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Title:
SOLDERING MACHINE AND METHOD OF TREATING A SOLDER NOZZLE OF A SOLDERING MACHINE WITH AUTOMATIC TREATMENT OF SOLDER NOZZLE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/156954
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present application relates to a soldering machine comprising a nozzle (50) having an outer surface defining an opening from which solder is configured to be dispensed; a dispenser (91) having an orifice and a valve (95) that is configured to dispense a material from the orifice; a translator that is configured to produce relative movement between the nozzle (50) and the dispenser (91), and a controller that is configured to control the relative movement between the nozzle (50) and the dispenser (91) produced by the translator as the dispenser (91) dispenses the material onto the outer surface of the nozzle (50).

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Inventors:
HECHT, Roland (Rietburstr. 3, Haganbach, Haganbach, DE)
Application Number:
US2019/016600
Publication Date:
August 15, 2019
Filing Date:
February 05, 2019
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
NORDSON CORPORATION (28601 Clemens Road, Westlake, OH, 44145-1119, US)
International Classes:
B23K1/00; B08B3/02; B08B15/00; B23K1/08; B23K1/20; B23K3/06; B23K3/08; B23K101/42
Domestic Patent References:
WO2013168198A12013-11-14
Foreign References:
JP2016221555A2016-12-28
CN206597995U2017-10-31
US3948678A1976-04-06
US20040050834A12004-03-18
Other References:
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
AKHAVANNIK, Hussein (Baker & Hostetler LLP, 2929 Arch StreetCira Centre, 12th Floo, Philadelphia PA, 19104-2891, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A soldering machine, comprising:

a nozzle having an outer surface defining an opening from which solder is configured to be dispensed;

a dispenser having an orifice and a valve that is configured to dispense a material from the orifice;

a translator that is configured to produce relative movement between the nozzle and the dispenser; and

a controller that is configured to control the relative movement between the nozzle and the dispenser produced by the translator as the dispenser dispenses the material onto the outer surface of the nozzle.

2. The soldering machine according to claim 1, wherein the material is a chemical agent.

3. The soldering machine according to claim 2, wherein the chemical agent is a solder flux.

4. The soldering machine according to claim 3, wherein the solder flux is a gel.

5. The soldering machine according to claim 1, wherein the controller is configured to control the dispenser to dispense the material onto the outer surface of the nozzle.

6. The soldering machine according to claim 1, wherein the translator is configured provided an initial alignment between the nozzle and the dispenser, and

the controller is configured to control the initial alignment provided by the translator.

7. The soldering machine according to claim 6, wherein the translator is configured to move the nozzle in at least one of an x-direction, a y-direction, and a z-direction to provide the initial alignment between the nozzle and the dispenser.

8. The soldering machine according to claim 1, wherein the translator is configured to move the nozzle in at least one of an x-direction, a y-direction, and a z-direction to effectuate the relative movement between the nozzle and the dispenser.

9. The soldering machine according to claim 8, wherein the relative movement between the nozzle and the dispenser produced by the translator and controlled by the controller as the dispenser dispenses the material onto the outer surface of the nozzle includes movement of the nozzle via the translator.

10. The soldering machine according to claim 8, wherein the translator is an X, Y, Z movement table.

11. The soldering machine according to claim 10, wherein

the material is a chemical agent that is a solder flux that is a gel, and

the controller is configured to control the dispenser to dispense the material onto the outer surface of the nozzle.

12. A method of treating a solder nozzle of a soldering machine with a material dispensed from a dispenser, the method comprising:

dispensing the material from the dispenser; and

treating the solder nozzle by applying the material dispensed from the dispenser to an outer surface of the solder nozzle and producing relative movement between the solder nozzle and the dispenser as the material is applied.

13. The method of claim 12, further comprising determining a dispense period for the dispensing of the material from the dispenser based upon a treatment parameter.

14. The method of claim 13, wherein the treatment parameter is at least one of a rate of the relative movement between the solder nozzle and the dispenser, a characteristic of the solder nozzle, a size and shape of a path that at least one of the solder nozzle and the dispenser move along during the relative movement between the solder nozzle and the dispenser, a flow rate of the material from the dispenser, and a property of the material.

