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Interview with Curt Couch, President of Count On Tools, Inc.

Posted by Z. Shook on 5/2/2012 to Articles and Awards

Count On Tools Inc. (COT), a precision component manufacturer specializing in all aspects of the machining industry, has been a manufacturer of high-quality, low-cost pick-and-place nozzles and associated components for the SMT and electronics manufacturing industries for more than 20 years. Proven engineering expertise, coupled with its 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.

Q. Recent growth in LED technology and solid state lighting has provided the electronics manufacturing industry with viable solutions for its addition into today’s electronic devices. Have you seen an increase in demand for COT’s LED nozzles?

A. We get new requests for LED nozzles every day from EMS companies around the world. It seems everyone is having the same issues with placing the new style of SMD LED components …they are sticky. The machine picks up the nozzle to place it, and it is stuck to the tip. That is where the problem begins. You have a board missing components and a nozzle that thinks it is ready to pick another LED, not realizing that there is still one stuck on it.

Our solution was to find a suitable material that could not only eliminate the sticky LEDs, but also is durable enough for long-term use as well as reliable and accurate enough for placing thousands of these LED components each hour. We also had to meet the critical requirements from the component manufactures to protect the LED lenses from damage during the placement process.

What we developed was a Urethane-based tip that not only achieves each of these goals, but has outperformed every other solution on the market to date, including that of the OEM and component manufacturers. The result is no more sticky LEDs. We have successfully tested this design on all types of pick-and-place equipment, and currently offer designs for all major LED components (from CREE to Luxeon, Osram, Kingbright, and more).

Q. You recently released the ezLOAD PCB Support System. Tell us a bit about that product.

A.  With the recent increase of densely populated double-sided circuit boards, COT recognized the need for more affordable board support options in the electronics manufacturing industry. The end result was an innovative design that is not only easy to setup and install, but also offers industry-leading benefits to EMS companies and contract manufacturers worldwide. The new ezLOAD System not only reduces changeover times, but improves product build quality, increases revenues by providing significant cost savings, and can eliminate component damage during the assembly process.

The ezLOAD System is simple to use. Just place the unit on your equipment's board support table and align as required. Multiple units can be arranged in rows (X & Y) for more support on larger boards. Our standard design features strong magnets that hold the ezLOAD system in place. Additionally, we offer other designs for machines that have non-magnetic tables. The soft, ESD-safe foam fingers hold the boards securely during the assembly process while protecting components. ezLOAD is extremely durable yet reliable for long-term use and the foam pads can be replaced providing excellent cost savings. The system requires no air, electronics, or communication with the machine, so there are no mechanical functions to fail.

Most importantly, our system is affordable compared to other similar products on the market. The ezLOAD System is compatible with any SMT equipment, from pick-and-place to chipshooters, screen printers, dispensers, AOI, and more. We offer three different styles, including an adjustable height model, to accommodate any size board. The ezLOAD System can be customized depending on machine requirements, specialized components, or specific design application requirements.

You can learn more about this product at www.cotinc.com/ezload.

Q. We understand you also released your StripFeeder .mod (Modular) System, which is now able to accommodate a wide array of tape sizes in the same feeder. How is this accomplished?

A. The new 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 trays are compatible with both paper and emboss tape simultaneously, and are ideal for low-volume high-mix applications and prototyping.

Unlike our fixed width version, the StripFeeder .mod can be adjusted by removing the rails and re-positioning them on the base plate at the desired width (4mm pitched hole pattern). The rails align with precision pin locaters and lock down tightly with magnets to guarantee a stable, repeatable application. The innovative design holds the components securely in the machined tracks to prevent parts from being miss-picked, flipped in the pocket, or lost. Also, customers can remove rails to accommodate larger components up to 120mm tape width. More importantly, we built the standard StripFeeder .mod system to JEDEC specs so that it would be compatible with most tray feeder systems already on the market.

We ask our customers, “Why would you purchase expensive feeders for each component or a small strip of tape when you only need to place a few at a time?”

