mobile phones and handheld electronic devices all use adhesive components in
numerous instances, including labels, insulators, shields, and screens. Photo
Courtesy of Smartserv Online Inc.
use of adhesive-backed components is steadily growing as a method for
assembling much of today’s technology. Computers, mobile phones and handheld
electronic devices all use adhesive components in numerous instances, including
labels, insulators, shields, and screens. While this trend is improving product
performance, the lack of standardized assembly platforms inhibits the adoption of
adhesive technology and its broad-based acceptance.
specify equipment for individual projects. This practice, by nature, leads to
varying degrees of success using adhesive components, as the lack of adhesive
component assembly experience of the engineers involved often times leads to a
failure at the manufacturing level. These failures cast uncertainty on the use
of adhesive components as viable assembly tools in high-volume products.
In many instances, custom machines are developed around the specific
requirements of a particular assembly job. Although certain custom machines
will perform the desired requirement successfully, the use of “one-off” and
“customized” equipment handicaps the entire industry. Custom equipment is
manufactured on a limited timeline and pushed into production to meet the
anticipated launch date and volume requirements of the end product.
Manufacturing locations are then saddled with the burden of ensuring that the
equipment is kept operational and yielding required volumes regardless of its
actual suitability. The end result is the machinery being scrapped, or minimal
parts are salvaged for reuse. Thus, the cycle begins anew with each successive
project, significantly increasing costs and eroding efficiencies. Adding to the
complexity, manufacturing sites are increasingly located in low-tech regions
with limited technical capabilities. Often, machinery is abandoned altogether
for hand assembly, even when it does not meet application requirements.
Standardized machines have
established operational criteria, predictable quality and - perhaps of greatest
benefit - quantified process costs. Standardized machinery is also refined and
enhanced through years of development with a process that allows for continuous
improvement. Research indicates that the cost of assembling adhesive components
exceeds the cost of the components themselves. By comparison, this relationship
is reversed in other more mature processes. For example, the assembly of
electronic components to PCBs is performed by industry-standard machinery. At
times, the cost of the component packaging in standard tape and reel format
exceeds the cost of the component. Still, the benefits recognized from
increased assembly efficiency and reliability more than offset the higher
packaging expense that enables the component to run on standard equipment.
Industry insiders may have an opinion on which brand of machine is superior,
but there is no question that this type of machinery and the standard delivery
methodology for the components will be used to perform the assembly. Thus, when
one looks at the industry as a whole, it is standardized.
A closer analysis of electronic pick and place equipment provides insight into
how standardization can impact and proliferate a specific technology. Most PCBs
are assembled on machines that are in-house permanent capital equipment for
many OEMs, ODMs and EMS providers. These
machines have been refined to perform this assembly task with such great
efficiency and quality that this equipment is used in even the cheapest of
labor markets. The supply chain has evolved with the understanding that these
machines will be used. Consequently, suppliers are empowered to focus on
improvement of their core technology with the expectation of success. By
adopting standardization for assembling adhesive components, manufacturers will
have proven, predictable methods of using these components. This predictability
and reliability will give design engineers the freedom and comfort to use the
technology with the assurance of successful implementation.
End users should consider the following additional items in calculation of the
benefits of standardizing adhesive component assembly.
- Technical support and maintenance are simplified.
- Decreased downtime and quickly reconfigurable equipment are distinct
advantages where product lifecycles are short and time-to-market is critical.
- The reusability factor of standardized equipment exceeds 95%, while
the reusability of customized solutions cannot be forecast.
- Shorter lead times of standard equipment allow critical decisions to
be made later in the planning process, when more information is
- Equipment manufacturers can have the machinery “on the shelf” or
manufacturing sites could have automation in place prior to design
- Time-proven, predictable production-rate data will provide for
extremely accurate planning and forecasting.
- Prototyping runs and capability studies can be performed early in the
process, prior to production exposing any problems.
- Capital costs are spread out, significantly reducing overall assembly
Supply Chain Involvement
Standardization not only
allows for refinement of the machinery involved, but all related supporting
technologies are continuously improved. Adhesive manufacturers are left with a
certain amount of guesswork when developing solutions for automated assembly.
The assembly method is often undefined when the adhesive supplier is initially
involved and assembly requirements must therefore be anticipated. This leads to
customization for every new high-volume application. The results are an
excessive amount of research for individual projects. These costs, while
difficult to quantify, are quietly passed throughout the supply chain to the
Alternatively, in the previously discussed mature PCB assembly model, the
equipment parameters are defined and the part delivery methods are
standardized. This model would allow adhesives manufacturers to focus on their
core competency of manufacturing adhesives. Manufacturing the raw materials for
standardized products would lead to larger batch sizes for fewer products.
Thus, a reduction in costs associated with raw materials, process setup and
reactor cleanup would be recognized. Increased manufacturing experience with
the same polymer would yield more consistent “batch to batch” adhesive
performance. Product carriers to transport the components would be better
defined for automated application also allowing for their refinement.
The challenges faced are then compounded when the adhesive is sent to the
converter at the next step in the value chain. Converters take the raw material
from suppliers and typically “convert” the material from roll form to the
actual size and shape of the specific applications requirement. The converter
is faced with the daunting task of taking raw material that was manufactured
without any consideration given to the method of final assembly and providing
the customer with die-cut adhesive that will work on their chosen assembly
method. Frequently, the liner that the adhesive is supplied on is unsuitable
for automation, causing processing difficulties and increased costs. Many times,
the automation choice has not been determined at the time the converter is
involved, rendering them helpless to affect a positive outcome. This usually
results in an iterative process of the converter manufacturing parts with
different adhesives in various layouts on different liners until one is
established as acceptable. Thus, given the intense product launch pressure,
large amounts of resources are dedicated by both the converter and their
customer to solve issues expeditiously and at any cost. This pattern is
repeated time after time at manufacturing locations worldwide. Without
widespread standardization no entity alone can sufficiently influence the
entire supply chain enough to eradicate the inefficiency.
Many organizations independently
recognize the benefits of standardization in their assembly processes. These
organizations alone lack the influence or importance to drive standardization
throughout the entire marketplace. Therefore, while they realize the portion of
the benefits related to standardization on the manufacturing floor, they lack
the power to capture the greater impact realized from a standardized pressure-sensitive
Although the merits of standardization are quite compelling, the involvement of
OEMs will be required to fully realize benefits. In most cases, these
organizations, which can benefit the most, are completely unaware of the burden
on the industry or the associated cost impact of the lack of standardization.
By working together to achieve standards, OEMs, ODMs, EMS
providers, adhesive suppliers, converters, and standard machine builders can
realize the impact of a technology proliferation.
For more information, contact Mike Terry, Global Sales Manager,
AccuPlace, 1800 NW 69th Ave., Plantation, FL 33313, or visit www.accuplace.com.