15. The method of claim 12, wherein the dispensing of the material from the dispenser occurs only during the production of the relative movement between the solder nozzle and the dispenser.

16. The method of claim 12, further comprising initiating the dispensing of the material from the dispenser prior to starting the production of the relative movement between the solder nozzle and the dispenser.

17. The method of claim 12, further comprising ending the production of the relative movement between the solder nozzle and the dispenser and subsequently terminating the dispensing of the material from the dispenser.

18. The method of claim 12, further comprising aligning the solder nozzle and the dispenser prior to the treatment of the solder nozzle.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein the aligning of the solder nozzle and the dispenser includes moving the solder nozzle in at least one of an x-direction, a y-direction, and a z- direction.

20. The method of claim 12, wherein the producing of the relative movement between the solder nozzle and the dispenser includes moving the solder nozzle in at least one of an x- direction, a y-direction, and a z-direction.

21. The method of claim 20, wherein the producing of the relative movement between the solder nozzle and the dispenser includes moving the solder nozzle in the x-direction and the y- direction along a path P as the material is applied.

22. The method of claim 21, further comprising determining at least one of a size and a shape of the path P based upon a characteristic of the solder nozzle.

23. The method of claim 22, wherein the characteristic of the solder nozzle is a diameter of a circle associated with the outer surface of the solder nozzle.

24. The method of claim 23, wherein the circle associated with the outer surface of the solder nozzle is at least one of an inner edge of the outer surface of the solder nozzle that defines a boundary of an opening of the solder nozzle and an outer edge of the outer surface of the solder nozzle.

25. The method of claim 21, wherein the path P includes a single revolution of the solder nozzle around the dispenser.

26. The method of claim 21, wherein the path P includes a plurality of revolutions of the solder nozzle around the dispenser.

27. The method of claim 12, further comprising providing the outer surface of the solder nozzle a vertical distance directly below an orifice of the dispenser while dispensing the material from the dispenser and while producing the relative movement between the solder nozzle and the dispenser.

28. The method of claim 27, wherein the outer surface of the solder nozzle completely surrounds an opening of the solder nozzle.

29. The method of claim 28, wherein the outer surface of the solder nozzle that the material dispensed from the dispenser is applied to extends between an inner edge of the solder nozzle that defines a boundary of the opening and an outer edge of the solder nozzle.

30. The method of claim 29, wherein the applying of the material dispensed from the dispenser to the outer surface of the solder nozzle includes applying the material to an entirety of the outer surface.

31. The method of claim 12 further comprising dispensing solder from the solder nozzle at a first flow rate for a period of time after the treatment of the solder nozzle.

32. The method of claim 31, wherein the period of time is between two and three seconds.

33. The method of claim 31, further comprising dispensing solder from the solder nozzle at a second flow rate after an expiration of the period of time, the second flow rate being less than the first flow rate.

34. A method of treating a solder nozzle of a soldering machine with a material dispensed from a dispenser, the method comprising:

receiving a characteristic of the solder nozzle;

determining a period of time for dispensing the material from the dispenser based on the characteristic of the solder nozzle;

dispensing the material from the dispenser over the determined period of time; and treating the solder nozzle by applying the material dispensed from the dispenser to an outer surface of the solder nozzle and producing relative movement between the solder nozzle and the dispenser as the material is applied.

Description:
SOLDERING MACHINE AND METHOD OF TREATING A SOLDER NOZZLE OF A SOLDERING MACHINE WITH AUTOMATIC TREATMENT OF SOLDER NOZZLE

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims priority to U.S. Patent App. No. 62/627,827, filed February 8, 2018, the disclosure of which is hereby incorporated by reference herein.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] The present disclosure relates generally to systems and methods for treating a nozzle of an applicator, and more particularly, to systems and methods for cleaning a nozzle of an applicator.

BACKGROUND

[0003] As solder is pumped through a solder nozzle and exposed to oxygen in the air, an accumulation of material may form on the surface of the nozzle, preventing the flow of solder from the nozzle to the substrate and back into the solder pot. Excessive accumulation of the material can hinder the dispensing of material and/or truncate the lifecycle of the dispensing equipment.

