Not every company has the resources, space, or need to accommodate a traditional, sprawling manufacturing facility. Now that smaller, more affordable, highly reliable machine options have become available, you may not need to. If your company is looking to bring electronics production in-house, or if you are looking for starter equipment to learn and prototype new ideas, then thinking smaller may be a good idea.

What is a Microfactory?

The term “microfactory” was first coined by the Mechanical Engineer Laboratory of Japan in 1990.

This version of a factory focuses on small, high-tech manufacturing units that can provide customized products. Assembly hubs act as small dimension factories, saving space, energy, materials, and time. 

A microfactory can be defined as a small-to-medium scale manufacturing setup with a wide range of process capabilities. It is a great option for companies looking to reduce their supply chain by bringing manufacturing in-house, allowing them to provide on-demand production. Those who developed this idea were ahead of their time. What was forward thinking 30 years ago is now a great solution for the current issues in the post-2020 manufacturing climate.

Why Start a Microfactory?

As sourcing products overseas has become more difficult, many companies are struggling with the costs and the risks of dealing with offshore manufacturing options. 2020 led to a reduction of sources and made access to products problematic. As manufacturing issues continue to arise, producing in the USA has become more and more advantageous.

As “Micromanufacturing the Future”, an article by Dmitry Slepov with TechCrunch, states, “’Made in America’ has once more become a favored marketing line.” He goes on to say that, as SMT equipment and other necessary components of electronic board production become more accessible, micromanufacturing offers a real hope for reshoring production. In other words, local companies can build products locally—no massive factories needed. Instead, all that is required is a compact manufacturing area “tailored to small, flexible production runs.”

This model functions similarly to the way an office laser printer is there to print on demand, without you having to wait or schedule anything. As Slepov says, the way buying a car makes you much less likely to take a bus and having a printer in your office makes you less likely to go to a print shop, the same idea applies to micromanufacturing.

Manncorp Customer Examples

Critter & Guitari

Critter & Guitari is a Manncorp customer who has a small business and needed a small-footprint PCB assembly line. They are currently running the Manncorp 5500 Stencil PrinterMC389 Pick and Place Machine, and CR5000 Reflow Oven. When asked about this set up, company president, Owen Osborn said, “This mix of equipment… is easy to get up and running each day.” This is a great advantage in the context of a microfactory; when you shut down these lines, they can easily be restarted, so the info you programmed will be easily accessible.

A key product made in-house at Critter & Guitari.

AR Technologies

7 years ago, Antonio Ricaurte (owner and founder of AR Technologies) came from Ecuador to our Pennsylvania office to learn more about Manncorp equipment. During that trip, he ended up purchasing an entire SMT line. Since then, Ricaurte has kept in touch with our team and is still running the following machines with no problems:

Manncorp Tech Andy, Antonio Ricaurte, and the AR Technologies Team shown with the MC392.

Carolina Electronic Solutions

Our team at Manncorp recently helped the North Carolina contract manufacturer Carolina Electronic Solutions improve their ability to provide their customers with high-quality solutions. By choosing to integrate the MC400 Automatic Pick & Place machine into their equipment line-up, company owner, Luke Cranford, says they’ve been able to see “an improvement in quality and speed.”

The MC400 at the Carolina Electronic Solutions headquarters.

Finding the Right Micromanufacturing Equipment

After deciding that bringing small-scale production in-house is right for you, the next decision is which machines to buy. When purchasing from Manncorp, you can choose from a selection of Manual, Semi-Automatic, and Fully Automatic SMT assembly lines, and all of our pricing is conveniently available online.

Here are a few of our options for small-to-medium manufacturing environments:

Manual Assembly Lab Line

(Left to right) 4500R Precision Manual Stencil Printer, SMT Place 2000 Manual Pick & Place, MC301 Benchtop Batch Reflow Oven. Price: $15,995

Our Manual Assembly Lab Line is a great solution for lab settings; it is suited for working on low-quantity product runs and prototyping.

This preconfigured line includes:

Expert Manual Assembly Lab Line

(Left to right) 4500R Precision Manual Stencil Printer, SMT Place 2000 Manual Pick & Place,
MC301 Benchtop Batch Reflow Oven, RW1210 SMT Rework Station. Price: $29,995

The next rung up in the manual category of our assembly lines is the expert version of the Lab Line, which includes a reworking station for anything from complex PCBA’s to simple LED assemblies.

This preconfigured line includes:

High Mix Low Volume SMT Line

(Left to right) MC110 Manual Stencil Printer, MC385V1V Single-Head Pick & Place, MC301 Benchtop Batch Reflow Oven. Price: $67,495

For those interested in more automation, this workcell is a larger and more high-tech option for speeding up production in a small space. It is especially good for assembling LED light boards.

This preconfigured line includes:

High Mix OEM SMT Line

(Left to right) MC1400 Automatic Stencil Printer, MC385V2V 2-Head Pick & Place, CR4000C 4-Zone Reflow Oven. Price: $131,995

Ramp up production speed even further by choosing the full-automatic version of our workcell. It will provide high quality, precision, and speed for your small to medium assembly needs.

This preconfigured line includes:

Affordably Customizing a Micro Assembly Line

Preconfigured assembly lines may not meet your needs, so we also offer Custom Production Lines for PCB Assembly. We will find the perfect machinery to meet any unique requirements your company has and fit in your workspace. Your team will receive custom solutions and the convenience of direct purchasing; you will receive service directly from us and equipment that will meet your cash flow needs. If you have unique machine requirements, reach out to Chris Ellis at 215-869-8374 and learn more about how we can help.

Get Your Microfactory Started

Struggling with sourcing products? Eliminate shipments delays, the costs of offshore production, and dealing with poor communication by investing in a micro assembly line. As the landscape for small business has changed, and manufacturing has continued to consolidate, microfactories have become a great onshore solution.

Why choose Manncorp as your supplier? You will ensure having adequate after-service once you purchase your line. We are the manufacturer of all our machines and sell directly to the end user. With that role comes the responsibility of providing installations, operator trainings, manuals, spare parts, and always being available for troubleshooting. Whether in-person or virtual, our service team will provide your team with all the support they need. Through modern techniques, we provide good old fashioned customer service.

With SMT equipment, it is not the amount you pay up front, but whether you receive reliable services afterward that should be of top concern. By making an investment in your company’s future, you can ensure that the amount put down will not end up wasted through extraneous repairs and equipment downtime.

To find a preconfigured line, or a custom solution, for your small- to medium-output electronics production company, contact us today. You can call our East Coast office at 215-830-1200 or our West Coast office at 858-490-6266. Or email our team at sales@manncorp.com. We are happy to help outfit your compact space with the perfect equipment to meet your micromanufacturing needs.