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Count On Tools, Inc. Will Introduce StripFeeder Precision Rails for Micro-Components (0201/01005/03015) at APEX

Posted by Z.Shook on 2/8/2016 to Event News

Count On Tools, Inc. (COT), a leading provider of precision components and SMT spare parts, has released a new accessory – the Precision Rails – for its award-winning line of StripFeeder products. The StripFeeder Precision Rails enable customers to take full advantage of the StripFeeder platform when running micro-components such as 0201s, 01005s and 03015s in 4mm or 8mm tape (paper or emboss).

Each StripFeeder Precision rail features machined lanes based on industry tape standards to securely hold the tape in place during the pick-and-place operation. With the additional support underneath the tape, the microscopic components do not see the violent movement as with some feeder systems. Ball detents located on one end of the rail hold the tape in place by the sprocket hole for part registration and repeatable pick-and-place applications. This means the user only has to teach the pick-up location one time and consistently reload the unit with the same parts over and over for longer runs.

Each StripFeeder Precision rail is designed to work seamlessly with current StripFeeder products and allow other standard 0.25" (6mm) rails to be used on each side to increase lane capacity for prototyping to high volume production runs.

The StripFeeder system is compatible with most types of SMT equipment. The StripFeeder systems are a cost-effective way to load many components, including odd-form and custom components, without having to purchase expensive feeders. The quick-to-assemble, easy-to-install modules are designed for rapid loading of tape-and-reel components on existing SMT pick-and-place equipment. Additionally, the trays enable fast changeover between product runs without unloading from the machine.

The StripFeeder Precision Rails will be displayed for the first time at the IPC APEX EXPO in Las Vegas this March. Customers can stop by the Count On Tools booth (#2801) to see the new product.

Count On Tools Inc. Introduces the StripFeeder Lightweight Kit

Posted by Z.Shook on 2/1/2016 to Event News

Count On Tools, Inc. (COT), a leading provider of precision components and SMT spare parts, has released a new version in its award-winning line of StripFeeder products – the StripFeeder Lightweight. Increased demand for use of the StripFeeder platform in OEM automated tray towers prompted the need for a low-mass version to accommodate machine weight limits on tray capacity. The StripFeeder Lightweight system allows customers to take advantage of the StripFeeder platform in these specific applications.

The StripFeeder Lightweight includes six skeletonized rails and COT’s new low-mass base plate. The skeletonized design reduces carrier tray weight by 40-50 percent. StripFeeder Lightweight Rails are available for in 0.25" (6mm), 0.50" (12mm), 0.75" (19mm), and 1.125" (28mm) pocket depths.

All StripFeeder systems feature removable rails that can be mounted to accommodate a wide array of tape sizes in the same feeder. Unlike fixed width tape carrier trays, the StripFeeder can be adjusted by removing the rails and re-positioning them on the base plate at the desired width (4mm pitched pattern). The rails align with precision pin locators and lock down tightly with magnets to guarantee a stable, repeatable application. All StripFeeder Lightweight Rails also feature a mechanical lock-spring to hold the tape in place by the sprocket hole for part registration and repeatable pick-and-place applications. This means the user only has to teach the pick-up location one time and consistently reload the unit with the same parts over and over for longer runs.

This innovative rail design holds the components securely in the machined tracks to prevent parts from being miss-picked, flipped in the pocket or lost. Customers also can remove rails to accommodate larger components up to 120mm tape width. The StripFeeder system is compatible with most types of SMT equipment. The StripFeeder systems are a cost-effective way to load many components, including odd-form and custom components, without having to purchase expensive feeders. The quick-to-assemble, easy-to-install modules are designed for rapid loading of tape-and-reel components on existing SMT pick-and-place equipment. Additionally, the trays enable fast changeover between product runs without unloading from the machine.

The StripFeeder Lightweight will be officially launched during the IPC APEX EXPO in Las Vegas this March. Customers can stop by the Count On Tools booth (#2801) to see the new product.

