I'm back from the Apex show in Las Vegas. It was very interesting. Manncorp was there with an empty
booth. They brought absolutely nothing. I guess they came for a good time in Vegas not to actually
sell something. In fact I had to look up their booth number to find them. There were only a few
other machines there under $100K so they could of had that market segment to themselves.
It was not even evident that they were in the SMT business.
The booth was empty of customers every time I walked by.
If they aren't going out of business, they sure looked like it.
I did have occasion to study numerous machines up close. I still marvel at the diversity
of ways chosen to do the same job. If you put enough nozzles on a head you can put down
30K parts per hour. With 2 gantries and 4 heads you can have 120K parts per hour. Think
about consuming 300+ reels of components per 8Hr shift or maybe even 1000 per day!!
You have feed this thing with a forklift !
The price is a big hole in half a million. Feeders extra.
Feeders (8mm) seem to range from $600-$1200 each some that come 8-12
in a fixed package approach half that but have limited flexibility.
One Swiss feeder actually fed the tape by pulling on the cover tape -
no sprocket drive - really. When fed under keyboard control parts routinely hopped
out of the pockets. I wonder how well it worked.
One manufacturer offered a way to bring a board image from a flatbed scanner to program
or verify a board. Interesting idea.
One thing all the machines had in common was complexity...lots and lots
of complexity and lots to go wrong. No wonder the prices are multiples of $100K.
Most of the booths were staffed with sales and field service people so even
my most technical questions were well answered.
I studied the user interface of many of the machines. The Windows interface
or something like it was everywhere. Most of the screens were filled with
nondescript cave drawings giving little clue what they did. Most often they
looked like little PCBs. I noticed that even commonly used functions were buried
many levels deep. A flurry of mouse activity was required to almost anything.
It would drive me crazy.
Primitive man communicated with cave drawing before evolving language,
alphabet, and vocabulary. I guess we are in the cave man stage of machine control.