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SMT & Inspection | September 13, 2010

A happy customer for Assembléon

Memory module manufacture is increasingly seeing PCB assembly requirements converging with those from semiconductor backend manufacture like bare die and flip chip packaging. Specifically, modules are integrating bare dies with ever smaller chip capacitors and resistors having tighter component interspacings.
Bump sizes and bump pitches are meanwhile decreasing to fit more I/Os on smaller sized package. This brings tighter and tighter accuracy requirements which are making memory module production one of the most challenging of manufacturing environments.

Intensely competitive, it has exceptionally tight quality and reliability requirements despite the high component densities. DRAM modules can measure less than 20 by 140 mm but have to combine up to 10 memory devices, a controller, and over 100 chip components.

In 2006, California-based STEC contacted Assembléon to increase production levels from just below the 10'000 units/week/production line from their existing equipment. The company bought an Assembléon AX-501, which was primarily used as a chip shooter.

Like other chip shooters, the AX-501 needed a separate line balancing machine for populating boards with high IC counts. Memory modules like DRAMs do have high IC count, though, and STEC wanted a machine that would combine chip and IC shooting. It also wanted to pick ICs directly from a Jedec Tray Stacker and, with memory devices sometimes delivered in tape and reel rather than in Jedec Trays, it needed a system with very flexible setup. Relocating the work area of the Standard AX-501 Placement robot so it could pick & place from the Jedec Tray Stacker increased line capacity to 30'000 units/week/production line. But STEC wanted more, and in response Assembléon set up a new project to further increase output and accuracy of the AX-501 itself.

The joint project resulted in Assembléon’s recently introduced Twin Placement Robot (TPR). Four of STEC’s seven production lines at its Penang facility in Malaysia now have two AX-501s (separated by a board flip unit) producing nearly 70'000 units/week – around eight times the previous levels. Another two lines, including one NPI (New Product Introduction) line, have a single AX-501, and a line with two Assembléon MG-1 machines handles low volume production. Seven of the ten AX-501s now have a TPR, with the remaining three to be upgraded soon.

STEC is delighted with the new setup. "The TPR system has exceeded all our requirements and expectations” enthused Jose Del Valle, STEC’s Director of Offshore Engineering. “It has greatly increased the flexibility of the A-Series platform and picks at high volume from trays at the front of the unit. Because of the TPR, we are able to place Flash and DRAM at near 0402 speeds. We have increased throughput and accuracy while also decreasing changeover times."

Will meet future technology requirements

STEC’s Del Valle concludes: "There are too many advantages of the new setup to list here. We would like to thank Assembléon for developing the TPR for STEC. It has given us a true competitive manufacturing advantage, and it will continue to be part of our future standard configurations."
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Author: Patrick Huberts, Project Leader Applications, Assembléon Netherlands B.V.

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