Providing an integrated approach to inspection and testing by collaborating with printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) manufacturers holds the key to success for inspection and test equipment manufacturers. Understanding the defects in the assembly process and developing a ‘complete’ solution, rather than an individual solution, is the way to overcome the challenges.
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“The single most important factor that is driving the surface mount technology (SMT) inspection and testing industry is the implementation of Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) on July 1, 2006,” notes Technical Insights Research Analyst Subrahmania Janakiraman “This stipulation has ushered the development of several innovations in testing and inspection techniques.”
Moreover, the creation and use of a new lead-free solder paste in SMT entails a complete process change including new defects that need rectification as soon as they arise.
Vision sensors are a boon for the inspection industry, which, incidentally is driven by the telecom industry. Reduced component sizes and efficient inspection systems are essential for maintaining excellent product quality in the long term.
From a testing perspective, PCBA manufacturers are reaping rich benefits due to the development of boundary scan as an effective testing technique. Not only have the overall test times reduced, the quality of assemblies has also improved due to the implementation of a design-for-testability (DFT) approach at the beginning of the manufacturing process.
The delay in developing a completely integrated assembly line is a huge hurdle that manufacturers currently face. Cost is another limiting factor. Although X-ray is fast gaining ground as an effective inspection tool, costs are prohibiting the large-scale implementation of such systems. However, non-implementation of DFT by PCBA manufacturers is probably the single most important obstacle that challenges test equipment manufacturers. Benefits of such a paradigm shift in testing strategy could benefit the entire chain.
From an inspection perspective, higher costs essentially translate into better machine capabilities, but the timely recovery of costs is uncertain. Providing PCBA manufacturers a complete range of solutions, both from a technology and cost perspective, rather than a piece-meal solution would benefit inspection equipment manufacturers in the long term.
“Ensuring that the PCBA is designed to accommodate testing at a later stage would benefit test equipment manufacturers by allowing them to design systems that enhance testing capabilities,” explains Janakiraman. “It also benefits PCBA manufacturers – by reducing test times and by increasing overall test coverage area – resulting in increased revenue.”
Both inspection and testing equipment manufacturers need to look at providing a comprehensive suite of solutions in order to compete in the marketplace. Adding flexibility to adapt to the changing environment, with the ability to provide strategic consulting inputs would determine the extent to which testing equipment manufacturers can aid PCBA manufacturers.
Emerging Trends in SMT Inspection and Testing, a part of the TI –Semiconductors Subscription, provides a technology overview and outlook for the innovations in testing and inspection of SMT. The study covers X-ray inspection, different techniques to enhance optical inspection, intelligent software to help reduce inspection time, boundary scanning, design for testability, in-circuit testing and flying probe testing. Further, this research service includes detailed technology analysis and industry trends evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants. Interviews are available to the press.
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