Founded in 1991 as a purely development company, Wildmoser is now – 25 years later – taking the consistent next step in its corporate development with entry into Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS). With its investment in the latest VERSAFLOW selective soldering technology, Wildmoser is continuing on its growth path.
Author: Mark Birl
Founded in 1991 as a purely development company, Wildmoser is now – 25 years later – taking the consistent next step in its corporate development with entry into Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS). Market leaders from the automotive sector, medical technology and industry place their faith in the company located in Puchheim near Munich. With its investment in the latest VERSAFLOW selective soldering technology, Wildmoser is continuing on its growth path.
“Today we are a development company which, if the customer so wishes, can also provide manufacturing services,” is how company founder and owner Stefan Wildmoser describes his company. 28 years ago, still in his early 20s, he ventured out on his own and today heads up an enterprise with 50 employees. It was the initial projects and consultancy work for the automotive supplier Webasto which helped Wildmoser make a name for himself in the branch. Even today, the SME owner does around 90 % of his business for the automotive sector, developing the series electronics and software for products in the comfort or driver assistance area, engine control and lighting systems. These products are manufactured in large lot sizes of between 20,000 and a million and area installed in vehicles of international brands and high-end manufacturers around the world.
Wildmoser’s success base: Strong team spirit
The basis of the company’s success is the strong team spirit at Wildmoser electronic. “Without a functioning team, the whole thing comes to nothing, and without my team, I am nothing either,” says Stefan Wildmoser. Over 40 % of the workforce has been with the company for upwards of ten years. And Wildmoser’s co-founders are still on board today. Shades of the Three Musketeers can still be found at Wildmoser: one for all and all for one. Only in this way can the Wildmoser team tackle the greatest challenge: the tight scheduling required by customers. Here the benefits of the small SME with flat hierarchies, fast decision-making and short chains of command are invaluable. “We are extremely fast and, if so required, can successfully implement a development project in half the actual estimated project time. As a result, time and again, our assignments have a fire-fighting character when the customer’s production start is endangered,” says Wildmoser proudly.
From prototypes to series production
In terms of the range of services, the Wildmoser philosophy is to consistently augment the company with the addition of services which will advance the customer and Wildmoser equally. This includes having the necessary equipment and know-how within the company and being able to offer them all from one source. One example is the company’s own two EMC chambers for checking electromagnetic compatibility. These made the company independent of external service providers – and saved time and costs, which benefited not only the customers. A further example from 2005: the development of prototype manufacturing. In the beginning it was just between one and three prototypes, initially assembled by hand. Demand grew – and so did the Wildmoser level of frustration at the search for suppliers willing to produce mini-series of between five and 15 units. This led to the decision in favour of the company developing its own prototype manufacturing with pick-and-place machines, stencil printers, soldering systems, 3D printers, a flying probe system and AOI.
It was the prototype manufacturing which ultimately led to the entry into series production in 2017. A customer approached Wildmoser electronic with the request that they take on the manufacturing of his project, having already been responsible for its development. Stefan Wildmoser was initially hesitant, but came around to the idea. “The challenge is in keeping a company like Wildmoser electronic running into the future. The entry into series production was actually the logical advancement from a development team to a full-service company, although our main focus will continue to be on development with linked manufacturing. We do not see ourselves as a purely EMS manufacturer,” explains Stefan Wildmoser.
Selective soldering technology from the market leader
Today, four SMD production lines are located in the Wildmoser electronic premises. In the soldering process, the emphasis has been placed on vapour phase and selective soldering. The latter led to a bottleneck in series production in manufacturing a customer order, a control device with two 64-pole plugs. At present, Wildmoser is producing 120,000 of these control devices per year. At one minute each, the cycle times for a module were significantly too long, and no satisfactory soldering quality was achieved. There were considerable problems with bridge formation and missing joints. A solution had to be found.
The beginning of 2018 saw the initial contact with the system supplier Ersa GmbH from Wertheim, worldwide market leader in this sector with 3,000 selective soldering machines installed worldwide. During a site visit by the responsible Ersa Area Sales Managers to Puchheim near Munich, company owner, Stefan Wildmoser, and Michael Trapp, responsible for production, discussed the machine project. The current setup featuring individual modules in a soldering frame was to be retained. Therefore, Ersa initially chose the ECOSELECT 4 with y-variable dual solder module for parallel processing of the two components for this project. The special thing about this system: If required, it can be expanded with just a few flicks of the wrist and a moderate investment volume to a full VERSAFLOW 4/55. In addition, both systems can run on the same software platform so that that the operator does not have to be familiarised with new machine controls after the conversion. Even subsequent expansion with a second or third soldering module would be possible without difficulty. All interesting features for Wildmoser in the installation of a well-thought out in-house selective soldering base. If, at a later date, capacity needs to be increased, production readiness could quickly be reinstated following machinery expansion.
Final product design leads to VERSAFLOW 4/55 with VERSAFLEX
At the end of 2018, the final product design of the control device was decided on at Wildmoser. Direct board handling with loading and unloading stations was to be used in the production line. The individual boards were now replaced with a panel in which two PCBs are located as mirror images. This also involved changes in the selective soldering system itself. Parallel processing of the two components with the y-variable dual solder module was no longer possible. The now 77 mm spacing between the two solder nozzles fell significantly short of the required 85 mm minimum, so that an x-variable arrangement would have been necessary. An option which is not available for the ECOSELECT 4.
Therefore, in cooperation with Wildmoser electronic, Ersa sales and application set about looking for a suitable alternative. Tests with the Wildmoser board in the Ersa Application Center Wertheim showed: with the VERSAFLEX dual solder module of the VERSAFLOW 4/55 the two individual modules can continue to be processed in parallel in PCB panels. As the solder pots are installed here on two independent axes, the x-arrangement of the soldering module can be achieved. In addition, the system provided the same throughput as the two ECOSELECT 4 systems originally planned.
New Ersa VERSAFLOW 4/55: Reduction of the cycle time to 20 s
The commercial aspects having been dealt with too, a VERSAFLOW 4/55 with VERSAFLEX soldering module has been in place in production at the Puchheim electronics manufacturer’s since July 2019. And the owner Stefan Wildmoser is highly satisfied with his new Ersa system which delivers premium soldering quality across the board. The employee who had previously been occupied with the feeding of the existing plant and the subsequent finishing now just has to refill every ten minutes and can look after other tasks in the intervening period. The halving of cycle time demanded by Wildmoser has been easily undercut: Now that the first series of the control device has been produced, the cycle time has improved to 20 seconds per PCB panel as opposed to 60 seconds for the individual modules on the previous selective line. A robot is to be integrated into the selective line in the coming months which will assume the fitting of the plugs on the components, further increasing the efficiency of the line.
The business partners Wildmoser electronic and Ersa anticipate further growth of the EMS area at Wildmoser – with a decreasing middle field of manufacturers. Smaller manufacturers with just one or two lines are not capable of meeting the needs of the automotive branch, large manufacturers need lot sizes in excess of 30,000 or 40,000 units. “The middle field with series from 15,000 to 50,000 units is the area in which we will operate. We have a genuine development department of our own, EMV and prototype construction. As a result of our many years of experience in the automobile branch, we are able to meet the highest requirements. I am looking forward to what is coming down the line,” says Stefan Wildmoser. “And with Ersa we have the right partner by our side, providing outstanding support, with excellent equipment, outstanding process consultation and excellent service.”
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The full-service EMS service provider Elotec Fischer Elektronik GmbH, located in Furth im Wald (Germany), manufactures prototypes, small and large series in close cooperation with customers – supported by a VERSAFLOW 4/55.