Microtronix has a history dating back to 1993 when it was established by Mike Goodyer as an electronics contract manufacturing business.
From a small beginning, the company has successfully grown significantly over the years and now operates from custom built premises in Randburg. The manufacturing and assembly area has some 3 500 m² of floor space and has been uniquely designed in a circular layout. The factory itself has an anti-static fully dissipating floor. A large entrance lobby houses the two interfaces to manufacturing, namely goods receiving and dispatch. The staff complement has risen to more than 150 highly trained employees who are regularly updated on new technology.
When it was formed, the main business of the company was the supply of populated PCBs for the smart card reader, cashless gaming and vending industry, but more recently the activities have been expanded to include electronics for the GSM cellular, mining, aerospace and defence, automotive, security, display and other industrial and commercial industries. The facility is certified to ISO 9001:2000 and its high level of quality has seen it get continued repeat business from the local electronics industry as well as companies in the UK, USA and Japan.
In terms of the service provided to the customer, the procurement department can source everything from PC boards to components and connectors, and here pricing is very attractive as a result of high-volume purchasing power. The customer on the other hand, can supply kits of components and the PCB or any other combination.
All of the parts, including the company's own stock, are delivered to goods receiving and from here they move through to the kitting room where operators assemble and check the full inventory required for the particular run. If there is a shortage of any component the job does not proceed to the factory floor. Once the kit is complete and checked against the bill of materials, it is delivered to the holding area of the factory before being assigned to one of five SMD lines, depending on the type of product and volume.
Microtronix has a fully set up prototyping department which has its own SMD line for doing small volume and prototype production runs. There is a small team of six people in the prototyping department, whose key focus is to turn around prototypes and small production runs as fast as possible, to allow customers to finish their designs and get their products ready for production runs on the main factory floor. All problems, difficulties and forward suggestions can be made at this stage to enable the product to flow smoothly through the factory for production.
The main factory floor boasts four fully automatic SMD lines comprising of eight Yamaha pick-and-place machines and four Soltec Vitronix ovens. All of the machines are fully linked with conveyors and each line has a loading and unloading station to allow the PCBs to be manufactured from start to finish, without any handling. The full automation of all four SMD lines has led to even further quality improvements. The total combination from all the machines gives Microtronix a very high but versatile component placement rate. It is possible to run up to five different jobs simultaneously through the SMD plant.
The majority of the work going through the factory is leaded products, however with the high demand for lead-free manufacturing, many of the jobs are now completely lead-free which starts off from the procurement, right through the manufacturing and assembly process.
After the SMD process all boards are inspected using automated optical inspection (AOI) machines, before moving on to the next stage. A small rework area is also positioned at this point in the factory, so that small defects found during the inspection can be corrected.
Microtronix says it has a unique advantage over many of its competitors with its two fully automated Universal Instruments axial and radial insertion machines which are used to insert conventional components. These machines prove their worth in large volume production runs. Microtronix currently assembles a large variety of LED products, from traffic signals to electronic signboards and automotive lighting.
Conventional components that cannot be machine inserted (eg, transformers and other irregularly shaped components) go to one of four hand insertion lines before the PCBs are soldered using wave flow soldering machines. Following this stage there are four hand soldering lines where post-fit or more complicated work is done on the product; here cables, looms and special connectors are manually fitted, ready to be plugged into the customer's application.
This is followed up by the test area where boards are tested, programmed and burned in (often overnight). Microtronix can for example provide bed-of-nail testers and other test fixtures for specific PCBs, the customer in most cases being responsible for defining his own test procedures. Following the test area there is a repair department which deals with product returns and test repairs.
The final stage in the manufacturing procedure is coating of the PCB to one of several different specifications. This is done using an automatic conformal coating machine that is programmed for each product so as to provide a precision spray valve coating, avoiding connectors and other no-go areas. An environmental chamber is also available here to ensure that military PCBs for example can meet the required extreme temperature specifications. For those customers who want their PCBs 'washed' to provide an absolute no-flux finish, a special PCB cleaning machine is available at this stage.
Following this the boards are bar coded so that every batch of boards can be traced back to the specific production run. Products then go through to the packaging department before arriving at dispatch, ready to be delivered to the customer. As previously indicated, dispatch is located right next to goods receiving so the components move in a clockwise fashion from the latter, through manufacture and packaging to a point right next to where they originated; in this way, a factory layout that minimises wasted time and effort in taking product backwards and forwards has been created to increase productivity and efficiency.
Microtronix is committed to an aggressive continual improvement programme, whereby it continuously updates its processes, procedures and factory layout to experiment with making the factory more efficient and improving all aspects of quality and traceability. The company has recently undergone full quality audits from companies like Siemens, Honeywell, Eskom, Gautrain and SABS.
Its combination of equipment and skills makes Microtronix a world-class turnkey electronics contract manufacturer, and its ability to sell its products into First World markets is a true indication of the company's quality and pricing.