Please excuse me if this question has already been answered, but what separates this type of tooling from say the Transition Automation "Board Lok" tooling (which I tried out and hated) or the DEK FormFlex. Since I am based in the UK I have a chance to journey down to lovely Weymouth, England once in awhile and I have seen this FormFlex concept grow from a messy bit of hydraulics to the most impressive piece of innovation DEK has ever come up with. I gather your expertise should be rather grand in regards to the FormFlex since you worked for DEK for some time. If I remember correctly I believe you published a paper about DEK tooling?
T.A. board lok is fixed tooling. I have not used it, and therefore cannot comment on it. Their website describes it in detail for those interested.
-The Grid-Lok system is completely pnuematic -Each pin locks individually via mechanical lock -Each pin may be manually lowered if desired after setup -Pin setup/loking force ~5 grams
-The Form-flex is pneumatic actuating on hydraulic fluid -All pins in a row are coupled, and locking is via a fluid shutoff valve -Pins may not be lowered manually and are coupled in a row -Pin setup/locking force ~100 grams (website info) -Setup fixture typically required
Both systems come in module form that may be configured for the product being run
Both systems are independant of machine interface
Indeed I have had the opportunity to work with this system. A joint APEX 2000 paper was writen with an EMS provider. As far as innovation is concerned, the idea of a compliant fixture has been around for some time, in fact a patent dated 1923 exists describing such a system. What DEK has done is advanced the idea of supporting the entire board, including components. This was (even within the company) and still is an uphill battle. But as board density increases, the available board real estate available for support is approacing zero. Memory module manufacturers and cell phone manufacturers, as two examples, often get dedicated tooling that is a completely routed out piece of aluminum. This is no bueno for fine pitch SMC's, and for storage, changeover, etc.