2017 – Year in Review
As we wrap up 2017, it’s safe to say this year will go down in history as the best year for Creative Electron since I started it in my garage in 2008. We strengthened our strategic partnerships, increased sales, acquired and moved to a new building, and launched new exciting products. And let’s not forget, we still had plenty of time to tear down several devices.
To look at the top events of 2017, here are the most popular posts from our blog.
It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with x-ray technology. Something about the ability to see trough materials that fascinates me.
This fascination not only drives us to design the best x-ray machines in the world, but also drives our curiosity to learn from the past. For this reason, over the years we’ve been building a small museum with historical pieces we find here and there. Among the x-ray machines in our collection, we have a couple of Adrian Special Fluoroscopes.
With almost a century of age, these machines bring us back to the early days of the x-ray inspection. Days when x-ray machines were used as gimmicks in shoe stores to help customers fit new shoes. Yes, can you imagine taking an x-ray of your feet to check on the fitting of new shoes? Unbelievable!
This last November we went to Munich to introduce our new TruView Parts Counter at Productronica. In a way, it was the big debut of this new x-ray parts counter to the world. The feedback we received was impressive, far beyond my expectations. We also met with our European partners, which are not only doing a great job selling our x-ray machines, but are also mastering customer service.
At Productronica I sat down with Philip Stoten from SCOOP tv to go over the key metrics that set Creative Electron apart from our competitors. Among these metrics are the 85% referral rate for our x-ray machines carried by a 99% satisfaction rate. These two numbers translate to a solid 98% repeat business. To take care of our customers, we keep our supply chain tight and close – at a short 600 miles. Put it all together: we work hard to get your business, and ever harder to keep it.
The iPhone X was with no doubt the most anticipated teardown of the year. After much speculation and antecipation, Apple started selling the new iPhone and we were there to take it apart with our good friends at ifixit. Double battery, stacked PCBs, laser sensors to read your face – quite a lot to go thru in a single teardown! Thankfully our hosts at Circuitwise in Sydney were ready to tackle any challenges. And we had plenty of challenges – specially when trying to pry the two boards apart.
The good folks from Motherboard were also there to document the whole adventure. From waiting in line at an Apple store near Sydney to racing to Circuitwise to teardown the iPhone X, their cameras were in place filming each step of the process. The result is an important insight on the world of repairs – a step away from a throw-away society.
It feels like yesterday when Creative Electron was nothing but an idea I started in my garage. I’m very proud of what our amazing team has accomplished over the past 10 years. That goes to show that manufacturing is still alive and well in the US and in California.
When we moved to our first building, I thought we’d be there for many years. Fortunately, I was wrong, and our growth required a larger facility to accommodate the manufacturing of our TruView x-ray machines. Staying in San Marcos was an easy choice. The city is awesome, they are genuine in their support of local business. If you’re looking for a new home for your business, I highly recommend San Marcos, California.
The Samsung Note 7 debacle with batteries catching on fire, as extensively reported by the Wall Street Journal and others, triggered a wide range of inquires related to the safety and quality of the phones we carry in our pockets every day. Since then, we’ve seen a peak in interest for our TruView x-ray machines to inspect mobile device batteries. And just recently Apple joined the battery conversation when it admitted to slowing down iPhone with older batteries, as you can read more in this WSJ article.
One of the most popular x-ray machines for this application is the TruView Prime X, an inline system specifically designed to inspect batteries. The x-ray inspection for this application needs to produce high quality images and fast. Two requirements met perfectly by the TruView Prime X.
The new TruView Parts Counter is an x-ray based device that counts parts in trays and reels in just a few seconds. Despite the great progress in the development of the integrated SMT production line, a critical part of the manufacturing chain still offline. Inventory rooms around the world must still operate with a far reduced level of sophistication. It is not uncommon to find thousands of reels densely packed in hundreds of linear feet of shelving space.
The simple exercise of counting back reels as they come back from the production floor is not standard practice. And even when they are counted, the count is often made by hand. The lack of focus on the automation of our inventory rooms leads to an increasing loss of productivity due to line stoppages. When associated with the recent increase in lead times for electronic components, line stoppage has become a crippling problem that makes inventory accuracy a necessity.
The introduction of computed tomography (CT) to our product line with the TruView Fusion CT enabled us to offer our customers a whole new range of solutions. The ability to slice open an object is very impressive. From a mechanical device like a windshield wiper handle to a small electronic gadget like the new Apple AirPod, the TruView Fusion CT produces an incredible amount of details of the internal works of these objects.
To launch it, we brought the TruView Fusion CT to our friends at ifixit. There, we talked about the tomography of the AirPod, a device we were able to inspect with amazing detail using its volumetric information. After the data collection is completed and the CT reconstruction is done, we can 3D print the object, closing the loop for most failure analysis and reverse engineering applications.
The topic of counterfeit electronic components is a constant in every conference we go to nowadays. Productronica was no different, since over the past few years this problem has left the aerospace and military niche to now be a problem in the larger medical devices and automotive markets. The impact of counterfeit electronics in these markets can be catastrophic, and for this reason manufacturers take it very seriously.
Every company doing counterfeit detection needs an automated x-ray machine to keep up with the high volume of components that needs to be inspected. As we explain in “How to Use X-Rays to Find Counterfeit Components,” x-rays are very powerful in the identification and removal of counterfeit electronic parts from the supply chain.
Our first x-ray machine was designed for counterfeit detection. We called it the TruView 180, which evolved over the years and today is sold as the TruView Prime R. This benchtop unit does reel to reel automated inspection, and is considered the reference in x-ray inspection for counterfeit detection.
It’s been almost a year now that we launched the new TruView Cube. The TruView Cube is a benchtop system we designed for companies that need a small benchtop x-ray system that produces high quality images. This major upgrade gave the TruView Cube a high definition image intensifier with a field of view of 4” (10cm). When paired with an 80kV Microfocus source, the TruView Cube produces incredible x-ray images. This machine doesn’t have any automation, so it relies on an operator to move the XY table to capture images.
So who buys the TruView Cube? We’ve seen a wide range of customers for this small cabinet system. From large OEM companies looking for an x-ray system for their failure analysis laboratory, to new product inspection, to seed inspection, to medical device quality control. As a versatile x-ray inspection tool the TruView Cube was a winner in 2017.
We see education as a big part of our job. X-ray inspection is not trivial. Unlike optical inspection, which is the same type of vision we humans have, x-rays penetrate materials. So, unless you’re Superman, you can’t relate to x-ray vision at all. We strongly believe that a well-informed customer will make the best decision on which x-ray machine is best for their application. In this process, we do recommend other vendors as much as we recommend our own machines. We value the long-term relationship with our customers more than we value making a quick buck selling them a machine that will not make them happy.
In this process to educate our customers on the different aspects of x-ray inspection technology, we developed a presentation called “2D, 2.5D, and 3D X-Ray Inspection – What’s a “D””. There’s a lot of confusion in the market today on what’s a 2D, 2.5D, and 3D x-ray machines. To clear the field and set the record straight, this presentation defines each technology while presenting examples of x-ray images from the different inspection modalities. That’s when you can truly understand why do we even have different x-ray modalities, when to use them, and how to calculate the proper cost benefit of each option.