Best Of AOI - 2011

Well I thought I might quickly add a little humour in amoungst some serious evaluations of a topic that many find justly confusing. What AOI should a company purchase? After having done late in 2011 a small shopping tour and having done the same AOI search back in late 2007 I thought perhaps someone might be interested to know that, "Yes, others find it confusing as well!" On to the awards...

Let's just jump right in with the Best Picture award. Here there is no doubt that for the human eye Mirtec comes up the winner. Yes, the new ISIS camera system takes beautiful pictures. With their own camera division we can expect some great new technology. Some of you may know that Mirtec has, late in 2011, unveilled their angled color system that I unfortuanatly have not yet seen in use. The award goes to the older but still new ISIS system. It is really amazing how fast things can change in this area of technology.

And in the area of CAD Import - Alias the award goes with ease to Göpel. Now this software in respect to alias file maintance and usage is sweet. Oh, ya! Leave the DOS window open that monitors component assignments and if you goof and make changes the software updates your Alias file. It just doesn't get any more perfect than that!

For Control of Analysis the award must go to Viscom. No I am not bias, they let me go! Or did I run back to home with my young family. Hotels are not much fun on a steady diet. Anyways, yes, super control coming along with Parameter Hell but who knows what we will be saying after V-Vision.

And the award for Best Sound goes to ORPRO Vision. It just makes me tingle. All those Xon Strobes igniting sequencially, it is just too much. They've been taking pictures for a long time.

This new award is called the Best Fault Recognition award. Again this award is evaluated with the human eye. Just had to go to Omron. Did you see the blue halo around that solder joint. Yep, can't miss it. I mean if the operator of the repair station should miss that one they are really asleep on the job.

The Best Docu or documentation also goes to Omron - Thomas. It baffles me to see the quality of documentation sold with AOI equipment. Most are just a rehash of the buttons you will find in the user interfaces without human readable descriptions of why and how you use them. Often the software teams native language is not English and the translations to English are poor. Such things happen in a time when we think the IT language is English! The only reason I can see that manufacturers produce such poor documentation is in order to sell their support packages or training courses and these can be costly. The best usable and readable documentation I have seen was the personal effort made by (Thomas) in the offices of ATEcare Service GmbH. Yes, ATE Care distributes Omron products here in Germany.

If the documentation doesn't cut it then you need training. The Training Award goes to ORPRO Vision. This award hangs largely on the instructor and if you are lucky enough to have Wolfgang for an instructor then your day will not be boring and you will learn something. My course was some time ago now.

But seriously now

There are so many factors I would concern myself with in choosing an AOI. Who will program it? Do I want to send them to school for 4 weeks? Am I aiming for 100% fault recognition? How fast must the inspection take place? Am I limited by budget? How quickly do I need support on site? Do I need good documentation? Must I be able to create programs offline? Can I optimate my programs parallel to the machine(s) normal operation. Do I have a wide range of data to import? The list goes on ...

What would Kevin purchase

The answer here is very simple, none! No I would not purchase unless I was adding machines to my production and happy with how the existing machines were functioning. Rent to own would be my choice. Now then, which to rent? Omron would be my choice. Here are my reasons why:

  1. Documentation: If I was to purchase an expensive AOI machine I personally need useful documentation. I like the "Learn by Doing" method but so many people do "Learn by Doing without Direction" and this is a terribly inefficient and frustrating method if your time is important to you.
  2. Learning Pad Geometry: Omron is supposedly the oldest player in AOI Technology. At my Omron demo one of the first steps in programming a printed circuit board is to automatically learn the pad geometry. This makes perfect sense but no others do this. If the pcb layout and production process is good enough pad analysis is an important part of my programming. I can spend hours with other machines fine tuning the inspection of pads?
  3. Color: I really thought years ago this angled color system must be a gimmick, toy, how can it be so simple. Now look at this closely, and it appears Mirtec has! Different colored lighting from different angles. Again, if you can get around the possible reflection problems and the camera and software can differentiate the colors, this also just makes sense.
  4. Offline Programming: I have often found myself rushed to create or optimise/change existing programs. I find it very useful to be able to work efficiently offline from the AOI.
  5. 3D: Another innovation I didn't have time for at last falls exhibition in Munich. Omron has started into production machines testing in 3D. This suggests to me that their R&D is alive and well.
Pic of Omron AOIOmron S720
I was asked and so I have answered. Omron may not be your best choice but with my background and curiosity in respect to AOI machines it would be my choice in 2012. I mention curiosity because I work currently with a Viscom system with only a single top camera.
I do not generally recommend systems with only a top camera to anyone that cannot control the layouts of the pcbs they need to test. Over the years I have however also found limits to angled view systems. With today's layouts and component packages 100% testing coverage of printed circuit boards will involve X-Ray machines as well. I am very curious about the rgb lighting that Omron and now Mirtec are using. For a very good start you can ask questions at ATEcare Service GmbH.


Kevin Tough