BTU is globally recognized as the world-leading manufacturer of high-quality reflow ovens with its industry-leading PYRAMAX platform. At SMTconnect inNuremberg, BTU will launch the succes-sor to PYRAMAX, the Aurora, which isa feature-rich, next-generation thermalsystem. Here to tell us about it is BTU’sGeneral Manager Rob DiMatteo.
Rob, this is obviously quite a landmark move for you, so congratulations on the launch of the Aurora platform. It’s a very distinctive name. Why did you call it Aurora?
At BTU, we have a unique process of naming our products that includes multiple team members from engineering, marketing, and sales weeding out names we don’t like from the ones that we do. That way, everyone has input and feels some ownership toward new products. The Aurora came about from thinkingabou t many concepts, including the future, the future of the reflow oven, and the lights out factory that we’re heading towards. It was a great fit. Also, the Aurora looks great, the logo looks great, and it’s unique/ memorable. We’re trying to get away from the traditional look and feel of the graphics for a reflow oven and make things more interesting. We definitely wanted to make this a change from our PYRAMAX platform, which we have had for many years. We wanted our customers to know this is a new platform for BTU.
Oven technology certainly has moved on in recent years and, of course, ovens are known for being quite energy hungry. What features are built into the Aurora to help better manage energy?
Energy consumption is a concern in the marketplace for many of our customers. Overall cost of ownership is being looked at as a critical feature of any new piece of equipment. For the reflow oven, the electrical power consumption along with nitrogen consumption is looked at. The Aurora is focused on reducing both power and nitrogen consumption. We’ve incorporated some unique features in terms of how we allow the unit to radiate less heat to the room, which is a power savings. The more we can keep the heat in the oven, the less power it will take to keep the zones up to temperature. Think of a Yeti cup and how well it keeps drinks hot or cold. The same concept is used in the Aurora. We’re also doing the same for nitrogen consumption. Nitrogen adds significant cost to the process, so we’ve added some features to help reduce nitrogen consumption and/or reduce the PPM levels that customers need to maintain their desired levels. Really, it’s an overall cost of ownership focused not just on
power consumption but also on nitrogen consumption.
That’s interesting. One of your big successes in recent years has been the Aqua Scrub, which is a solution for dealing with flux management in the ovens. Is that something that’s built into the Aurora as standard?
It is not standard; however, it is an optional feature as it is in the current PYRAMAX platform today. Currently, for the PYRAMAX platform, Aqua Scrub is an external flux management system that sits behind the oven. For the Aurora, since it was designed up front, we were able to integrate it into the design, so the flux management system is not sitting out behind it.
There is a small chiller that is used, but basically the intent was to put everything into the frame of the Aurora. This includes the extraction and how we get the gas to the flux management system, whether by our traditional flux management or the Aqua Scrub system. All of that is built into the Aqua Scrub and the Aurora system. Again, that’s really focused on reducing the customer’s downtime. Being able to keep the oven clean means more uptime for the customer, further reducing the cost of ownership and providing better yields.
What other advanced process control features are built into the Aurora?
For process control, we have a new Wincon control system. It is different from the previous generations because it mimics the style of semi E95 compliant interfaces. We use GUI icons rather than pull down menus. It also has a different look and feel than our previous platforms to allow better integration for what users are familiar with. Incorporating human factors makes it
user friendly. There are some other major improvements in terms of the conveyor system, for instance, that provides much more flexibility. We have numerous customers that want multiple lanes and multiple center supports. They want all rails to be moveable, and we’ve incorporated that into the Aurora design to be a much more flexible configuration from the conveyor standpoint.We did this with the heating and cooling zones as well. The Aurora allows the customer to add or reduce cooling zones based on their particular process. It also features longer heated lengths, which are not available in the PYRAMAX platform. The Aurora is a much more flexible system in terms of what our customers need for their production.
If I understand correctly, Rob, users can extend the preheat zone by as many zones as needed and extend or reduce the cooling zones depending on the product being made?
Correct. We can have longer heated lengths in general. We have interchangeable zones, so certain heated zones can become cooling zones and certain cooling zones can become heated zones depending on what the customer needs. Some of our customrs run very lightweight boards so they need more heat for more production for faster belt speeds, and Aurora can accommodate that. Since the boards are light, they don’t need as much cooling. And then we have other customers with specific cooling needs or that want to slow down the cooling rate. In this case, we don’t need as much heat development, instead we need more controlled cooling.
Data integration and traceability are also in high demand these days. What does the Aurora offer operators in that regard?
We have some options that we’ve had for quite a while, even in the PYRAMAX platform. It started with our own optional redundant monitoring system called Profile Guardian, which is fully integrated into our control system. This option has been especially useful for customers that need redundant monitoring capability for automotive and medical applications. The Aurora takes it to the next level. We actually have a new profiler integrated into the system as well. Its unique feature is that it is integrated and working with our control system, all on one platform. It also integrates into the Profile Guardian and has some features useful for lights out factory. It takes more than just temperature and what the profile looks like into consideration – it also considers vibration analysis and more.
You mentioned a new profiler. This is In addition to the profile tracer that you introduced during the 2023 IPC APEX EXPO?
Correct. This profiler is much like a standalone profiler that verifies the actual thermal profile. It works with both the PYRAMAX and Aurora platforms.
That’s interesting. Going back to the Aurora, shipping large metal ovens across the continent is an expensive business, Rob. Do you have any plans to expand your manufacturing to Europe, for example?
Not necessarily. In Europe, we are expanding our manufacturing footprint regionally, but it is a little too early to make much more of an announcement about that. However, we also have manufacturing capability outside of our Shanghai, China manufacturing facility. In regard to shipping, it certainly is a high cost for the oven. But, thankfully, we’ve seen shipping costs come down considerably from where they were just six or eight months ago.
When will the Aurora be available to end customers, and what kind of warranty are you going to offer with it?
In terms of the warranty, that’s an easy answer. We’re going to continue with a lifetime warranty on the heaters and blowers. That has been our traditional warranty, and also three years on the entire system. I think that’s unique in the reflow oven market, but we really stand behind the performance and the reliability of our systems. We will officially launch during SMTconnect. We will have a unit in our booth, and it will be the first public showing of the Aurora. We actually have beta units in the field now in multiple locations. We’re putting that data together and will have it available for our customers soon. We realize it will take time to convert some of our existing customers to the new product lines, and that has been factored into the launch. In November, at the productronica exhibition in Munich, we will showcase the longer version of the unit.
Excellent. Well, we certainly look forward to seeing that, and we wish you every success with the Aurora, the first big announcement from BTU in terms of a new oven platform for quite a while. Congratulations, Rob, and thank you for telling us about it today.
Absolutely. Thank you for the time, Trevor.