Count On Tools, Inc. to Launch the QWIKTRAY Program for the U.S. Market at APEX

Posted by Z.Shook on 1/25/2016 to Count On Tools News

Count On Tools, Inc. (COT), a leading provider of precision components and SMT spare parts, will exhibit in Booth #2801 at the 2016 IPC APEX EXPO, scheduled to take place March 15-17, 2016 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Company representatives will celebrate COT’s 25-year anniversary with several promotions and giveaways. Additionally, the IPC APEX EXPO will mark the official launch of the QWIKTRAY program for the U.S. market.

The new QWIKTRAY system has been developed to provide low-cost, custom matrix trays for many types of electronic components. The QWIKTRAY platform allows surface mount components to be picked up in a repeatable method when tape-and-reel is not available and standard JEDEC trays do not exists. Customers no longer have to place these components by hand.

Utilizing the latest in machining and additive manufacturing technologies, QWIKTRAY will develop a custom pocket design matched to your component specifications and machine it into a finished matrix tray. QWIKTRAYs can be designed for almost any component, including QFP, BGA, hybrid, assemblies, sockets, pins, connectors, LEDs, switches, buttons, transformers and more.

Each QWIKTRAY is CNC machined to the specific configuration for your component and ships ready to load and install in the equipment. Each QWIKTRAY includes CAD drawings, containing pocket dimensions, first part location, spacing, and other programing details. QWIKTRAYs come standard in non-ESD black acrylic (ESD-safe and other materials are optional).

The QWIKTRAY program provides rapid turnaround on the design and production of any quantity of custom matrix trays. Standard lead time is 7-10 days with optional expedited service in as little as 24-48 hours (additional charges may apply). The system is designed for any application requirements, from prototype to high-volume processes. With the QWIKTRAY platform, there is one flat fee per tray with no minimum orders and no additional charges for design, programing, molds, setup, etc. Volume discounts also are available.

Other product lines that will be showcased at the event include COT’s growing line of automation handling tools, such as the recently expanded Stripfeeder system and ezLOAD board supports. The standard SMT nozzle product range also will be displayed along with a broad assortment of custom nozzle designs for odd-form components and LEDs.

Count On Tools, Inc. Hits 25-Year Milestone

Posted by Z.Shook on 1/1/2016 to Count On Tools News

Count On Tools, Inc. (COT), a leading provider of precision components and SMT spare parts, is pleased to announce the company’s 25-year anniversary. In 1991, Curt Couch, President of Count On Tools became a U.S. distributor of PB Swiss Tools, formerly known as PB Baumann Hand Tools. This business led to his further research in the surface mount technology and electronics manufacturing industry, and ultimately, the creation of Count On Tools Inc.

“I feel honored at the thought of where I started and where Count On Tools is today as a company, commented Curt Couch, President of Count On Tools. “We came from humbled beginnings, but strived for excellence. This, combined with many other factors, has allowed us to continue to grow year after year. I am proud of our 25-year track record of organic growth and sustained profitability while delivering global solutions for SMT nozzles and consumables to this industry.”

The market and electronics industry as a whole continues to push the boundaries of design and innovation, which provides constant motivation for Count On Tools to evolve. This has fueled the team’s passion to not only offer products, but create solutions for everyday problems in the industry. “It has always been exciting to develop new ideas with my team here at COT. We have such great people employed here, and I am honored to work with them. COT is an exceptional company because we handle adversity so well. We are never afraid of change and we are able to quickly adapt to most circumstances, including new challenges from customers.”

Count On Tools manufactures high-quality, low-cost pick-and-place nozzles and associated components for the SMT and electronics manufacturing industries. Proven engineering expertise, coupled with the company’s commitment to manufacturing excellence and investment in the latest production equipment, ensures that innovation and competitiveness is applied to all of its extensive product range.

“Our success is a result of positive attitude, hard work, patience, learning from failures and above all, being fair to customers,” Couch continued. “Our company's culture really reflects the fundamental rule, which is treating people more important than business itself with an unwavering commitment to meeting our customers’ needs. We will continue to focus on excellence while building strong working relationships between our employees, customers, vendors and partners, and producing quality products with the best value in mind.”

Count On Tools continues to offer original rework services as well as custom tooling/nozzle design services and new nozzle offerings. Each year, the company produces thousands of custom nozzle designs for an array of components, from LEDs to connectors and switches.

