SYMACON electronics + automation GmbH is a SME with 7 employees that belongs to the category of new enterprises which were founded after the end of the GDR in East Germany. The manager and employees came from a big state-owned company and have their origins in the R&D department of this enterprise. The company develops and manufactures process control and measurement systems. These are used in a wide range of applications including the monitoring and control of machines and equipment. The company also programme and test software components related to these products. Examples include:
- Heating control system for buildings and workshops,
- Data collection devices for refrigerator vans,
- Gauges for gas in and around ground borings,
- Process monitoring modules for machines and equipment,
- Gauging of temperature in tunnel ovens for ceramics.
- Fuzzy-control for ceramic grinding machines
- Design and realisation of automation technology in industry.
The objective of the Application Experiment (AE) was to improve the functional features and the competitiveness of one of the companys main products, the heating control system, which contributes 20% of the companys turnover. The main goals of the AE which were achieved are summarised below:
- Miniaturisation of the PCB area by approximately 40%.
- Higher storage capacity for programmes and data (between 200% and 400% more) and a related increase in performance.
- Higher reliability of the product by reducing component count from 36 to 7.
- Reduction in manufacturing and test cost of 30%.
- Opening of new application areas.
The existing technology level within the company, which included knowledge in the design and manufacture of PCBs using SMD technology, and microcontroller applications, was not sufficient. In this AE MCM technology was introduced into the business. Working on the project, SYMACONs specialists learnt how to define the necessary economic and technical decision criteria for the selection of the most efficient technology for the new product. They also learnt how to plan and manage a MCM project and to develop a product using this technology with the assistance of an experienced subcontractor. Specifically, the use of development tools and best practice in test methodologies were learnt. However, if repeating the exercise one important point that would not be repeated was a direct copy of the existing design into a MCM. In future, the complete system architecture would be optimised first.
The AE ran for 11 months, which was one month longer than planned. The total costs were 98.000 ECU, and a payback period of about 2_ years is expected.