Headquartered in California’s Silicon Valley and with manufacturing facilities in Fremont, CA, and Phoenix, AZ, Essai Inc. designs and manufactures test equipment for the semiconductor, computer, and consumer electronics industries. These products and systems play a critical role in the testing function and have contributed to the rapid growth of his company, said Nasser Barabi.“Essai was founded in 2003 and, since its inception, it has consistently averaged significant positive revenue growth every single year. This has been repeatedly recognized by ranking organizations such as Inc. magazine which has cited Essai as one of the fastest growing companies for three consecutive years,” said Barabi. “Key aspects contributing to our success are innovation, business systems, first-class team, and using technology to automate our entire operation in order to gain and maintain a competitive advantage.”Essai designs and manufactures test and validation hardware for the semiconductor, computer and consumer electronics industries. The equipment is used to test integrated circuits and systems for their functionality and reliability. Significant product categories include Interconnect, Thermal PCB, and Systems Test.Manufacturing of components for Essai’s products is done in a highly automated machining environment with material handling systems from EROWA Technology Inc. (Arlington Heights, IL), recommended by machine tool supplier Hermle Machine Co. (Franklin, WI). Initially, Essai’s production cells were configured with two Hermle C30U five-axis CNC machining centers serviced by an EROWA material-handling robot. Essai has five such cells in their California facility. “Our latest generation production cell in our Phoenix facility consists of four Hermle C22U five-axis machining centers serviced by the state-of-the-art EROWA Dynamic Linear robotic system, which has resulted in a significant improvement in production throughput,” said Barabi.
The kinds of components being machined are typically under 8" (203 mm) and made from a variety of materials including aluminum, copper, stainless steel and engineering plastics. Materials are fixtured on pallets with an RFID chip attached. Raw materials which also have RFID chips attached are matched to manufacturing requirements for each component. “In this way, there is a mix of parts going into the cell for machining with batch sizes ranging from one to 1000. “Typical batch size is between 30 and 50 parts,” says Barabi.Putting the Hermle cell and EROWA automation into production took just a matter of weeks after the machines were set in place and connected. Fine-tuning the systems took an additional two months, during which time Essai has been able to optimize the system and validate the effectiveness of the new configuration of its production cells. Essai has made this its standard cell configuration going forward and has recently placed an order for an additional cell that will be placed in service at its Phoenix, AZ, facility by the end of the year.One particular feature of the new production line is the Multi-Pallet Loading Station with separate loading and unloading areas. Its design is highly ergonomic and has been received very favorably by Essai’s operators. “It is extremely user-friendly and efficient. This has resulted in a higher throughput and reduced operator workload. The four machines in the cell are capable of running non-stop with minimum operator interaction,” said Barabi.“We’ve been using EROWA EMC Cell Management Software for about six years, but we were already impressed with the potential of the software during the evaluation stage. Through collaboration and technological innovation, EROWA has managed to develop EROWA EMC as the most advanced automation control system in the industry,” said Barabi.“To put it in a nutshell, EROWA helps us to achieve operational excellence. This is vital to Essai since we operate in a highly complex and competitive environment. EROWA helps us to maintain our leading position as a design and production organization for the world’s biggest high-tech corporations,” said Barabi.On its website, Essai has published and defined its statement of intent to go green: “To be green means you must be efficient. Automation is the way to reduce wasted energy and material and is the key to achieving efficiency. This is our corporate stance and we continually strive to progress toward this goal. Above and beyond this, though, we want to take the entire supply chain on board,” said Barabi. MEFor more information from EROWA, go to www.erowatech.com, or phone 847-290-0295.
This article was first published in the December 2013 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.