Electronics News

A Friendlier Cup ‘o Joe

Altek employees consumed 13,000 K-Cups of coffee last year.  After learning about the negative impact plastic K-Cups have on the environment, Altek managers worked to find a greener solution.  We switched to biodegradable coffee pods, which are more environmentally friendly and cost less, saving over $3,000 per year.  Here are employees Luis Martinez and Elizabeth Reyes in front of the new coffee pod vending machine.  Offering 12 different flavors in a sustainable, fresher tasting cup makes Altek a friendlier place to work.

New Cleaning Technology Gets into Tight Spaces

By Sabrina Beck

June 1, 2017

Is brushing all you need to do to clean and protect your teeth and gums? No. Just like batch technology is no longer enough to clean your printed circuit boards.

Brushing your teeth removes plaque buildup from the front and back surfaces of teeth. But to fully clean and protect teeth you need to floss so you remove plaque from between teeth and underneath your gums. In May 2017 Altek made an advancement in PCB cleaning, rinsing, and drying that’s similar to switching from just brushing the surface of your teeth to brushing and flossing in between the tight spaces of the teeth.

As of May, 2017 Altek has the capability of cleaning, rinsing, and drying PCBs with the latest inline technology. From the Technical Devices Company, Altek purchased a Nu/Clean 800 Series inline aqueous cleaner.

Throughout the PCB industry, assemblers face a daunting and growing challenge. Today’s PCBs feature much greater density, complexity, and miniaturization. Tomorrow’s PCBs will be even harder to clean. The narrowing space between components and boards makes thoroughly cleaning them increasingly difficult. Board assemblers who currently clean with a batch-type cleaner are looking for solutions to increase cleaning capability. Altek has found the solution.

The Altek plant now features a three foot wide, 25 foot long industrial “washing machine.” A main feature of this Nu/Clean machine is its flood box technology.

Flood Box Technology

The machine’s flood box technology involves a “bathtub” with water jets that soak the boards and agitate the flux residues to clean underneath low standoff components. The circuit boards are submerged completely, so no area is missed. Because the boards are neither lowered nor raised there’s no jarring or potential to dislodge or damage components on the conveyor. A trip through the flood box combines a pressurized spray from nozzles with a flood of turbulent fluid. The next step is conventional top and bottom spray bars. Along with the rinsing and drying features, these cleaning features provide at least five major benefits to Altek clients.

 Penetrating and Cleaning Despite Lower Clearances

Industry research finds that this type of inline aqueous cleaning provides greater penetration of low clearances within the electronic assembly. The new equipment technology is effective at cleaning both flux residues and ionic contamination under the body of the component. The soaking action of the cleaning agent on the surface of the printed circuit board softens the flux residue. When that residue gets bombarded with the pressurized spray, the residue floats free from the PCB. And because the cleaning agent pools onto the board, it lowers surface tension, helping to penetrate under tightly spaced components.

  1. Reducing the Potential of Unwanted Removals

Another key feature—reduced coherent spray jets—provides protection against dislodging labels, removing part marking, or negatively impacting board components. Coherent spray jets deliver the cleaning agent at higher pressures onto the printed circuit board. The pressurized spray jets provide strong deflective forces for penetrating and moving the cleaning agent under the component. But having too many spray jets or too strong of a stream can undercut labels, remove part marking, and potentially affect other material compatibility effects. The Nu/Clean 800 at Altek uses fan sprays that reduce the impact to the electronic board. Fifteen stainless steel pumps give just the right balance of pressure and flow to remove residues and contaminants. 

  1. Rinsing More Thoroughly and Safely

The cleaning agent in the new equipment is attracted to water. With a layer of water covering the surface of each board within the rinse section, removal of the cleaning agent under bottom termination components is improved.

The double air curtain and anti-drag out zone is one of many features that reduces cost by saving chemicals

  1. Becoming More Environmentally-friendly and Cost-effective

With Technical Devices’ Nu/Clean, Altek reduces chemical cost and more easily complies with environmental standards. These savings help to moderate the price impact from rising costs of material, labor and health insurance. Because the flood box is self- contained, the washing section loses less chemistry. Chemistry from the wash doesn’t contaminate the rinse water. The chemistry is not sprayed into air or sucked up by an exhaust system like it is in traditional inline systems. And the use of air curtains before and after the wash stage helps contain the chemistry.

  1. Cleaning More Boards Faster and More Completely with Less Human Touch

This new cleaning technology provides Altek with higher throughput. We can now clean more boards at a faster pace, enabling us to meet customers’ tight schedules. The reduction in human touch means there are fewer opportunities to introduce defects through human error.

Altek produces more than 500 different products for customers. The Nu/Clean has the flexibility to handle a wide variety of these products. And, to meet customer requirements, we can adjust many factors including temperature, conveyor speed, and pump pressure. Our first test run on May 2 demonstrated how this new technology will advance the cleanliness and effectiveness of customer’s circuit boards.

