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  • Interview: Tim Kang, CEO, Hanwha Techwin Automation Americas, Inc.


    Tim Kang, CEO of Hanwha Automation America, joins Trevor Galbraith on Show Talk to discuss the company’s plans for APEX. Kang provides a brief background on his experience at Hanwha
    and explains the differences between the company’s three major platforms: the HM Series, the Decan Series, and the SM Series. He highlights the new XM520 machine, which will debut at APEX, and its compatibility with other Hanwha platforms. Kang also discusses customization options for the North American market and the company’s focus on supporting customers in both the US and Mexico.

    Welcome Tim, I believe that we’ve got some big plans lined up for APEX, which we’ll be talking about in a moment. But first of all, I want to congratulate you, of course, on your recent appointment. Can you give our readers a short introduction on yourself and your previous positions at Hanwha?

    To give you a brief personal background, after graduate school at Georgia Tech, I got my first job at Samsung Techwin, working as a mechanical engineer for our SMT equipment. So I developed some of the SM Series equipment. I stayed with Samsung Techwin, which eventually became Hanwha, for 17 years. And during that period, I also worked on developing semiconductor backend equipment like die bonders, flip chip bonders, and hybrid bonders. My last position before becoming CEO was as a program manager for a die bonder and hybrid bonder development program. I’m still at my first job, but I have grown with the company, and now I’m excited about growing a business in North America.

    You’ve got a strong technical background then, so you really know the products inside out and backwards. That’s a major bonus for any CEO in your position. Looking at the product lines, this seems to center around three major platforms, the HM Series, the Decan Series of mounters, and the SM Series that you mentioned. What are the differences between the three platforms?

    The HM Series is a high-speed platform designed to accommodate high-volume automated products. It can handle a wide range of different types of parts and boards at high accuracies and
    high speeds. The SM Series is our legacy platform for a high-mix, low-volume production that can also handle a wide variety of parts and boards. The Decan Series evolved out of the SM platform
    with much higher speeds and higher accuracies than our SM Series

    The XM520 and the HM520W are debuting at APEX in April? Yes, that’s right. Can you tell us a little about the HM Series that is going to be introduced at APEX?

    Now that we have the HM Series, the SM Series, the Decan, and the XM, we’ve been adding new products, not only for high-speed lines, but also for products that can handle high-mix, low-volume. Each of these Series – and now the XM520 – feature our latest intechn ological innovations and functions in the high-mix, low-volume line for NPI work. One of the key features of XM520 is that it can be used in combination with our Decan and SM platforms, and the feeders are fully compatible as well. So, that is something that our customers appreciate. At APEX this year, we will launch a single-lane conveyor version of this machine, also with an automatic side tray feeder that doesn’t take up additional space. This is something that our customers in North America have been telling us t would benefit their operations. We listened to their needs and produced this new configuration.


    When I looked at the HM520 at productronica, one of the features was the ability to add interchangeable heads. Does that also work in the XM Series?

    Yes, the XM Series also comes in a high-speed or a high-position head configuration, providing customers with the option to choose different head types. If necessary, even at a later point, they’re
    able to change the head configurations depending on their needs.


    I would like to dive a little bit deeper into the technology of pick-and-place machines later in the interview. But let’s start by talking about the markets that you address here in North America. For the most part, the US is comprised of high-mix, low- to medium-volume manufacturers. Do you do a lot of customization for this market?


    We perform a significant amount of customization for this market, but not from the standpoint of creating a customized model for each customer because, if we did that, the required lead time and
    amount of spare parts would not make it attractive for the customer. Instead, we develop customized factory options based on what our customers need. For a model like the XM520, we have a multitude of options that our customers can choose from, based on their individual requirements. These options include different placement heads, conveyors, side trays, LCRs, and even axial and radial feeder options for the XM five-point platform. Our product offerings have evolved based on what our customers tell us, and we are always ready to listen to their changing needs.


    Well, it certainly sounds like Hanwha provides fairly flexible platforms. Now, south of the border in Mexico, the industry comprises much higher volume manufacturing. How do you address that
    market and how is the company structured to support customers in both the US and Mexico?

    We’ve seen the business grow both in the US and Mexico with nearshoring, and we have been strengthening our organization both in the US and in Mexico with new hires. We’ve recently appointed Mr. Gustavo Jimenez as our general manager in Mexico, and we’re excited about that. We’re constantly looking to hire more staff to support our customers in Mexico and in the US as well. Regarding equipment, many of our customers in Mexico conduct higher volume manufacturing, so we’re able to support them with the highspeed HM Series machines. Additionally,
    we’ve recently added a HM520W machine to our lineup. I understand that one of the key features of this mounter is its ability to handle very tall components on the board?

    Yes, that’s correct.

    Let’s discuss AI as well as software digitization and automation, which are high on many manufacturers’ agendas today. Are the Hanwha platforms CFX compliant? What interfaces do you have,
    for example, to share data with other production equipment on the line and with the MES system?

    We are CFX compliant. We’re able to support all the interfaces that our customers need to share our data with other production equipment in the SMT line. We also have what we call a T-solution to support the MES system interface with our customers. This involves production planning, job programming, material management, production, changeover times, and factory management. So,
    we do have a comprehensive range of interfaces and software solutions that can support customer needs, and we have more than 150 software engineers in Korea working to support those needs.
    But what we emphasize to our customers is they don’t necessarily need to use all our software solutions. Instead, we find out exactly what they need and train them on those software features because we don’t want to over-add complexity to their software management and equipment management.

    But it needs to work with everything else that’s in the factory because quite often when you’re selling machines they’re going into a mixed environment with other brands of equipment, and they’ve got to be able to talk to each other.

    Many pick-and-place companies are also looking at ways to improve or replace the method of feeding components to the line automatically. Is this something that’s on Hanwha’s R&D radar?

    It definitely is. We’re always working on solutions that can help the customer, which includes automation, robotics, etc. that might help reduce overall cost while adding efficiency to the customer line. Having said that, however, our focus is always on developing a solution that makes sense for the customer and that doesn’t add cost or complexity. We understand that ROI must be justified for the customer in order to make financial sense to them. This is something we concentrate on when looking at ways to improve our customers’ lines.

    One of your slogans at APEX this year is “make more with less time, space and investment”. So, what does that slogan mean for the customer?

    We want our customers to spend less time learning about the equipment and more time using our equipment, which occupies much less space and has lower investment costs. We don’t want
    our customers to worry about the SMT equipment or about all the new technology that’s coming out. We want our customers to use our machines easily and just focus more on making more products and making more money, rather than worrying about the technology.

    It looks like you’ve got a very versatile and flexible platform setup to offer people at APEX, and we look forward to seeing it and the Hanwha team – at Booth #4020 in Anaheim. In the meantime, Tim, thank you for joining us and giving us a flavor of what we can expect to see from Hanwha at APEX.

    Thank you, Trevor, and I look forward to seeing you at APEX as well.

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