I-Connect007 eBook Introduction: The Evolving NPI Process


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The following is an excerpt from the introduction to the I-Connect007 eBook The Electronics Industry's Guide to... The Evolving PCB NPI Process.

Thanks to marketing and advances in technology, we have all come to expect that the electronic products we buy will be closely aligned to our individual and specific lifestyle or business requirements. This expected variability, in personal function and style, as well as regulatory compliance and a changing global economic landscape, has made designing and producing new products a challenging prospect. And, on top of the resulting “high-mix, low-volume” production cycles, increasingly more products contain electronic components in varying levels that heighten the complexity of design and manufacturing. 

This situation means that printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing has shifted from a focus that’s primarily driven by the time it takes to build a single board on a single dedicated line to focusing on the changeover time between varying products on a single line or between multiple lines. 

As part of this shift, PCB manufacturers moved away from the traditional practice of selecting pick-and-place lines from multiple vendors to choosing a single vendor for their machine lines. And an unintended result is that using the one vendor’s machine software became the primary way to optimize the line because the key factors were known, and manufacturers no longer had to optimize across multiple, differing machine platforms. 

Then surface mount technology (SMT) came along, and these machines had greater feeder capacity. They were able to cover more types of component packages. SMT machines were more modular than pick-and-place machines so they could be put together to create the overall placement line. Despite this move to SMT, some pick-and-place machines, especially if they were legacy machines that still functioned well and were too expensive to replace, were kept in a manufacturing line. So, a single factory still could have at least two, or more, different machine vendors across all lines. This made optimizing all the machines across a line or multiple lines complicated because they weren’t speaking the same software language. 

Because this mixed-vendor setup is difficult to configure, companies such as Valor and Tecnomatix, both now part of Siemens Digital Industries, stepped in to deliver optimization strategies for these mixed vendor lines. One of the most popular mixed-vendor lines historically was the Fuji CP-Universal GSM line. However, most electronics assembly lines back then were typically mixed vendor of some type.

To download The Electronics Industry's Guide to... The Evolving PCB NPI Process, click here.

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