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Fine-Tuning the Pursuit of Quality
This system provides optical inspection at 40× magnification.

In today's marketplace, if you have a unique product, and you have no competitors and people want your product, then you can sell it at any price you want, but that is rarely the case. These wise words, from Sales Manager Dixon Printz at Electronic Integration, Inc. explain why the guiding star for the company is its skilled, dedicated, and professional staff. From management to shipper, each employee is focused on providing the customer a quality product; hence, EII (as the company likes to be called) has established itself as a quality-first contract manufacturer.

A visitor to the 10,000-sq.-ft. plant may be puzzled by the quantity and variety of sophisticated assembly equipment and by the small number of people at work. The 8-year-old company, which started as an extension to 30 years of printed-circuit-board (PCB) fabrication (Fineline Circuits, Inc.), long ago established the habit of purchasing equipment that was fast, capable and precise, but that required little training for the operator. The natural evolution of electronics equipment is toward increased automation, a trend that also means that fewer employees are needed.

High-Speed Equipment
EII has, for example, a model 320 pick-and-place machine from Samsung (www.samsung.com) that is easy to operate, provides very precise alignment, and can handle 18,500 parts/hour. Another example of practical equipment solutions are state-of-the-art ball-grid-array (BGA) rework stations. Workers are experienced in turning out printed-circuit-board assemblies (PCBAs) with BGAs, including single- and double-sided boards having multiple BGAs and micro-BGAs (µBGAs). All BGAs are routinely checked by x-ray and under-body inspections.
Wiring and final testing is being performed on a custom-built, ruggedized electronic test system.


More recently, the firm acquired a new selective solder system from ACE (www.ace-protech.com) to place reflow-sensitive parts on a circuit board after reflow. The system solders in a nitrogen atmosphere that avoids oxidation, handles solder and flux well, and produces a high-quality solder joint. The system is easy for the operator to program, and its performance is extremely consistent. For EII's repeat customers — and 80 percent of the company's work comes from repeat customers — this system helps achieve outstanding quality at a high throughput rate.

Prototypes Welcome
EII's equipment is geared to support a wide range of prototype production jobs, from short to medium runs, as well as large-volume jobs. The equipment is also supported by quality and procedural manuals that clearly identify the processes and disciplines used in the production and control of manufactured products.

The name Electronic Integration came from the company's stated mission to integrate under one roof the three areas needed by manufacturers: design, fabrication, and assembly. Although the bulk of its work is in fabrication and assembly, design is also important, not only as a salable skill but for judging the manufacturability of a project. Printz notes: "Some of our customers sell to the government or to the military, and there are penalties to be paid if there are failures that can be traced back to the manufacturer."

Two Separate Plants
EII has between 10 and 12 persons in the main plant, with another dozen or so working in a nearby plant that manufactures the PCBs that are needed. The PCB plant is skilled at turning out complex, high-density, fine-pitch boards, on numerous substrates, including FR4, polyimide, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), flexi-rigid, and metal-backed circuit laminates.

EII has experienced steady growth, but acquiring additional personnel and equipment would mean finding a larger facility. The company philosophy of allowing sophisticated machines to do the bulk of the work has served well to this point. On occasion, particularly when a customer has brought an unusually large order, EII has used a flex-time schedule to run the equipment for more hours during the week.

The company has selected sophisticated equipment that is not complicated to operate, such as the ACE selective solder system. When workers must be hired, the still-floundering economy has meant that workers with the appropriate skills have not been hard to find. As automated as EII is, a certain amount of hand soldering must still be done, and this is performed by workers with five or more years of hand soldering experience.

Because of its strong reputation, EII receives projects not only from existing customers, but also from other companies, including some that are relatively new to electronics manufacturing. Every few weeks, an inquiry comes in from a new startup company with little or no electronics experience. In some instances, the design that the potential customer is presenting has obvious manufacturability problems, although the concept behind the design may be worthwhile.

Improving Designs
Operations Manager Air Mounelasy (also an IPC-certified trainer) will examine such a proposal and will make suggestions about how to improve the design. He will explain to the customer what the assembler is seeking in order to assemble the item at a reasonable cost. He may explain to the customer that EII can build the product according to the customer's design, perhaps with additional cost-effective suggestions to enhance the success of the design. For example, a novice circuit designer may think that good design involves filling the entire PCB. But a more experienced engineer is more likely to develop a simpler design that performs the same functions.

Typically, a novice company will consider such circuit-design inputs and redesign a product for improved manufacturability. Such a company may also need help with the specifications and the bill of materials, since completeness of documentation in both of these areas can vary widely. Such a novice company may not be aware, for example, that money can be saved on a PCB design by providing alternate sources for parts, instead of just a single source.

When it makes sense for the customer to do so, EII can carry out the entire process of product preparation, including not only manufacturing the product but also preparing the literature (the directions for setting up and installing the product, for example) and the packaging. A customer supplies a list of approved vendors and leaves the rest to EII. The result is a finished, salable product that is ready for a retail store shelf. According to Sales Manager Printz, "Things really come down to a price point," and EII has established itself as a dependable supplier of product quality.


Contact: Electronic Integration, Inc. (EII), 875 Pennsylvania Blvd. #4, Feasterville, PA 19053 215-364-3390 Web:
http://www.electronicii.com

 
 
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