bright Machines
Microfactory that is able to handle all product variants with a minimal
one-push changeover and change the software “recipe” to easily reconfigure the
solution to accommodate new heatsinks of different sizes.
The process now also benefits from in-process quality control, as the microfactory verifies component serial numbers to confirm recipe alignment, then component quality and physical alignment, through machine vision. Only after double checking all is as it should be will the robotic unit picks up the heatsink and makes the placement operation – while controlling the force of the operation. While the line currently accommodates 11 different heatsinks and 15 different PCBs, it’s flexible and simple enough to easily add even more.
Implementing a microfactory
reduced cycle time from 20 to 15 seconds, and improved output from 180 units
per hour to 240 – a 33% increase. They were also able to reduce their seven
working stations and the humans needed to staff them by 92% (only ½ an operator
to replenish material), and reduced space needed by 85%.
Case Study: Interior
Lighting Assembly & Inspection
manufacturer sought to enable touchless assembly and testing of interior
What they deployed:
A microfactory that delivers
the flexibility to be able to produce seven different product variants. This solution
is managed by using flexible product carriers equipped with RFID for
traceability and management, as well as auto-changeover from one product to
In this system,
first, machine vision performs checks of batch serial number confirming the
presence of material for quality control. The system then collects coordinates
and adjusts the program, using adaptive robotics controls to pick up component
and complete the pick and place operation (again, fully controlling the force
of the operation). The modular, software-powered microfactory enables even more
flexibility with a dual gripper in one cell, ensuring that the manufacturer is
able to meet their high-quality standards regardless of product variant.
solutions, we’re always thinking about the full end-to-end process: at the
front end, material has to flow and cannot disturb output, so the system is
designed to always guarantee material is there, for example, while tray feeders
enable one-hour constant production with an easy replenishment station. At the
end of the line, a testing and laser engraving station using machine vision
once again to confirm product is free from defect. Even better, everything on
this line is built with those standard hardware building blocks, making it easy
to reconfigure for another product entirely. This is an automation solution
that can be used for not just 2-3 years, but upwards of 5-7.
Next steps for EMS 2.0
These are only two
examples of effectively implemented projects, illustrating the dramatic
transformation possible in the EMS sector when automation is deployed from the beginning
of product ramp-up. This industry is all about digital transformation, but to
enable and harvest the benefits of that transformation, there remains a need to
improve the way automation is currently deployed. A modular, flexible approach
that enables reusability and short deployment times is key to achieving full
So how can EMS
manufacturers get started on this transformation journey?
- Whenever configuring
an automation line, the hardware in use should be reusable – whether one cell
or many, it should be able to be reused for all deployments moving forward.
manufacturers shouldn’t wait until the hardware hits the shop floor to start
programming and testing. With Software-Defined Manufacturing, it’s possible to
program hardware offline and in digital twin environments, so the automation
can run and ramp up production as soon as hardware arrives.
If you choose modular, Software-Defined Manufacturing to automate your assembly and inspection, the potential of automation can become reality – and with faster deployment and more flexible, reusable solutions. To learn more about what’s next for electronic’s manufacturing, head to our full webinar on the topic.