[0004] Known maintenance techniques for cleaning the exterior surface of nozzles often require periodic stoppage of the production cycle to inspect/clean multiple nozzles to ensure that excessive material accumulation has not occurred. Known inspection and cleaning techniques can be harmful to the production quality and output consistency due to the unpredictable frequency or duration of time an operator may need to perform the cleaning. In addition, a single operator is often responsible for inspecting and cleaning multiple soldering machines, further increasing the variability of the cleaning process.

[0005] Therefore, there is a need for cleaning nozzles of an applicator more effectively and in an automated manner.

SUMMARY

[0006] The foregoing needs are met, to a great extent, by the systems and methods described herein. In one aspect, a soldering machine may include a nozzle having an outer surface defining an opening from which solder is configured to be dispensed. The soldering machine may further include a dispenser having an orifice and a valve that is configured to dispense a material from the orifice. The soldering machine may also include a translator that is configured to produce relative movement between the nozzle and the dispenser. The soldering machine may also include a controller that is configured to control the relative movement between the nozzle and the dispenser produced by the translator as the dispenser dispenses the material onto the outer surface of the nozzle.

[0007] In another aspect, a method of treating a solder nozzle of a soldering machine with a material dispensed from a dispenser may include dispensing the material from the dispenser. The method may also include treating the solder nozzle by applying the material dispensed from the dispenser to an outer surface of the solder nozzle and producing relative movement between the solder nozzle and the dispenser as the material is applied.

[0008] In yet another aspect, a method of treating a solder nozzle of a soldering machine with a material dispensed from a dispenser may include receiving a characteristic of the solder nozzle. The method may further include determining a period of time for dispensing the material from the dispenser based on the characteristic of the solder nozzle. The method may also include dispensing the material from the dispenser over the determined period of time. The method may include treating the solder nozzle by applying the material dispensed from the dispenser to an outer surface of the solder nozzle and producing relative movement between the solder nozzle and the dispenser as the material is applied.

[0009] Various additional features and advantages of this invention will become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art upon review of the following detailed description of the illustrative embodiments taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0010] The following detailed description is better understood when read in conjunction with the appended drawings. For the purposes of illustration, examples are shown in the drawings; however, the subject matter is not limited to specific elements and

instrumentalities disclosed. In the drawings:

[0011] FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of the soldering machine in accordance with aspects of the disclosure; [0012] FIG. 2 illustrates a schematic diagram of a soldering machine in accordance with aspects of the disclosure;

[0013] FIG. 3 illustrates an exemplary process for treating a nozzle of a soldering machine in accordance with aspects of the disclosure;

[0014] FIG. 4 illustrates a schematic cross-sectional view of the nozzle at the nozzle treating station of the dispensing system depicted in FIG. 2;

[0015] FIG. 5 illustrates a section view taken along line A-A of FIG. 4 during an alignment of the nozzle and the dispenser.

[0016] FIG. 6 illustrates a section view taken along line A-A of FIG. 4 at the beginning of treatment of the nozzle;

[0017] FIG. 7 illustrates the section view taken along line A-A of FIG. 4 at the end of treatment of the nozzle.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0018] FIGS. 1 and 2 illustrate an exemplary soldering machine 1 in accordance with aspects of the disclosure. The soldering machine 1 includes a nozzle treating station 90 that may execute the processes for automatic treatment of a nozzle 50 of the soldering machine 1, described in detail below. FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of the soldering machine 1. FIG. 2 shows an exemplary schematic diagram of the soldering machine 1.

[0019] With reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, the soldering machine 1 may include a conveyor mechanism 8 that may convey a substrate 6 through the soldering machine 1. The conveyor mechanism 8 may be supported by a base 2 of the soldering machine 1. The conveyor mechanism 8 may, for example, be a dual-lane conveyor mechanism. At least a portion of the conveyor mechanism 8 may be provided within an interior 4 of the soldering machine 1. In operation, the conveyor mechanism 8 may receive a substrate at a loading point of the conveyor mechanism 8 and may move the substrate 6 from one location to another location (e.g., for application of molten solder S to the substrate 6).

