2016 has been a very busy growth year for Dishtronix / Ten Tec and Alpha. Ten Tec and Alpha have been transitioned from a company that outsourced everything to a company that once again assembles as much as possible in house. At Dishtronix, we moved into our new Surface Mount Facility where all the boards are / will / can be made for the Ten Tec, Dishtronix, Alpha and Emtron products. Here is a view of the front door. I know it is not all that impressive, but I have worked a lot of hard years to get to this point.
Dishtronix has always assembled our own circuit boards and here you can see some of our old Contact Systems machines which have been taken off the flight line
A big problem with Assembly machines is the removal of the SMD plastic cover tape. A company in Sweden called MYDATA has solved this problem with their Agilis Feeder system which reduces setup time from hours and days to minutes. This system is the absolute best for high mix, medium to high volume assembly. When Ten Tec assembled their own boards in Sevierville, they had an older MY9. Fortunately they archived all their assembly files so I was able to get things back in production with only a slight learning curve. The RX340 contracts enabled me to finally purchase my first MYDATA machine on the used market. Here she is, what a beauty.
The white cartridge is the Agilis feeder magazine and the black boxes are earlier magazines that are not Agilis. They use cover tapes. This particular machine can hold a total of 96 8mm tapes. You can see that 16 reels of parts fit into one magazine. This machine assembled all our RX340s last summer in about a month! A magazine cost around 7K and one of the sixteen feeders it can hold costs around 500 USD. To compound the issue there are five different sizes of feeders you will need depending on if you are placing very small 0201 parts or large 1210 parts. Just feeders and magazines can easily cost more than your home, let alone the machine cost which is definitely more than a nice home. As if that isn’t enough 96 tapes is a little limiting. The largest machine they make is a MY19 capable of holding 256 8mm tapes. I just had to have one.
I can’t even fit the MY19 into my camera, so here is a shot of it on the right side. What you are seeing is our two independent SMD assembly lines. A stencil printer deposits solder paste on a PCB which is then transferred to the placement machine where the components are plucked from the reels and put where they belong. The MY9 on the left has one head and can shoot around 6K chips per hour. The MY19 on the right in addition to the single head is equipped with the mighty HYDRA 2D head, which plucks EIGHT, yes EIGHT components at a time and places them on the board! It is all done with visual on the fly recognition. This is a POWERFUL TOOL. You find these on the floor of BIG defense contractors like some famous companies along Florida’s space coast. I’m sure we are the only amateur radio company running a MY19. It is of course Agilis equipped. Every little extra bit of money I have I buy an Agilis something whenever I can. I skimp on groceries and don’t eat out. that is how committed I am to building you the finest equipment in the world.
You can see the stencil printers in the foreground, and in the back ground is the next step of the process, which is the reflow ovens. The Blue machine is the big wave solder machine.
The Bravo 8105 is a great oven! It has a chain conveyor over a mesh belt conveyor so we can process double sided SMD without knocking the bottom side components off. It is lead free capable and has 8 zones so we can properly mount lead free BGA. You can see the three phase fume extractor on the wall. We have a couple of smaller ovens and two wave solder machines so we can run different profiles and different solder pastes at the same time. You use a different melting point solder on the top side as compared to the bottom side when processing double sided SMD. We also have two regular wave solder machine and a lead free machine awaiting 15K USD of SAC 305 solder to arrive. Needless to say I’m not filing that up any time soon!
When you process BGA is is very important to have an X Ray machine to check for defects and to develop your soldering profile. Guess what that machine hidden by the stack of RX340 boards on the left is?
This just scratches the surface. We have two wire processing (measure, cut, strip) machines that dereel wire and make exact pieces ready for wiring harness assembly. We have a PEM-sert pneumatic press for inserting all the different standoffs in our sheet metal, and we haven’t even looked at test equipment or engineering.
Here is a view of manual insertion area, washing machine and some facility stuff.
You can see the wire stripping and processing machine in the background. We put all the parts for building a group of SMD boards on these wire rack trollies and bring them up to the assembly machines. this is called Kitting and we use a very sophisticated computer controlled bar coding system that reads the bar code on each reel of components. When we scan in a new reel the system updates the quantities available. We then scan the feeder where the part will be loaded. Once we do that we can insert the feeder in any magazine and the magazine in any slot in any machine and the machine knows exactly where and how many parts it has. We can even load a second reel into the machine and when the first one is empty it will switch automatically and suck parts off the second reel giving us time to replace the first reel! The computer and machines are networked so that as the parts are removed the database inventory updates accordingly! You don’t find that on a machine in your garage!
It takes between 100 and 200K of parts to build a major product like the RX340, Eagle, Prometheus or 9500. Here the kits are lined up. Hard to believe in just a few days those shelves will be empty when the HYDRA cranks up! Here is a thought for you. It took me almost 5 months to get all the parts in stock, ordered, fix supplier issues, deal with vendors who were burned previously, etc, to get the parts in to build RX340s. May 1st 2016 this was an empty shell. In July we were cranking out boards. In addition to that I’ve moved three trailer loads of stuff from Ten Tec, and TEN TEC is also moved into her new home in Tennessee. We will post some of that over on the Ten Tec site http://www.tentec.com
We have been criticized for not airing our dirty laundry and telling everyone in the world, including our competitors about what we are doing. It isn’t anyone’s business what we do here. This is a VERY competitive industry. I own everything you see in these pictures. I am very serious and very committed to my businesses. I only know of one other company in North America running their own PCBs and it does not start with an E or an F. To the best of my knowledge, I’m the only all band HF transceiver company doing my own manufacturing. Ten Tec has a tradition to uphold. Alpha never assembled their own PCBs in house unless you count the QSC relationship. So for Alpha this is a HUGE leap forward. For Alpha, Ten Tec and Dishtronix this is all an improvement. What does that mean to you as a customer? Who do you think is more serious about supporting you long term? Someone who imports equipment from the Orient or former communist block countries? Who is making the investment in the infrastructure? Our stuff is PAID FOR. We don’t carry company debt. If we don’t owe anyone anything, how can anyone force us out of business? Isn’t this the way you operate your own personal finances? Sure, we move slow and steady and make progress at our own pace. But look what a difference six months makes.
We recognize you have a choice with whom you do business. If you partner with us, we will be around in 10 or 20 years or whenever you need us to repair your investment grade equipment, just like we have been around for the last 47 years at Alpha. With your support, we will be here when your grandson needs the amplifier he remembers you getting when he was a boy. I know because I remember the day my grandfather got his. We don’t just build amplifiers and equipment at Alpha. We build family heirlooms and memories that sometimes bridge a lifetime. An unwavering commitment to excellence in everything we do is what sets us apart from those who seek to be our competitors. This is why my partners and I purchased this company and why you should do business with us.
Good is not Good Enough if you intend to be Great. We can make America great again even if it is only one amplifier at a time. I’m trying to do my part the best I can. Would you care to join me?
73 DE N8WFF