Smaller, Better Challenges Mobile Device Makers

Mobile phone manufacturers are grappling with the need to track smaller, and better, components, presenting challenges and opportunities for designs. By Panasonic.

A far cry from the bulky mobile phones of the early 2000s, today, a 0.25 x 0.125mm chip resistor is one of the most widely used components in mobile phone manufacturing.

It’s not news that the demand for smart phones, wearable devices and other personal electronics is increasing rapidly. In the case of mobile phones, more than 1.8 billion phones – inclusive of feature and smart phones – were manufactured in 2015, with the number projected to increase to two billion in 2020.

What is news, is that in order to meet rising consumer demands - smaller, thinner, longer battery life, higher performance - these highly complex electronic products require ever-shrinking components, requiring manufacturers to evolve and keep up with the ever-changing requirements of the industry.

Mobile phones are highly complex electronic products. Feature phones require between 600-800 components, while smart phones require upwards of 1,000. As higher functionality continues to be expected by consumers, the number of components ultimately increases year-on-year. But the demand for smaller and thinner devices and the need to balance longer battery life with higher performance also pose new challenges for devices manufacturers.

Printed Circuit Boards

Printed circuit boards eliminate the space challenge of complex wirings and moving parts that were commonplace with the point-to-point wiring that preceded them - without them, fitting a large number of interconnected electronic components into an ever-shrinking space would be impossible.

Today, a 0.25 x 0.125mm chip resistor is one of the most well-known components in mobile phone manufacturing.

During manufacturing, chip resistors are soldered onto circuit boards, with the solder being applied as a paste and shaped into the boards through screen printing, requiring a high level of accuracy despite its small size.

Surface Mount Technology

Another noteworthy innovation in the field is surface mount technology, which produces electric circuits through the direct mounting of components on the surface of printed circuit boards. The new technology is also evolving to increase the mounting/insertion rate and accuracy of increasingly miniscule components.

Surface mount technology has come a long way since it first emerged in the 1950s and 1960s , resulting in many advantages over their leaded predecessors in terms of manufacturability and performance. Surface mounting has also resulted in a reduction in labour cost and increasing productivity rates in the production of printed circuit boards, as process lends itself well to a high degree of mechanisation and mass production.

Chip Mounter Machines

One such company leading the charge towards more efficient manufacturing technologies and equipment is Panasonic. The electronics giant is still commonly known for its consumer electronics, when in fact, Panasonic today is on track to attain a 40 percent share in the chip mounter machine field in South East Asia.

Its newly opened Solution & Innovation Centres in Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam therefore highlights the company’s highly-efficient manufacturing technologies and equipment. Tapping into Panasonic’s manufacturing know-how, the Solution & Innovation Centres showcase the company’s suite of manufacturing technologies such as auto-insertion and surface mount machines, designed specifically for the inserting and mounting of small electronic components on high-density printed circuit boards.

In addition to Panasonic’s latest chip mounter and welding machines, peripheral equipment from other partners, such as component tower and inspection machines, are also featured, with the synergy highlighting the importance of network compatibility and technological interconnectedness, and the contribution of interconnectivity to the success of Industry 4.0 and IoT-supported manufacturing. Seminar halls and conference rooms located within the centres also serve to showcase Panasonic’s factory automation technologies to its customers through technical seminars and events.

Trial Run

To experience actual manufacturing processes at the centres, such as circuit board printing and welding, customers are invited to bring their own materials and electronic components for a trial production ahead of any agreements with Panasonic.

Panasonic’s Solution & Innovation Centres are also present in Chicago, USA and Munich, Germany, with global expansion taking place in the near future and more centres in the pipeline, tying in with Panasonic’s expansion of its factory automation business globally.

APMEN Metrology & Design, Dec 2016

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