Couch added, “We are forward focused on the next evolution of our company and have plans to continue to develop and deliver additional value to our clients and innovation to the industry. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the loyal support of our customers, partners and vendors. These first 25 years have been a journey and I feel quite honored to say that we look forward to 25 more.”

Interview with Curt Couch, President of Count On Tools

Posted by Z.Shook on 12/30/2015 to Count On Tools News

Count On Tools has been a manufacturer of high-quality, low-cost nozzles and associated components for the SMT industry for more than 24 years. Proven manufacturing and engineering expertise, coupled with commitment to service excellence and investment in the latest production equipment, has ensured that innovation and competitiveness is applied to all of the company’s extensive product range. We recently sat down with Count On Tools’ President Curt Couch to learn more about the company, and its products and services.

Curt, we understand that Count On Tools recently was awarded its second consecutive Service Excellence Award from Circuits Assembly magazine. Please explain to our readers what this means to your company and customers.

As with last years’ service excellence award I am always humbled by recognition of this caliber based solely on customer response. It is not by chance that our dedicated, caring and responsive team always places our customers’ needs first. Service is not a product that can be created; rather it is a culture and attitude towards others. We treat customers as we would like to be treated ourselves. I believe this award is a true testament to the caliber and dedication that our team brings each and every day.

We hear a lot of customers talking about Count On Tools’ Custom Nozzle Engineering division. Can you tell us a little bit more about that part of your company?
It all started with our nozzles. We have been at this for more than 24 years now and we have always strived to provide customers with solutions to any issue they have when it comes to placing components. Customers come to us with problems that they experience, such as having to hand place odd-form components. We see every opportunity as a challenge to prove that we are capable of producing solutions at every level of the SMT assembly process, especially nozzles and tooling. The technology that we developed over the years has allowed us to design and manufacture custom engineered tooling for any pick-and-place equipment and for any kind of component. The real key though is our team’s openness to be creative in all situations, drawing from past experiences as well as new technology and ideas.

Count On Tools recently announced that it expanded its manufacturing operations for its Custom Nozzle Engineering division. Can you explain this expansion and how it benefits your customers?
Over the last several years, we have experienced tremendous growth in our Custom Nozzle Engineering division. Most of this growth was fueled by the success of our LED nozzle solutions for solid-state LED components from companies such as Cree and Lumileds. Our primary goal is to supply customers with fast turnarounds and significant cost savings on custom engineered tooling for their equipment. The addition of new equipment and more trained staff will keep our delivery times to a minimum while maximizing our ability to stay competitive and innovative.

Count On Tools recently launched the StripFeeder Mini system. How does this system differ from the original StripFeeder and what benefits can customers expect from the more compact system?
After launching the StripFeeder platform, we received a tremendous response from customers regarding the design and function of the device. From this feedback, we decided that it made sense to offer a smaller package system that would have the features of the larger system but would accommodate smaller strips of components (2-4"). The more compact design is ideally suited for smaller prototype and rework machines as well as most SMT pick-and-place equipment. It offers increased lane capacity with the ability to run two StripFeeder Minis in the same space as one original StripFeeder system.

So, by offering these automation tooling products, Count On Tools is moving beyond just SMT Nozzles and Consumables. What other types of solutions can you offer companies in this industry?
As I mentioned before, our company has been successful in part because of our ability to take on new challenges from customers and find solutions to common industry problems. Along those lines, we are currently working to develop a new product similar to our StripFeeder system that will allow us to convert customers’ loose, unpackaged components into a custom machined matrix tray. This service will have a 24-28 hour turnaround and will be the most cost effective way to repackage loose components and get them back into the assembly process. The new QwikTray system is scheduled to launch later this year, so keep a lookout for more product information around that time.

Most customers in this industry know Count On Tools for the nozzles and other SMT consumables, but you also offer precision contract machining services. Can you tell readers more about that part of your company?
We are more than just nozzles. At its core, Count On Tools is a precision component manufacturer. All of the nozzles and tooling we offer are manufactured in our Gainesville, GA facility. We operate advanced CNC Swiss-Type Automatic Lathes with multiple-axis and multiple turning capabilities, precision machining centers, lathes, mills, quality, finishing and secondary tools. Our expertise has allowed us to expand our capabilities to manufacturing other parts for our customers in this industry and many others as well. We offer a variety of job shop services for a wide selection of materials, from standard to exotic. Whether our customers need fast turnaround, single parts, small lots, large quantities or a long-term supply with on-time deliveries, we are able to supply them with the highest quality and service. Our focus is to pass these advantages and capabilities onto our customers and, in so doing, create long-term relationships, which we believe will enhance and add value to the end user's products and services.

