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Bring your mission-critical programming in-house for less than the cost of outsourcing AND maintain control of your IP

Bring your mission-critical programming in-house for less than the cost of outsourcing AND maintain control of your IP

From a time, cost and personnel perspective, it’s easier than you think

Moore’s law1Moore’s law is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles about every two years (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_law) states integrated circuits double in both speed and number of circuits roughly every two years. As programmable devices become smaller, denser, and more complex, most machines that program those devices have become more expensive, and require experienced technicians to operate, maintain and troubleshoot.

The downside to outsourcing programming are legion: added cost, minimum orders, long lead time, and reprogramming or scrap when data files change. Another danger is protecting your intellectual property. Once your source code leaves the vault in your factory, it is vulnerable to theft 2This is not a concern if you’re using a reputable programming house in your home country or region. If your source code crosses a border, you’re putting your company at risk. Due to current market conditions, companies are increasingly concerned about interruptions in the supply chain, especially for components sourced from Asia.

Until recently, it wasn’t feasible for most Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) with significant programmed device requirements 3A good ball-park for an automated programmer is in excess of 50K devices per month. to justify the cost of bringing programming in-house. Automated Programming Systems (APS) were expensive and complex to set-up, run and maintain. That’s when BPM changed the game.

A short history lesson

BPM Microsystems started making EPROM programmers in the mid-80s. BPM’s Founder Bill White was a student at Rice University, working on his degree in Electrical Engineering. He needed a way to get his code on a read-only chip, and discovered there just wasn’t a good way to do it. So, he built his own programmer. While he was still living in the dorm, he started selling his programmer, the EP-1, by mail order, and BPM Microsystems was born. BPM has a history of simple-to-operate, reliable systems that deliver the industry’s best results.

BPM launched its first automated programmer in the mid-90s: the BPM 4100 was the only universal fine-pitch automated pick-and-place programming system. Compared to today’s machines, it was slower and more difficult to set up (and operated in DOS). Compared to the single-purpose machines of that day, the 4100 revolutionized device programming by combining universal programming technology with universal fine-pitch handling capability.

Holy Grail of Device Programming

The “holy grail” of consistent automated programming results is the Z-axis teach. There are three axes on an automated handler: X, Y, and Z 4Theta is the 4th “axis” which determines the precise orientation of the device (rotation). X (horizontal) and Y (vertical) are easy; a downward camera with a bomb site allows for precise placement on the center of a device. The Z (up/down) is, by far, the most difficult and the most important. Both the pick and place locations, if off by less than the width of a human hair, can cause major problems. Manually-adjusted z-teach can go badly two ways: pick (or place) too high can cause misalignment of the device; place (or pick) too low, where the nozzle comes in contact with the device, can cause micro-cracks. Devices with micro-cracks usually pass the initial test (green light), but can oxidize the sensitive metal film causing devices to fail in the field.

BPM is the first to solve the Z-axis conundrum with a patent-pending solution called WhisperTeach. It utilizes hardware and software to turn the device nozzle into a sensor. Without coming in contact with the device, the automated system detects the height of the device to within 15 microns (4 times finer than a human hair) and automatically completes the “teach” in less than 8 seconds. A trained technician, although not as accurate as WhisperTeach, can teach a single location in about a minute. On a single job set-up, the difference in time is dramatic: WhisperTeach set-up is usually around 5 minutes; manual teach can take up to 45 minutes to an hour. When you add the loss of productivity to the reduction in precision, things can quickly get dicey. Regardless of which programmer, pick-and-place systems are incredibly repeatable: if the teach is off by a little, the pick/place will be consistently off as well.

WhisperTeach is available on all BPM automated systems, not just on its high-end systems.

Bringing it Home

Since about 2010, the strongest market segment for Automated Programmers has been Automotive suppliers. Automotive suppliers have an ever-increasing need for programming as cars become more complex and technology-driven. They also often require 3D inspection and laser marking to ensure consistent quality and to track inventory. Big projects, with millions of programmed devices, make device programming in-house a no-brainer.

Smaller OEMs, while perhaps having many of the same needs as the Automotive guys, were constrained by limited resources. As their programming needs outgrew their ability to produce on manual systems, the only option was to outsource to the programming houses or ship their component manufacturing off-shore.

Then came the perfect storm of 2019: a crippling trade war, followed by a growing pandemic.

OEMs recognize the risk in outsourcing critical components, such as programmed devices, to off-shore suppliers. They are looking more closely at options that reduce their reliance on forces beyond their control in a way that reduces costs and speeds go-to-market.

