Peek Inside Our PCB Assembly Facility

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.

Welcome to the Dishtronix / TEN TEC / ALPHA SMD Assembly Facility

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

Contact Model 3xx Assembly Machines

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.

MY9 with Agillis Feeder System

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.

MY 9 and MY19 Hydra SMD assembly lines

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.

Reflow Ovens and Wave Solder Machine

Electrovert Bravo 8105 8 zone lead free BGA capable reflow oven

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?

X Ray Machine

Seho Compac 1025C Bench Top Wave Solder Machine

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.

Manual Insertion Area

RX340 Front Panel Boards

RX340 PCB Blank boards awaiting assembly.

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!

RX340 Parts Kit

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

 

 

 

11 Replies to “Peek Inside Our PCB Assembly Facility”

  1. Jim Karpowitz

    Impressive!! As someone who once worked for an electronics manufacturer who built everything in house, I so much appreciate what you are doing and I thank you for the tour. Keeping American manufacturing alive and well is laudable. I have only the slightest inkling of the difficulty you have encountered with this project but I can see a rebirth of Ten-Tec and Alpha in progress. Best wishes in this venture!

    73,

    Jim K. KS9Q

    Reply
  2. Dennis P. Bernier

    I have an Alpha 77DX bought new in 1979 from Don Payne. Changed the tube after 31 years and bought new panels due to sticky paint.
    Absolutely, beyond a doubt, the best product in any category I’ve ever bought in my entire life!
    Amplifier does everything it is supposed to do and continues to do it year after year with zero maintenance.
    Thanks,
    W4WIA

    Reply
  3. Bill Hopkins

    Ive had many Ten Tec rigs. Always Loved them and the company. Ive never run an amp.
    But im glad Alpha is still doing its thing. Hope you all keep a tail gate saturday afteroon or sunday for all us who still want to see the business thrive again! 73 WJ2L BILL

    Reply
  4. Jack Daniel

    I own a Ten-Tec Eagle with the built in tuner. I am a satisfied customer. I would like to own more. I look forward to the day I will be able to purchase another new radio and /or related products from your company. I live in Richardson, Texas. Thank you for your dedication. Jack Daniel /KF5SGC

    Reply
  5. Don Beaver

    So Glad that TenTec and Alpha have found a good Home and Alpha is the Best Amp I have ever owned.
    Looking forward to getting some Orion II Sub receivers and/or the Orion III.

    Reply
  6. John Philips

    Very impressive, Mike. I am the satisfied owner of a Ten-Tec Eagle which I have taken to several field days and club special events. Every one who has used it (and there are many) has been impressed with it’s performance and ease of use. I look forward to the day Ten-Tec amateur line is again in full production and wish you the very best in this venture..
    73,
    John Philips, WI4P

    Reply
  7. Gary G. Young Ph.D.

    I have a 87A linear, serial # 7 that has proven to be flawless. It helped me get to the top of the DX Honor Roll and will no doubt outlast me.

    I saw equipment such as yours in an industrial manufacturing site here in New England, and was blown away by it’s speed. Quality pays. I trust you will be rewarded by your investment.

    73, K2AJY

    Reply
    • Samuel P. Maze

      I’m really glad Alpha and Ten Tec are marching forward under the new ownership ! People do not understand that improving a company on a big scale is a time consuming and very expensive process ! Alpha has always had a good name as I have a Alpha 78 that was sold in 1983 and I bought it several years ago ! It still has the original date coded 8874 tubes and looks Brand New and is 34 years old !
      I have conversed with N8WFF the new owner several times and he has told me is in this for the long haul and is confident Ten Tec will be producing radios in the near future ? I am really looking forward to the new technology in the Ten Tec American made products ! I know it is difficult to compete with the cheap foreign made products !
      I am getting ready to order a Alpha 8410 very soon and really looking forward to getting it on the air ? I really hope we will support Ten Tec when the new radios go on the market?

      Reply
  8. Glenn

    Mike,
    Just wanted to offer a word of encouragement and a Hardy THANK YOU for picking up the gauntlet and running. I have followed all of the rumors, speculation, bitching and discouragement post from those who don’t have a clue. It’s easy to bitch behind a keyboard and not have anything to offer besides discontent and pessimism. You also have many folks quietly Cheering you on and we are NOT going away.
    Only you see the BIG picture, So, PLEASE PRESS ON Friend. Our thoughts and enthusiasm endures for the New Ten Tec/Alpha/ ??
    Soon you will be shipping loads of equipment around the world and the scoffers will have to find something else to bitch about!
    Looking at the pictures and reading the descriptions of your equipment is AWESOME. Also being a NON-DEBT company speaks volumes about your Professional Ethics.

    Very best to you and your team!!!

    73,
    Glenn WA4AOS

    Reply
  9. Tyrone Davis

    Whats on the horizon forAlpha amps…the 9500 has been on the market for a few years as your flagship. Are you guys moving into the LDMOS market or a new tube type amp? Whats New?

    Thanks Guys

    73

    Reply

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