The PCB manufacturing industry is becoming complex daily with the shrinking size of components and circuits.
The high density of components, multiple layers, delicate and tiny parts, and small pitches demand precision and extra care in this industry.
As a result, despite being a technology-intensive industry, it is still labor intensive.
No matter how delicately things are handled and done by humans, the industry faces challenges related to errors, wastages, and inefficiencies.
Further, there is rising cut-throat competition and the demand for new products every day. As a result, PCB manufacturers are looking for innovative and efficient ways of manufacturing.
There is one solution to all these issues, and that is automation. Automation helps get the required quality and precision in less operational time and cost.
As a result, industries widely accept robotic automation in PCB manufacturing, and the PCB industry uses robots in almost all stages of the production cycle.
Let’s see the different areas where industries actively use robots in PCB manufacturing.
PCB handling robot
The critical aspects of the material handling system are stock accuracy, traceability, and on-time delivery of the parts.
Until now, some industries were relying on the manual handling process, such as CNC machining and metal fabrication.
However, factories are currently moving towards automating material handling. Robots move PCBs and other electronic components to and from the SMT assembly line in automated PCB handling.
The process requires novel storage systems and software for automatic inventory control and tracking of materials. For this, the robots may use automated guided vehicles and collaborative tools.
Automated PCB handling allows smart material flow. The PCB handling robots help quickly load and unload from the SMD tower and distribute them to their kitting areas. Once the reels reach their kitting area, bins get to magazines.
Now, you can use them in the SMT assembly line. The PCB handling robots have a unique gripper that allows fast picking of reels and placing them correctly in their respective bins at a very high speed.
Automating the material handling helps you enhance the productivity and utilization of equipment. You can ensure a timely flow of electronic components and circuit boards from and to the SMT assembly line.
Additionally, these robots continuously load the reels to prepare them for the upcoming tasks. As a result, there is timely delivery of the materials and minimization of material handling errors. In short, benefits are immense, and cost savings are significant.
PCB solder robot
PCB soldering is another essential task that needs a high level of consistency. If you go with the conventional methods, you have to invest in expensive soldering machines.
However, robotics gives you a suitable alternative that allows automated soldering. A soldering robot can do repetitive soldering tasks with great precision and reliability.
It also helps to solder small chip components and through-hole components in PCB manufacturing. All the soldering joints are identical, and the machine customizes everything based on the manufacturer’s requirement.
Another benefit of using soldering robots is cost savings. Compared to manual soldering jobs, it saves 60 percent of the cost.
Automated Soldering machines have very robust and sturdy construction, and their flexibility makes them ideal for handling different PCB sizes and complexities. There are illuminated cameras that help you get a magnified view of the processed steps and monitoring quality.
In PCB solder robots, the soldering wire feeder is very close to the soldering tip, and this results in the high precision job when dispensing solder wire to the Printed Circuit Board.
Further, the software to handle soldering robots is self-explanatory and easy to learn. With just a few clicks, you can customize your soldering robot for accurate soldering of components on PCB.
PCB assembly robot
Industrial robots are becoming a preferred choice for assembling printed circuit boards. The PCB assembly robots help place PCB components at the correct location, and these robots maintain product quality while minimizing the assembly time.
The assembly tasks involve specifying the insertion sequence of the PCB components at their respective areas and assigning the components to feeders or dispensing magazine slots.
This process’s time depends on the distance between the component and the feeder having component type. Similarly, the time for the board assembly depends on the order of inserting components and the fetching time of the components between insertions.
The assembly robots depend on high-resolution cameras during this pick and place activity. With these cameras, it is easy to confirm the components physically.
The PCB assembly robots have physical arms just like humans, making the assembly process efficient and fast. Also, force sensors make sure that robotic arms apply only needed pressure while fitting and handling delicate PCB parts.
One of the most common robots used in PCB assembly is the SCARA robot. Other than this, Delta-style robots offer high speed and low inertia.
PCB inspection and testing robots
As the PCB circuit is becoming complex; there is high demand for automated inspections and testing. Another reason why the manufacturers are looking at automated testing is that the ICs have complex densities, and tight spaces which make it challenging to test them with the naked eye of humans.
Automated testing includes optical inspections, x-ray inspections, and many more. Also, camera-mounted robots can visually inspect the PCB assemblies and ensure correct soldering, component alignment, and various other physical features.
There are robots flying probes that verify connections in the circuits. The main benefit of using robots in testing is minimizing human errors and human accidents.
Benefits of robot in PCB manufacturing
PCB robots are replacing labour in the industries and bring many benefits, as discussed below:
Operation accuracy and product quality: Robots and automated machines use artificial intelligence and sensors to do different jobs with great precision. They can quickly adapt to changing environmental conditions. The use of programming and vision systems helps to maximize productivity, optimization, and efficiency.
Consistent: Unlike humans, robots are consistent and can perform repetitive tasks without breaks, errors, and tiredness. As a result, it increases the operating time, resulting in better productivity. This consistency helps in producing identical and high-quality electronic assemblies. Minimizing errors means fewer manufacturing defects, less wastage, and better returns.
Flexibility: The robotic arms are pretty flexible and lightweight. Thus, they are easy to use and adapt to various application requirements. Robots enhance production flexibility and realize rapid delivery of products. Consequently, you don’t need to change the layout of the production lines. It, in turn, saves time, space, and cost.
Reduces safety issues: The use of robots helps avoid threats to workers’ health and safety and saves investment costs in environmental safety considerations. The use of sealants and adhesives causes potential health hazards to the workers. The robots protect workers from these dirty and dangerous jobs. Also, these human robots or cobots are faster and more efficient than humans. Research by the world economic forum proposes that by 2025, machines will be working more than humans. However, this trend is somewhat a cause of concern for many.
Rapidly adopting different robots
Robots are becoming technologically advanced day by day. They are proving themselves to be a great contributor to the ROI and productivity of the electronic industry.
As a result, manufacturers are rapidly adopting different robots in PCB manufacturing. This technology will continuously pervade the electronic industry in the future, and it will bring a high level of automation and skyrocketed demand for industrial robots soon.