[0020] The nozzle 50 may be a soldering nozzle (e.g., a circular soldering nozzle) that may apply molten solder S to the substrate 6. The nozzle 50 may, for example, apply the molten solder S to selected component pins (not shown) of the substrate 6. To effectuate and measure the application of the molten solder S to the substrate 6, the soldering machine 1 may further include a solder pot 10 containing the molten solder S, a pump 12 (e.g., an impeller pump), and a flow meter 14. The pump 12 may be provided within the solder pot 10. The flow meter 14 may include a pair of rotatable gears (not shown) and at least one sensor (not shown), such as a magnetic pick-up sensor. The at least one sensor may measure rotation of the rotatable gears to determine an amount of molten solder S flowing out of the nozzle 50.

[0021] A connection (not shown) may be provided that fluidly connects the nozzle 50, the solder pot 10, the pump 12, and/or the flow meter 14. For example, the nozzle 50 may be provided on a top of the solder pot 10 and the connection may be provided between a bottom of the nozzle 50 and the top of the solder pot 10. The pump 12 may pump the molten solder S from the solder pot 10, through the connection and the flow meter 14, and out the nozzle 50 to produce a column and/or fountain of the molten solder S from of an opening of the nozzle 50. The column/fountain of molten solder S may be applied to the substrate 6 during soldering processes using the soldering machine 1. The flow meter 14 may measure an amount of the molten solder S flow through the flow meter 14, which be used to determine an output of molten solder S from the nozzle 50.

[0022] The nozzle 50 and/or solder pot 10 may be moved in any of an x-direction, a y- direction, or a z-direction. The x-direction may be a direction along an axis of the conveyor mechanism 8 (i.e., along a direction that the conveyor mechanism 8 conveys the substrate 6 through the soldering machine 1). The y-direction may be a direction transverse to the axis of the conveyor mechanism 8 and perpendicular to the x-direction. The z-direction may be a direction perpendicular to both the x-direction and the y-direction. The solder pot 10 and the nozzle 50 may be moved together in unison. For example, a solder translator 60 may actuate the nozzle 50 and the solder pot 10 to effectuate movement in any of the x-y-z directions. The translator 60 may be a conveyor, an C,U,Z movement table, a jig, or other moving mechanism for moving the nozzle. The solder translator 60 may at least include a gantry 61, which may be driven by at least one motor 62. The nozzle 50 may also be moved independently of the solder pot 10 in at least one of the x-y-z directions. For example, an actuator (not shown) of the solder translator 60 may move the nozzle 50 along the z-direction (e.g., towards/away from a nozzle-facing surface of the substrate 6) independently from the solder pot 10.

[0023] The soldering machine 1 may further include a controller 16 that may automatically control components of the soldering machine 1. Connections (not shown) may be provided that may directly and/or indirectly connect the controller 16 to, e.g., the conveyor mechanism 8, the solder pot 10, the solder translator 60, the pump 12, the flow meter 14, components of a soldering station 70, an inspection station 80, and the nozzle treating station 90 (described below), and/or any other components of the soldering machine 1 that may be subjected to the automatic control. The connections may include wires and/or wireless components, as would be readily understood by a person having ordinary skill in the art.

Components of the soldering machine 1 that are disclosed as performing an operation

“automatically,” may be considered subject to control by the controller 16. That is, the controller 16 may enable the automatic operation of components of the soldering machine 1 disclosed herein.

[0024] The controller 16 may include a processor, a memory, and an input/output (I/O) interface (not shown). The processor may include one or more devices such as microprocessors, micro-controllers, digital signal processors, microcomputers, central processing units, field programmable gate arrays, programmable logic devices, state machines, logic circuits, analog circuits, digital circuits, and/or any other devices that manipulate signals (analog or digital) based on operational instructions that are stored in the memory. An operating system (embodied in, for example computer code/software applications) may reside in the memory and may operate the processor. The memory may include read-only memory (ROM), random access memory (RAM), volatile memory, non-volatile memory, static random access memory (SRAM), dynamic random access memory (DRAM), flash memory, cache memory, and/or any other device capable of storing digital information. The memory may also include a hard drive, optical drive, tape drive, non-volatile solid state device and/or any other device capable of storing digital information.

