Automated vs. Manual Tape and Reel Packaging

Automated vs. Manual Tape and Reel Packaging

Tape and reel technology is the most common means of processing, handling, storing, and transporting precision surface-mounted electronic components. Tape and reel services save on time, space, energy, and materials while providing safety and stability for electronic devices. The three primary types of tape and reel include axial, radial, and surface mount.

The Differences Between Manual and Automated Tape and Reel Packaging

The tape and reel process loads surface mount devices into pockets of carrier tape for sealing using heat or pressure. For safe storage and transport, the carrier tape is wound around a standard reel and enclosed in a reel box. Advances in tape and reel packaging are continually evolving to provide enhanced performance, cost-efficiency, and reliability.

The tape and reel process, while straightforward, must meet several requirements to appropriately protect electronic components from damage. The materials must be anti-static or dissipate static, and the tape and reel materials must be selected to appropriately withstand any heat and humidity expected to be present in the intended environment until the products are placed.

Tape and reel services may be manual or automated, depending on the processing demands or financial needs of the business. Some businesses choose manual tape and reel services over self-operating solutions to save money. However, concessions in cost could ultimately lead to more expense when speed, yield, complexity, or quality are on the line.

Manual Tape and Reel Packaging

Many small businesses depend on manual tape and reel services. Some of the benefits of manual tape and reel include:

  • Low cost. No investment in automated equipment makes the process less expensive.
  • Flexibility. Manual services can accommodate unique part sizes, whereas most automated machines can not handle non-standard sizes, such as very small or oversized packages.
  • Reliability. The simplified nature of manual tape and reel setups significantly reduces the risk of component failures and equipment breakdowns that may cause expensive system downtime.

While there are benefits to manual tape and reel packaging, there are also drawbacks:

  • Efficiency. As with all manual processes, manual tape and reel is more subject to slowdowns and human error than automated processes.
  • Consistency. Manual tape and reel packaging consistency depends heavily on the expertise of the packer, product volumes, packer fatigue, and more.
  • Turnaround. Manual laborers simply cannot process packages as quickly as automated systems, resulting in slower turnaround time.

 

Automated Tape and Reel Packaging

While the larger companies rely heavily on automated tape and reel packaging, it has its own set of pros and cons. Benefits of the automated tape and reel process include:

  • Consistency. Automation ensures greater efficiency and uniformity in packaging.
  • Turnaround. Automation removes the variability of worker competency, speed, and availability, leading to quicker turnaround times.
  • Quality. Automated optical inspection (AOI) affords a higher level of error detection capabilities, translating to higher quality.

While there are many pros for automation, there are some cons:

  • Downtime. Automation comes with an increased risk of system downtime due to malfunction, breakage, or scheduled maintenance.
  • Cost. Investment costs for purchasing machinery are higher, and long-term repair and maintenance expenses increase the overall cost of ownership.

 

Tape and Reel Services from SemiPack Services

SemiPack is a leading supplier of electronics manufacturing services, specializing in surface mount technology, tinning, and manual and automated tape and reel packaging. Our tape and reel services support a wide range of standard surface mount, radial, axial, and custom component package types.

By working with SemiPack, you have access to our inventory of over 4,000 standard and hard-to-locate pockets, including tape connectors. Our experienced in-house team can rapidly design and tool custom pockets for components of any size or shape. To see if our tape and reel solutions are right for your operation, please contact us or request a quote today.

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