Automation and Traceability Critical for High-Throughput Probe Testing

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Peter Brandt, atg’s director of sales for Europe, India and Japan, joined Barry Matties at productronica to share his views on regional variations in electrical testing requirements, automation, traceability, and how to anticipate and satisfy the future demands of the market. Group general manager Dr. Jochen Kleinertz also comments on the need for close cooperation with customers to guide the R&D effort.

Barry Matties: Peter, thanks for taking time to talk with us. This is the final afternoon of the show and it’s just beginning to quiet down. What have been your general impressions?

Peter Brandt: This show was an unexpectedly crowded and good show this year. We have a very high number of customers here, as well as potential customers. We were very satisfied with the show this year.

Matties: Please tell us about the new technology you’re showing here.

Brandt: This year, we are exhibiting our new automatic flying probe machine. The name of the machine is A8a. It's an automatic probe machine for final boards. This machine is dedicated to high throughput, flexibility and it approaches step by step the throughput of the grid testers.


Matties: Automation is the key though, right?

Brandt: Automation is the key. Automation in combination with traceability. Automation makes sense to save labor costs, but the most sense of automation is to have traceability and to avoid having bad boards on the good board stacker at the end.

Matties: You're responsible for Europe, India and Japan. Your viewpoint of the world must be quite interesting. Tell me the differences that you see between regions.

Brandt: Oh, there are big differences within these territories. When we look at the European companies, these companies have only the need of flexibility. They make business in the automotive, aerospace, industrial markets. India’s need is mainly higher quantities, not very complex boards and simpler products, but they are increasing their technology very fast. Also, now, their intent is to buy new machines and new equipment. Japan is certainly the most difficult market for the Western companies. Here, we can sell only high-technology machines. High-technology with automation and high performance in pitch and accuracy.

Matties: There's also the nationalistic attitude there, and so competing in Japan as a German company must be difficult. How do you overcome those barriers?

Brandt: First, you need a strong agent or representative there. You need somebody who can convert the technical knowledge from the English language into the Japanese language, and you must convince the operators by technical arguments. That's very important in Japan. The most important thing is that you have a unique product that is not available in the Japanese market. That makes a big difference.

Matties: What sort of questions or challenges do potential customers come to you with at a show like this?

Brandt: Their biggest challenge in the European market is the throughput—the speed of the machine. They want to avoid building fixtures. A fixture test is a very high-cost process. You must produce a fixture. Then you debug the fixture. At the end of the day, you have problems with the reliability of a fixture test machine. The flying probe machine has the flexibility. You can change net lists and you can change electrical parameters. With a fixture, you are much more rigid. When you’ve already prepared the fixture, you can change nothing anymore.

Matties: But in a volume shop, flying probe just isn't going to be the solution, right?

Brandt: No. It's a combination between complexity and volume. For high-volume and less complexity, the fixture test can do this. It still has a need on the market, and from an economic point of view, there’s a big market share for the fixture tester. But especially for complex boards, substrate boards or embedded component technologies, there you will find automatic flying probe test systems for higher quantities like 5,000, or 10,000 PCBs per lot.

Matties: That's pretty good, and the throughput is satisfactory for that?

Brandt: Yes. Customers always want to have the fastest machines in the world. From year to year, we try to improve. We improve the performance and the speed of the machine. This is not a big single jump, but step by step, we improve our machines.

Matties: What is your background, and what is your favorite part of the job?

Brandt: I'm an electronics engineer. The favorite part of my job is talking to customers about technical demands, new technical projects in the market, and then bringing this information back to atg to develop the right equipment for the worldwide market.


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