Kimball Electronics Group installs new line

Soldering & Surface Mount Technology

ISSN: 0954-0911

Article publication date: 20 September 2011



(2011), "Kimball Electronics Group installs new line", Soldering & Surface Mount Technology, Vol. 23 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Kimball Electronics Group installs new line

Article Type: Industry news From: Soldering & Surface Mount Technology, Volume 23, Issue 4

Kimball Electronics Group has successfully positioned itself as a manufacturer of sophisticated products with high-quality requirements. In its plant in Tampa, Florida, the company produces complex modules for customers in the medical, industrial, and public safety industries. To speed up new product introductions and churn out smaller lots with more flexibility, Kimball Electronics recently invested in a new SMT line with SIPLACE SX placement machines and SIPLACE CPP MultiStar heads.

The numbers alone indicate that Kimball Electronics in Tampa specializes in customers and products with demanding requirements. The average lot size is 200 units with a range from 10 to about 1,000 units per job. Most products are populated on both sides with up to 2,000components per side. Many of the components are complex BGAs, MicroBGAs and CSPs, and many of the products go into extremely critical applications. Accordingly, the company’s customers from the medical, industrial, and public safety fields place very high demands on their EMS provider where quality is concerned, which is why the Tampa plant has predominantly depended on SIPLACE equipment since 1994. Kimball Electronics currently has four SIPLACE lines in operation. Facing smaller lot sizes, more orders, a growing number of product changeovers and higher demands on placement accuracy due to among other things the rising need to place high volumes of 01005 components, Kimball Electronics decided to add production capacity. By investing in a new line, the company wanted not only to set the foundation for more growth, but accelerate its new product introduction capacity and enhance its capacity for manufacturing small lot sizes flexibly and efficiently.

Kimball Electronics started evaluating solutions form various equipment manufacturers in June 2009. Because of the company’s own quality obligations to its customers, this process is highly structured at Kimball Electronics. A written specification listed requirements regarding quality, product changeover times, 01005-capabilities, floor space capacity and head configuration flexibility as the most important criteria. Based on these, the company wanted to improve its competitiveness as well as its production quality, reduce its cost of ownership and increase its production flexibility.

SIPLACE CPP Multistar head increases flexibility and performance

Kimball Electronics was particularly impressed by the SIPLACE CPP MultiStar placement head. Thanks to its unique technology, the SIPLACE MultiStar can switch on-the-fly from the fast collect & place mode to the flexible pick & place mode and even to an extremely efficient mixed mode. “We process an extremely broad component spectrum for rapidly shrinking lot sizes. This is where the strengths of the SIPLACE MultiStar head come to full fruition. Instead of having to deal with cumbersome head changeovers and line reconfigurations, we now operate with a placement head that is nearly as flexible as our production. And since the placement program adapts accordingly, our line is always perfectly balanced – even after product changeovers”, says Anh Nguyen at Kimball Electronics in Tampa about his experience with the SIPLACE MultiStar (Figure 1).

 Figure 1 Anh Nguyen, Kimball Electronics, Greg Sturgill, ASM Assembly
Systems and Harlow Alvarado, Kimball Electronics

Figure 1 Anh Nguyen, Kimball Electronics, Greg Sturgill, ASM Assembly Systems and Harlow Alvarado, Kimball Electronics

Fortunately, all this flexibility does not come at the expense of placement accuracy. For example, 01005 components can be placed with the same speed as other components, which makes them suitable for high-volume production. The capabilities of this innovative placement head are enhanced further by the huge footprint capacity of the SIPLACE SX platform.

As a result, Kimball Electronics concluded its evaluation phase in May 2010 with the decision to purchase a new SIPLACE SX line consisting of two dual-gantry SIPLACE SX2 machines – each equipped with two highly flexible SIPLACE MultiStar heads – and one single-gantry SIPLACE SX1. The latter is equipped with a SIPLACE TwinHead for the end-of-line placement of large components, connectors and odd-shapes.

Faster NPI processes

The SIPLACE SX also played out its strengths with regards to NPI and software features. With the virtual product build feature in the SIPLACE Pro line software, camera images of prototypes can be used for the quick and error-free creation of placement programs. Thanks to the advanced software, Kimball Electronics was able to significantly increase its production quality for new product introductions. The company realized additional efficiency improvements from improved setup concepts, the formation of setup-optimized product families and the coordinated top/bottom placement.

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