Flexible electronic production for PIDs

| Manufacturing

The MiniPID Photo-Ionisation-Detector can be used in land remediation
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Jonathan Newell finds out how flexible PID configuration is no problem with Ion Science’s new production facility.

Ion Science is a successful UK based manufacturer of Photo-Ionisation Detectors (PID) for use in the detection of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) as part of an industrial or land reclamation project or for protecting worker safety. PIDs can either be fixed installations or portable body-worn devices.

The MiniPID is a simple plug-and-play sensor able to deliver a dynamic and dependable response to thousands of VOCs across many diverse applications. The MiniPID measures a broad range of VOCs and some inorganic compounds in the parts-per-million (ppm) to parts-per-billion (ppb) range.

At the heart of the detection device is the sensor PCB, a flexible circuit with small component sizes and highly populated areas with limited space for the component placement operation.

With the broad product range and configurability of the PIDs the Ion Science supplies, the company invested £4.5 million in the construction of a new facility in Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire to provide the capacity and flexibility to meet future requirements.

According to Duncan Johns, Managing Director at Ion Science, recent record sales and an annual growth rate of 30% mean that Ion Science had outgrown its previous facility which could no longer accommodate the company’s needs.

“The design, manufacturing, sales and administrative capabilities that we will be able to access at the new facility will allow Ion Science to progress to the next stage of its development,” he said.

New production technology

A key element of the new site is a new pick and place machine for the MiniPID PCB assembly process. Ion Science chose the Europlace iineo machine, which is well suited to the task.

Fully automated in process quality control and on-the-fly visual component checking ensure the correct value component is selected before placement onto the PCB. Component value testing is also integrated into the system with the in process Electronic Component Testing facility. This has enabled Ion Science to reduce any extra cost of rework due to operator errors and incorrect components being placed on the PCBs.

Optimisation of the component setup has increased component placement capacity from 2,500 CPH (components per hour) on the old system to 20,000 CPH which will allow faster assembly times. With its Smart component feed system, Ion Science can keep track of the component inventory levels for stock control.

Solder Paste and reflow

The Speed print in line solder paste printer is fully automated and has its own print inspection for check for solder bridging and solder coverage via an integrated 2D camera inspection system which has removed the risk of short and open circuits due to solder paste errors. Now, a PCB panel can be placed into the Speed Printer which then automatically aligns and positions it under the print screen. The previous system used a manual load and inspection method, which was vulnerable to user errors.

Accurate temperature profiling is critical for the PID PCB due to the flexibility and thickness of the material. A TSM reflow oven at Ion Science allows the operator to set the temperature profile to specific requirements to optimise the reflow temperature for each type of PID and the flexibility to change between PCBs without delays with improved soldering results and PCB reliability.

With the flexibility that the new equipment gives to Ion Science, the company is now better able to cope with the increased volume and product variation that it expects over the coming years.

Jonathan Newell

Jonathan Newell

Jonathan Newell is a graduate of Loughborough University and has three decades of experience in engineering as well as broadcast and technical journalism.
Jonathan Newell

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