(image: copyright RENA)
People rise to the challenges they face. As hackneyed as this saying may sound, I believe it reflects the innovative strengths of our industry quite well. Electronics are becoming more and more complex and intelligent, and the SMT industry must keep up with innovative solutions. Therefore, it comes as no surprise to me that one of the trailblazers in the Industry 4.0 area is a company that focuses on the LED placement, a particularly challenging application in the electronics manufacturing industry. The company I am talking about is RENA Electronica in the Netherlands, which celebrated, its 35th anniversary this June. RENA used this opportunity not only to look back, but to take a giant step forward toward the smart SMT factory. It is also a good reason for us to pay a visit to Zunder in Holland, the birthplace of Vincent van Gogh, and see what steps RENA has taken to make its factory more intelligent.
Industry insiders know that LED placement applications have become a symbol of the rapidly rising challenges facing the SMT industry. As LEDs are becoming increasingly common in all kinds of products and technologies, their complexity and variety rises as well – also in terms of manufacturing processes. There aren’t many constants in LED placement applications. The major challenges continue to include luminance management (because their brightness varies between units as a result of production variations even if they come from the same wafer) and the extremely sensitive component surface of LEDs, which necessitates the use of special nozzles or grippers. In addition, the special substrate and component dimensions make the handling and production processes extremely difficult while requiring maximum precision. But these are only the most obvious problems. If you consider the development and product cycles in this industry, it quickly becomes clear that customers expect their contractors to be extremely flexible – irrespective of the more difficult production conditions. A challenge that RENA Electronica must master as well as a specialist in lighting systems. Although RENA has the expertise and experience to master even the most unusual wishes of its customers (prestige projects like the lighting systems for the Bosporus Bridge speak for themselves), completing such jobs without losing money is still the crux of the matter. To stay competitive while still living up to its claim of being a technology leader, RENA started to look for new placement platforms. The goal: shorter response times to better accommodate the dynamic market and improved NPI process flexibility – all without compromising its high level of quality.
To find a machine that would make the company fit for the future, RENA started a special project. The evaluation process was difficult, because the number of LED placement solutions has grown along with the size of the market. Unfortunately, the people in charge of the search process were not impressed by any of the standard solutions since none of them was able to satisfy RENA’s flexibility requirements. RENA decided to get in touch with ASM distributor Partnertec, and that’s when things started to move quite quickly. They made an appointment in ASM’s SMT Center of Competence in Munich, and a few days later the RENA team ran the first production tests on-site. The results of these tests showed that a fast placement machine alone is not a cure-all. To get true flexibility, you also need automation tools that synchronize the entire production process. And this is where the SMT Center of Competence offers the unique opportunity to analyze the whole manufacturing process down to the smallest detail in order to take full advantage of the potential being offered by modern automation and Industry 4.0 concepts. RENA quickly realized that to be ready for the future you need not only an intelligent placement platform, but a holistic solution that comprises all process areas from materials management to printing and placement to software-assisted support for the operators.
To celebrate RENA’s 35th anniversary, the LED line was officially inaugurated on June 24 of this year under the motto “Unlocking the power of electronics”, and the positive spirit was palpable.
RENA Electronics will now move on with implementing further elements of the smart SMT Factory – in a close and cooperative relationship with ASM, other suppliers and customers. Only by working together can the parties identify the various challenges and take advantage of the potential offered by modern solutions. I’ll be watching and will provide updates on the proceedings in future posts on this blog. So stay tuned.