Today’s manufacturers face rapid change, increasingly complex products, and pressure to increase efficiency while reducing costs and improving product quality. Lifecycle management and the traceability of manufactured goods have become an important part of the supply chain process. The goal is to embed automation in the product flow, tracking products in order to increase the efficiency and visibility of production, improve production planning and inventory management, and enhance the efficiency of enterprise resource planning.

Figure 1. Example QR code. Try reading it with your smartphone.

Figure 1. Example QR code. Try reading it with your smartphone.

At the core of this traceability is automatic identification (AutoID) and data capture. AutoID instantly recognizes and tracks objects, collects data about them, and enters that data directly into a computer. Management decisions can then be made more quickly and flexibly. AutoID technologies include one-dimensional and two-dimensional codes, RFID, biometrics, OCR, and smart cards.

Beyond tracking traditional warehoused goods, AutoID will be an important foundation for the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem. At the individual component level, IoT will rely on “smart objects” with unique IDs that can be seen within the Internet environment. According to Liukkonen and Tsai,

In manufacturing, IoT is about the integration of identifiable embedded computer-like systems in the infrastructure of the Internet and the business, which is based on software and services, built around it. The next technological advancement of IoT seems to concentrate on the development of a more complex network of interconnected objects (i.e., things) which can complete a variety of tasks including sensing, controlling, monitoring, and responding. […] Fast development of machines and devices, new sensor technologies, and intelligence that is integrated to production equipment and measurement devices have created totally new possibilities for making IoT a novel form of business and a versatile tool box of renewable industry, which provides solutions to many problems related to process monitoring, diagnostics, control, and optimization.

When objects can represent themselves digitally, they can be controlled remotely and more precisely, and it is then possible to fully track their progress from point A to B to C. Effective control of material flows improves inventory control and production scheduling. Today, many manufacturers are required to accurately identify their products both for internal record keeping purposes and due to their customers’ requirements for traceability

Data Matrix

Manufacturers of electronic devices, such as IGBT modules and power transistors, are looking for a reliable, cost effective method for uniquely identifying and tracking products through the manufacturing cycle and distribution. The code must be durable so it can survive the manufacturing process but must not affect circuit performance. It must also be able to store information in the small space available on PCBs and components.

Figure 2. Data Matrix code dimensions can vary to accommodate the complexity of the data encoded.

Figure 2. Data Matrix code dimensions can vary to accommodate the complexity of the data encoded.

A Data Matrix is a 2D code capable of encoding large amounts of text or numeric data in a compact space. Of the available 2D tracking methods, the Data Matrix code has emerged as the accepted standard for electronics and other manufacturing industries.

Data Matrix codes are used as unique IDs for managing individual parts and material lots. The codes add tracking and security information to a master card or every single piece on a master card and then are used to register such details as the lot number, date of production, test program name, and revision number.

These 2D codes are read by vision-based systems rather than the laser scanners used with 1D bar codes. A camera takes a picture of the code, and then the software finds the code in the image, orients it, and extracts the data.

Data Matrix codes encode information digitally, can accommodate low-contrast printing directly on parts, provide high information density, are easily scalable to various levels of magnification, have built-in error correction, and can be read in any orientation.

curamikRogers can add Data Matrix codes to a wide range of metalized substrates, including direct-bonded-copper and active-metal-brazed substrates. Codes, which can be text or numeric in form and encoded by code-reading camera systems, are written on metalized surfaces by means of a thin oxide layer formed by an optical laser system; no additional material is required on the substrate. In addition to bare copper surfaces, data matrix codes can be written on nickel (Ni), nickel/gold (Ni/Au), and silver (Ag) plated surfaces.

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