Manufacturing / Production Technology, Hardware & Services

Soldering robot: case study

EMP 2023 Electronics Manufacturing & Production Handbook Manufacturing / Production Technology, Hardware & Services

Automotive soldering applications have increased dramatically with the new technology presented by electric and hybrid vehicles. The need for faster and more precise soldering machines has never been greater than it is now.

With the increase in electric vehicles, more parts and components on each vehicle have made the move from a previously mechanical system to a fully electric system utilising motors and actuators. With the increase in electronics within automobiles, the parts that have changed are mostly in the fields of actuators, fuel efficiency, safety, comfort, and amenity.

Due to the use of electric motors as actuators, the need for both motors and motor drivers has increased. Additionally, a high number of ECU and DC-DC converters are being used for power and control.

With the change to hybrid and electric vehicles, parts that were previously driven by the engine have now become electric. This includes the air conditioning compressor and water pump used to circulate engine coolant fluid.

Most safety features are based on an electric signal fed back to the control system. ABS and airbags are an example of electronic safety features which activate in an instant and can only be implemented with the use of electronics. Collision avoidance and prevention systems also have electronic controls as their foundation.

GPS/infotainment systems keyless entry, reverse monitors/cameras, automatic seat position are more examples of added electronic systems that appear on all modern vehicles.

All these systems have one thing in common – they have all been manufactured and mounted by means of soldering. It can, therefore, be seen that soldering plays a vital role in the manufacture of automobiles. The powerful technology behind automobiles can have a significant impact on human life, should something go awry. With the increase in these electronically controlled parts, the solder used in on-board vehicular electronics must be maintained at a much higher quality and reliability standard than that of regular electronics.

The Solder Meister Universe Series soldering robot has been developed as the perfect robot for these challenging automobile soldering applications where it unites electronic component picking, substrate insertion, and soldering into one sequence.

The robot uses a SCARA robot arm above the substrate and an articulated robot below the substrate to handle insertions. It takes advantage of a feeding unit which provides solder on demand, significantly reducing the amount of solder used.

All path lengths are handled automatically, cutting the previous cycle time by two-thirds. In addition to this time saving, the footprint of the equipment has also been reduced. Labour costs and product quality percentages are two more areas that have seen improvement.

Case in point, at one factory where the Universe S was installed, it previously took one labourer 150 seconds to solder-mount one component. The Universe S can now complete the same task in approximately 55 seconds, with a resultant major time saving. Furthermore, whereas the factory’s previous soldering product quality percentage was 95%, this has now improved to 100% because of the uniformity introduced by the robot. This is largely due to the vision sensor that can identify defective pieces and automatically discard them before insertion takes place.

Lastly, because the soldering process is now performed by laser, the soldering iron tip’s heat dissipation and related replacements are no longer an issue, which has resulted in a large cost saving. Maintenance has similarly not been needed, resulting in the factory being able to achieve full production 24 hours a day.


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