[0025] A user interface 18 and/or a control panel 20 may be operatively connected (e.g., directly or indirectly via wired and/or wireless connection(s)) to the controller 16 such that a system operator may readily interact with the controller 16. The user interface 18 may include, for example, a video monitor, alphanumeric displays, a touch screen, a speaker, and/or any other suitable audio/visual indicators capable of providing information to the system operator (not shown). The control panel 20 may include one or more input devices (not shown) that may accept commands or input from the operator, such as an alphanumeric keyboard, a pointing device, keypads, pushbuttons, control knobs, microphones. The user interface 18 and/or the control panel 20 may enable manual initiation of system functions, for example, during set-up, calibration, inspection, and/or cleaning of the soldering machine 1.

[0026] The nozzle treating station 90 may include a dispenser 91. The dispenser 91 may include an orifice and a valve (not shown). The dispenser 91 may dispense material from the orifice onto the nozzle 50 to treat the nozzle 50. The valve may be manually and/or automatically (e.g., via the controller 16) opened and closed. The material may be a chemical agent (e.g., solder flux), which may be provided in gel form. The material may evaporate after application on the surface of the nozzle 50 as result of, for example, heat emanating from the nozzle 50. For example, a temperature of the surface of the nozzle 50 may exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit during typical operation of the soldering machine 1, which may be sufficient to cause the material to evaporate upon contact with the surface of the nozzle 50. According to aspects of the disclosure, the dispensed material may remove oxidation and/or prevent oxidation formation on the outer surface of the nozzle 50, which may improve the consistency of solder flow during nozzle 50 operation.

[0027] The nozzle treating station 90 may further include a supply 92 that may supply the material to the dispenser 91. The supply 92 may include a syringe (not shown) that may be loaded with the material and a pressurized fluid source (not shown). Aspects of the pressurized fluid source, such as an operating pressure, may be manually and/or automatically (e.g., via the controller 16) controlled. The pressurized fluid source may supply a fluid (e.g., air) subjected to an operating pressure (e.g., 0.5-1.0 Bar) to a first end of the syringe. Connections (not shown) may be provided between the pressurized fluid source and the first end of the syringe, and between the second end of the syringe and the valve. The connections may include, for example, tubing or a functional equivalent thereof, as would be readily understood by a person having ordinary skill in the art. In operation, the dispenser 91 may dispense the material, supplied under pressure from the supply 92, out the orifice as a result of an opening of the valve. The controller 16 may automatically control an amount of the material dispensed by the dispenser 91 onto the outer surface of the nozzle 50. For example, a flow rate of the material the dispenser 91 after an opening of the valve may be input by an operator into the controller 16 via the user interface 18 and/or the control panel 20 and may be stored in the memory of the controller 16. The flow rate may be a function of the pressure of the supply 92 of the dispenser 91, of the size of the orifice 94, and of material properties of the material. The flow rate may be estimated, calculated, or empirically determined.

[0028] The nozzle treating station 90 may further include an exhaust system 93 that may expel gaseous byproducts, including the material evaporated off of the surface of the nozzle 50 during treatment. The exhaust system 93 may include a fan and an extraction hood (not shown). The fan may be manually and/or automatically (e.g., via the controller 16) controlled. The fan may operate continuously during operation of the soldering machine 1, or only during operation of the nozzle treating station 90 (e.g., during dispensing of the material from the dispenser 91).

[0029] The soldering machine 1, in addition to the nozzle treating station 90, may include a number of other stations, zones, and/or stages. The other stations may include, for example, the soldering station 70 and the inspection station 80. The soldering station 70 may define an area of the soldering machine 1 in which the molten solder S may be applied to the substrate 6 via the soldering nozzle 50. The soldering station 70 may include a position correcting device (not shown) that may correct a position of the substrate 6 on the conveyor mechanism 8, as would be readily understood by a person having ordinary skill in the art.

