All-digital system interlinking at Prettl Electronics GmbH – THT assembly with worker assistance system.

1. Digital production at Prettl Electronics

Prettl Electronics GmbH is a global manufacturing service provider. The multinational company with six locations is constantly working to develop and improve its production technologies - including at its site in Radeberg, Dresden.

At this location, the electronics manufacturer produces individual electronic components for nine different industries: from medical and railroad technology to automotive and aviation.

 

 

A significant step towards innovation was taken in 2020 with the integration of the worker assistance system Smart Klaus within manual PCB production.

Since the introduction of the first worker assistance system three years ago, the number of operational systems for PCB assembly has increased to a total of 13 stations. Today, Smart Klaus is essential for PCB production at Prettl Electronics.

The integration has not only changed the manual assembly of PCBs, but also marks the beginning of a comprehensive digital transformation in the manufacturing process at Prettl Electronics.

By digitizing the line with Smart Klaus, it has become leaner and planning has become easier. Tracking is always available, logistics are improved and unproductive and annoying long routes are eliminated.

– Albrecht Decker, PCB assembler and system supervisor

The effects of implementing Smart Klaus:

  • Streamlined production lines
  • More efficient processes
  • Optimized logistics
  • Less workload for employees
  • Reduction in the shortage of skilled workers
  • Unprecedented traceability of products with 100% traceability.

2. Smart system interlinking for an efficient PCB process

Six of these SK systems are connected to the line control and the production system. This enables transparent, full automation with regard to order booking, transport and wave soldering. In this digital interlinking form, Smart Klaus supports the entire assembly process.

All that was required for the new PCB assembly workstations was an LED lamp, a display and touch monitor plus the high-performance PC with the SK software. Pan-tilt cameras and projectors were added to the workstations for additional precision.

As the worker assistance system can be easily integrated into existing workstations thanks to its modular design, the expansion of the system interlinking was very easy. These manual workstations can be expanded and connected with additional infrastructure at any time.

The fully digitized PCB assembly process proceeds as follows:

  • The employee starts the process by scanning the order accompanying document.
  • Smart Klaus identifies the product and starts the associated workflow. The employees are guided step by step through the PCB process.
  • After successful assembly, the circuit boards are sent on their way to the wave soldering system via a conveyor belt at the push of a button. 
  • The solder frames are equipped with RFID tags, enabling the production control system to track exactly which products were manufactured at which station.
  • After wave soldering, they are automatically transported back to the same station.
  • Thanks to the RFID technology, the PCBs always find their way to the correct Smart Klaus system.
  • Finally, the soldered circuit boards are removed from the soldering frame and stored for further processing.
  • The now empty solder frames are filled directly with new products and the process of error-free assembly with the Smart Klaus starts all over again.

This automated process ensures very efficient assembly, soldering and transportation of the PCBs - from start to finish. The permanent quality inspection of the worker assistance system and 100% traceability ensure the quality of the PCBs.

Since we implemented Smart Klaus, the amount of rework has been significantly reduced. There are scarcely any errors. Series errors are no longer occurring.

–  Janett Winkler, work preparation

I can even assign an unskilled employee to the task and the system is completely self-explanatory. He can work on it all day without making a single mistake.

– Janett Winkler, Work Preparation

3. Successful assembly and reduced shortage of skilled workers

In Radeberg, Smart Klaus creates new perspectives that allow employees to work efficiently and productively despite the ongoing shortage of skilled workers on the labor market. With the help of the user-friendly explanations and interactive instructions of the worker assistance system, even employees with different qualifications can work effectively and error-free.

At Prettl Electronics, all digital data is collected by the worker assistance system and stored centrally. Only through this digitalization 100% traceability is possible. As a result, production processes can be continuously optimized and errors or problems (should they occur) can be rectified and avoided more easily in the future.

In the interview, Mr. Decker explains the enormous time saving that results from this, as the processes and data are now automatically recorded and prepared digitally. "This saves a lot of manual work in logging, but also routes through the plant".

 

Are you also looking for a success story with 0 PPM?

Contact our experts now for non-binding consultation or request a feasibility check right away!

4. Add-ons for maximum efficiency: pan-tilt camera and projector

The workstations were equipped with two innovative module extensions, which are optimized for high-precision work in THT assembly: The projector and the pan-tilt camera, which have been available since 2023.

These add-ons are designed to make work processes easier, particularly in through-hole assembly, which involves high-precision tasks and a wide range of variants.

The projector marks the current work step or errors directly on the PCBs. The augmented reality projection on the product shows exactly where and how the components need to be placed. In addition, several notes/instructions can be projected simultaneously, enabling faster and parallel workflows. Instructions in the form of images, videos or drawings on the control monitor provide additional clarity and comprehensibility.

The pan-tilt camera plays a central role in the inspection of small components and the automatic reading of lasered matrix codes in PCB assembly. This is particularly important for differentiating between THT and SMT components.

Thanks to the accuracy of the camera, even polarity or misalignment errors are detected and avoided before soldering.

With its automatic focus and control along two axes, the Pan-Tilt is able to capture even the smallest components on large PCBs. This makes the employees' work easier and the assembly process remains smooth and uninterrupted.

5. "Recipe creation": multi-purpose and offline function

How does the technical configuration work, enabling the system to guarantee the quality of PCB assembly?

