Sometimes overlooked and often misunderstood the process of device programming is certainly a niche business. From a buyer’s perspective it can be seen as a complication or bottleneck in the supply chain but many of Lewmax’s clients use our considerable flexibility and responsiveness to their clear advantage.
By keeping stock of ‘blank’ product at Lewmax’s secure facility, sudden demands for a particular product can be handled by simply placing an order for a programmed part number. We control the stock and our systems allocate the correct parts for any particular job.
What are programmable parts?
These generally fall into 4 distinct catergories:
Microcontrollers, for example Microchip PIC10F222-I/OT
Memory which includes FLASH, EEPROM, etc
Logic such Xilinx XC9536XL-10VQ44C
Special – anything that doesn’t fall into the three categories above
What is device programming?
This is the process of converting a manufacturer’s ‘blank’ device into a custom product by virtue of programming or injecting the supplied program/code onto the device. (An analogy is that it’s a bit like recording something onto a blank CD or DVD).
How do we program parts?
In order to program any part we need to perform the following generic operations:
- Remove it from it’s packaging medium (normally tape, tray or tube)
- Pick the part up and place it into a special socket that connects to the pins on the device
- We then electrically power up the device and perform any number of the following processes:
- Insertion check (is the part connected properly)
- Device ID check ( check we have the correct part in the socket)
- Blank check
- Erase (even if the part is blank we normally do this)
- Program all data and configuration options
- Verify twice (the contents of the programmed part are read and compared with the original job set-up at its upper and lower operating voltages)
- Secure (to prevent the code from being copied)
We then pick the part from the socket and either pass it to a laser marking station or place it straight into the required shipping packaging
Although the above might appear complicated in reality it all occurs as part of the programming cycle. It is because we use high class equipment that we have all of these options available to us which ultimately results in the highest quality of delivered parts to our customers.
Where possible we try to perform the whole process on a single automated machine but in some cases this isn’t possible or practical so in some cases we may need to split the operations above. However, right from quotation stage we will advise and suggest the operations most appropriate for the part/quantity in question.
What information do we need to cost a job?
For us to provide a quotation for programming we need the following minimum information:
- Full manufacturer part number
- Batch and annual quantities to be programmed
- Number of codes/programs to be utilised
- Services required:
- Marking (None, Ink mark, Label, Laser Mark, Laser Ablation)
- Tape and Reel
For logic or large memory parts we may ask for additional information such as the data file itself. This helps us to determine the amount of time (and hence cost) associated with programming each device.
What do we need to process an order?
A purchase order that clearly states either the part number assigned to the programmed part or the file to be programmed into the device. This is essential to ensure that the correct information is programmed into the parts.
Blank parts – although often free issued by our customers, we are uniquely the only UK independent programming house to be able to competitively supply parts as well.
Code – typically this is supplied as a special type of electronic file (e.g. Intel Hex, Motorola S record, Jedec, Binary) which is normally provided via email but can also be submitted via our ftp site or on CD/DVD etc. Occasionally we are also asked to copy a ‘master’ device which is possible provided the part has not been secured (copy protected).
Additional settings/configuration information – it is now rare to find a programmable part without some (and in some cases very many) additional features and settings. Despite the valiant efforts of some device manufacturers such as Microchip and Atmel, all too often the files that we are provided with do not include this additional information. In these cases we will immediately communicate the additional information that we require.
Some customers may require additional features or information applied to their programmed parts. A typical example is serialisation – this is a process whereby we program a unique number into each and every device that we process. This feature is used extensively by our clients and we are highly experienced in applying this technique, even to the point where we have provided custom schemes that program two or more unique serial numbers into every device.
What do we do?
Once we have all of the technical information that we require in order to program a part we create a unique and highly controlled file that contains all of the programming information required to successfully program a part. This is the file used in our production process to create the programmed parts.
We offer and encourage our customers to accept programmed sample devices which can be functionally tested to ensure 100% compliance with requirements. We feel very strongly that this is a crucial step and we therefore offer this service free of charge in most cases.
Our stringent control procedures within our ISO9001 system requires that every programming set-up is formally approved by our customer whether samples are provided or not. This process ensures that ambiguity or misunderstanding ca be taken care of before any production orders are processed.
Where program files are changed/updated we have a very precise archiving process that ensures that old versions of files cannot be used unless, as in some cases, multiple versions of code are required to co-exist. We have been commended by our clients many times for identifying version issues that may have been overlooked by the purchasing department.
Equally we follow stringent backup procedures such that even very old (>10 years) files can be put into production where required.
All parts/orders are subject to multiple checks during and after production including 100% visual inspection of all parts.
We apply barcode labels to all reels/packages to ensure absolute traceability and identification of parts that we produce. We can also provide data matrix and other custom labelling requirements.
Whilst we are primarily a programming house, we also offer the following additional integral or stand-alone services:
- Tape and Reel
- Device marking, especially laser marking
- Bake and Dry-pack for compliance with IPC/JEDEC J-STD-033A
- Simple or complex
- MAC address programming
- Multiple serial numbers in one device
- In-circuit Programming
- Design Protection/Laser Ablation
- UV Erasure
- FLASH Bad-block schemes (NAND Flash)
- Re-Marking (laser or label)
- Component Supply, Stock and Buffer services
How can we help?
We have a highly skilled team of personnel who can advise and guide you through the whole programming process. Just contact us to find out how we can help from a single one-off order to transferring business across hundreds of codes/programs.
About Lewmax Programming:
Lewmax Programming is a leading provider of domestic and international device programming and other value added services. Our clients look to us for reliable, intelligent and timely solutions for all their requirements to include Device Programming, Tape and Reeling, Laser marking, Laser Ablation, Baking and Drypacking. Using the very latest technology Lewmax also build bespoke solutions for requirements such as custom carrier tape and vision recognition systems making us much more than just a programming centre of excellence but a true value added solutions provider to the global industry.
Address: Lewmax Programming Limited, Unit 1 Meridian South, Meridian Business Park, Leicester, LE19 1WY United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)845 519 3838