[0030] The inspection station 80 may be used to inspect the nozzle 50 for signs of accumulation of undesired residual material(s) on the nozzle 50. The inspection station 80 may include a camera 81 and a transparent cover 82. The camera 81 may be manually and/or automatically (e.g., via the controller 16) controlled. The camera 81 may capture an image of the nozzle 50 and may transmit the image to the controller 16. The controller 16 may process the image and may determine whether an amount of residual material may have accumulated on the nozzle 50. In particular, the camera 81 may capture the image in greyscale, and the controller 16 may process the image to generate a value indicating a pixel intensity of the image. The pixel intensity value may be used to determine whether an amount of residual material may have accumulate on the nozzle 50. According to aspects of the disclosure (not shown), the camera 81 may be provided on the gantry 61 of the solder translator 60. As a result, the solder translator 60 may move the camera 81, along with the nozzle 50 and/or solder pot 10, to different locations in the soldering machine 1.

[0031] The inspection station 80 may further include an angled mirror 83. The angled mirror 83 may be aligned with the camera 81 such that the angled mirror 83 may reflect a vertical image of the nozzle 50 horizontally to the camera 81. Alternatively, the inspection station 80 may be provided without the angled mirror 83 and the camera 81 may be directly aligned with the nozzle 50 with the transparent cover 82 disposed therebetween. The transparent cover 82 may protect the camera 81 and/or the angled mirror 83 from foreign objects, such as material dislodged from the nozzle 50. According to aspects of the disclosure, the transparent cover 82 may facilitate cleaning of the inspection station 80 by isolating components (e.g., the camera 81 and/or the angled mirror 83) of the inspection station 80 and thereby limiting the number of exposed surfaces of the inspection station 80 for cleaning.

[0032] FIG. 3 illustrates an exemplary process 300 of treating a nozzle 50 of the soldering machine 1, in accordance with aspects of the disclosure. FIGS. 4-7 illustrate an exemplary execution of the process 300 using the nozzle treating station 90 of the soldering machine 1. FIG. 4 illustrates a schematic cross-sectional view of treatment of the nozzle 50 at the nozzle treating station 90. FIG. 5 illustrates a section view taken along line A-A of FIG. 4 during an initial alignment of the nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91. FIG. 6 illustrates a section view taken along line A-A of FIG. 4 at the beginning of treatment of the nozzle 50. FIG. 7 illustrates a section view taken along line A-A of FIG. 4 at the end of treatment of the nozzle 50. The process 300 may be executed, at least in part, by the controller 16, as discussed in greater detail below.

[0033] As shown in FIG. 3, the process 300 may generally include a step 302 of dispensing the material M from the dispenser and a step 304 of treating the nozzle 50 by applying the material M dispensed from the dispenser 91 to an outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50 and producing relative movement between the nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91 as the material is applied. Aspects of the dispensing of the material M from the dispenser 91 (i.e., step 302) and of the treating of the nozzle 50 (i.e., step 304) that may also be included in the process 300 are as follows.

[0034] At step 302, the dispenser 91 may dispense the material M onto the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50. The valve 95 of the dispenser 91 may be manually and/or automatically open/close to initiate/terminate dispensing of the material M from the orifice 94 of the dispenser 91. The dispenser 91 may dispense the material M over a period of time. The dispense period may be manually and/or automatically determined based upon a treatment parameter. The treatment parameter may include, for example, a rate of the relative movement between the nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91, a characteristic of the nozzle 50, a size and/or shape of a path P that the nozzle 50 and/or dispenser 91 move along during the relative movement between the nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91, a flow rate of the material M from the dispenser 91, an amount of material M to be dispensed from the dispenser 91, properties (e.g., viscosity) of the material M, etc. The treatment parameter may be input by an operator into the controller 16 via the user interface 18 and/or the control panel 20 and may be stored in the memory of the controller 16. The treatment parameter may alternatively be determined by the controller 16.

[0035] The material M may be dispensed, for example, only during the relative movement between the nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91 (e.g., during the movement of the nozzle 50 along the path P). Alternatively, the valve 95 may open to initiate dispensing of the material M just prior to a start of the movement of the nozzle 50 along the path P. Initiation of the dispensing of the material M just prior to the start of the movement of the nozzle 50 along the path P may compensate for a lag between the moment the valve 95 opens and the moment the material M reaches the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50. Similarly, the valve 95 may close to terminate dispensing of the material M just prior to a completion of the movement of the nozzle 50 along the path P. Termination of the dispensing of the material M just prior to the end of the movement of the nozzle 50 along the path P may compensate for a lag between the moment the valve 95 closes and the moment the material M stops flowing (or sufficiently slows) from the orifice 94. According to aspects of the disclosure, control of the dispense period of the material M may increase efficiency of the treatment of the nozzle 50.

