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Modern Automated Programming Systems (APS) are expected to handle hundreds of different packages while maintaining high uptime, high first-pass-yield and near 100% quality.  At the same time, package proliferation, the trend towards shrinking devices and the need to set up multiple jobs per shift has placed more emphasis on the need for skilled operators to set-up and teach new jobs.

In many markets, job lot sizes can be relatively small, from a few hundred to a few thousand devices.  Programming times vary based on file sizes and impact the effective production rate of the APS.  With typical production run-rates of 1,000 devices per hour, it is easy to see that efficient job set-up is critical to machine utilization and real production output per shift. Small chip-scale packages and device pitch as small as 0.35mm push the capability of many APS solutions and make job setup challenging, even for skilled operators. If pick and place teach locations are incorrect, highly repeatable automated machines will effectively reproduce those human-induced teach errors, leading to quality issues or defects. Latent failures are particularly important to all manufacturers because it diminishes the reliability and value of end products, leading to even more severe failures and higher support costs downstream.

Using teaching methods where the operator has to manually pick and place devices for each socket teach location, then guide the automated machine to manually teach the critical z-height of the device in-socket through human observation is cumbersome, time-consuming and potentially inaccurate.  Job set-ups using this traditional manual process can take 30 minutes to an hour or more when socket count is high, decreasing valuable production time. The solution is to use automated self-teaching for each job.

A Better Set-Up Process

With fully-automated self-teaching, operator involvement in the job set-up process is greatly reduced. The initial job set-up of input/out locations and peripherals is familiar. Blank devices in media (tape, tray, tube) are loaded and Input/Output peripheral locations are taught.  From that point, the process becomes radically different and more productive. The operator simply places a blank device in Site1, Socket A and executes a command to begin the auto-teaching process. This is the only time the operator is required to manually place a device in-socket. Next, the pick head moves to the initial Socket A location. The nozzle then moves down and automatically detects the top of the device in the socket, accurate to within 15 microns.  Now that the initial device and z-height have been taught, the machine subsequently picks devices from the input location and teaches sockets and sites “1-n” respectively. As each site is taught, the programming operation begins immediately without operator intervention until the APS is at full production capacity. In effect, the operator places one device in-socket, pushes a button and the machine teaches and begins the programming job, in parallel. The operator is then available to complete other important duties such as staging, logistics, and planning. System self-teaching is a clearly superior approach to automated device programming.

Fully-automated Teach saves time and ensures quality

The positive financial impact of self-teaching can be substantial.  Saving 15 minutes or more per job is quite feasible and even understated for systems with dozens of programming sockets.  From the table below, you can see that for a factory with 3 shifts and 3 job setups per shift, saving as little as 15 minutes per setup can make an impact in terms of both hourly savings and additional production capacity.   In our example, that equates to over $33,750 USD and 563 hours of gained productivity annually.  Assuming 1,000 DPH as a typical production run-rate, the operation can produce additional 563,000 devices per year. The financial impact over a five-year amortization schedule really clarifies the value of self-teaching; with the potential to generate $168,750 USD.


Modern automated programming operations are expected to achieve high equipment utilization, near-perfect quality, and the lowest possible programming cost per device.  Implementing self-teaching into the automated programming process should be considered as a game-changing solution to improve each of these important metrics.

Self-Teaching – by the Numbers

New job teaches per shift 1 2 3 4
Working days per year 250 250 250 250
Shifts 3 3 3 3
Factory burden rate per hour $60.00 $60.00 $60.00 $60.00
Hours saved per setup 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.25
Hours saved annually 188 375 563 750
Annual savings $11,250 $22,500 $33,750 $45,000
Job Changes per Shift
Amortization Years: 5 Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4
Shift 1 $18,750.00 $37,500.00 $56,250.00 $75,000.00
Shift 2 $37,500.00 $75,000.00 $112,500.00 $150,000.00
Shift 3 $56,250.00 $112,500.00 $168,750.00 $225,000.00
Shift 4 $75,000.00 $150,000.00 $225,000.00 $300,000.00
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