The rise of 3D inspection technology within electronics manufacturing

This month we caught up with David Bennett, President of MIRTEC Europe.

Founded back in 2000, with facilities in the US, Europe, China, Japan and Korea, MIRTEC is a global supplier of automated inspection equipment to the electronics manufacturing industry. 

In this blog post, David discusses how the market is rapidly shifting from 2D to 3D automated optical inspection (AOI) systems and the benefits this technology has to offer customers. David also provides insight into the latest product developments being worked on at MIRTEC and his own predictions on what we might expect to see in the future.  

How has your last 12 months been?

After a disappointing start to 2015 due to the exchange rate fluctuations, we slowly began growing back to our usual turnover. This actually culminated in one of the best last quarters and another successful year for MIRTEC Europe. The market changed almost entirely from 2D to 3D, and this is now a major percentage of all our global business.

What are the main benefits of a 3D automated optical inspection system?

3D inspection technology offers customers the ability to verify true co-planarity inspection of body and gull wing leads along with absolute detection of lifted leads and devices. As a result, 3D AOI machines significantly reduce the number of false calls an operator needs to check.

How do you see the future?

The EU referendum is obviously something that no one knows the implications of, should the UK leave the EU - although we have already seen some investment put on hold until after the vote. But until that decision is made, we continue as normal off the back of our best Q1 since MIRTEC Europe was formed in 2008. The 3D MV-6 OMNI has become a huge part of our business, and the customers are mostly very experienced in all aspects of inspection, so it's an exciting time to be in this part of the industry.

What new product trends are there in your market? What do you think are the key/core technologies that will enable these?

The drop in price that MIRTEC brought to the 3D sector significantly changed the market. Now every company can consider having the latest 3D technologies, whereas in the early days this seemed to be far too expensive for all but those with the deepest pockets. In fact, the MV-6E OMNI is selling with the highest specification in the industry for 3D, for less than many 2D systems were before 3D emerged.

What are customers demanding for the near future and how are you going to respond to them?

Our customers are already commenting that their own customers are demanding 3D inspection, even for the most standard products, as the choice for them to have a full 3D inspection of their product is now so widespread. So our potential customers who don’t have 3D face a threatening negative not only for winning new business opportunities, but holding onto their existing ones. The availability of affordable 3D has made a quantum leap regarding the ability of most customers' inspection capabilities. As such, there is a strong requirement to focus extensive training on our distributors to ensure they keep up to the required standard, so regular updates and training are scheduled with them as an ongoing task.

What sort of product developments can we expect to see from you in the future?

MIRTEC is renowned for the best optics and 3D sensors in the industry - this will always be the core technology which we will continue to concentrate on. That aside, there are many new developments in our R&D centre, primarily aimed at continued intuitive programming and data management. This includes, of course, the production management data requirements to cover their Industrie 4.0 needs, which MIRTEC is already recognised as a leader in, with products such as Intelli-Sys and SmartLoop.

Where do you see your market moving to?

I believe we will see even easier user software, combined with faster and more accurate inspection due to better sensors, camera and lens deployment. This will be combined with cross platform communication of all production data. I expect a company to release a "Black box" in the near future, where any machine can be interrogated, and all its SPC data merged into one set of reports. This will mean even more knowledge for customers, who will need this capability for their Industrie 4.0 requirements.

The goal of MIRTEC is focused on not just catching errors, but being a key partner in helping customers prevent making them in the first place. This is done by delivering Dynamic Process Control (DPC), as opposed to just Statistical Process Control (SPC). This one step can ensure that any drift from the accepted production quality is quickly identified, and the corrective action can be carried out, thus preventing a small issue becoming a big problem.

Image by Rachel Johnson

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Written by David Bennett

David is a sales professional with an extensive background in optical inspection systems. David is currently the Managing Director of Bentec Ltd, a company that offers a comprehensive range of products for the SMT industry.