Does Count On Tools have any plans for continued expansion or any new product updates during the remainder of 2015?
We recently acquired an additional 5,000 sq. ft. of production facility that will be used over the next several years to expand our manufacturing operations. We are always looking for ways to expand our operations so that we can continue to prove excellent service to our customers and to continue meeting demands both now and in the future. We see the potential for tremendous growth with our existing product lines and look forward to launching the new QwikTray system later this year.

Interview with Jeff Lancaster, Engineer at Count On Tools, Inc.

Posted by Z.Shook on 12/1/2015 to Count On Tools News

Solid-state lighting has the potential to revolutionize the lighting industry. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) — traditionally used in signs, signals and displays — are rapidly evolving to provide light sources for general illumination. This technology holds promise for lower energy consumption and reduced maintenance. Continued growth in LED technology and solid-state lighting has provided the electronics manufacturing industry with viable solutions for today’s electronic devices. As a result, companies in the surface mount technology (SMT) industry are expanding their manufacturing capabilities to meet this demand. The range of new and potential applications for LEDs in electronics is practically endless.

Count On Tools has realized this trend and worked to quickly develop a line of nozzle designs that allows customers to accurately and consistently place LEDs with existing SMT pick-and-place equipment. By working closely with LED component manufacturers such as CREE and Lumileds, Count On Tools guarantees secure picking of all fragile components and accurate placement on circuit boards.

We sat down with Jeff Lancaster, the Design Engineer behind the LED and custom nozzle program at Count On Tools, to discuss the growth of LED technology and how Count On Tools has overcome the issues that many contract manufacturers have faced with implementing this technology into their production capabilities.

Recent growth in LED technology and solid-state lighting have provided the electronics manufacturing industry with viable solutions for their use in today’s electronic devices. Have you seen an increase in demand for nozzle and tooling for LED components?
Yes, we have seen considerable growth for custom LED nozzles and tooling as well as high-volume repeat orders for tooling lines up for production. We constantly receive requests to build nozzles for the newest LEDs, some even before they hit the LED manufacturers’ customers.

We understand that the transition to high-power LED components, such as those offered by Cree and Phillips Lumileds, are more difficult to handle in the pick-and-place operations. What makes these LED components more difficult to handle than regular components?
As with all technology, everything has to get smaller yet more powerful — this holds true for LEDs as well. The die inside LEDs currently being made is staying close to the same size; however, the substrate is being cut closer to the die to reduce the footprint. This is done in order to increase LED population. The problem with the reduced substrate is that it makes the LED so lightweight that the tacky silicone dome literally sticks to the nozzle. This is where we have to get creative about how we approach picking the LEDs.

What problems do the stickiness or tackiness of the LED substrate cause for manufacturers attempting to place these components on boards?
Problems can start at presentation of the LED in the feeder. Because of the sticky silicone-based substrate, the dome of the LED can stick to the cover tape, causing the LED to flip on its side or even stay with the cover tape if the feeder is not set up properly. If the LED does get picked but does not release from the nozzle at placement, the machine could possibly start stacking the LEDs to each other and to the nozzle itself or start faulting out the machine with high reject counts.

How has Count On Tools been able to overcome these LED component problems for customers?
We have invested a tremendous amount into materials and nozzle designs to get the results that our customers need. We have tried ideas from wood nozzle tips to custom formulations of Teflon, and all have had varying levels of success. Our go-to material is urethane even though it is very difficult to machine to the fine details that are required for the smaller LEDs. Tip geometry places a huge toll also because what works great for one machine may not work at all for another. That is why we work with the customer to see which design will work best for their exact situation.