 

Before the actual assembly process, the "recipe creation" takes place, which describes the process of pre-configuration.

When creating the recipe, all steps and characteristics are defined that are later checked during assembly. The relevant parameters are determined.

In the same step, suitable images and videos can be uploaded, which later serve as visual instructions for assembly. These visual aids are crucial for providing employees with clear and precise instructions during the assembly process.

Remark: In the video the term "programming" is used. Recipe creation does not require any specific programming knowledge and is not related to conventional software coding.

The multiple use function provides a clear benefit in this regard. This allows taught-in data from one board to be applied to several nests. Instead of configuring each assembly separately, instructions can be transferred to several assemblies. This leads to considerable time savings and significantly reduces the configuration effort, says Albrecht Decker, who is responsible for the system.

A recipe can be created either online, i.e. in real time and directly on the line, or offline, away from the actual production facility. The configuration can be carried out at an office workstation with the corresponding image material and then distributed to the workstations via the network. It is therefore independent of time and location.

Once a recipe has been created, it can simply be transferred to the relevant worker assistance systems. New assemblies can start production immediately with the created recipe and changes are immediately valid.

The function saves an enormous amount of time, as only one assembly has to be programmed and the SK then transfers this to others.

– Albrecht Decker, PCB assembler and system supervisor

6. Prospects for the future: Maximized quality with IO module

Prettl Electronics is planning to further integrate automated processes in production in the near future.

An example planned is the active use of the IO module.

This looks as follows: Once the assembly of a PCB is complete and has been checked for IO by the system, the board is interlocked. 

This automation ensures that PCBs are delivered to soldering without errors. This means that only tested and error-free assemblies reach the next production stage and 100% inspection is possible.

This standardized process ensures compliance with high quality standards and increases safety and reliability throughout the entire production process. Another aspect is the resources saved by avoiding rejects. The worker assistance system thus supports Prettl in its GoZero project to achieve CO₂ neutrality.

Conclusion

Prettl Electronics embraces digitalization. The electronics manufacturer uses Smart Klaus to take production to a new level. The implementation of the 13 worker assistance systems has led to leaner production lines, meticulous quality assurance and unmatched traceability.

Thanks to the fully digital integration of six SK systems on the line and others at individual workstations, the company not only guarantees precise PCB assembly, but also reduces the workload on its employees.

With its ongoing scaling, Prettl Electronics not only demonstrates an innovative spirit for the digitalization of its own production, but also stands for constant excellence - all in the service of maximum customer satisfaction.

Numbers, data, facts

Technical information

Image processing computer
Dimensions (L x W x H) 550 x 440 x 155 mm
Weight 15 kg
Power supply range 110-230 V, 50/60 Hz
Power consumption max. 1.500 W inklusive Peripheriegeräten
Protection 10 A an 230 V, 16 A an 110 V
Processor Intel® Core™ i7-12700K 3.8 GHz, 8 P + 4 E Cores 20 Threads
Memory 16 GB
Hard drive 2 x 512 GB NV2 M.2 500 GB PCI Express 4.0 NVMe (M.2 SSD) configured as RAID 1
Operating system Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC
External Ports 6 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 3.2 Type-C
Network Ports 2 x 2.5GbE incl. Teaming and TSN, 1 x Intel® GbE LAN
Video Outputs 4 x DisplayPort V1.4a up to 8K
Camera
Resolution 20 MP (5.472×3.648 Pixel)
Framerate 18 fps at full resolution
PanTilt Camera

The intelligent combination of zoom and moveability of the camera enables maximum precision, accuracy and flexibility - even in complex assembly processes.

Dynamic range 12 bit
Resolution 2.448×2.048 Pixel
Frame rate 24 fps
Lens integrated
Motor focal length 6,8 mm (wide) bis 116 mm (tele)
F-Stop 1,5 (wide) bis 3,4 (tele)
Housing
Weight 12 kg
Dimensions 354 x 338 x 239 mml
Connection Cold devices for power supply (110 V -230 V)
USB 2.0 PanTilt control
Field of view and detection accuracy

The camera‘s field of view and detection accuracy depends on the working distance and focal length of the lens used. The specified values for the field of view apply to a working distance of 1,200 mm.

The values for the detection accuracy are empirical values from practical experience in which Smart Klaus operates reliably in typical industrial environments. Below this, the values that can be achieved under ideal environmental conditions are given in brackets.

Focal length 12 mm 16 mm 25 mm 35 mm
Field of view 1.200 x 860 mm 970 x 640 mm 610 x 400 mm 430 x 290 mm
Recognition accuracy 1,6 mm. (0,23 mm/px) 1,5 mm (0,17 mm/px) 0,7 mm (0,11 mm/px) 0,5 mm (0,08 mm/px)
Lighting
Dimensions (L x B x H) 1.200 x 800 x 140 mm (without camera holder)
Weight 15 kg
Power consumption 70 W
Luminous flux ca. 7.000 Lumen
Illuminance on the work surface ca. 2.500 Lux
Light colour 6.000 K (cold-white)
Screens
Touch panel
Surface Antireflective and chemically hardened
Screen diagonal 13 Inch
Resolution Full HD, 1.920 x 1.080
Touch technology Projected capacitive, 10-point multi-touch (can be operated with a glove)
Control display
Screen diagonal 29 Inch
Resolution 2.560 x 1.080 Pixel