CB Technology delivers tested and proven, high performing and highly reliable electronic products to the UK and international markets. Ten years ago, the company made their first AOI purchase; a Nordson YESTECH B3 system supplied by UK-based AOI solution provider Cupio. The B3, which is still in service today, has now been joined by a BX system – an essential step, as CB has tripled in size over the last four years.
This recent expansion is the latest phase in the company’s continuous development. Founded in 1999, it initially focused on designing and manufacturing specialist probe cards for the semiconductor industry. Experience gained in delivering these complex, tested electronic solutions allowed the company to diversify into manufacturing and testing rugged downhole electronic assemblies for the oil and gas sector. This called for highly-specific – and therefore low-volume – electronic products that could be trusted to deliver long-term, reliable performance in hostile and demanding environments.
Further expansion into other industries, including industrial instrumentation, power management, high end audio/visual displays, communication, and medical technology followed. While flexibility, low volume, high mix and high reliability remain essential, the medical dimension added further requirements for full compliance and traceability.
Four years ago, CB Technology was taken over by a new management team, backed by an external investor and an ambitious expansion plan. As a result, the company has grown from an O&G focused business to a market leading high-end electronics contract manufacturer. While tripling its size, it has extended its range of manufacturing capabilities and implemented business processes that deliver world-class performance in a systematic, repeatable manner.
Original B3 AOI installation and support
The Nordson YESTECH B3 AOI system was originally installed to move CB from an entirely manual inspection environment to a hybrid automatic/manual inspection strategy that encompasses both SMT and through-hole assembly. While manual inspection remains essential for some assembly stages, the speed, repeatability and low error rate of automation has become essential where increasingly complex, high density PCBs are concerned. The B3 provides exceptional defect coverage; it inspects solder joints and verifies correct part assembly, enabling users to improve quality and boost throughput.
Ever since installation, the B3 has consistently supported CB through its time of growth and increasingly fast-moving manufacturing environment. The system is quick and intuitive to program, and once programmed, rapidly incorporates customer data into the AOI setup. It also supports off-line programming, which increases the machine’s availability for production. These simplicity and speed factors have significantly helped CB to achieve the flexibility needed for their low-volume production runs. Then, during operation, the B3 aids productivity with its fast throughput and extremely low false failure rate.
There have been other less obvious but equally important factors that have improved CB Technology’s access to AOI benefits. “Our confidence in our AOI facility depends considerably on rapid, reliable supplier support – and we have certainly enjoyed that from Cupio” comments John Cameron, Managing Director at CB Technology, “Regular on-line support has been good, but, above all, they have always been on site as soon as realistically possible if we have needed them urgently. They have been very helpful in this regard, and our purchase of the second machine is proof of our satisfaction with Cupio’s complete AOI solution.”
“We also appreciate that, while being reliable and easy for the operators to use, the B3 has a small, desktop-sized footprint and doesn’t require any special amenities.”
New BX desktop AOI addition
Since its installation, the new Nordson YESTECH BX machine has successfully expanded CB Technology’s AOI capability. With sometimes continuous production, the second machine provides a level of redundancy as well as improving accuracy and throughput.
CB chose the YESTECH BX machine because it offered an attractive upgrade to the B3; their decision was also eased by their many years’ favourable experience with the earlier machine. Once purchased, the BX’s adoption was simplified by its relationship to the B3. No new trading relationship was required, and the machines are compatible for programming. Although Cupio provided training courses for operation, calibration and programming, these covered changes and upgrades, rather than ‘from scratch’ education.
While expanding CB’s production QA capacity, the BX AOI is providing new benefits arising from recent years’ technology advances. The addition of four side-viewing cameras gives extra inspection capabilities more normally found on larger in-line systems, while all cameras employ more advanced, five-megapixel resolution technology supported by Fusion Lighting. Like the B3, the machine integrates several techniques, including colour inspection, normalised correlation and rule-based algorithms, to provide complete inspection coverage with an extremely low false failure rate. In practice, CB has found the new machine to be faster to set up, and more accurate in operation.
CB Technology’s production facility comprises automated SMT followed by manual through hole assembly, and then the AOI system. However, in the next 12 months or so, the AOI may be repositioned at the SMT output, with, possibly, a further machine after the through hole assembly stage. CB is also currently aligning the AOI run rate with the rest of its production so that they can offer Takt time to their customers; their production starts and production rates will match their customers’ rates of demand.
CB is also considering future possibilities for their AOI resource. Although the machines currently run standalone, there is interest in connecting into their enterprise network for integrated reporting, planning and possibly other management functions. In fact, CB would not have purchased the machines if they had lacked network connectivity.
“Throughout our extensive growth and rapid evolution, flexibility, reliability and tight quality control remain as cornerstones of our business” comments John Cameron, “Nordson YESTECH’s AOI machines, together with Cupio’s responsive support, have helped us to maintain these business advantages.”