Manufacturing Technology Centre – Electronics Manufacturing LaunchAnsty Park, Coventry19 August 2010

Circuit World

ISSN: 0305-6120

Article publication date: 8 February 2011



Goosey, M. (2011), "Manufacturing Technology Centre – Electronics Manufacturing LaunchAnsty Park, Coventry19 August 2010", Circuit World, Vol. 37 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Manufacturing Technology Centre – Electronics Manufacturing LaunchAnsty Park, Coventry19 August 2010

Article Type: Conferences and exhibitions From: Circuit World, Volume 37, Issue 1

Over 40 million pounds of UK Government grants are being invested in the new Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Ansty, Coventry, and the MTC is being established to support UK manufacturing companies and their supply chains in order to bring about major improvements in their manufacturing competitiveness. On 19 August, there was an event which was specifically aimed at launching the electronics research-related activities of the centre.

The launch meeting began with a welcome by Neil Rawlinson of Aero Engine Controls (AEC), a joint venture company between Rolls Royce and Goodrich Corporation and examples of the company’s engine control systems were demonstrated. Rawlinson emphasised the importance of innovation in manufacturing for the UK economy and he described how the MTC would be part of a national network of manufacturing research centres.

Peter Flinn, the Project Director of the MTC, then gave an overview of the MTC’s activities. The MTC was being established with funding from Advantage West Midlands and the East Midlands Development Agency and it had four research partners, namely Birmingham, Loughborough and Nottingham Universities, as well as TWI, in Abington, Cambridge. There were also three industrial founder members, namely, Airbus, AEC and Rolls Royce and the site was due to formally open in May 2011. The MTC would aim to combine research flowing from universities with industrially led development programmes and it would predominantly operate at the technology readiness levels of 4, 5 and 6. The MTC would have a focus on assembly, fabrication and joining and would include high integrity fabrication, net shape manufacturing, advanced tooling and fixturing and intelligent automation. Other themes would be added later. The research work programme had already started and there were currently four projects underway.

David Blackwell of AEC then gave a presentation on manufacturing challenges. Quality was the number one driver for the aerospace industry and this had to be achieved in products with life cycles of 40 years. With surface mount technology (SMT), the process could be completed without any manual intervention. AEC had invested heavily in surface mount manufacturing technology over the past 12 months and this had delivered a 66 per cent reduction in defects. Every new product would be SMT based and there would thus be continuing investment in SMT manufacturing capability. The company was also planning to replace existing through-hole manufacturing technology with state-of-the-art, fully automated equipment that would also be zero touch. Where the appropriate technology did not exist, AEC would work with the MTC to develop it. Examples of typical projects included solder jetting as a replacement for traditional screen printing, selective soldering to fully solder a complete mixed technology assembly, conformal auto-coating with zero masking on both SMT and mixed technology assemblies and aqueous-based cleaning processes for LCC and BGA devices.

The next presentation was given by Norman Stockham of TWI, who discusses the electronics activities at the MTC. The electronics input to the MTC would be provided by Loughborough University and TWI, who both had skills and capabilities in design, analysis, manufacturing technologies and electronics packaging, as well as printed circuit board (PCB) assembly. Combined, the two organisations had around 70 research staff members engaged in electronics development and could cover the technology readiness levels from 1 to 9. The MTC would have a significant electronics assembly-related capital investment, including a complete and flexible PCB assembly line along with selective soldering and inspection. This meant that a state-of-the-art surface mount assembly line would be available from day one. This would be the first “non-production” production line in both the UK and the rest of Europe. It would enable unproven technologies to be explored and assessments to be made of changes to individual aspects of assembly and their impacts on subsequent assembly stages. The facility would also allow manufacturing engineers to learn the current state-of-the-art at the centre. The starting point for the research programme was a project to improve production yields in PCB assembly. The MTC was already looking at future research areas and these might include high-temperature electronics, harsh environment packaging, mixed technology products, high-reliability chip/device interconnects, high-density packaging, 3D circuit assembly, harnessing and connectors, sustainability, obsolescence issues and design for manufacturing for electronics and electro-mechanical systems. Norman Stockham concluded by explaining the benefits of participation in the electronics centre at the MTC.