We also have recently seen a transition to smaller LED packages. How has Count On Tools been able to adjust its nozzle designs to accommodate these components?
The smaller LED packages have been a big challenge but we have stepped up with innovative designs. For example, we now can break the LED away from the nozzle tip after the vacuum has been turned off by building in vacuum leaks around the pick surface. This helps to stop the buildup of pressure that makes the silicone stick to the nozzle. Of course there are some things that the machine operator can do, such as minimize placement pressure and feeder, depending on their particular situations.

Count On Tools also works directly with LED component manufacturers on nozzle designs, specifically for new LED products coming to market. What does this mean to you to be able to stay on the forefront of this growing technology?
LED manufacturers come to us because they know they get quick turnaround and a lot of experience in the LED placement arena to get their customers up and running fast. We work closely with the manufacturers to get the best design that we then apply to other machine types and customer situations. It enables us to guarantee safe and reliable handling of the LED components for the pick-and-place operation.

Is there any other information you can give customers regarding handling LED components in the pick-and-place operation, especially first timers?
Do your research on the LEDs you are placing because most manufacturers have comprehensive documentation on their websites regarding information from machine setup to temperature and humidity levels, which play a significant role in how tacky the silicone can be. You can always call us and we will do our best to solve whatever issue you may run into.

Conclusion
Count On Tools’ LED nozzle technology was developed to provide a consistent and reliable platform for the placement of solid-state LED lighting components in the SMT assembly process. The company’s technology is based on an exclusive urethane material coupled with its precision machining capabilities, which has allowed it to manufacture tooling that not only overcomes the tackiness of the LED substrate but also offers better handling of the sensitive shapes and profiles of the many different LED designs. Count On Tools’ LED nozzles and tooling is available for all brands of SMT pick-and-place equipment. Additionally, Count On Tools generally can provide a finished nozzle within 1-2 weeks while saving customers up to 50 percent or more over OEM designs for custom nozzles. Volume discounts are available for orders of more than 50 nozzles. There are no design fees and Count On Tools provides free quotes based on the equipment and type of LED being placed.

Productronica 2015: Zachery Shook, Count On Tools, Inc.

Posted by Z.Shook on 11/23/2015 to Count On Tools News
Steve Chapman catches up with Zachery Shook from Count On Tools at Productronica 2015, Munich, Germany

Count On Tools Inc. to Display the New QWIKTRAY with Adopt SMT at productronica

Posted by Z.Shook on 10/12/2015 to Event News

Count On Tools, Inc. (COT), a leading provider of precision components and SMT spare parts, will display its new QWIKTRAY system in the AdoptSMT Booth, Hall A3 Booth 181, at the productronica International Trade Fair, scheduled to take place Nov. 10-13, 2015 at the Messe München exhibition center in Munich, Germany. The QWIKTRAY platform allows surface mount components to be picked up in a repeatable method when tape-and-reel is not available and standard JEDEC trays do not exists. As a result, customers no longer have to place these components by hand.

Utilizing the latest in machining and additive manufacturing technologies, QWIKTRAY will develop a custom pocket design matched to your component specifications and machine it into a finished matrix tray. QWIKTRAYs can be designed for almost any component, including QFP, BGA, hybrid, assemblies, sockets, pins, connectors, LEDs, switches, buttons, transformers and more.

Each QWIKTRAY is CNC machined to the specific configuration for your component and ships ready to load and install in the equipment. Each QWIKTRAY includes CAD drawings, containing pocket dimensions, first part location, spacing, and other programing details. QWIKTRAYs come standard in non-ESD black acrylic (ESD-safe and other materials are optional). For more information, please visit www.qwiktray.com.

COT also will showcase its new Stripfeeder Mini, the original StripFeeder, the LED Nozzle Series, ezLOAD PCB Supports, ezCLIP PCB Magazine Rack Stop Clips. Additionally, COT’s standard product range of nozzles/tooling/consumables and a select assortment of custom nozzle designs for odd-form components will be displayed.

Count On Tools Inc. Launches the QWIKTRAY Custom Matrix Tray System

Posted by Z.Shook on 9/30/2015 to New SMT Products

Count On Tools, Inc. (COT), a leading provider of precision components and SMT spare parts, is pleased to announce the launch of the new QWIKTRAY system, developed to provide low-cost, custom matrix trays for many types of electronic components. The QWIKTRAY platform allows surface mount components to be picked up in a repeatable method when tape-and-reel is not available and standard JEDEC trays do not exists. Customers no longer have to place these components by hand.

