Manufacturing AUTOMATION

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Z-Axis upgrades printed circuit board assembly equipment at N.Y. facility


March 29, 2018
By Manufacturing AUTOMATION

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A technician operates the new robotic soldering system for PCB assembly at Z-Axis.

Mar. 29, 2018 – Z-Axis has added more than $250,000 worth of equipment for printed circuit board (PCB) assembly at its factory near Rochester, N.Y., over the last six months. The investments are part of the company’s strategic plan to support growing demand for its U.S.-based electronic product design and contract manufacturing services.

The purchases include:

• Apollo Seiko J-CAT Stellar robotic soldering system
The system is used to solder selected components to PCBs, usually following SMT pick-and-place and solder reflow. The programmable robotic system enables a much more controlled and repeatable process than the “soldering fountains” typically used by mid-sized contract manufacturers for this work. It also allows the assembly team to process multiple customer projects simultaneously, automatically running the correct pre-defined soldering sequence for each board placed in the system, with no manual intervention and zero change-over time.

• Hot-bar reflow soldering system
Used to solder flexible printed circuits (FPCs) or flexible flat cable (FFCs) to printed circuit boards, hot-bar soldering eliminates the need for a connector between the board and FPC. This reduces the component count and size of the finished assembly. At Z-Axis, it is commonly used to connect LCD screens to printed circuit boards.

• Epilog Fusion CO2 laser
Z-Axis uses this 75-Watt CO2 laser to cut and engrave custom components used in its electro-mechanical assemblies, and to create custom packaging.

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• Xeltek SuperBot II automated IC programmer
This robotic system automatically picks up, places, and programs integrated circuits (ICs) such as flash memory and microcontrollers used in Z-Axis PCB assemblies. An upgrade from the company’s previous generation SuperBot, the new system features machine vision for IC alignment, designed for higher throughput and the ability to handle smaller components.

• NuClean PolySMT 318XL board cleaner from Technical Devices
This linear board washer replaces a smaller board washer to deliver higher throughput and more thorough cleaning of water-soluble flux from printed circuit boards, particularly around fine-pitch components. It is part of a controlled process for preparing PCBs for conformal coating.

• Gensonic GEN3 stencil cleaner
This ultrasonic cleaner thoroughly cleans the metal stencils that are used to apply solder paste to PCBs prior to component placement. It removes all solder paste from the very small apertures needed for fine-pitch SMT parts such as 0201s and micro BGAs.

• Fisnar F4200N dispensing robot
This automates manual dispensing of a wide range of materials used in PCB assembly including gel conformal coating, adhesives, and SMT component underfill. The automated system improves process control, and reduces waste and labour costs.
 
“The ability to anticipate our customers’ changing needs and find innovative ways to satisfy their unique requirements is central to our success as the preferred contract manufacturing partner for leading commercial, medical and industrial equipment companies,” said Michael Allen, president of Z-Axis. “Continuous re-investment in new manufacturing technology is a key part of this. It also contributes to making Z-AXIS a great place to work.”