Richard Mellor, Chief of Manufacturing Technology at AEC, then explained why AEC was involved in the MTC. He gave an overview of the company’s products and these included high-reliability electronic assemblies. New products had increasingly challenging requirements, such as elevated temperature and pressure operational requirements, tighter installation envelopes, new vibration signatures and additional functionality. These all had to be met with limited manufacturing engineering capacity and limited development capability from suppliers. It was also not always possible to use in-house equipment for development activity. AEC had established experience of working with the advanced manufacturing research centre and their first year projects had already saved the company £600k with cycle time reductions of 34 per cent on existing equipment.

The final formal presentation of the morning was on the MTC’s electronics vision and was given by Professor Paul Conway of Loughborough University and Norman Stockham of TWI. Paul Conway began by reviewing the MTC’s first-stage research projects in more detail. The context for the MTC was being able to address the key challenges and barriers associated with unproven technologies, changes to processes and improvements in equipment. A key objective was to increase yields in PCB assembly processes by benchmarking against state-of-the-art technology. There would be the ability to study solder paste application, board population, convection reflow, washing/cleaning and conformal coating. The state-of-the-art SMT line would be supported by suppliers. There was also a large quantity of support equipment available such as microfocal 3D X-ray, AOI, 3D metrology, temperature cycling, acoustic microscopy and other verification techniques. It was expected that cycle times and first pass yields should be improved by 50-60 per cent. The MTC would also offer a wide range of collaborative benefits. Paul Conway then introduced some of the industry trends and those mentioned included the “all electric aircraft” and automotive systems, where modern cars had up to 30 control units each with 200 components per unit. Medical implants were required to interact with the body but also needed to be protected from it, and vice versa. The UK also had strengths in oil exploration, power generation and mass transport and all of these had reliability challenges that needed to be addressed. Another challenge would be to supply design for manufacturing capability, particularly since much manufacturing had moved offshore and there was a loss of institutional DfM memory. The second part of the presentation was then given by Norman Stockham, who went into more detail on future challenges and the MTC’s role in offering solutions. The example of solder-free joining for packing and assembly was cited as offering new opportunities. Other potential technology solutions from the MTC could include integration of new packaging solutions, enhanced inspection and testing capabilities, solutions for obsolescence, developing new materials and manufacturing processes. Stockham then discussed the replacement of solders with conductive adhesives, which offered low temperature processing, fine pitch capability and environmental benefits. Solder assembly could also be replaced by wire bonding in some applications, as it offered design flexibility, high power and temperature capability and high process yields. Welding was another option, as it offered low resistance joints, with no requirement for plating and no need for flux/residue cleaning. Stockham moved on to discuss the benefits of high-density packaging using stacked die, system in package (SiP), package in package and embedded passive approaches. Spray coating of materials was another interesting area, where it was possible to spray coat circuits, e.g. copper on alumina, with reduced numbers of interfaces, high thermal conductivities, 3D geometries and other tailored properties. The MTC would also study quality monitoring and new test technologies, as there was a need to develop fast inspection processes that could accommodate hidden joints and failed interfaces. Stockham concluded by explaining the approaches the MTC would use to address these future challenges.

The morning session concluded with an opportunity for the attendees to ask questions about the MTC and its operation, etc. It was expected that the MTC would ultimately employ 70 or 80 permanent staff members and recruitment was already underway. There would also be room for equivalent numbers of secondees from academia. The electronics launch event also included a visit to the new MTC building, which was currently under construction. The scale of the building itself was very impressive and it appeared that, once complete, the MTC would provide a showcase facility that would undoubtedly provide the type of support needed by British manufacturers.

Martin Goosey

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