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Company profile: Elprom

25 July 2007 News

Elprom, founded in 1991, is a dedicated provider of electronics contract manufacturing services in South Africa. It serves some of the most technologically advanced companies in a wide range of high-tech industries.

The more than 230 permanent and 120 contract employees all play a role in realising the manufacture of products used not only in South Africa, but all around the world.

4500 m² facility in the Stellenbosch Technopark
4500 m² facility in the Stellenbosch Technopark

In addition to a strong procurement capability and efficient manufacturing processes, the company is able to provide customers with many value added engineering services and says it offers the same dedication and attention to a customer producing a one-off turnkey PCB to that of a customer requiring millions of component placements a month.

Systems and people

With a hands-on approach as well as an active interest in its customer's requirements, Elprom's growth has been exponential. The company reached a critical phase of its growth in the late 1990s and continues to invest as much in the systems and people supporting the process of manufacture, as in the direct manufacturing process itself. Far too often companies are reliant on 'super heroes' doing everything with all the knowledge in their heads, putting the company and of course the customer at great risk. At Elprom, this knowledge is actively embedded into a system interfacing with customised applications, equipment and ERP software.

In order to support and grow this, the company has dedicated teams for:

* Industrial engineering.

* Software engineering related to the manufacturing process.

* Hardware engineering related to the manufacturing process.

* Quality systems and management.

* Manufacturing pre-engineering.

* Business engineering.

Due to the strong systems in place, scalability is easy, with the ability to quickly adjust capacity when there is a requirement.

Elprom has a strong commitment to its people as well as to its social responsibility. Continuous training is done, not only in the field of manufacturing, but in all areas of adult education and upliftment of the previously disadvantaged. Elprom embraces the concept BBEEE and has undergone an Employee Share Ownership Scheme whereby 25% of the ownership of the company is in the hands of employees through shareholding.

Directors of the employee-owned company
Directors of the employee-owned company

Equipment, services and quality

Elprom believes in maintaining its manufacturing capability by investing in the latest and most appropriate technology. Its customers' requirements range from high volume manufacture of commercial products through to some of the most sophisticated assemblies used in military and avionic applications. Offering the latest in assembly technology allows customers to be bolder in their designs and in turn ensure their growth and success. All processes are able to be performed to meet RoHS compliance.

Certified ISO9001:2000 and with a dedicated Quality Management Team, Elprom strives to provide the highest quality in all respects of doing business. Memberships of IPC and Smart Group SA assist in realising world class, industry-specific quality standards.

Configuration and procurement

All products assembled at Elprom are configured and maintained in order that the information supplied to the factory floor is in an easily understood and versioned format. A build history is also kept of all jobs assembled. Assistance can be provided to the customer should there be a requirement for alternate or substitute materials.

Elprom has a dedicated purchasing department procuring the complete spectrum of materials, from electronic components and mechanical parts through to printed matter and packaging for final shipment. Many purchases are off-shore and the company says it has a well established import capability with sophisticated Landed Cost Tracking. All incoming goods are checked stringently against specification and stored securely in a FIFO warehouse. This is especially important with regards to RoHS compliance.

High volume SMD and low volume, fast turnaround specialised assembly

The company currently has three high-volume, fully automatic SMD placement lines with a fourth on the way. These lines are made up of automated solder paste printers (including 2D inspection), high speed chip placement machines, multifunctional placement machines, sophisticated reflow ovens and automatic optical inspection (AOI) machines able to validate both component placement and solder join integrity.

High volume SMD lines
High volume SMD lines

This dedicated facility exists to service the prototype and low volume market. Dedicated (both automatic and manual) equipment exists to build even one PCB in a process that resembles a full blown automated line. This is particularly useful when determining the manufacturability of a new product as a reflow process has very different characteristics to a hand soldered process. Even the most sophisticated leadless devices can be assembled with ease.

Second stage assembly, process control and evaluation

Leaded component assembly in Pb or Pb-free is offered through:

* Wave soldering.

* Selective robotic soldering for complex double sided SMD PCBs.

* Operator hand soldering.

Selective robotic soldering
Selective robotic soldering

Wire harnesses and specialised module assembly services are also provided.

Elprom has the latest in realtime digital X-ray, high end optical and top of the range cleanliness measurement equipment. Soon to arrive is the latest in XRF test equipment, allowing validation of RoHS compliance of incoming goods as well as finished assemblies. This is also offered as an external service to customers wishing to validate third party assemblies.

Environmental coatings

Elprom provides a number of solutions to protect electronic assemblies against harsh environments:

* Selective spray coating: this is achieved using an in-line automatic selective coating machine, able to selectively apply the conformal coating to the PCB without the requirement of masking the 'no-go' areas.

* Certonal coating: the latest in coating technology at Elprom is Certonal coating. This coating effectively modifies the surface of the product coated such that it is highly repellent to moisture. The greatest advantage of this technology is that the assembly is completely coated (including connectors and piggy-back modules) with a layer so thin that it is barely perceptible. Tests to date have shown that Certonal is as effective in most cases as traditional conformal coatings and has been adopted as a requirement for certain equipment supplied to British Telecom. With the coating being this thin, electrical characteristics are not affected and testing can occur after coating. Should it be necessary, the board is able to be reworked without difficulty. Another advantage is that on highly sensitive RF designs, the coating does not affect the dielectric properties of the assembled PCB.

* Specialised hand coating: highly specialised low volume assemblies can be coated with the material of choice by very competent coating operators using selective masking and sophisticated spray equipment.

Specialised rework and testing

Elprom says it has the required equipment to successfully rework even the most complex of boards, including the ability to re-ball BGA devices where the device needs to be recovered. This is especially valuable in the design phase of a product, where the BGA device can be re-used in the next development cycle.

Testing services include testing of assembled products on customer supplied test gear, as well as the assistance by an engineering department in the creation of test equipment, should the customer not have the time or capability to develop it.

Manual insertion line
Manual insertion line

Final assembly and packing

Elprom is set up to take a product to its final form ready for shipping. Often this process requires complex customisation and recording of data. Where possible this is taken care of by means of customised systems and software, often written by an in-house team of software developers.

Repair and refurbishment

Elprom offers its customers a repair and refurbishment facility. This is handled outside of regular production, providing the ability to repair or refurbish products on behalf of the customer if the customer does not have their own facility. Skilled technicians and up-to-date equipment allow for the highest quality refurbishment or repair.

Spreading its wings

Elprom has traditionally serviced only the Cape Town market, but is rapidly gaining ground in other parts of South Africa as well as taking a serious step into the European market. Elprom is represented in Europe through cooperation with Polyplas, situated in Germany.

April 2007 saw Elprom exhibit for the first time at the SMT Hybrid and Packaging Show hosted in Nuremberg, Germany. The press conferences at the show led to articles being published in several European trade magazines.

Elprom booth at SMT Nuremberg.
Elprom booth at SMT Nuremberg.

For more information contact Rob Steltman, Elprom, +27 (0)21 880 1272, rob.steltman@elprom.co.za, www.elprom.co.za





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