By Stevan Dobrasevic, Product
Marketing Director, Bright Machines
Heat sinks are a common component within electronic products
today – and for good reason! Whether you are assembling automotive infotainment
products, networking equipment, smart meters, building security systems, or any
other number of circuit-board-driven wares, chances are they’ll need a heat
sink to keep within temperature specifications during use.
Unfortunately, the installation of heat sinks are a time
suck on the factory floor because of the processes used to attach them to the
circuit board – either screwdriving them into place, afixing them with
pushpins, or fastening them with clips.
Historically, each of these approaches has required too much
dexterity to automate. But that’s changing. Computer
vision and other advances in robotics and software-defined
manufacturing are helping electronics manufacturing services companies,
contract manufacturers, and OEMs turn the page on old manufacturing norms and begin
a new chapter in producing electronics products faster, more predictably, and
at a lower cost per unit.
Breaking Through the
One networking equipment manufacturer found itself running
into a (fire)wall as it fielded a team of human operators for heat sink assembly.
The company relied on 10 workers per shift across 2 shifts to install heat
sinks on 18 firewall assemblies per hour, or 72,000 units per year.
The placement and mounting of heat sinks within the firewall
is critical to the performance and quality of these high-end products, which
can cost upwards of $1,000 each. Responsible for 12 different product SKUs, reflecting
various combinations of heat sinks and other key components, human operators
had their hands full with precision, and sometimes painful, picking and placing
And unlike less costly assemblies, any mistake – whether an
incorrectly placed or cracked heat sink – can result in high-end scrap. At
$1,000+ per firewall, the hand placement of this key component at quantity
posed many risks. Like many electronics manufacturers, this one understood the
risks and limitations of its traditional manual approach and looked to reduce
its reliance on human operators through automation.
Using a Bright Machines Microfactory
comprised of four Bright Robotic Cells (two for heat sink placement, two for
DIMM card insertion) the manufacturer re-imagined and re-energized its pick-and-place
processes. In the first automated cell, a robotic arm places four pins into the
circuit board and pushes them into place using an end of arm tool developed for
heat sink installation. DIMM card insertion is done in the second and third
cells. In the fourth cell, the robotic arm mounts the heat sinks in place.
Automation of the heat sink assembly process has driven
noteworthy results. Over the course of one shift, a 10-person human operator
team could place heat sinks and DIMM cards into firewalls at a cost of $13.89
per unit. With the Microfactory, that cost dropped $1.06 per unit to $12.83 – a
nice savings. Then, compared to the original two-shift, 10-human-operators-per-shift
scenario, the automation solution shaved off $7.00+ per firewall. Finally, over
three shifts, avoiding the need to hire 10 additional human operators, the
efficiency and scalability of the microfactory kicked into overdrive, lowering
the cost per unit to $4.28, a 69%
At the same time, aided by each cell’s machine-vision
capabilities, error rates dropped and yield improved from 92% to 95%, reducing
very costly scrap. And, notably, the microfactory integrated into the factory
floor in just 5 months.
Meet Your New
Workforce: Overcoming Staffing Uncertainty with Automation
For a European manufacturer, automation held the key to
unlocking predictable production and precious workspace on the factory floor.
Employing 7 workers at 7 workstations to assemble 15 product SKUs – a number dictated
by the variety of heat sink types and quantity of each required – the company
had difficulty reliably staffing its shifts due to worker scarcity. That
unpredictability impacted hitting production targets.
Working with Bright Machines, the manufacturer consolidated
its 7 stations into a microfactory comprised of onerobotic cell. Leveraging
the microfactory’s software, the company fed in its assembly “recipes” for all
15 product SKUs and at a push of button could switch from product to product
with only a 5 second changeover.
Again, the transformation to automation proved invaluable.
First, the microfactory solved the company’s staffing issues, reducing its FTE
requirements for heat-sink assembly from 7 human operators to just a single
half-time employee – a great cost saver. But more importantly, they could now
depend on the consistent production output that comes with automation instead
of the erratic output that resulted from not knowing how many workers they’d
have on any given day. And as an added bonus, the solution also dramatically
reduced the physical footprint of heat sink assembly on the factory floor, since
7 stations were consolidated to 1, freeing up space and streamlining logistics.
Throughput benefited as well. The microfactory increased assembled
units per hour from 180 to 240, a 33%
improvement, while reducing TAKT time from 20 seconds to 15. And now when
operators need to switch a product SKU, they simply push a button on a touch
screen, select the desired SKU, and watch as manufacturing history gets written.
Want to learn more? Join me on April 9th for a
complimentary Bright Machines webinar
on automating heat sink assembly.