Hewlett-Packard buys into machine-vision market

As part of its entry into the machine-vision test market, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP; Loveland, CO) has agreed to purchase Vital Technology Pte. Ltd., a Singapore-based developer of automated-optical-inspection (AOI) systems for use by printed-circuit-board assembly and integrated-circuit (IC) manufacturers. Customers include manufacturers of disk drives, computer peripherals, and packaged ICs. Effective immediately, Vital becomes a wholly owned HP subsidiary, HP Singapore Vision Operation, which w

Hewlett-Packard buys into machine-vision market

As part of its entry into the machine-vision test market, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP; Loveland, CO) has agreed to purchase Vital Technology Pte. Ltd., a Singapore-based developer of automated-optical-inspection (AOI) systems for use by printed-circuit-board assembly and integrated-circuit (IC) manufacturers. Customers include manufacturers of disk drives, computer peripherals, and packaged ICs. Effective immediately, Vital becomes a wholly owned HP subsidiary, HP Singapore Vision Operation, which will remain in Singapore.

With this buyout, Hewlett-Packard gains additional expertise in manufacturing test, establishes a strategic market location in Asia, and achieves a dramatic presence in the burgeoning machine-vision marketplace. According to the Automated Imaging Association (Ann Arbor, MI), the worldwide machine-vision market topped $2.8 billion in 1996.

Says Kamran Firooz, general manager, HP manufacturing test division, "These test systems will give more information to vendors and enable them to improve cost, time to market, and quality of inspected parts." For example, during x-ray inspection of a printed-circuit board, the manufacturer might get information that a short exists, its location, and an explanation of what probably caused the fault. If the defect was caused by either excess solder or bent pins, the actionable information would display the fixes needed and pinpoint where the fault occurred in the assembly process.

"We will continue to look at [machine-vision] technologies, what the needs are, and who offers what in the market. This is done on an on-going basis, but currently there is no active program for more acquisitions," notes Firooz.

Choosing Vital Technology

Before finding Vital Technology, HP evaluated possible machine-vision-company acquisitions in the United States and Europe. However, difficulties were encountered because, according to HP, most of the applications of vision technologies were deemed too theoretical.

A search of Asian companies led to Vital Technology. According to Firooz, Vital was judged by HP to have the most practical approach to the use of vision technology in the manufacturing test environment. Vital Technology`s inspection systems work especially well in high-speed applications. However, its systems are structured not to perform a range of tests, look at every dimension, or rotate to every angle. They test ICs, packages, assemblies, and printed-circuit boards to establish parameters quickly and efficiently. Vital Technology systems are based on Intel Pentium-based and off-the-shelf frame-grabber boards.

Currently, Vital Technology`s inspection-system sales are targeted only at Asian customers. The company is not big enough to support its products over a large geographical area, so it has concentrated its sales efforts in Singapore and Malaysia. Now, HP can take these systems to the worldwide market. G. K.

More in Environment & Agriculture