BPM has a history of innovation; they also have a reputation as the “luxury brand” in device programming– feature-rich, and pricy, especially when compared to low-cost Asian machines. That changed with the launch of the 3901, the lowest cost full-featured automated system with vision centering 5Precisely center the device (even if the operator is slightly off) and affect the theta spin while traveling to the site location, which delivers incredibly precise placement without the need to slow down and true universal support 6Only BPM has the same site technology, same software, same sockets and algorithms in all of their 9th Generation programmers. With over 35,000 supported devices, including the most difficult and mission-critical, no one in the industry comes close.. The 3901 starts at under $90,000 with a maximum configuration of 16 device sockets7Sockets are specific to the device they program and act as the bridge between the device and the programmer.

Within 10 days of the 3901 launch in October of 2019, the first machine sold to a telecommunications OEM in the Northeast US. The second soon sold to a Midwest heavy equipment manufacturer. Both companies needed an affordable system that can supply their catalog of programmed devices to their lines. The 3901 quickly became the fastest-selling automated system in BPM’s 35-year history. Equipment manufacturers, especially those in North America and Europe/Middle East, finally have a lower-cost option for their device programming needs without sacrificing quality and capability.

With the launch of the seven-site 3928 in November 2019, companies have access to automotive-level quality (available 3D inspection) with up to 28 sockets in a fully-loaded system that starts at just under $110,000.

Hot buttons for OEMs

  • Faster time to market– go from prototype to production in weeks, not months.
  • Expand vertical manufacturing capability
  • React to design changes quickly– tweaks in code can be updated to the workflow in just a few minutes
  • Intellectual Property physically protected from theft 8This is one of the reasons BPM has maintained a technology advantage over their competitors. The “secret sauce” source code stays locked at BPM’s campus in Houston, Texas USA, where they still build all of their systems.
  • Don’t have to shut down the line due to supply chain issues with programmed devices
  • Device programming is easier than ever before; Installed and operational in less than one week
  • Manual programmers can provide 10s of thousands of devices per year; when demand exceeds manual capacity, it’s easy to migrate to an automated system (same sockets, software, no need to redo first article, etc.)
  • One high-speed universal platform can support millions of devices per year, at an incredibly low cost per device
  • As demand increases, it’s easy to add additional sites for more capacity. If additional capacity is needed, add additional shifts without needing highly skilled technicians
  • Lower cost solutions (3901, 3928) provide the greatest value in the industry. ROI in months, not years.

Conclusion

You can’t control world events– what you can do is provide your manufacturing team with an uninterrupted supply of high-quality, low cost programmed devices. To find out more about how BPM is changing device programming for OEMs, please call us at +1 (713) 263-3776, or Toll-Free in the US: (855) SELL BPM. Ask us about the industry’s only self-installation for APS that’s fast, easy, and free.

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3D Printing Allows Rapid Development, Lower Cost, Just-In-Time Inventory

3D Printing Allows Rapid Development, Lower Cost, Just-In-Time Inventory

3D Printing Allows Rapid Development, Lower Cost, Just-In-Time Inventory

We recently launched a variant product primarily due to 3D printing

BPM Microsystems manufactures device programmers (like copiers for microchips). Our mid-sized automated programmer, the 3910, can be configured with up to 4 of our programming sites, each of which can program up to 4 devices concurrently. The housing for the sites is a fabricated metal “cage”, which doesn’t allow for any custom configuration.

Enter the 3D printer…

Our engineering and production teams experimented with 3D printing individual site chassis. They were able to rapidly iterate different prototypes (rapid as in overnight compared to 5-8 weeks); final pieces were printed in carbon fiber filament.

“I’m moving BPM’s manufacturing and rapid prototyping into 3D printing because it’s so fast and flexible,” says Jon Bondurant, Vice President of Operations at BPM.  “The reduced turnaround times allow for fast iteration of continuous improvement cycles. 3D printing creates very little waste and uses recyclable materials making it a sustainable approach for replacing wasteful traditional manufacturing processes.”

3D printing enabled an existing platform to increase possible sites from 4 to 7 (a 75% increase in capacity) while reducing the cost of the site chassis from hundreds of dollars to a little over $10 in materials. Site chassis no longer need to be ordered in advance or pulled from existing inventory; they can be printed on-demand when the order comes in. We are looking into expanding into other areas, such as sockets and other parts that we previously machined on our CNC.

To see the 3928 go to bpmmicro.com/3928-7-site-aps/

What is the Best Way to Get Devices Programmed?

What is the Best Way to Get Devices Programmed?

What is the Best Way to Get Devices Programmed?

There are lots of ways to get your data on devices, and there’s not one way that is always better than another. Options that are available today:

• In-House Off-Line Programming
• Program at ICT (in-circuit test)
• Program with In-System Programming (ISP) at Functional Test
• In-Line at Surface-Mount Technology (SMT) stage
• Program at Final Assembly
• Outsource to Programming Center

So which programming method is best in your specific application?

