Mike Buetow

This year marks the start of my fourth decade in the electronics industry, and if you find that hard to believe, well, so do I.

I was reminiscing with a couple of other “old-timers” in recent weeks over the changes that have occurred since I first stepped foot in a factory. I was a graduate of the University of Illinois, and recently relocated to Chicago, when I joined a few others on a tour of the just-revamped Allen-Bradley plant on Second St. in Milwaukee.

Who remembers any of these names: deHaart. HTI. Conceptronic. Dynapert. Sensbey. Celmacs. Those were some of the bigger names in assembly equipment at the time. Many key suppliers then were subsidiaries of end-product OEMs. Kester was owned by Litton. Dynapert was a unit of Black & Decker.

Forget “lights-out” manufacturing. Even “hands-free” was more theory than reality. Semiautomatic machines, including printers and even placement, were common. DEK had just launched the programmable automatic printer it called the 265. What we now call solder paste was in some circles referred to as solder cream. In those days, as many equipment vendors made IR reflow as forced convention.

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