Manufacturing Talent

My name is Fabian and I am twenty years of age.  I started working at Mantracourt Electronics in November 2013 as an Electronic Manufacturing apprentice.

When the opportunity came along to start an apprenticeship at Mantracourt I jumped at the chance.  I have always been interested in technology and had worked on my own projects in my spare time, including fixing resisters and capacitors on iphones, PC’s and gaming consoles.  To have the opportunity to do something that interests me where I could work and train at the same time with good job prospects was a dream come true.

When I first started, one of my first tasks was to learn the basics of soldering different types of retrofit components and surface mounts components.  Although a little daunting at first, this was a skill that I picked up very quickly.  I also learnt how to rework circuitry; this is a particularly useful skill for moving components, if needed.

I started practising on scrap boards until my team leader decided that I was competent enough to work on products.  This was really exciting because when a board that I soldered passed test for the first time, my team leader was very impressed and I felt proud of myself.

I was also taught about the effects of Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) and how to prevent it in the workplace.

A month later I was learning a lot of new skills, such as how to use the EBSO machine (selective soldering machine).  This was a great privilege because only certain people are trained on this and it felt great to have importance and responsibility in a job.

I attend college once a week and am studying maths and science.  I also learn about how to work with machines and different types of tools in the workshop.  The workshop lesson is my favourite aspect because I am learning skills that are really useful at Mantracourt and compliment the in-house training that I receive.

The best thing about working at Mantracourt is the fact that I am learning new skills and I have finally discovered something that I’m good at and enjoy, and the bonus is I get paid for doing it!

It is also so rewarding to see the end results of a product that I have spent time on, finished and working and ready to go off to our customers.

As an apprentice I will get the opportunity to work in all aspects of the business, including  sales, marketing and with the design engineers.  There is a great team of people here.

As part of the in-house training and education I have worked with various products from our standard product range.  An example is the SGA/D, which is a high performance signal conditioner, for use with strain gauges.  It offers a wide bandwidth and a wide input signal range.

Let me explain the processes this item goes through in basic terms…

This product starts by going through the SMT Line (surface mount machine), this puts all the surface mount components in their correct places.

The next step is a high speed visual inspection by a machine that checks that each component is correctly located, checks for the integrity of the solder joints and can also identify if any component has an incorrect value.

Once this is done it is moved over to the EBSO machine.  This is where all the retrofit components are put into place and soldered with a small ‘wave’ of solder.  The correct nitrogen levels are essential.  We put four of these boards through on each run, and each run takes about 12 minutes.

For every operation that is undertaken on the product you must mark off on the Product Database which stage it is at and how many products have been through this stage.  This means that once the boards have been through the SMT line they must be marked off and inspected.

After the boards have been through all of the assembly processes it’s time for them to get tested.

All products undergo rigorous quality testing and we have different methods of doing this, but they mainly undergo testing by the automatic test equipment system (ATE) using various jigs.

Once the SGA’s have passed the ATE test they are then put into their respective cases and are transferred to the dispatch department, where they are put into stock, or packaged and sent off to our customers.

I think the biggest challenge for me so far has been learning all of the different component names and learning where each component is stored.  This took some time but now I am familiar with these…it’s just like riding a bike!

My goals for the future are to learn how the entire organisation works, and to have first-hand experience of every aspect of the company.  I would love to get involved with product design and create my own product for the company one day…. watch this space!!!

By Fabian Gilson, Electronic Manufacturing Apprentice at Mantracourt