SMT, PCB Electronics Industry News

Seagate implements Asscon Vapor Phase

Sep 17, 2013

Asscon VP450 lab/batch reflow oven

Asscon VP450 lab/batch reflow oven

Seagate Technology is a leading provider of hard drives and storage solutions. Founded in 1979, Seagate employs 50,000 people worldwide and is one of Longmont, Colorado's largest employers. The Longmont operation includes a small prototype design center providing manufacturing services to Seagate engineering teams, and is an integral part in the process of taking a product from development to product launch.   Building printed circuit boards (PCBs) in the  lab is a labor intensive manual process. Solder paste is first printed on contact pas where the surface mount components are to be placed. Electrical connection is made once the board passes through a solder reflow process. Seagate was using a standard tabletop rework/reflow station for this application. On average, the Seagate lab builds ten circuit boards a day. The rework/reflow station is only able to reflow one circuit board assembly at a time and assembling ten boards tied up laboratory production resources for a full day.  A-Tek Systems Group introduced Asscon Vapor Phase reflow to Seagate in May 2012. Vapor phase soldering uses condensation of a high boiling point inert liquid to heat the assemblies. Using vapor as the heat transfer medium brings the solder product to peak temperature homogeneously, regardless of size, shape, weight, or component mix. Vapor phase eliminates overheating of the assemblies, damge to components, or delamination of the parts, because the maximum solder temperature can never exceed the boiling point of the medium.  Another advantage is that the high vapor density medium displaces oxygen from the solder zone, eliminating oxide corrosion of the parts. A-Real estate space is a premium at the Seagate laboratory and the small footprint of the VP450 takes up half the space (2' x 2.5') of the rework/reflow station. The VP450 proved to be an ideal insturment for this application. Today, all parts are assembled in the morning and moved to the reflow station. Each assembly is approximately 3" x 5". The work piece carrier in the VP450 is 18" x 18" and can accomodate up to six assemblies, increasing throughput efficiency by more than 200%! The outcome of this upgrade is that circuit boards are now assembled and reflowed in less than four hours. The efficiency gains have freed up resources that can be allocated for other value add tasks such as X-ray inspection, test and rework. The additional capacity also allows the lab to accept additional work orders from other engineering groups, increasing the profitability of the lab.

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