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Jean-Paul Birraux, sales and marketing manager with First EIE in Switzerland, discussed developments in panel and roll-to-roll automatic optical inspection and automatic visual inspection for PCBs and components. He began by reviewing First EIE’s product range, which included photoplotters—for which there was still a strong market, UV direct imaging, automatic optical and visual inspection systems, and inkjet printers. The trend was towards larger-format machines. First EIE’s direct imaging technology was based on single-head DMD principles with a collimated arc lamp UV source, giving full-spectrum 360 to 450 nm output.

A merger in 2015 with the Japanese company Inspec, who had long-term experience in AOI and AVI for packaging and components, established a synergy that enabled the development of a new generation of automatic visual inspection systems for PCB inspection. A unique feature was the capability to create a master reference image from a single sample, and to inspect both sides of a 240 mm x 240 mm circuit in a third of the time taken by a human inspector, capturing defects to the 20 micron level. A current project integrated First EIE’s latest EDI imager and two Inspec AVI systems in-line with developing and etching to enable continuous roll-to-roll processing, with resist inspection after developing and pattern inspection after etching.