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Heading up the mobile solutions business of U.S. electronic manufacturing services (EMS) giant Jabil Circuit Inc., Taiwan’s Jabil Green Point demonstrates that you need a diverse array of primary and secondary processes to keep pace with the fast-moving mobile device sector.

August 11, 2010

10 Min Read
Plant Tour: Comprehensive capabilities a recipe for 
success in the mobility sector

Heading up the mobile solutions business of U.S. electronic manufacturing services (EMS) giant Jabil Circuit Inc., Taiwan’s Jabil Green Point demonstrates that you need a diverse array of primary and secondary processes to keep pace with the fast-moving mobile device sector.

The mobility business became entrenched in Jabil’s portfolio in a big way in 2007 through the acquisition of Taiwan Green Enterprises Co. and now contributes around 20% of Jabil’s $11.7 billion revenue. The business operates manufacturing facilities in China, Hungary, Malaysia, and Mexico; a vertically integrated site in China; tooling facilities in China, Taiwan, and Malaysia; and R&D/test centers in Belgium, Germany, China, and Taiwan. IMM’s plant tour spanned three sites in Taichung, Taiwan, focused on tooling and preproduction, insert film forming and ceramic injection molding, and injection molding machinery and automation equipment manufacture.

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JGP head HH Chiang (third from left) encourages his team to be creative as long as it leads to better productivity.


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JGP’s Taichung headquarters plant is a hotbed of tooling and preproduction.


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Mounting of workpieces and electrodes is fully 
automated at JGP.


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A six-axis robot will 
automate workpiece placement for two CNC 
machining centers.


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Multiple electrodes 
can be machined simultaneously 
on RFID-equipped fixtures.


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Dimension checking of EDM electrodes is also highly automated at JGP.


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Six-axis Fanuc robots handle multiple tasks in JGP’s automated workcells, including metal insert placement, degating, and stacking.


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JGP builds its own forming tooling and carries out its own forming of inmold decoration inserts.

Jabil Green Point (JGP) manufactures its own two-shot injection presses. Explains senior VP Hai Hwai “HH” Chiang, who heads up JGP, “[In the past,] we faced issues not only with lead times but also costs because two-shot machines are treated as custom machines by their builders. This prompted us to commence development of two-shot machines five years ago.” Components are outsourced and JGP assembles the machines in-house. JGP has in the past built its own all-electric machines, but now that machine prices have been substantially reduced, it has decided to use Fanuc presses. “Electric machines are only marginally more expensive than hydraulic machines these days,” says Chiang. But when it comes to two-shot molding, “Cycle times are generally 25-30 seconds so there is no real benefit in using all-electrics.”

JGP is also now moving into production of automation equipment such as workcells and assembly lines, and one of its facilities in Taichung forms its own inmold decoration films. Indeed, a high level of production capabilities resides inside JGP, including metal forming and ceramic injection molding in addition to its extensive tooling and molding capabilities. “You can’t manage the supply chain unless you own it,” notes Chiang.

Automation emphasis
Walking the floors at JGP, one notes a high level of automation in the tooling shop. RFID chips track all work, while pride of place is a six-axis Fanuc robot that fully automates mounting of workpieces and electrodes on a dual bank of EDM machines. Modifying EDM machining parameters and adding powder to improve processing ability has also allowed JGP to reduce near-mirror-finish EDM time using its Mitsubishi EA-8 EDM equipment. For some applications and customers, a near-mirror finish may be sufficient, but hand polishing is still required to reach the SPI-A1 standard. “Precise manual polishing is very important in higher cavitations as each cavity must be the same,” notes Chiang. “We send our polishers to get certified in Japan and Germany.”

Next on the agenda is the task of automating two CNC machining centers in a similar manner using a six-axis robot that will gain access to the machining area via a customized pneumatically actuated door. As with the EDM automation, JGP expects the move will increase capacity by 30%, reduce staff requirements by 40%, reduce abnormal issues by 30%, and reduce training hours by 30%.

JGP’s high-speed CNC machining capabilities, meanwhile, enable it to mill steel with a hardness of HRC52 (±2 HRC) within a tight tolerance, leaving only a 0.01-mm stock for polishing. It’s also capable of machining ribs with 0.5-mm width and 4-mm depth directly onto steel of the same hardness. “We did lot of work on high-speed machining, and trial and error was part of this,” says Chiang. “We went through a fair amount of spindles in testing the limits of high-speed machining.”

JPG also operates an automated measuring system where 3D CAD software is integrated with the RFID tracking system. Scanning the RFID chip and mounting the tool on a coordinate measurement machine for automatic measurement verifies machining accuracy by comparison with the dimension list in the CAD software. JGP estimates that this reduces measuring time by 70% and increases CNC/EDM machine utilization by 20%. The same system is also used to qualify EDM electrodes. “The electrode will be rejected by the EDM machine based on its RFID if it first doesn’t clear the measurement test,” says Chiang.

Computer-aided verification is also used to enhance the inspection efficiency of core and cavity or tested molded part. For a molded part, the workpiece is scanned, completely polygonized, and then compared with the CAD mold. Using this easy-to-learn system, a workpiece can be inspected in 2 hours, and a cavity and core in 90 minutes.

