With Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) evolving from crude manual manufacturing processes to sophisticated high-density interconnect (HDI) and flexible boards, Rush PCB has matched the changeover by adapting to highly automated production processes for manufacturing and assembly. With further development of manufacturing technology, it is becoming increasingly more complex and sophisticated, and Rush PCB is now looking at capitalizing on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to optimize not only its production processes, but also its entire manufacturing facility.
Earlier, PCB manufacturing typically relied on experts with long experience, who had intimate knowledge and understanding of every aspect of the manufacturing process. By leveraging their knowledge, the experts would optimize production techniques and improve the yield. However, human limitations such as error and fatigue would often affect their accomplishments, leading to false alarms generated by operator errors, and or their mistaken identification of defects. Often, this led to over-handling, leading to reducing of yield.
Rush PCB has successfully overcome the above by integrating AI into their manufacturing processes. By incorporating modern machines that add value by taking over the learned tasks, human experts are now free to take over more complex tasks that require intelligence, thought, and interaction, such as optimizing and training the AI system. This combination of human and artificial intelligence is significantly improving the overall efficiency of manufacturing operations.
Importance of Industry 4.0
Rush PCB recognizes that a fully integrated Industry 4.0 system is the future of any PCB manufacturing. We envisage the integration to work at both local manufacturing and at all levels across the company, rather than at individual manufacturing process levels alone. With the information exchange infrastructure and automation levels that Industry 4.0 provides, it is possible to ensure analysis of production at real-time, two-way communication and information sharing, on-demand information analysis, and traceability.
Industry 4.0 mechanisms such as two-way communication and traceability ensure collection of information from various manufacturing machines and systems. This not only helps improve all manufacturing processes, but Rush PCB benefits as a company. AI helps to analyze huge amounts of system-wide information for optimizing factory set up parameters, thereby achieving higher levels of productivity and yield. Artificial neural networks of the AI system help with ongoing self-learning, helping to create fully automated factories.
Implementation of Industry 4.0 and AI
Implementation of Industry 4.0 and AI requires complete connectivity of all factory systems, with AI acting as the monitoring and the decision-making mechanism. At present, Rush PCB must overcome several technical challenges limiting the complete automation of their factories, and therefore, we are adding AI to individual systems.
We have incorporated AI initially to our automated optical inspection stations, and this has resulted in more reliable detection of true defects in PCBs. By moving our production facilities completely towards AI integration, Rush PCB is looking at tremendous benefits of a feedback loop that will identify an issue, locate its source, and automatically revise the factory process for eliminating the related defect.
In the future, Rush PCB intends to go further with machine learning and deep learning—our goal of moving PCB manufacturing to full automation levels. We plan to use computers with machine learning algorithms to improve task performance with data collection, past learning experiences, but without recourse to programming to do so.
Machine learning offers several advantages for PCB manufacturing. Not only does machine learning increase the yield, it also improves fabrication processes and operations, while reducing manual operations to a minimum. Implemented on a factory level, Rush PCB expects machine learning to help with efficient handling of supply chain, inventory, and factory assets.
To further improve our global factory systems, Rush PCB has plans to implement deep learning to take AI to more complex levels. From the data collected from various equipment and systems, we plan to let software expert systems to effectively learn from informed representations of insights, patterns, and contexts for helping automated the process improvements for PCB manufacturing.
Advantages of Industry 4.0 and AI
Industry 4.0 uses various sensors to send data from equipment and systems. AI helps to process this data coming from PCB manufacturing processes, all the while tracking process parameters down to the lowest levels, such as etching, resist development, and concentration of different chemicals in the manufacturing process.
Ai, along with machine learning and deep learning, analyzes the data and decides on the optimization of the manufacturing methods and parameters. The algorithms identify patterns, and make informed decision on necessary changes in the processes, thereby helping Rush PCB eliminate human error.