Your dentist knows a healthy mouth is a portal to a healthy body. Altek knows a great system for cleaning, rinsing, and drying circuit boards is a portal to delivering high performing, high quality PCBs.


Inspecting PCBs in 3D Reduces Defects and Cost

By Brandon Martinelli and Sabrina Beck, Altek Electronics

April 6th, 2017

Imagine if you viewed the world in two dimensions rather than three. You’d struggle to climb stairs, drive a car, or even just fill a water glass. Compared to a 3D view, your 2D view would certainly cause you to make more mis-calculations,  suffer more accidents, and experience more errors. This is our simple way of trying to explain why Altek Electronics now uses a 3D optical inspection machine. Our new Mirtec MV-6 Omni 3D AOI brings PCB inspections to a much higher level—reducing defects, saving time, and keeping customer costs down.

The new 3D AOI uses a simple yet extremely effective and repeatable technology called Multi-Frequency Quad Moiré lighting (Figure 1). The lighting measures all the components on the PCB. It works by projecting a line pattern at a given angle then shifting and varying the pattern’s frequency for a total of 8 different unique patterns (Figure 2).  The result is a total of 32 images for the 3D computation as well as an additional 7 images with standard 2D imaging from the main camera.

Moiré pattern on a curved surface.
Figure 1 moiré pattern on a curved surface

Figure 2 Multi-Frequency Moiré Projectors
Winning Praise and Awards
Altek is already finding significant improvements in PCB inspection accuracy, thoroughness, and efficiency. And it’s not just us singing the praises of this new technology. The machine is winning praise and awards. At the 2016 IPC APEX EXPO in Shanghai, the Mirtec machine won the New Product Introduction Award in the Test & Inspection – AOI category.
Conventional lens.
Figure 3 Conventional lens (left), Telecentric lens (right)

Eliminating Perspective ErrorsHere’s how the machine captures line patterns. The 3D AOI uses a downward looking 15 Mega Pixel camera with a 15µm resolution. Used in combination with a telecentric lens, images are presented in an orthographic view (Figure 3) for better inspection capability with less false calls. (Customer translation: less rejects, less time installing faulty PCBs, greater work efficiency.)

The primary advantage of the 3D AOI over your traditional 2D AOI is its ability to give a true measurement of components. With these measurements, Altek  can establish criteria (tolerances) for the length, width, height, coplanarity, lead height as well as solder filet height, angles and volume. We’re talking about inspecting an ever-increasing number of variables, reducing the chance of escapes.

Measuring By Criteria, Not Comparison

With our 3D AOI we’re measuring  all the features on the component and comparing each feature to the criterion in the machine’s database. So PCB inspections by 3D machines use measurements, rather than comparing 2D images, like most 2D machines do.  And there’s more! With 3D AOI we can measure capacitor placement position (X, Y and theta), height, and even coplanarity to the board’s surface. We can still inspect for the color of the component because there’s a 2D camera, but by giving less weight to the color, we’re reducing false calls.

Here’s the bottom line. With this latest 3D AOI technology,  Altek Electronics has increased the quality of  automated inspections of the PCBs’ surface mount technologies.  The improved coverage, capability, and throughput will save our customers time and money.

The Wizard of Oz

You may remember the classic 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz. It’s a black and white movie until our hero, Dorothy, opens the door to the her house that’s been blown far and away to another world filled with rich, vibrant, exciting colors. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve landed in an exciting new world of higher quality PCB inspection.

This is just a snippet of information about the Mirtec MV-6 Omni 3D AOI. Please give us a call (860.482.7626) if you’d like to know more.

End article


Altek is pleased to announce the following staffing changes for 2017:

David Altschuler was recently promoted to the position of CEO and will be leading many initiatives to maintain our strength in LEAN, quality and on-time delivery. David started his career at Altek in 1992 and has held several key positions including leading administration, IT, materials, and customer service. In 2003 David was promoted to the position of Vice President of Finance and Administration. David played a key role in facilitating the company’s move to our current location, and he’s been managing one of our largest customers for nearly two decades.

To fill the position made available by David’s promotion, Kevin Bair was selected as Altek’s new Director of Finance & Administration. With extensive experience in electronics manufacturing and finance, Kevin comes to Altek from Winchester Electronics where his managerial role focused on finance, accounting, and production support in several locations around the world.

We are excited to introduce Ravi Kailan as Altek’s new Operations Manager who is responsible for all activities related to manufacturing. Ravi, a six-sigma black belt, joins Altek with a strong background in operational management, most recently from a senior operations role at DRS Consolidated Controls.

Together Altek’s management team and our employees and will work hard to maintain the trust we’ve established with our customers and continue to make a positive impact in 2017.