You can learn more about this product line at www.cotinc.com/stripfeeder.

Q. Please describe your precision contract machining services and specifically what the services include.

A. Count On Tools is a precision component manufacturer specializing in CNC Swiss Automatic Machining. 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 you with the highest quality and service. Our commitment to excellence is shown through our design and manufacturing processes as well as investment in the latest machining and quality technologies. We offer a variety of small job shop services and materials.

Swiss machining was originally developed to provide intricate, tight tolerance parts for the watch industry. These intricate parts required numerous machining operations to create the features needed. With Swiss turning machines, multiple operations ― including turning, slotting, boring, milling, threading, indexing, drilling, facing, and broaching ― can be accomplished. This equipment can hold tolerances of +/- .0001" and their versatility minimizes or eliminates the need for secondary operations.  We specialize in machining components from standard to exotic materials including Stainless Steel, Titanium and Inconel.

We believe in developing long-term relationships with our customers by providing them with professional, yet personal service. With our extensive manufacturing experience, we understand the needs and challenges of our customers. We have established and refined the systems and processes that allow delivery of precision parts that create real efficiency, quality and value ― proven in global OEM applications.

You can learn more about our equipment and capabilities at www.cotinc.com/mfg.

Q. We understand that you recently expanded your Georgia headquarters and purchased new equipment in response to the increased demand for your precision contract machining services. How have you increased your capabilities at this facility?

A. We have been blessed over the last year in terms of business growth with all divisions of our company, especially the contract machining services. We have seen more orders come in and we must anticipate any future growth to keep up with our customers’ demands. This division of the company not only provides machining services to outside customers, but also produces our entire line of SMT nozzles and tooling, so it is crucial to our entire organization.

Also, with the current situation of the economy, many companies are taking a hard look at their budgets to determine where they can make significant costs savings. For the electronics manufacturing industry, this allows us to show customers that we can provide quality consumables at a lower cost, saving them money while maintaining the consistent quality they have come to expect from the OEM. This has fueled the growth of our SMT division over the last few years.

So, to accommodate this growth, we had to convert some unused warehouse space into a manufacturing cell. At the same time, we have been purchasing new manufacturing equipment to allow us to produce more quality parts. All of this has combined to increase our machining capabilities from the capacity standpoint as well as our capabilities to produce tighter tolerance parts quickly and efficiently.

Q. Does COT have plans for a continued expansion or anymore new product updates during the remainder of 2012?

A. We are still in the process of installing new equipment, with the addition of a Miyano BX26-S, and are looking to add another Zeiss CMM in the near future. This will further increase our capacity in both the manufacturing and quality departments. At the same time, we will be increasing the workforce to maintain production. On the SMT side, we are still developing more options for the StripFeeder .mod system, including taller rails for deep pocket components. We also have updated our Web site for easy ordering of the ezLOAD system. Currently we are  looking into adding a line of automatic tape-and-reel cutters and PCB magazine racks to our existing product range. So far we have had a great start to 2012.


Count On Tools Inc. Releases Interchangeable Cup Nozzles for Universal Equipment

Posted by Z. Shook on 5/1/2012 to New SMT Products

Count On Tools Inc., a leading provider of precision components and SMT spare parts, has released a series of interchangeable cup  nozzles for Universal Instruments’ Flexjet 2/3/Inline 7 (7 Spindle) equipment. The new nozzle series allows the user to purchase one nozzle base with multiple tips that can be changed out to accommodate a wide array of components with a single tool.

The Interchangeable Cup Nozzles Series consists of the following selections:

  • H012/H055 Replaceable Tip Nozzle with 2.0mm & 3.5mm cups
    (OEM PN# 51305311)
  • H013/H056 Replaceable Tip Nozzle with 5.0mm, 6.0mm, & 8.0mm cups
    (OEM PN#: 51305312)

Every nozzle comes with one cup in each size. Customers also can purchase individual replacement cups as needed. Other cup sizes are available for specialized applications and increased range of components. For more information about Count On Tools’ new interchangeable cup nozzles, visit www.cotinc.com.


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