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© Assembléon Electronics Production | October 05, 2011

'There is a shift from product focus to customer focus'

Now, what would a company - like Assembléon - be without its skilled and enthusiastic staff at the R&D unit? Exactly. And that is why we talked to (read: pestered) Niels de Feijter (Software Designer/Team Lead) and Rik van der Burg (competence manager motion control) about their company.
When did you start to work at Assembléon?

Niels de Feijter: I started at Assembleon five years ago. And since then I have worked on three different software products: a package to verify the setup of the machine, a solution to share data between a variety of software products and a placement program optimizer. Along with these assignments I’ve also grew from a more operational role towards more responsibilities. Technology wise as operational.

Rik van der Burg: I started working for the Philips Centre for Manufacturing Technology, a famous technology centre, 25 years ago. In that role I advised several Philips business groups, including Assembléon, how to implement motion control technology in their machines. In that period the first SMT machine with a linear servo motor was developed, the MCM7. And we introduced the first FCM machine, the machine with the parallel robots. After a few years I changed jobs, and started to develop dedicated motion control system for CNC milling and turning machines. Since 11 years I’m now working for Assembléon in the Innovation department and responsible for all the motion control technology that we apply in our machines.

I worked in telecom, but working on a service is not as nice as working on a real product that you can touch and can see working. / Niels de Feijter, Software Designer/Team Lead at Assembléon
R&D is the driving factor of the industry. What has changed over the years?

Niels de Feijter: There is a shift from a product focus to a customer focus. It used to be all about speed and precision and how to improve these features. Nowadays we first talk to customers, they need to provide us their plans and challenges and we design solutions around these inputs. So now you see that some manufacturing processes are embedded more firmly in the pick & place processes. And it may be nice to add that the cooperation with third parties in this development becomes more important too.

Rik van der Burg: Electronics production has moved from OEM to EMS. On top of that the economical developments have changed our environment. The focus we had in the past on production quality (placement quality) and Cost per Placement/Cost of Operation in our equipment is not enough anymore in today industry. Flexibility in the production equipment is now an important addition.

The flexibility requirement is translated into a new machine concept, which we will introduce on the Productronica. My personal challenge was to introduce a new motion (machine) control platform suitable to control a high number of axes from a single computer, a standard PC. In strong cooperation with our main suppliers we had to develop this new platform in a very short period. By adopting the latest technologies, like multi core PC’s and real time Ethernet communication we succeeded in introducing the new motion control platform suited for this machine. Because of the characteristics of the motion control software we were able to develop the machine control software in parallel with the robot hardware development. The software team ran the motion software in simulation mode on their desktop. The hardware team could use the motion software to test the hardware in an very early stage. In less than a month after the first moment we integrated the hardware and software we placed the first components.

Thanks to this method we saved a lot of development time, and the initial quality of the software at introduction on the new machine is very good.

Where would you place the importance of the work you do with in Assembléon? Why?

Niels de Feijter: I think that everybody’s work is equally important. Everybody plays his role on every level. If I look at myself, I have worked on multiple software products as designer and as team leader. A software designer needs to deliver good quality products that meet the identified customer needs. To give you an example: momentarily I am working on an optimizer program to optimize the output of a pick & place production line. Being the team leader of this project I have to facilitate the process. So the designers can deliver quality software.

Rik van der Burg: Motion control technology is a key functionality in our machines. It is the place where the hardware and software come together. Being responsible for technology applied in the motion control platform I ‘m part of the System Architecting team, that takes the decisions how the machine will look and how the marketing requirements are translated into the machine functionality. Machine output, placement accuracy and placement quality are directly influenced by the functionality available in the motion control platform.

We build great machines with a lean, enthusiastic team. Every employee is responsible for a part of the machine; communication overhead is limited; everything you do is directly visible in the result: our pick and place machines. / Rik van der Burg, competence manager motion control at Assembléon
Where would you see the difference between Assembléon and other companies in the industry?

Niels de Feijter: That’s very difficult to answer for me since I do not like to talk about others. All I can say is that from an Assembléon point of view we always try to do what we have to do for our customers.

Rik van der Burg: Assembléon is a company that partners with other companies in the development phase. We are located in the Eindhoven region where you can find a lot of high tech companies, a technical university and suppliers with the proper engineering knowledge. There is a large informal network of people working with the same technologies in these high tech companies. So it is very easy to share ideas and adopt new technology. I think the current structure of our company fits very well to this, so combined with the brains available in the region; Assembléon is able to develop new machines with excellent technological requirements. Such as high placement accuracy and excellent placement quality.

Productronica is approaching fast. Any news you are able to share?

Niels de Feijter: We are going to bring a new solution, but can’t say much about it. I invite everybody to go and see for yourself I would say.

Rik van der Burg: As I said earlier, we will introduce a new pick & place platform. I’m convinced that this platform will be very successful. We receive very positive responses from our customers that have seen it or have tested it. Our challenge now is to finalize developments in the next months and meet the expectations from our customers.

What makes Assembléon a great place to work?

Niels de Feijter: Assembléon’s products are very advanced and very tangible. Before I joined this company I worked in telecom, but working on a service is not as nice as working on a real product that you can touch and can see working. That’s what is really appealing of our pick & place machines. And the developments go really fast, both on technology level as at customer level, so it’s not boring either. There’s a great team spirit within Assembléon too. So in short a very nice and dynamic environment.

Rik van der Burg: Personally I think it is the size of the company. We build great machines with a lean, enthusiastic team. Every employee is responsible for a part of the machine; communication overhead (as you have in big organizations) is limited; everything you do is directly visible in the result: our pick and place machines.
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Note: All images © Assembléon

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