News-Spot | Business News | Dec 13, 2012

Integrated Production Becomes Popular for Small Series

In the last 20 years, Essemtec Switzerland has successfully strengthened its position in the highly competitive market for production equipment for electronics. Regularly the company makes headlines introducing outstanding machine and software concepts. Adrian Kuehnis spoke with Essemtec's marketing and sales manager Florian Schildein about the challenges of the past year, the current developments and his outlook for 2013. - By Adrian Kühnis, Azular GmbH, Baden

Florian Schildein, what impressed you the most in 2012?
I am excited how everybody - customers and employees - have dealt with the major challenges of this year. In Switzerland the strength of the Swiss Franc has amplified the economic difficulties. Nevertheless, we were able to defend our strong position against competitors. I had many opportunities to speak directly with customers and users. It fascinates me that, despite all the negative talk, new ideas grow all over the world and heavy investments are being made to realize them. As a machine manufacturer, it is very interesting to be involved directly into such projects.

What kind of projects do you mean?
Nowadays, a significant amount of development is ongoing for LED lighting technology. Besides the fact that the law soon will make bulbs a historical product, manufacturers realize the benefits and flexibility of LED lamps. LEDs save energy and maintenance costs. Additionally, customized solutions can be produced economically in small quantities.

And Essemtec has the right machines for these products?
Exactly. In recent years our engineers have developed products and processes that meet our customers’ needs for LED production perfectly. Our dispensers, for example, create phosphor lenses with the highest accuracy and speed. Our new pick-and-place machines safely insert LEDs at high throughput and our sophisticated reflow ovens ensure that LEDs are properly soldered while keeping the thermal load low for the LED. And today, we are the only supplier of the Hydra, a production-ready placement machine for 3-D PCBs.

You mean 3D-MID?
The 3D-MID technology is constantly evolving. This year, I believe that no mobile telephones were built without at least one 3D-MID type element. Also, more and more modern cars are manufactured with functional mechanical parts with integrated electronics. There are some medical devices available that are impossible to build without the integration capabilities of the 3D-MID technology.
In September - during our Technology Day workshop - we informed our customers about such applications as well as LDS (Laser Direct Structuring). LDS was developed by LPKF to enable economical production of small series of 3D-MID. This has given the applications a strong push. Essemtec now added the flexible 3-D production machine Hydra to the production chain.

Who is the Technology Day for?
Every year Essemtec organizes this day with the goal of assembling experts and users so that we can face the challenges of the future together. The event is free of charge and people from all over Europe attend. Essemtec's Technology Day also is a good opportunity for our engineers to review and discuss new developments directly with users.

What new developments were introduced in 2012?
There were a few innovations and developments on various products. A highlight is the new ePlace version. ePlace machine operation software, based on eeZ-technology, was introduced by Essemtec two years ago. The new ePlace version is a quantum leap for the system and quality stability of pick-and-place machines as it automatically corrects variations. The placement machine calibrates itself. eeZ is a new type of machine-user interface that is specially optimized for touch screen or tablet operation. It is becoming a standard in the industry.

What are your expectations for 2013?
The market is moving in exactly the direction that we are pursuing with our machine and software concept. Integrated production becomes popular for small series and traceability becomes an issue for small-scale production and prototyping. Manufacturers now want to take advantage of the savings potential that comes from integrating machine and ERP software.
Of course, such models are only possible with a holistic approach. Production equipment, storage systems, software, know-how and support must be from a single source. Connections to external software solutions such as ERP-systems must be ensured. In this field we will expand the possibilities in 2013 and offer our customers more options for efficiency increase, cost savings, minimization of errors and quality assurance.

When will we see more?
Traditionally, SMT Nuremberg in April and productronica in November are the exhibitions where we premier our new products. However, I cannot go into any more detail right now except to say stay tuned.

What are your market expectations for next year?
After the consolidation phase, we expect an increase in growth for next year. Additionally, there are many customer developments reaching the implementation phase within upcoming months, allowing us to place new systems in those facilities. As I said, it is very exciting to be involved in new developments from the beginning and the investment pays off.

About Essemtec:
The Swiss machine manufacturer Essemtec is a market leader in manufacturing flexible production systems for industrial users. Essemtec has been developing, manufacturing and marketing equipment and machines for all processes in the electronics industry since 1991: printers, dispensers, pick-and-place and soldering systems. Manual, semiautomatic and fully automatic systems are available. The range of products also includes transportation and storage systems, as well as software solutions for planning, simulation optimization and documentation of manufacturing. All Essemtec systems are optimized for maximum flexibility. Users can switch from one product to another quickly, making maximum use of available production capacity.