Automotive Programming by Volume of Devices 9The charts in this article are based on feedback from BPM Microsystem’s automotive customers

Just as an example, automotive OEMs use a variety of methods to get the job done. There’s an advantage to programming at the In-Circuit Test (ICT) where all of the components are already soldered on the board. By doing programming and testing in one step, you can combine several steps and save a lot of time. This only works when the programming time is less than a few seconds; if not, you could end up with a huge bottleneck, and in the event of an error you likely have to scrap the whole board or remove and re-solder the bad device and do it all again.


Consider this: the majority of devices programmed for automotive applications are done off-line (50%). Both in-house off-line and outsourcing to a programming house are programmed on the same equipment using off-line automated programming systems, such as BPM’s 4910.

Take a look at what happens when programming times go way up…


This chart factors in data density. When programming times are in excess of the beat rate Beat Rate is the total throughput on an SMT line on the SMT line, off-line programming accounts for 80% (in-house off-line + outsourced at programming house). As data density, device complexity and the number of devices in each car continue to increase, the need to reduce the cost of programming will be amplified like never before. In-system, in-circuit and In-line programming become less cost- and time-effective.

With off-line programming, the output can pace with the production line by adding shifts and/or adding machines in combination with strategic outsourcing. In-house off-line programming will continue to grow by providing unmatched efficiencies, producing a lower cost per device, and drastically lowering the lead-times necessary when you out-source. In addition, the software can be updated more frequently, allowing the line to have the latest revision of the source code. And from an intellectual property (IP) perspective, keeping your source code in-house makes your intellectual investment more secure from theft.10 IP Theft: See 2018 Bloomberg article

This is where we can help. BPM’s team can collect the specifications for your project and do a thorough analysis (benchmarks, ROI) and give recommendations. We’ll guide you to ask the right questions. We’re not always the best option, and if that’s the case, we’ll let you know. When you factor quality, ease-of-use, throughput, cost-per-device and long shelf-life (some of our machines are still producing after 10+ years), BPM should be part of the conversation.


Definitions:

Off-line programming is the process of programming the device (either by a manual or automated process) prior to SMT or manual soldering the device to the board.

Surface-mount technology (SMT) is a method for producing electronic circuits in which the components are mounted or placed directly onto the surface of printed circuit boards (PCBs). An electronic device so made is called a surface-mount device (SMD).

In-system programming (ISP), also called in-circuit serial programming (ICSP), is the ability of devices to be programmed while installed in a complete system. The primary advantage of this feature is that it allows manufacturers of electronic devices to integrate programming and testing into a single production phase, and save money, rather than requiring a separate programming stage prior to assembling the system.

Top 6 Reasons you should bring your programming In-house

Top 6 Reasons you should bring your programming In-house

If you are currently outsourcing your device programming, here’s 6 reasons you may want to reconsider (and if you’re already programming in-house, here are 6 reasons to feel good)

6. Security

It may sound simple, but just having your program in your facility is a major deterrent to intellectual theft. You control access, and with our suite of tools that all work together, you have control over the entire process— from the first article to production.

5. Advanced Cybersecurity

BPM offers flexible security solutions for serialization, encryption, key handling, and user control requirements. BPM Microsystems Software Engineering team can provide professional services to consult, scope and quote a complete cybersecurity solution.

4. Easy Software

Use BPWin to set up and run your jobs, using our ever-growing collection of features and algorithms. The user-friendly interface helps you set up, run and save your programming jobs with ease. Factory integration through the BPWin API streamlines production processes.

3. WhisperTeach™

The winner of the 2019 NPI Award for Production Software. BPM’s advanced patent-pending Auto-Z teach technology eliminates the need for a highly skilled operator to set critical Z-height for pick-and-place functions. WhisperTeach™ offers faster set up times and improved yields!  WhisperTeach™ eliminates common Z-height errors such as miss picks, miss place, and socket continuity flaws.

2. “One Programmer to Rule Them All”

BPM’s 9th Generation universal programmer offers the fastest flash programming times as well as the widest universal device coverage all in a single programming site. BPM allows customers to efficiently program first articles, offering manual and automated production using the same algorithms and sockets across the entire line— saving both time and money.

1. Service Excellence Award

The  Service Excellence Awards recognize companies that received the highest customer service ratings, as judged by their own customers. Customers of participating companies rated each company in five service categories including dependability, quality, responsiveness, technology and value for the price. BPM Microsystems ranked first place across device programming equipment providers. What does that mean to you? You can count on BPM to take care of you, literally for years to come.