The Evolution Of Odd-Form (Article Overview)

Written By:
Gregory Holcomb and Tawnya Henderson

Published in Circuits Assembly Magazine January 2000.

The old adage, “time is money,” has never had more relevance than in today’s technologically advancing society. In the electronics industry especially, product-to-market cycles for computers, disk drives and portable computer products have shrunk from a few years to less than 12 months. The emergence of faster, better, and less expensive products is evolving at a rapid pace. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and contract electronics manufacturers (CEMs) who wish to stay competitive in this global market must increase throughput, quality and production efficiency by automating when possible with the flexibility for quick change. Manual processes on the line must be scrutinized, with a goal of determining how to automate or optimize them.

The Reality and Perpetuation of Odd-Form
Odd-form assembly is among the inefficient manual processes still found on production lines globally. It is the placement of components that may have an unusual shape; require special handling; have a low part count on the board; or have other issues that do not allow them to be easily automated by dedicated pick-and-place systems. Typically, these odd-form components have been assembled. Due to a diverse nature and the previous lack of justifiable, robust solutions, odd-form assembly has often been considered the last holdout for automation. However, the automation of odd-form is becoming a growing reality for industry leaders who realize it is an unnecessary roadblock to complete line optimization.

Odd-form assembly does not have to be a manual process. For those who have already begun to automate these remaining manual processes on their production lines, the results have more than justified the investment. Some industry leaders cite significant annual savings in rework alone, with 75 percent fewer defects across a single line. With these kind of results and the availability of both fully and semiautomatic assembly systems, automating existing manual odd-form processes on the production line makes good business sense.


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