Tooling production status is tracked at 10-minute intervals on all machines and displayed on a large LCD screen. “We can see which machine is doing what, and this  helps us track the 600-odd components that go into the assembled mold,” says Chiang. “We are one step away from an order system that will allow the customer to log on and view the job status, including percentage completion.”

Technical tool shop
“We are transforming from a traditional tool shop to a technical tool shop where everything is linked in a system,” says Chiang. This approach extends back to the tool design phase, where the company’s Mold Design Navigation System is a module-based software package whose primary role is to expedite toolmaking.

Tool designers also work in teams at JGP, with the leader of a group part of a team of engineers each delegated to a separate part of the tool, like a slider or the parting line, for example. JGP’s design floor is separated into subcells, and engineers do not have their own desk, but migrate to be part of up to eight-member design cells as projects kick off. The designers share a common database and the lead designer controls check-in and check-out processes. All tool engineers have access to dual screens so that they can view the design concept and component databases separately to their immediate design tasks.

With this team approach, JGP’s CAM team is sometimes in a position to start working on a tool just 4 hours after design starts. “We normally quote seven to 10 days for a rapid tool, but if we know a job is coming in, we can reserve machine time and do it in four,” says Chiang. “Production tooling takes 14-18 days.”

A rapid tool from 38-42 HRC (P-20 or NAK) steel is guaranteed for 100,000 shots, while a production tool using 48-52 HRC (H-13 or 847) tool steel is good for 1 million shots. “We normally require refurbishment if 2 million shots are required, but if the customer wants to stretch to 1.2-1.3 million shots, we will help them through maintaining the tool,” says Chiang.

JGP has a paperless query system in place for mold design and no drawings are printed. “We are also working on production scheduling so that it is eventually paperless,” says Chiang.

Molding matters
Moving to the molding shop, most injection machines feature automated workcells and, depending on the complexity and IMD requirements, traverse or six-axis robots are used. High-precision Fanuc robots are used to place inserts, but they are reportedly five times more expensive than traverse robots, which are used when only takeout is required. Multiaxis robots are also commonly used for multiple tasks such as metal insert placement, demolding, degating, and stacking.

Approximately 40% of the company’s injection presses are two-shot machines, and the company has also developed portable injection units that would enable up to six shots, although an application for this has not yet emerged. JGP also operates six 280-tonne JSW Thixomolding machines together with a well-established ceramic injection molding (CIM) operation.

“The cost of CIM is high, so we can only use it for feature materials in very high-end cell phones,” says Chiang. JGP has built up a ceramic process database system and also makes its own ceramic compounds for CIM. The CIM altogether involves 12-20 steps, including such steps as debinding, sintering, machining, blasting, laser grinding, and lapping.

JGP is also a dab hand at inmold decoration as well as out-of-mold decoration, with its own R&D department actively pursuing new cutting-edge technologies that it classifies as visual mechanics, be it IMD, IML, postdecoration digital printing, painting, laser etching, or composite overmolding (the latter being the Exo process licensed from Dow Chemical). JGP realized at an early stage that proficiency in this area is of paramount importance in serving the fashion-fickle mobile device sector.

In recent times, an increasing emphasis on functionality and combined processes through decorating has emerged, according to Chiang. This might include a seamless lens or keypad function realized via an inmold film, or inmold decoration combined with physical vapor deposition (PVD). JGP has even combined three processes—inmold film, digital printing, and PVD—to generate visual effects, while it has also used soft-touch painting to realize elastomer-like effects.

Another decoration process employed by the company is Nissha inmold decoration, a roll-to-roll foil feeding system that transfers artwork printed onto a carrier film to the molded part. The technology is supplied by Japan’s Nissha Co.

With such process complexity involved for many of its mobility products, the key role of the production operation in Taichung is to debug manufacturing processes in order that they can be transferred to larger production operations located at several locations in Mainland China. Here, a trial shot management system is employed to clearly review the trial shot status of every project, automatically generate daily trial shot reports to speed up troubleshooting, simplify trial shot data input loading, and establish a knowledge database for use in other systems. This is yet another example of the systems approach of the company, where all components of the production process work seamlessly together to deliver on time and in spec.

VITAL STATS
Jabil Green Point Co. Ltd. 
Taichung, Taiwan, Republic of China
Facility size: Approx. 5.477 million ft2 (multiple locations)
Annual sales: Mobility sector is 20% of Jabil revenue, or 
US$2.34 billion (2009)
Markets served: Wireless communication devices (mobile phones, two-way radios), media players, Bluetooth accessories, electrical shaver covers, LCD backlight modules, automotive products
Customers: Cisco Systems, EchoStar, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, NetApp, Nokia, Nokia Siemens Networks, Pace, Research in Motion, Royal Philips Electronics
Materials processed: Wide range of resins, including PC, PC/ABS, and glass-reinforced PA, ceramics, liquid silicone rubber
No. of employees: Approx. 23,000 group-wide
Shifts: Three per 24 hours, all sites
Molding machines: 775, 50-450 tonnes, most made in-house
Secondary operations: Physical vapor deposition, inmold decoration, digital printing, laser etching, painting
Other services: Assembly, Thixomolding, ceramic injection molding, Al/Zn diecasting, metal stamping
Internal moldmaking: Yes
Quality: QS9000, ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 13485

Contact information
Mirella Kimpen | +32 496 572 480
[email protected] | www.jabil.com

Stephen Moore

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