Utilizing the latest in machining and additive manufacturing technologies, QWIKTRAY will develop a custom pocket design matched to your component specifications and machine it into a finished matrix tray. QWIKTRAYs can be designed for almost any component, including QFP, BGA, hybrid, assemblies, sockets, pins, connectors, LEDs, switches, buttons, transformers and more.

Each QWIKTRAY is CNC machined to the specific configuration for your component and ships ready to load and install in the equipment. Each QWIKTRAY includes CAD drawings, containing pocket dimensions, first part location, spacing, and other programing details. QWIKTRAYs come standard in non-ESD black acrylic (ESD-safe and other materials are optional).

According to Zach Shook, Operations Director of Count On Tools, Inc., “Our company understands that in order for our customers to remain competitive in today’s market, they must be able to cut costs while maximizing the capabilities of their existing SMT assembly equipment to prevent costly investments in new equipment or increased labor from hand placements of electronic components. The QWIKTRAY platform provides customers with a fast and easy way to get components back into the machines. This could be from loose components with no standard packaging, such as tape reel or JEDEC trays, or from recovered components that were miss-picked or dropped during previous production runs.”

The QWIKTRAY program provides rapid turnaround on the design and production of any quantity of custom matrix trays. Standard lead time is 7-10 days with optional expedited service in as little as 24-48 hours (additional charges may apply). The system is designed for any application requirements, from prototype to high-volume processes. With the QWIKTRAY platform, there is one flat fee per tray with no minimum orders and no additional charges for design, programing, molds, setup, etc. Volume discounts also are available.

Mr. Shook continued, “Our company is based on engineering solutions for the entire SMT operation, from component handling and presentation to pick-and-place to final processing. The QWIKTRAY system is just another way that customers can move costly manual labor back into their production equipment. The design and manufacturing process has been streamlined to make the turnarounds fast while maintaining our high quality standards. Our QWIKTRAYs are designed for precision, stability and protection during the pick-and-place process.”

Count On Tools Inc. Introduces the StripFeeder Transition Rail

Posted by Z.Shook on 9/1/2015 to New SMT Products

Count On Tools, Inc. (COT), a leading provider of precision components and SMT spare parts, has released a new accessory – the Transition Rail – for its award-winning line of StripFeeder products. Each StripFeeder Transition Rail features machined tracks for both paper and emboss tape on the same rail for a seamless transition.

The StripFeeder Transition Rail allows customers to take full advantage of the StripFeeder platform when running both paper and emboss tape, simultaneously, without the loss of a component lane. The rail will be sold individually or in StripFeeder .mod and Mini kits. StripFeeder Transition kits are set up to run three lanes of paper tape and three lanes of emboss tape in 0.25" (6mm), 0.50" (12mm), and 0.75" (19mm) pocket depths. Additional rails can be added to these kits to increase the amount of component lanes, up to 10 per tray for 8mm tape.

All StripFeeder .mod and Mini systems feature removable rails that can be mounted to accommodate a wide array of tape sizes in the same feeder. Unlike fixed width feeders, the StripFeeder Mini can be adjusted by removing the rails and re-positioning them on the base plate at the desired width (4mm pitched pattern). The rails align with precision pin locaters and lock down tightly with magnets to guarantee a stable, repeatable application. All StripFeeder rails also feature a mechanical lock-spring to hold the tape in place by the sprocket hole for part registration and repeatable pick-and-place applications. This means the user only has to teach the pick-up location one time and consistently reload the unit with the same parts over and over for longer runs.

This innovative rail design holds the components securely in the machined tracks to prevent parts from being miss-picked, flipped in the pocket or lost. Customers also can remove rails to accommodate larger components up to 120mm tape width. The StripFeeder system is compatible with most types of SMT equipment. The StripFeeder systems are a cost-effective way to load many components, including odd-form and custom components, without having to purchase expensive feeders. The quick-to-assemble, easy-to-install modules are designed for rapid loading of tape-and-reel components on existing SMT pick-and-place equipment. Additionally, the trays enable fast changeover between product runs without unloading from the machine.

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