Products, Materials + Tools | Apr 01, 2011

Essemtec Builds Production Line for LED Tubular Lamp

Until recently LED TL-tubes, a replacement for fluorescent lamps, had to be manufactured in a lavish modular design. In the future, using the new LED assembly line with a large-area printer from Essemtec, PCBs for such lamps can be manufactured fully automatically in a single, cost-efficient production run.

LED TL-tubes are increasingly replacing fluorescent lamps in offices and industrial buildings. LED tubular lamps require neither a starter nor ballast, simplifying installation. Furthermore, LED tubular lamps feature a life expectancy that is 10X longer and an energy consumption that is half of traditional fluorescent lamps.

Until recently, LED tubular lamps could not be produced fully automatically because the working ranges of standard printers, pick-and-place machines and reflow soldering machines were too small. Currently, tubes are composed from several smaller modules that require manual work and create high cost. In the future, however, a large-area printing system from Essemtec will allow a complete PCB for a tubular lamp in-line to be produced in one run.

Printing and assembling 180x50 cm large PCBs:
A complete turnkey production line for LED tubular lamps consists of a large-area printer, three Cobra pick-and-place machines, a large-area reflow oven and modules for PCB handling. The line prints, assembles and solders PCBs with sizes up to 180x50 cm in one run. Its throughput is in the range of 54,000 LED per hour.

The new large-format printer, currently in concept phase, is designed for printing large, heavy boards. The innovative transport system provides excellent planarity during printing, even when processing pre-scored multi-boards and circuits made from composite materials. Printing direction is longitudinal over a width of 50 cm. Across the entire length of 180 cm, the printing results are consistent and of high quality.

In LED lamps, production speed is important as well as the precise alignment and placement of the LED components. Cobra type SMD pick-and-place machines are ideal for this task as they are fast, flexible and highly accurate. A Cobra pick-and-place can place LEDs of any size and shape and also can place other SMD components. Vacuum tool tips are specially coated to prevent any damage on the LED surface or lens. Three pick-and-place machines are producing simultaneously, reaching a throughput of 54,000 LEDs per hour.

Same soldering conditions over the entire PCB length:
The light efficiency and life expectation of LED tubular lamps strongly depend on the equality of the LED soldering quality because the solder joint is an important element of the temperature management system. Therefore, each LED must be soldered precisely and with identical temperature profiles. Achieving such stability over the PCB length of 180 cm is not a simple task.

Essemtec builds an advanced RO-VARIO reflow oven with special heating zones for such demanding soldering tasks. The oven features a homogeneous temperature profile across the transport direction and longitudinal direction, and the furnace precisely controls the soldering temperature. In this way the reflow oven ensures that all LEDs on a 180x50 cm PCB are soldered the same way.

Complete turnkey from one source:
Manufacturing LED products requires highly flexible and accurate machinery and specific process knowhow. Cost-efficient production is a high priority, especially for LED tubular lamps. It is an advantage to get machines, process knowhow, education and support from one source. Installation, training and operation are much smaller than with a patchwork production line from multiple manufacturers because the responsibilities are clear and the supplier knows all machines and processes.

Essemtec, the Swiss manufacturer of production systems for electronics, delivers the complete production line including printer, pick-and-place, reflow oven and handling modules. The line can be completed with automatic dispensing systems and storage units. Essemtec also delivers software for production planning and optimization.

For 20 years, Essemtec Switzerland has been developing and manufacturing production systems for electronics, especially for SMD assembly and semiconductor manufacturing. For manufacturing LED products, Essemtec has built many standard machines and customer-specific solutions for dispensing, printing, placement, curing and soldering. Today, Essemtec is one of the most experienced suppliers for LED assembly solutions and knows exactly what is important for this market.

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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 in no time, making maximum use of available production capacity. Essemtec - Be more flexible.