Sad News for SONY – they are looking to sell their mobile and TV divisions

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SONY used to be synonym for great products with incredible quality for decades.

There were rumors and corporate legends about how they throw TVs with defects is the sea etc. (nobody knows if this was real or not but these legends sounded good).

The Trinitron CRT technology gave them name for the best TV manufacturer, something like Mercedes brand is for cars.
But being on top for so many years play bad joke to them, they became huge and fat corporation and silently Samsung took the leadership with the new LCD and flat screen technology TVs, so SONY became just yet another TV manufacturer and all the news and improvements were not done by them for the last years.

In 2012 Sony sold their SMT machine business, then they sold the VAIO brand and PC business, now they quit the competitive mobile business and one of their core foundation – the TV business. WTF is happening with Sony? This company was so innovative in the past, how come from leader they become a looser?

Our first hand experience with SONY is with their SMT Pick and Place machines.

Back in 2012 I was looking for upgrade of our SMT machines and spotted SONY machines, they had incredible features on the flyers and we got good price so we ordered line of two machines SONY SI-G200MK3 and SI-F209 in line.

We got the two machines in the middle of 2012 …. in December 2012 Sony sold their SMT division to Juki. These machines are one of the finest Pick and Place machines I have seen. Incredible mechanical strength, precision, speed. The Japanese engineers are well known to be the best mechanics in the world, who ever have dealt with motorcycles knows that one of the finest mechanical part the carburetor where gasoline and air are mixed are manufactured just in Japan, no matter if the motorcycle is German, US, Italian – all they work with Japanese carburetors because it’s very precise mechanical device and nobody else can match Japanese mechanical production quality.

Our SI-200G MK3 places 200 components on A20-OLinuXino-LIME for about 15 seconds! This is incredible and unmatched productivity. Although very expensive their high speed make overall assembly cost several times lower than other machines we have.

I can’t say any good word for the machine software though, when we work with these machines we got the impression that their software is written with HATE to the end user. Everything is made NON logical, incredible hard to use and understand. Components waste during programming and first board pass is incredible. We got the impression that 90% of all road to good user experience was made and they failed or didn’t care to make this final 10% working. Functionality which we have even on the cheapest Chinese made Autotronik machines are MISSING in this HIGH END, HIGH PRECISION, INCREDIBLE masterpiece of mechanical engineering.

Error messages you got are NON sense and confusing. For instance your feeder peel of tape is blocked and simple have to be released – instead to write check your feeder on slot N you get 12 different messages for servo motor problems, and how to contact your Sony FA service.

When you change your machine program you have to place your NOZZLES manually to the machine head, this is the first machine which have no auto Nozzle change feature.

The machine runs Windows and have Ethernet port, but you have to load it’s program with FLOPPY DISK and to pay $2000 more if you want to use your Ethernet? WTF??? Needless to say this ‘feature’ can be enabled by any student who ever used to use Windows but the bitter taste of being customer used like sheep to shave remains.

Feeders which cost $200-300 by any other manufacturers, cost $2000 for the Sony placers. I have opened Sony feeder but didn’t saw gold or diamonds to be used inside which to justify this price! Maybe the secrets is that inside everything is branded Sankyo – motors, PCBs, etc so actually these feeders are not made by Sony?

Simple nozzle which Chinese vendor (who produces them for Sony) sells for $50 cost $800 if you buy from the Sony representative.

Spare parts are also at unbelievable prices, like CCD camera for $10 000 and etc.

Needles to say the salesman who sold us the line hidden lot of these facts when came to sell the machine, the good news is that these machines are so solid build that spare parts would be needed after years of operation (we hope 🙂 ).

The machine programming on separate computer is locked with USB dongle! Why on earth you lock this software which WORKS ONLY WITH YOUR MACHINES?? Not speaking that this is the most buggy and user unfriendly programming software I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot. Once you do mistake there is no step back, you have to start over from scratch and waste your time again and again! If you make machine programming once per month this is OK, but we have 600 different products and we have to change the programs daily.

Elementary small software details which exist on every other machine to make your life easy here are missing. For me it seems the software of these machines is made by secod grade student who never have been seen pick and place machine before and was learning how to make something.

No wonder why at the end of 2012 Sony sold they SMT machines business to Juki, Juki engineer earlier told me that even in the Sony factories they prefer to use Juki instead of their own Sony Pick and Place machines. I don’t know if this is true or not, but seems logical.

Do not get me wrong! SONY machines are excellent as mechanics, productivity, precision. If they made some small enhancement these machines would be the best choice for every PCB assembly shop. Maybe this business model is the reason they keep losing their customers and markets, they have great products which are made in such way that to push away the users providing one of the worst user experience, which easily could be fixed by software!

In the good times when Sony was on top and had pile of cash they bough film producing company in Holywood. Sony Pictures now still seems the only profitable unit in Sony Corp. Will Sony became just a film producing company and will stop doing electronics at all? Time will show.

SMT news from SMT & Hybrid exhibition in Nuremberg Germany

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Last week from May 6th to 8th the SMT & Hybrid exhibition for SMT machines and technologies was held in Nuremberg, Germany.

All the big names were there: JUKI, Panasonic, Samsung, Fuji, DEK, Hitachi, Siplace.

Juki became monster source for SMT machines after they bough SONY SMT business. The benefits of this purchase is the newly released RX-7 machine which they were exhibiting which is based on the proven SONY revolver head technology with 12 nozzles and combined with JUKI software and platform.

Something very interesting is the new SMART auto splice feeders. These are offered now by SAMSUNG, HITACHI, FUJI and I guess many other will follow.

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you see one such on the picture above. The magic with this kind of feeders is that they can work with cut reels and stripes and the feeder auto load the tape without need of any operator intervention, this way these feeders have no down time during production.

You can see it here in action:

This is very significant innovation, as with the high speed machines the feeder re-loads is the major bottleneck of the productivity.

FUJI are one of the top vendors for high speed machines.

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The above machine is one of the top notch SMT machines one could wish to have, but their prices are serious too 🙂

There are lot of small SMT machine vendors too like Fritsch, Autotronik, Essemtec these vendors can’t compete with the big boys in terms of precision, speed, etc. but cost less and have well done software and features which allow fast change overs, so good for small companies with low volumes and high mix.

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Overall is good to see that the industry is innovating and moving forward in terms of speed and precision.