Automating Potting Tasks – The Coming Role of IoT

The traditional process of potting for the electronics industry was manual and this suffered from a few drawbacks. The most prominent of these drawbacks were errors in the proportion of mixing materials, the low speed of potting, machine downtime, and inconsistency in production. Many of these drawbacks were addressed with the
introduction of Automation. We had spoken, in a previous blog, about why (and how) to automate Potting tasks. But the manufacturing world is always looking for ways to become even more efficient, more profitable, and to achieve higher quality. This means a continuous technology-driven evolution. Let’s look at what could be next in the world of Potting.

IoT, the so-called Internet of Things, is making great strides by adapting to the ruggedizing processes in industrial manufacturing. This technology could fundamentally change the way Potting is performed in the future. It could turn out to be a game-changing solution to address predictive maintenance, production monitoring, and process control. The coming journey to introduce Internet of Things in the Potting process The process of Potting is inherently difficult to perfect. Maintaining the desired mix, temperature, viscous and other physical properties of the adhesives and other materials to be dispensed, as well as maintaining strict control over the dispensing volumes is a challenging task. Factors such as dust, chemicals and salts, vibration, humidity, and temperature variations can impact electronic potting and encapsulation processes. And this is where IoT could play a major role.

Here are some ways that the Potting process could benefit from the addition of IoT:
Process Control
IoT is essentially about seamless communication among a group of sensors installed on the relevant machines. These sensor units constantly share data with a central unit to allow for better monitoring. Insights emerging from this data can be accessed by the plant management over simplified interfaces on mobile apps. This will allow for more consistent and a better-controlled flow of all the material required for the Potting process. The tanks can be continuously monitored to ensure they are full and can be proactively topped up as the need arises. Potting requires maintaining the correct ratio of epoxy and adhesives over the mixing and dispensing process. The IoT-led sensors can help track the ratio, temperature, and viscosity at all times and inform of any deviations early on.

Automation can control the process to allow for action to be taken in case anything goes wrong. Errors are identified early, this promotes greater efficiency and higher-quality potting.

Improved analytics is a natural byproduct of such automated process control. The vast amount of data captured by the sensors enables complete traceability and allows correlation with other parameters like price, This, in turn, opens up possibilities for improvement in cycle times or achieving expected quality.

Production Monitoring
The real-time monitoring of the production line with IoT helps ensure greater productivity and a more consistent output. It is a generally accepted fact that production numbers vary across shifts. It is not unusual to have a
situation wherein an effort to make up for the poor productivity in some shifts, other shifts are forced to do more or to cut corners to up their own production. Over time, such imbalances can hurt overall morale and profitability. In such situations, keeping track of production in real-time can help plant management take action
early and correct any anomalies. The IoT-led solutions can help provide continuous insights into raw material consumption, energy utilization, production line health, and overall production. Early action will ensure that there will be no room for compromising the quality of process followed or in the end-product obtained.

Proactive Maintenance
The pumps that are used in the potting and encapsulation process are delicate -and expensive. While there are generally accepted standards of when and how these pumps must be serviced, cleaned, and maintained, it is always
possible that issues may crop up over the course of production. During the potting process, there is a tendency of resins getting dry and hard, this could interfere with the flow, cause blockages, and create a pressure reduction in the pump. Sensors can help track the build-up of such issues and can also track the wear and tear and other vital parameters of sensitive equipment to provide alarms and insights into the need for such proactive maintenance. Taking proactive action to avoid such a situation building up will help increase the life of the pump. Also, preventive action taken early will probably take less time than repairs that may be required to post the occurrence of problems.

The requirements of manufacturing companies are changing. They now have access to products and solutions with innovative functionalities across the entire manufacturing operation. And with these changing customer needs, the expectation from automation and its capabilities are also changing. As technology evolves and matures, forward-looking businesses are now looking to connect machines through the power of the Internet of Things. They are looking to further improve the efficiency of their processes. They expect this to become easier for them and are demanding controls on their mobiles, real-time information and monitoring, better reporting, and more insights.

In the four walls of the factory, processes are categorized as automated, semi-automated, and non-automated. The goal is to upgrade the factory by integrating the three categories. When it comes to Potting applications, Twin Engineers has successfully laid the foundation for that integration with Automation -with the coming of the Internet of Things, it may be time for the next step into the future.

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