FermionX manufacturing has three surface mount lines, also known as “pick and place” machines, run by technicians and supplied through Blundell. The surface mount line (SMT) places components onto the surface of a circuit board automatically. 

The surface mount line is used daily. Setting up the surface mount line is the second step in the PCBA process after kitting (selecting the components) and setting up the reels of components onto the surface mount feeders. When new jobs arrive the SMT needs to be programmed according to the electronic design for manufacture blueprint. The technician sets up the machine to register the size of the components and any new parts. For repeat jobs the previous settings are saved.

What does a typical day look like on the surface mount line?

The average schedule on the surface mount line can vary. FermionX manufactures across a range of industries including medical, industrial control and aerospace. Complex PCBs need components to be soldered on each side of the board. How the SMT is programmed all depends on the complexity and specification of the PCB.

Some boards require not only surface mount assembly but also need additional components to be added via conventional assembly. FermionX provides electronic manufacturing solutions for companies manufacturing anything from thermometers to helicopters and with three surface mount lines have the capacity to help customers manufacture at a larger scale.

Surface Mount Technician

What does the average day look like for a surface mount technician? The average day on the surface mount line can vary, depending whether the surface mount technician is setting up a new or previous job. The day will always start with kitting and programming the SMT. Technicians then apply solder paste to the boards using a printer. 

Creating the “first off”

The most essential part of running the surface mount assembly is correctly setting up the “first off”. What is the “first off”? The “first off” process runs a small batch of boards through the SMT and inspection to detect defects or errors. The first off operates both as a trial run and also sets up a master board. The master board, or “golden board” sets the standard for accuracy and consistency. This helps avoid common mistakes e.g. putting boards in the wrong way round or errors in programming.

Correct oven profiling is also an essential part of running the “first off”. We run boards through the convection oven with probes and profiler attached. Both travel through the surface mount line  and take a record of what is happening to the board as it travels through each oven zone. The surface mount technician will then take this board through inspection. This will allow the surface mount technician to decide on the optimum temperature and conveyor belt speed for each convection oven zone. (FermionX also have a vapour phase oven which is able to very gently heat up very large components with a high thermal mass and produce very consistent, predictable results.)

How many components can the surface mount line process in a day?

A surface mount line has the technical capability to get through 23,000 components a day, according to their manufacturers’ estimate. However, good manufacturers will average 14,000 a day in reality. The SMT line (SMT) is complex, involving time consuming tasks such as kitting, feeding, programming and oven profiling. 

How accurate is the machine compared to conventional assembly?

Compared to conventional assembly, the benefits of surface mount assembly are manifold. Conventional assembly is still accurate but a human could never place 14,000 components in a day. The SMT can handle great complexity at great speed. This is why it is the heart of  production capability at FermionX.

To find out how our surface mount assembly can help your project get in touch today:


01903 524600