Sunny days ahead for SMT rework stations

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Business for surface mount technology (SMT) players has not been easy in the last few months, primarily due to the effects of global recession, but also due to the fact that an increasing number of multinational SMT players are enter­ing the Indian market and making the SMT segment very competitive. Why are so many international players en­tering the Indian market now and why are those who had been previously present getting more bullish about the Indian market? The answer to these questions lies in the fact that business in the US and European nations has almost come to a standstill, forcing many international SMT brands to tar­get the Asian nations, where growth is still continuing.

By Atanu Kumar Das

Friday, August 16, 2009: India is one such Asian nation where electronics, telecommunica­tion and automobile manufacturing has ensured that SMT machines are needed and hence, sold in good num­bers. There is no doubt that in the coming years, India is going to be a hot destination for all SMT players as the country is witnessing more hardware manufacturing than ever before.

Typically, a rework station is used in the manufacturing process because it can rectify the defects that are found in the inspection process. It is equipped to make the flawed components or printed circuit boards (PCBs) work again. Manufacturers ideally purchase rework stations for bulk manufactur­ing as the chances of finding defects are more if the number of products being manufactured is larger.

“We use rework stations to ensure that the defective pieces, which are identified in the inspection process gets rectified. Although, we do not have too many defects being detected, whenever there are any flaws, the re­work station helps in correcting them,” says the production head of Om Nan­otech, a company which manufactures memory modules in India.

Today, one of the chief challenges of manufacturing is to ensure that the maximum quantity is produced in minimum time, while keeping the cost factor in mind. Therefore, SMT vendors are now trying to come up with rework stations that render zero defects and consume lesser time in the production process. Dilip Rane, regional sales manager, OK Interna­tional, says, “Customers desires zero defects or zero rework and when re­work does occur, they want to ensure that it is done swiftly, with minimal cost and process intervention.”

As the SMT industry expands, the range of components and tech­nologies will also grow, requiring increased application support from rework partners. With the training time decreasing, equipment vendors will have to gear up to provide skill training to machine operators.”

According to Mukesh Rajput, CTO, Max Technology, “Today, the buyer wants quality products with user friendly features. As vendors of re­work stations, we have to ensure that buyers can realise return on invest­ment quickly and that is our priority. Our products go to exporters, service centres, jewellery manufacturers, small scale electronic manufacturers, dentists, the telecommunication sec­tor, the defence sector, etc.

The electronics manufacturing services (EMS) industry is the largest buyer segment of SMT machines as today, most local EMS players have migrated from through-hole technol­ogy to SMT. “When we contemplate purchase of rework stations, our pri­mary aim is to get the best device at an affordable price. When it comes to mass production, we realise that the usage of the rework station would be more, and go for high grade re­work stations for the same. We are also extremely particular that the vendor ensures us proper after sales support and justifies our total cost of ownership (TCO). One doesn’t want any encumbrances during the manufacturing phase, so we spend a few months in researching the apt vendor,” says a plant head of a promi­nent multinational EMS brand.

Present scenario

While some SMT vendors say that the rework market has witnessed a downswing due to global recession, others insist that they have been able to counter the downturn, owing to their innovative business strategies.

“Recession has indeed put the electronics industry on a slower growth path and the growth of the rework station market in India has also been somewhat stunted. How­ever, by virtue of customer loyalty, the ability to offer variable power at a fixed temperature (which reduces the requirement for training through deskilling), a product range covering various rework applications, and the Smartheat advantage (which im­proves productivity and reduces cost by avoiding the daily tip temperature verification process), we have been able to maintain reasonable growth figures in India,” adds Rane.

Rajput disagrees, “We have ob­served no tangible effects of recession in the rework station market. The only major threat we face is from inferior quality Chinese soldering rework sta­tions, which sell in the open market at very low prices. Buyers choose us for our quality and prompt after sales services and we will ensure that we continue to providing the same.”

Suresh Nair, vice president, Leaptech Corporation, says, “There was a slight slowdown due to reces­sion, but things are back to normal now. Attracting customers is a chal­lenge but various marketing initiatives help us to make that happen.”

Now let us have a look at some of the players in this field.

OK International has been a leading manufacturer of tools for the electronics assembly workbench for almost 60 years. Its family of compli­mentary products includes soldering and rework and fume extraction systems. The company’s products are easy to use and offer endurable performance. Also, they are backed by its global sales channel.

Max Technology & Co was es­tablished in 1995 and deals in SMD rework stations, hot air desoldering stations, variable soldering stations, soldering and desoldering stations, ESD-safe PTH desoldering stations, microsoldering stations, 7-in-1 SMD rework station-cum-battery analyzers (mobile testers), microsoldering pens and soldering and desoldering flux. The company has 35 dealers and has a workforce of 300. It has in-house R&D and product designing teams.

Leaptech Corporation was es­tablished to help electronics, semi­conductor, solar and automotive manufacturing companies in India to achieve global standards through adoption of the technologies. Leaptech represents the world’s leading firms, offering automation equipment for PCB assembly, semiconductor, au­tomotive and assembly automation. Its strength lies in its extensive expe­rience in processes, marketing and provision of after sales support.

Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No. 1 electronics B2B sourcing magazine

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