Leading edge products need leading edge manufacturing

25 August 2020

It’s incredible to think that, way back in 1989, Intel’s 80486 processor was manufactured using a 1,000 nanometer process. The company is planning to manufacture 7 nanometer devices in 2021. That means, in effect, almost 150x the number of devices are occupying a given unit of space. For the non-technical: imagine around 10,000 transistors laid side by side being equal to the width of a human hair. The sophistication of the manufacturing process is remarkable.

In the same way: advanced embedded computing boards require sophisticated manufacturing. Take our GBX25, for example. We just announced first customer shipments of this 6U VME Ethernet switch – and they’re manufactured using the state of the art surface mount component placement systems in which we’ve just invested for the manufacturing facility at our Towcester, UK European headquarters.

Substantial investment

Why have we invested a substantial amount of money in these new machines? Simply, to ensure we continue to deliver to our customers the most competitive, most reliable product in the shortest possible time.

The new ASM SX equipment means we can place components ranging in size from 0.25mm x 0.25mm to 200mm x 110mm. That gives us incredible flexibility to manufacture a broad range of board types – including the GBX25. The machine that places the largest component sizes can also insert components with up to 100 Newtons of force, which means we can not only use it to place parts with locking pins or interference fits, but we can also machine-place and intrusive reflow through-hole components. This enables us to eliminate processes such as selective solder - reducing both cost and cycle-time.

The ASM SX machines are also capable of identifying orientation markers on the underside of components – meaning they will automatically place parts in the correct orientation regardless of how they are presented to the machine.

Improved throughput

The new equipment is supplied with a software suite that is designed reduce change-over times by allowing off-line verification of set-ups prior to loading to the machine. The software also allows us to improve throughput by providing the team running the line with a visual warning of when and in which order feeders will be depleted. This allows them to be replenished before the line stops, enabling us to achieve placement rates of 100,000 components per hour.

The complete suite of new features and tools will enable us to produce new products with world class performance and a significant increase in first pass yield and commensurate drop in rework. Our investment makes us more efficient – which in turn, keeps us competitive.

Our new manufacturing capability is further evidence of our investments and innovations in products, people and processes – enabling us to deliver what our customers want, and helping them succeed.



Glyn Evans

Having spent a year with Abaco as an intern at Towcester in the UK, Glyn joined the company in 2015 as an electronics design engineer. In 2017, he was appointed product manager, and now has responsibility for Abaco’s range of networking solutions. He has a first class honors BEng degree from De Montfort University, Leicester.