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FOSDEM 2024 Electronic boards production automation with KiCAD scripts

The PCB production is boring routine work, but if you do not do it properly it can easily turn into a nightmare. The different machines used in production like printers, pick and place machines, ovens, AOI, testers all run different software, different libraries, different component naming concepts. So to prepare from your Cad project all programs to run on these machines is really time consuming. Later on the machine jobs changeovers there are also source of machine operator errors. KiCad as open source project has increadible flexibility to extend your needed functionality. We did reverse engineering of our machines programming and made script which generate all production files with single click from KiCad and I will share with you our experience.

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FOSDEM, 2024
Bruxelles, February 4th
Electronic boards
production automation with
KiCad
$whoami
Tsvetan Usunov === OLIMEX Ltd
www.olimex.com
OLIMEX company is dealing with electronic design and
production more than 30 years.
1000+ originally designed products, most of them OSHW.
All OLIMEX products are manufactured in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Design process
Designing electronic boards
involves creativity,
problem-solving, engaging
your intellect, and provides
incredible satisfaction in
return.
Production process
The later mass production
process is characterized by its
boring, repetitive, non-creative,
and monotonous nature.
Nevertheless its very important
as if not done properly it can
easily turn into a nightmarish
experience.
Why do we bother to produce?
Because, regrettably, it remains
the most dependable means to
cover our bills, provide for our
families, and recoup something
from our designs and creative
efforts.
With 1000+ products to manage and produce
and no obsolescence it’s real challenge.
What could possible go wrong?
Component supply related problems:
●
Differences between component from different lots;
●
Different orientation inside the reel tape for same component from
different vendors;
●
Different component marking;
●
Component packaging variations;
●
Fake components;

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FOSDEM 2024 Electronic boards production automation with KiCAD scripts

  • 1. FOSDEM, 2024 Bruxelles, February 4th Electronic boards production automation with KiCad
  • 2. $whoami Tsvetan Usunov === OLIMEX Ltd www.olimex.com OLIMEX company is dealing with electronic design and production more than 30 years. 1000+ originally designed products, most of them OSHW. All OLIMEX products are manufactured in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
  • 3. Design process Designing electronic boards involves creativity, problem-solving, engaging your intellect, and provides incredible satisfaction in return.
  • 4. Production process The later mass production process is characterized by its boring, repetitive, non-creative, and monotonous nature. Nevertheless its very important as if not done properly it can easily turn into a nightmarish experience.
  • 5. Why do we bother to produce? Because, regrettably, it remains the most dependable means to cover our bills, provide for our families, and recoup something from our designs and creative efforts. With 1000+ products to manage and produce and no obsolescence it’s real challenge.
  • 6. What could possible go wrong? Component supply related problems: ● Differences between component from different lots; ● Different orientation inside the reel tape for same component from different vendors; ● Different component marking; ● Component packaging variations; ● Fake components;
  • 7. What could possible go wrong? Operator Mistakes: Humans are not infallible like machines. Fatigue, distraction, and varying health conditions can contribute to errors. Operator performance may decline in the late afternoon due to tiredness and reduced eyesight, compared to the morning when they are fresh and energetic. Operators may experience temporary health problems that could affect their concentration and performance. Problems at home or personal issues may distract operators, impacting their ability to focus on their tasks. It’s easily to load wrong reel on the machine and to have thousands of PCBs for repair.
  • 8. To be competitive in production There are two major problems to be solved: 1. Once the design is complete how fast the machine programs and setup are to be generated from the CAD files. 2. Once the production is setup, how fast and error free machine are setup for production (changeovers)
  • 9. The typical production flow The typical production flow is like this: Component Kitting → Solder paste Printer → Inspection → SMT Placer → Inspection → Oven → Inspection → PTH → Inspection → Test
  • 10. The First challenge: Machine initial Programming The various machines used in production, such as printers, pick-and-place machines, ovens, AOI, and testers, all operate on different software. This software is created by various companies, each with its own ideas, libraries, and component naming concepts. Adding to this complexity, our ERP system manages over 3000 components in stock, and we also incorporate KiCad libraries Preparing programs to run on all these machines is a time-consuming task. In the past, it used to take us days to prepare programs for complex boards with hundreds of components and to verify them on the production line.
  • 11. The Second challenge: error free PCB changeovers Managing the frequent changes in PCB jobs on the assembly lines, given the multitude of products, poses a significant challenge. Loading tens of feeders without errors becomes a challenging task as human errors are inevitable. Finding ways to minimize operator errors is essential.
  • 12. Continual improvement of the process With over 30 years of experience in electronic production, we are consistently striving to enhance our processes to prevent avoidable mistakes and to streamline the programming of various machines, making it a more straightforward and predictable process.
  • 13. The tools The sole solution we discovered involves computer assistance and control, where humans interact with machines at every step. We have implemented KiCad scripts as a vital part of our process, effectively addressing both challenges of faster machine programming and error-free changeovers.
  • 14. KiCad KiCad provides complete openness, allowing us access to every parameter of the PCB, each component and its properties, and every PCB element to extract the necessary information. While attempting to achieve similar results with Eagle legacy boards using ULP scripts, we encountered some success, but the freedom and flexibility are not comparable.
  • 15. The machines reverse engineering In our production, we utilize machines from various vendors, including Samsung, Sony, Omron, Autotech, MPM, and ETA. To automatically generate programs for these machines, we had to reverse engineering their file formats. While this is still a work in progress, significant progress have been made and I will demonstrate with the next slides.
  • 16. It all starts from the CAD Olimex plugin
  • 17. Olimex production export PCB orientation What info to use What to export
  • 19. Import JSON in our ERP match Data tabs
  • 22. The result Native Samsung program file ready to be loaded to the machine
  • 24. The recap The productivity increase from CAD to Machine program by using these scripts is multiply times. Additional benefit is to not use the machine time for programming. With the changeovers there is no remarkable speed up, but significant reduction of the errors due to operator mistakes.
  • 25. Questions? Follow us: Web www.olimex.com Wordpress https://olimex.wordpress.com/ Twitter https://twitter.com/Olimex Facebook https://www.facebook.com/OLINUXINO Mastodon https://mastodon.social/@olimex