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Automatic PCB Baking Process and Intelligent Asset Management

11-07-2019

Introduction

Baking ovens are frequently used in printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing, usually after printing, soldering, or coating as a curing process. The semi-finished products are baked at staged temperatures on their length—different products and processes require different baking profiles. Traditionally, a baking process is operated manually by a technician, which means if something goes wrong, it could ruin the whole batch of semi-finished products, and the financial loss could be considerable. Worse still, as traditional PCB baking equipment are not connected to a network and computers, there are no complete records kept on a database for tracking and identifying issues.  

The customer in this case is Taiwanese electronic company, who provide OEM services for micro modules and custom semiconductor packages, as well as PCB assembly. Seeking to automate their PCB baking process and improve asset management, they asked for help from the automation company MiRLE, and together they decided to use Advantech’s hardware and software solution in constructing their PCB baking automation and process monitoring system.  

Using Advantech’s solution, baking oven operators at PCB production line only have to configure baking profiles and save them in the DB in advance, then use a portable scanner to scan the barcode on each batch of semi-finished boards pending a baking run. The scanning will list corresponding production information of the batch, such as serial numbers and required temperature portfolios, and the system will automatically initiate the baking process and adjust temperatures at different stages according to the corresponding baking portfolio; all without the need for manual operations throughout the baking process.

Each baking oven is controlled and monitored by an intelligent edge server (a compact powerful PC provided by Advantech), which will implement the baking process and keep records of all baking runs and details for future review. The data is connected to a backend server and integrated with the company’s Manufacturing Execution System (MES), making the baking automation and monitoring system an important cornerstone of the company’s efforts in upgrading their operations to an Industry 4.0 manufacturing environment based on IoT-enabled intelligent automation.


Application Requirements

The project needed to deploy one industrial computer to the side of each PCB baking oven, which, connected to the control unit of the oven, which controls and carries out the automated baking process. The system requirements demanded an intelligent edge server providing combined functions of data analyzer, IoT gateway, and database. What’s more, the edge server needed to be capable of providing at least 4 x RS-485 serial ports—one for connecting to a barcode reader, one for the oven temperature controller, and the other two for add-on data acquisition modules which collect data on specific baking runs, as well as metering production flow.  

In addition to automation, the system also required remote equipment management, so the server needed to be installed with equipment/device management software to allow staff to understand all operations and allow them to perform asset management functions if necessary. The software tools included Restful APIs to facilitate data connection between field operations and backend information systems such as the company’s Manufacturing Execution System (MES) for a higher level of Industry 4.0 integration

Solution

For this PCB baking automation and monitoring control system, Advantech provided a number of EIS-D120 edge intelligence server units for deployment in the field. Because the servers have multiple serial ports and unparalleled scalability, end customers were able to connect field equipment devices, in this case baking oven controllers, hand-held barcode readers, and Advantech ADAM data acquisition modules.  

Each Advantech EIS product comes pre-installed with Advantech WISE-PaaS/DeviceOn IoT platform, which provides IoT device management software and IoT application development tools for system designers to design and develop system functions including data acquisition, Internet gateway, remote monitoring control, and cloud connections. They can also use the dashboard creator contained in the development tool kit to configure highly customizable dashboards for data visualization, and use other APIs to establish connections with other application systems for higher backend integration.  

For data acquisition and transmission, the Advantech WISE-PaaS/DeviceOn software provides a development kit for system integrators to easily develop plug-ins for converting heterogeneous industrial field communication protocols into a unified IoT language to allow the system to be adaptable to various workshops and environments and successfully acquire machine data which is otherwise difficult to obtain. This gateway feature of Advantech EIS servers enables holistic data integration and applications in fulfilling intelligent automation. 

Benefits

  • Replaces traditional manual practices in the PCB baking process with automatic control and monitoring, reducing human errors in operations, and improving productivity and yield rate.
  • Produces digital records for the PCB baking process for users to keep track of the operational status of the baking ovens and also establish production information traceability for future lookups.
  • Enables cross-platform integration with the customers other information systems, such as MES, so as to optimize workflow and equipment management to higher efficiency.
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