Getting prototypes out of most production houses has always been a challenge - as most engineers will confirm. The problem is that most companies are able to produce prototypes and smaller runs fairly quickly when quiet, but as soon as production loads start to increase, their resources become limited.
A common problem is that large volume runs are done first, and then only as soon as there is 'time available' can the machines then be dedicated to do the smaller volume runs. This often leaves designers and developers most frustrated at the slow turnaround time of their prototypes.
To overcome some of these problems Microtronix recently commissioned a mini-factory within its factory, which it has dubbed 'The Prototyping and Small Runs Department'. The criterion for selecting which factory the job should be processed through is normally on quantity. On average, any run smaller than 50 can be fast tracked through the prototype division, it says. Microtronix recently installed its 10th pick-and-place machine in the prototyping division. This machine is dedicated to small production runs and is often changed four to five times a day with the minimum single PCB quantity.
There are nine dedicated staff in the prototyping section that concentrate purely on new products and turning around small volumes of PCBs fast. An added advantage to this is that all the pre-production problems and queries can be resolved before the product hits the main production lines, says the company. The average production runtime through this division is approximately 2-3 days, once the complete kit of components is ready. Component procurement, as always, remains a challenge, it says and this can often cause delays far beyond the actual production time. Customers can supply their own key components to avoid delays, or request Microtronix to supply all components.
A large number of components are held in stock at Microtronix and designers and developers wishing to make use of Microtronix' production services can request its stock list, which considerably reduces time to market with regards to prototypes and small volume runs. Small quantities of components can also be supplied to designers and developers to complete R&D work.
For more information contact Michael Goodyer, Microtronix, +27 (0)11 792 5322.
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