Improving Quality Control with SICK AG’s Holger Groksch and Koh Young Technology

SICK is one of the world’s leading solutions providers for sensor-based applications in the industrial sector. Founded in 1946 by Dr.-Ing. e. h. Erwin Sick, this company with headquarters in Waldkirch im Breisgau near Freiburg ranks among the technological market leaders. With more than 50 subsidiaries and equity investments as well as numerous agencies, SICK maintains a presence around the globe. SICK has close to 12,000 employees worldwide and generated a group revenue of around EUR 2.2 billion in the 2022 fiscal year.

From factory automation to logistics and process automation, SICK’s sensor solutions keep industry moving. As a technology and market leader, SICK provides sensor intelligence and application solutions that create the perfect basis for controlling processes securely and efficiently, protecting individuals from accidents, and preventing damage to the environment.

Holger Groksch is the Head of Manufacturing in the SMT department at SICK AG. He joined SICK in the last stage of their evaluation with Koh Young, when he made the final evaluation. SICK had already ruled out a lot of other suppliers, so when Holger came to the final phase there were just two suppliers to consider. They were close on technical issues, but performance was especially important. As Holger says, “it’s not just controlling quality, or the recognition of quality, it is about making the quality better at the machine itself.” 

Holger talked us through the evaluation process, saying that “Koh Young provided very high performance and support, especially the people coming from Korea to Europe to help us install KPO Printer, where we were one of the first facilities.” Holger underlined the importance of local support, adding that “Koh Young has very strong sales and service support here in Germany through SmartRep, and in Hungary, through Danutek. These two companies really have a high level of technology knowledge as well as technicians that speak the local language.” 

Multiple AOI on the SMT Line

SICK AG is using AOI before reflow, so they can easily make changes. They detect faults very early in the process, not after they are already gone through the oven. That way they can make corrections easily. Holger explains why they have the extra AOI on the line, adding, “the reason for the second AOI-Automated Optical Inspection in front of the oven is because we are using shields over our components and this way we don’t need to have X-ray inspection later on, which we can’t really make 100% inline. We check the components under this shield with the first AOI, then we cover the PCB and the components with the shield. Then we make the next Inspection to check the position of the shield and the rest of the components around it.”

Real Solutions, Real Results

“We have halved our failed parts at the end of the line, just by implementing Koh Young’s SPI – Solder Paste Inspection. This was a dramatic reduction, and we expect even more with the KPO (Koh Young Process Optimizer).” SICK AG is one of the first production sites in Europe to install KPO and Holger believes this could once again half the number of failing parts at the end of the line. These real yield improvements are both significant and achievable using the combination of new equipment and software.

Holger adds that, “We will have the possibility, at the pre-reflow AOI, to see what the solder paste looked like right before the oven. So, when you still have some faults at the end of the line, you can check where these faults are coming from. Is it the paste, the placement, or maybe the problem is occurring inside the oven? With this data, and images, it is easier to detect faults within the SMT line. We also take this information and use it to optimize printing, to optimize stencils, to optimize placing positions, etc. This is a huge amount of information that can be used to optimize our process.” What’s more, SICK AG can analyze whether they have the same issue with one component over many products or in just one product. 

Ease of Use Drive Consistency and Greater Efficiency

SICK AG has taken an offline approach to the programming process and of the management of their inspection machine. From a single location a team of two can see every machine on the shop floor and manage and evaluate ‘calls’ as they occur. And while they are not supporting live issues, they can manage the wide variety of boards that flow down the SICK AG lines.

As the programming team explains, “The interface itself is very easy to follow. It prompts us for particular steps, and we know exactly what it’s asking of us. So, the complication is already taken away because of the very clear instructions.” Adding, “Normally it takes about 20 to 25 minutes to program, so it’s pretty fast, much easier, and faster than previously. One of the programmers said, “I prefer using it because I can see a 3D reconstruction and it’s clearer.” 

The remote access at SICK AG goes one step further than the seven lines in the factory. As the team says, “we have the possibility to remotely access each line, which is, of course, very convenient for us. I can sit here and find out what’s going on in all the other machines.”

The team in Germany can remotely access facilities and machines in other geographies, like the SICK facility in Hungary, making the use of talent over a global footprint even more efficient.

Holger concludes, “It’s an improvement of the job of these operators not to run from each line to the other, not to check everything. They can really make the decision from one place for every one of our seven lines, with every SPI (Solder Paste Inspection) and AOI (Automated Optical Inspection). And if for some reason you still have a lack of people who are making the evaluation, you can give the workers the possibility of working from home. They only need to have a PC and we can also tell our production site in Hungary to switch on our system and put somebody there on as another worker who is helping us. You can also make this interconnection between two companies or between two facilities.”

Plenty Achieved, More to Come

Overall, SICK AG has installed Koh Young SPI systems on seven SMT lines in around 18 months. They have around 1,500 unique PCBs running, all with two sides to program. In simple terms that meant they needed to create 3,000 SPI programs. As Holger explains, they started with their high-volume products, using stencil data from their suppliers to make the programs. He went on to say, “We have the same issue with the post-reflow AOI, where we also need 3,000 different programs, and that’s the reason we have increased the staff here.”

The partnership between SICK AG and Koh Young is already driving real value. Higher yields, less waste, more data and great efficiency on the shop floor as fewer programmers and operators achieve more. But there is so much more to come with the installation of software solutions from Koh Young that will provide further enhancements and efficiencies. This is yet another example of how these collaborations or strategic partnerships really drive a process, a line, a site, and a whole manufacturing ecosystem forward.

SICK AG makes sensors that enable digital transformation in the real world for numerous customers in numerous use cases. They are a leader in their field and in the application of the data their sensors collect. It makes sense that they would select an inspection partner that can deliver the same level of game-changing technology to their manufacturing that they deliver to their own customers!

You can learn more about SICK AG at SICK Website SICK AG has Koh Young SPI, AOI and software solutions, product details are available at Koh Young Website.