Ask the Experts
August 4, 2017 - Updated
July 4, 2007 - Originally Posted

RFID Technology for Pick and Place feeders

What are the advantages of using RFID technology in Pick and Place feeders? Will this technology increase the performance of my production line?


Expert Panel Responses

RFID technology is widely used for pick and place feeders. This technology is used to upgrade existing dumb feeders to fully-intelligent feeders by simply attaching a low-cost RFID tag to each feeder and mounting an RFID antenna array on the feeder bank. The key benefit of RFID smart feeders is to eliminate manual barcode scanning during the component/feeder verification process. This reduces the risk of human errors and it reduces the time required to install and verify a new feeder during replenishment and product changeoever. As a result more quality product can be produced with the same SMT line. RFID Smart Feeder also enable many other applications including component usage tracking, component traceability, feeder maintenance, etc. Overall this is a very cost-effective solution to upgrade existing lines to the same level of performance as brand new machines.

Francois Monette
VP Sales & Marketing
Mr. Monette is one of the co-founders of Cogiscan and leads global sales, business development and marketing. Since 1990, he has held a variety of positions in the electronics manufacturing industry, mostly focused on quality and process engineering.

At Juki we use RFID technology for setup verification and traceability. Each feeder communicates with the machine wirelessly over RFID. The machine can determine which feeder is mounted in which position, the component part number, lot number and quantity it carries, and can use this information to make a paperless traceability file for each PWB assembled. With RFID, there are no contact pins in connectors to get bent, oxidize, or wear out. During the past four years the RFID system as proven 100% reliable and a great improvement over our old contact pin system.

Bob Black
North America Sales Manager
Essegi Automation
Mr. Black was the President and Co-Founder of Zevatech in 1977 and introduced first Pick and Place System at Nepcon West 1980. Bob is now the President, CEO and Co-Founder of Juki Automation Systems. He is also a Co-Founder of the SMEMA Council of IPC. He serves as a member of SMTA and SEMI..

This is a great question. There is a lot of misinformation out there about various technologies and RFID and the real benefits. RFID typically works great to verify something like a feeder is the correct one and has the right reel on it, or to "check out" from the stock room. You can more easily keep track of the feeders you have and their respective status. This requires software and some expertise to implement, there are various vendors out there that do this well. I have yet to see a large scale industry implementation of this technology for this application. The key to increasing performance on your SMT line is to reduce placement errors caused by the wrong feeder or wrong reel of components, RFID can help you there. Reducing changeover time, having the feeders preloaded off line and staged to just do a swap out is the only way to increase performance here. Do not measure performance by the hour, measure it by an 8 hour day in total. How many good boards were completed in 8 hours before you changed anything. After you make an "improvement" how many good bards are completed in 8 hours. If the number went up congratulation you made an improvement. If the number stayed the same, sorry you wasted your time and money. Before you change something ask the vendors to refer you to another customer that has similar placement equipment that made the recommended change and had improvement, talk to them and understand how they measured the change and how much actual improvement they got. The right changes done simply and carefully make huge improvements for very little cost.

Ken Bliss
President & CEO - Retired
Bliss Industries, Inc.
Retired - Mr. Bliss has 20+ years experience creating process methods that improve profitability by maximizing hidden unused capacity and throughput. Ken has expertise in all areas of manufacturing specializing in electronics assembly.

The use of RFID feeders should help to eliminate component mixups during change overs and kitting. Will it increase the performance of your production line? Yes, if it eliminates wrong component placements and rework.

Edward Zamborsky
Regional Sales Manager
OK International Inc.
Ed Zamborsky is a Regional Sales & Technical Support Manager for Thermaltronics, located in New York. His position requires frequent customer visits throughout North America and the Caribbean and his position encompasses not only sales but the role of trainer and master applications engineer for all of Thermaltronics products. His expertise includes such specialties as hand soldering, convection and conduction reflow techniques, array rework, fluid dispensing equipment, and fume extraction. Ed has authored many articles and has presented many papers on topics such as; Low Volume SMT Assembly, Solder Fume Extraction, SMT Rework, BGA Rework, Lead-Free Hand Soldering, High Thermal Demand Hand Soldering, Lead Free Visual Inspection and Lead Free Array Rework.

Since set up (or mis-set up) is the most common source of pick and place process defects, everything that can be done to reduce the human error factor helps. RFID technology is more idiot-proof than even bar-code in this category and, hence, goes a long way to making sure the right component and the right feeder is in the right location on the machine. I am, personally, most impressed with the system developed by Cogiscan including the directions they are heading to integrate the actual parts (reels, trays, etc) into the equation. In general, RFID is the way to go either as an option on a new machine or as an upgrade, if available, for your existing system. It doesn't take many mis-directed components to produce an ROI.

Phil Zarrow
Principal Consultant
ITM Consulting
Mr. Zarrow has been involved with PCB assembly for more than thirty years. He is recognized for his expertise in troubleshooting SMT manufacturing and lead-free implementation. He has extensive hands-on experience with set-up and troubleshooting through-hole and SMT processes throughout the world.
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