Utility companies hate blackouts and electrical system damage even more than their customers do. The reason is obvious: Power may soon be restored to homes and businesses, but the utility’s service reputation often suffers for many years afterward. 

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL) makes products that utilities can use to minimize blackouts and electrical system damage. Founded in 1982 by Edmund O. Schweitzer III, SEL developed the world’s first digital protective relay two years later. Today, the company employs 3,600 people worldwide and manufactures an extensive range of power system protection, monitoring, control, communications and metering products for customers in nearly 150 countries.

SEL relies heavily on automation equipment from Universal Instruments Corp. to assemble its products. Universal spe-cializes in systems for electronics manufacturing. In 2011, Universal became the first capital equipment supplier to be awarded preferred-supplier status with SEL. Universal was also recognized as one of the company’s Supplier Success Sto-ries of 2010.

Currently, SEL operates 20 Genesis surface-mount platform systems (including the high-speed GC-60D and multifunc-tion platform GX-11) at its plants. These systems place components ranging from 0402 passives to large ball grid array (BGA) devices.

The company also relies on Radial 8XT (radial insertion), VCD/Sequencer 8 (axial insertion) and Generation 88 (radial and axial insertion) systems, and Polaris assembly cells for through-hole PCB assembly.

Most recently, SEL and Universal worked together to optimize the placement efficiency of a complex zero insertion force (ZIF) connector. ZIF connectors are used for attaching wires to PCBs inside electronic equipment. Formed into a flexible printed 

circuit or flat ribbon cable, the wires are prestripped, and the bare ends placed inside the connector. The two sliding parts of the connector are then pushed together to grip the wires.

However, because ZIF connectors require no force for insertion or removal, standard suction nozzles on pick-and-place machines were not able to hold, lift and accurately mount the connectors on boards. To overcome this problem, Universal’s engineers developed a custom nozzle. After several months, thousands of connectors have been placed by the new nozzles with zero defects.

“This connector is a very difficult component to pick, but [Universal’s] solution has brought remarkable results” says Daicheng Fu, process engineering supervisor for SEL. “[The supplier] seems to have the magic touch when it comes to custom nozzles.”

This is the second time in the past 16 months that Universal developed a custom nozzle for SEL. In March 2014, their engineers developed an LED-activated nozzle to improve surface mount placement efficiency of another type of connector.

For more information on custom nozzles for electronics assembly, call 800-432-2607 or visit www.uic.com.