Long-term Europlacer customer Electronics Technicians Ltd (ETL), located just 10 miles from Europlacer’s UK HQ, has embarked on a broad modernisation investment programme at its Dorset-based contract manufacturing facility, which includes the purchase of new assembly equipment and accessories to expand its surface mount production capacity and capability.
ETL has been a loyal Europlacer customer for many years, with a Europlacer 4000 purchased in 1997 and an Access 4 machine in 2000. Now, a twin-turret iineo pick & place machine sits at the heart of its surface-mount line headed by a Speedprint printer, both added in 2010. With the next generation of management now running the organisation (ETL is jointly owned by James Arnold and Stuart Crook, the sons of the two original founders and industry veterans Pip Arnold and Ken Crook), the decision was taken to make a round of investment in equipment and upgrades to enhance the company’s production capacity with infrastructure that would capitalise on the speed of the iineo pick & place machine.
As part of a funding programme for the entire ETL business, which includes improvements to the company’s factory and office premises, the equipment investment focused on a new reflow oven, a strategic upgrade to its Europlacer feeders, new board conveying and handling solutions as well as an optical comparator. In addition, to expedite the impact of the investment, the ETL directors opted for a range of specialist high-level technical support from the Europlacer Applications Team and upgrade paths for its legacy accessories and operating systems, as well as feeder setup hardware and stock management software tools to get to full speed productivity fast.
“This investment gives us the tools to greatly increase throughput,” says James Arnold. “By minimising downtime in conjunction with new offline set up functions, we calculate a capacity uplift of at least 40%, without needing a new pick & place machine. In fact, this investment allows us to make the most of the speed and throughput that our trusty iineo machine already delivers.”
Much of the productivity improvement from the new resources at ETL are related to offline facilities that allow preparation activities that do not impact the operation of the pick & place machine, or from contemporary software solutions such as drag & drop programming for the iineo included in the latest Europlacer RC5.16 operating system. “The OS upgrade augments a satisfyingly cost-effective trade-in solution for around 20 of our older feeder trolleys. These have been replaced by seven new state-of-the-art intelligent ii-feed carts,” Arnold explains.
Despite a challenging 18 months for all businesses, ETL has secured new customers in an impressive variety of markets, from the nuclear industry to the domestic electrical appliance sector. Arnold pins the success on ETL’s continuing ability to quote and deliver on short lead times, including the company’s renowned fast-turn service for medium to large batch sizes.
“We can still offer JIT manufacturing services for our customers despite the squeeze of global component shortages,” says Arnold. “But we did come to the decision that we needed to upgrade our surface mount lines to meet the capacity demands of our increasing customer base. The great rapport we have with Europlacer and the fact that we’ve always valued the service that Europlacer delivers and trusted the advice of its technical and applications teams made that decision straightforward.”
The Europlacer Group comprises Europlacer Ltd (UK), Europlacer International (France) and Europlacer Technology Ltd (UK), with regional direct offices in USA, China, Asia Pacific, Germany, Spain and Italy. The primary business focus is on the manufacture of SMT pick & place systems and stencil printers, produced in France and the UK respectively. Europlacer provides full line solutions globally, with local service and support delivered in each region for complementary production equipment including AOI, reflow, PCB handling and intelligent storage solutions.