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I recently met with Eddie Ichiyama, general manager of Saki Europe GmbH and Saki Prague. We discussed Saki's new 3D AOI and X-ray inspection equipment, the global inspection marketplace, and the move to reduce or eliminate the human interface.
Barry Matties: Why don't you just give us the highlights of your 3D and X-ray inspection equipment?
Eddie Ichiyama: The 3D inspection will give you the extra dimension from the additional 2D AOI which was on the market for many years. The 3D AOI or 3D SPI simply gives you the height information. If you have the height information then you can calculate the volume of it. Adding the one extra dimension will make it so much easier to make a program and that will give you a more definite answer, numerical wise, to determine whether it is good or not.
Matties: For X-ray inspection, you guys have been around for 21 years and you are bringing a lot of experience into the technology. What are some of the advancements that you now have in X-rays that will benefit the fabricator?
Ichiyama: First of all, the motivation for developing X-ray was to try to see what we couldn't see in 2D over the last 21 years. We were so curious as to what it would look like underneath the package. As we started digging in, we didn't know there would be such a void inside in the solder joints, and we didn't know what type of shape it would look like on the back of any kind of leads. The more we started looking into it, the more we started to discover what we needed to have. We also had a 2D X-ray system developed almost eight or nine years ago in-house, but the first difficulty that we encountered was a cancellation of the information that you don't want to see. For example, from an A side to B side and if you see through the 2D X-ray, you will also see the one in the bottom, and that is something that you don't want to see.
We tried to cancel that, but it was not easy. So, what did we do? We developed the technology for Planar CT, which means you have to slice the planar object and reconstruct the layer that you want to see—which means it is not a cancellation method but a reconstruction method.
Matties: That is a completely different approach.
Ichiyama: It is, isn't it? Therefore, our machine is so unique and for the PCB and SMT industry we can slice up to 2,000 slices. Some people are slicing more that and they can select the layer that they want to see and reconstruct it. Therefore you can also have the volume information of the board itself, which you couldn't see before. It is really unique.
Matties: Is that a real-time process?
Ichiyama: It is.
Matties: And it is high-speed, so you have a lot of power behind your system to drive that. Now, with regard to your AOI, you were talking earlier about fine-tuning to the point where the goal is really to remove the human interface. Why don't you talk a little bit about that and how close you are to achieving that?
Ichiyama: In terms of AOI, or any kind of inspection machine, we see three major stages. First, you have to have some kind of a library to deploy the shape and define the shape. What do you want the machine to see? That is the recognition of the shape. Once you have recognized the shape of it, then you apply some recipe or inspection programs and then you run into product production. The third stage is to fine tune whether your parameter was good enough to be at the mass production level. We call them the three stages: the recognition of the shape, the deployment of the recipe or the inspection program and then fine tune to make the tolerance be in a reasonable area.
To answer your question, we are almost done on the shape recognition part as well as the recipe part, because we already have the information and the knowledge from the last 21 years. We just need to link it. Those two steps are almost done in the matter a couple of months from now. The connection to the third step, the fine tuning, we might be seeing it maybe a couple years. It is going to be something exciting.
Matties: It is the right goal, I think. The idea is to eliminate the cost of labor in a process that just needs to give information back. And speaking of the information, are your machines capable of talking machine to machine in any of their planning systems?
Ichiyama: They have to be, and that is why we have called Saki a total solutions provider for the last 21 years. From the SPI to the AOI to the X-ray machine, you can see the interfaces are totally the same. Once you learn to work with SPI, the person can easily go into the AOI and know what to push and how to make a program. It is like a using an iPhone.
Matties: Could you talk a little bit about your R&D center in the Czech Republic—how many people are there and what is their focus?
Ichiyama: We have 13 people operating in the Czech Republic and we just opened a technology center, a showroom, and also an academy school where you can invite a customer or even a distributor to educate them at a higher level. We also have a development center to mainly focus on the European needs first, because we recognize the European market as one of the most important markets and as a trend-setting market, so we really put our effort and appreciation into this market. We listen to the customer, listen to the market and we actually are making those dreams come true here in the same time zone, which has really shortened our time down for internal total communication as well as with the customer and the market.
Matties: Regarding cycle time: is your focus more on quality of the output rather than cycle time?
Ichiyama: The thing is when a customer cannot afford to have any escape, that escape will cost more than the inspection, so it is a balance. For those manufacturers that cannot afford to have any escape, we will be the most powerful candidate.
Matties: They are willing to put in the extra time for a guarantee of quality. And they are willing to pay for it.
Ichiyama: It is not cheap either, but at the end of the day we are paying a little bit more for the airfare, but we still feel a little bit safer and that is where it counts.
Matties: Thank you for your time.
Ichiyama: Thank you.