Electronics Production | January 14, 2011
Phonak chose Siplace placement solutions
Switzerland’s Phonak AG, which is a member of the Sonova Group, recently upgraded and expanded its factory in Stäfa.
In the future, the high-volume placement of tiny electronic components on extremely thin and flexible film substrates will be performed with a four-gantry Siplace CA, which combines SMT placement and die-bonding in a single process. For the prototype manufacturing of its innovative hearing aids, Phonak relies on SiplaceD-Series machines. The pivotal factors in the selection process in addition to accuracy and process stability were the outstanding real placement performance per square meter of floor space, the intelligent and robust Siplace X feeders and the flexibility regarding the special solutions in terms of nozzles, dual conveyors and carrier systems needed to populate flexible substrates. Swiss Siplace partner Hilpert Electronics handled the planning and implementation of the new SMT lines. Almost invisible yet extremely powerful – that’s how customers want their hearing aids to be, and Swiss innovation leader Phonak accommodates them. It places the electronics components not on rigid circuit boards, but on flexible substrates that are only 250 µm thick. To save space, these substrates are then folded up and placed in the hearing aid housing. The state-of-the-art Siplace placement machines from the company’s CA- and D-Series deliver the necessary precision and process stability. High-volume production on a four-gantry Siplace CA With its placement accuracy of 41 µm at 3 sigma, a four-gantry Siplace CA equipped with Siplace CP20 SpeedStar placement heads provides the performance Phonak requires for its high-volume production. The company operates in two shifts with fixed setups and product changeovers roughly every 40 minutes. "The conveyor represented a special challenge. The specially shaped flexible substrates, the various carrier systems Phonak uses for multiple clusters required customer-specific support such as special nozzles and adjustments to the dual conveyor. We developed, planned and implemented these modifications together with the customer and the Siplace team," says Erich Harlacher, Sales Manager at Swiss Siplace partner Hilpert Electronics AG, about the Phonak project. Prototype production on the Siplace D-Series Phonak also operates a line with a Siplace D2 and a Siplace D1 for its prototype production and to handle any overflow from its main line. After the placement programs have been tested on this line, they can be easily transferred to other Siplace machines. Phonak develops new products and the associated manufacturing processes at the Stäfa plant and tests them in initial production series ramp-ups. "Since our market is highly dynamic in terms of technologies and customer demand, we need competent and flexible partners. After initially equipping three lines with Siplace D-Series machines, we ultimately converted the entire production once the Siplace CA was introduced. Our specific placement processes required lots of modifications, but thanks to the help of Hilpert and Siplace we have reached an entirely new level of process stability," says Jonas Ruckstuhl, Group Leader Electronic SMD Assembly at Phonak.