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Editor’s Note: At the recent CPCA show in China, I-Connect007 Editor Pete Starkey interviewed a number of people, and one of the main topics of interest was automation. In keeping with our feature topic this month, we have excerpted select parts of his conversations and compiled them for you here. As Starkey’s interviewees point out, the case for automation is not just about moving things faster, but also reducing handling and handling defects, improving consistency and reliability, and of course, reducing costs.
Excerpted from, “Morgan and Starkey on CPCA 2016, Automation, and the Upcoming ECWC14”
Pete Starkey: Alun, you mentioned efficiency. Now one thing I’ve noticed in talking to people in the show is the trend to increasing automation, the trend to increasing integration, and the Chinese equivalent of Industry 4.0. I think a perceived characteristic of the industry over here is that there are lots of people doing lots of manual things, and these people are, I think, quite rapidly being replaced by machines.
Alun Morgan: A very good point—I think it’s no longer the case, the degree of automation is now massive in these companies. If you look around this show you see loads of equipment for automatic handling, many small robots, loading-unloading machines, automatic guided vehicles running around moving components, moving pieces. Actually I think the factories that are successful here are hugely automated and there are good reasons for that. You can think of labor being cheap, of course, that’s always a nice model—think cheap labor, therefore you can make the boards easily. But actually, machines make boards far more reliably, so you have far more consistency of production. I think that’s why automation has come around, because when you’re making tens of thousands of units, they must all be the same.
This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of The PCB Magazine