Throughput rate optimization in the automated assembly of printed circuit boards
The electronics industry relies heavily on numerically controlled machines for the placement of electronic components on the surface of printed circuit boards (PCB). These placement (or mounting, or pick-and-place) machines automatically insert components into PCB’s, in a sequence determined by the input program. The most recent among them are characterized by high levels of accuracy and speed, but their throughput rates still appear to be extremely sensitive to the quality of the instructions. On the other hand, the effective programming of the machines becomes steadily more difficult in view of the increasing sophistication of the available technology. The development of optimization procedures allowing the efficient operation of such placement machines therefore provides an exciting challenge for the operations research community, as witnessed by, e.g., the recent papers by Ahmadi, Grotzinger and Johnson (1988), Ball and Magazine (1988), and Leipälä and Nevalainen (1989).
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