[0036] At step 304, treatment of the nozzle 50 may include producing relative movement between the nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91 as the dispenser 91 dispenses material M onto an outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50. Treatment of the nozzle 50 may further include an initial alignment of the nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91 prior to the dispensing of material M onto the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50. The initial alignment and relative movement between the nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91 may include movement in any of the x-y-z directions. The initial alignment of and relative movement between the nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91 may be achieved as a result of movement of the nozzle 50 about the stationary dispenser 91, as shown in FIGS. 4-7. For example, the solder translator 60 may automatically effectuate initial alignment of and relative movement between the nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91. The solder translator 60 may move the nozzle 50 (e.g., in unison together with the solder pot 10) in any of the x-y-z directions while the dispenser 91 remains stationary. Nevertheless, the disclosure is not limited to initial alignment/relative movement achieved as a result of movement of the nozzle 50 relative to the stationary dispenser 91.

[0037] In accordance with aspects of the disclosure, initial alignment of and relative movement between the nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91 may be achieved as a result of movement of the nozzle 50, the dispenser 91, or by a combination of movements of both the nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91. For example, the nozzle treating station 90 may include a dispenser translator (not shown) that may automatically move (i.e., translate) the dispenser 91 in any of the x-y-z directions. The dispenser translator may additionally or alternatively automatically effectuate initial alignment of and relative movement between the nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91. As discussed above, initial alignment of and relative movement between the nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91 effectuated by the solder translator 60 and/or the dispenser translator may be automatically controlled by the controller 16.

[0038] The relative movement between the nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91 may include movement of the nozzle 50 in the x and y directions along a path P while the material M is dispensed from the dispenser 91. Upon completion of the movement of the nozzle 50 along the path P, at least a portion of the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50 (i.e., a material reception surface of the nozzle 50) may have been provided directly below the orifice 94 of the dispenser 91 while the material M was dispensed from the orifice 94. The material M may therefore be directly applied to the material reception surface of the nozzle 50. According to aspects of the disclosure, dispensing of the material M from the dispenser 91 directly onto the material reception surface of the nozzle 50 may improve control of the dispensing and may increase efficiency of treatment of the nozzle 50.

[0039] The material reception surface of the nozzle 50 may completely surround the opening 54 of the nozzle 50. The material reception surface of the nozzle 50 may include the entire outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50. The material reception surface of the nozzle 50 may alternatively be a fraction of the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50. For example, a diameter of the orifice 94 may be less than a width of the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50 and therefore the material reception surface of the nozzle 50 provided directly below the orifice 94 during dispensing may be a fraction of the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50. Nevertheless, portions of the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50 that may be excluded from the material reception surface of the nozzle 50 may receive material M dispensed from the dispenser 91. For example, the material M dispensed directly on the material reception surface of the nozzle 50 may flow across the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50 to treat all or some of the excluded portions of the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50.

[0040] A size and shape of the path P that the nozzle 50 may move along while the material M is dispensed from the dispenser 91 may be based upon a characteristic of the nozzle 50. The characteristic of the nozzle 50 may be a diameter and/or radius of a circle associated with the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50, such as a circular inner edge 52 and/or a circular outer edge 53 of the outer surface 51. The characteristic of the nozzle 50 may additionally or alternatively be based upon non-circular shapes (e.g., ovals, triangles, squares, rectangles, other polygons, etc.) associated with the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50. For example, in

embodiments not shown, the nozzle may include a non-circular opening and/or a non-circular outer edge and the characteristic may be based upon the size, shape, orientation, etc. of the non circular opening and/or outer edge.

[0041] The path P that the nozzle 50 may move along while the material M is dispensed from the dispenser 91 may include a single revolution of the nozzle 50 around the orifice 94 of the dispenser 91. Alternatively, the path P may include a plurality of revolutions of the nozzle 50 around the orifice 94 of the dispenser 91, which may, for example, increase an amount of material M provided on the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50 and/or increase the size of the material reception surface of the nozzle 50.

[0042] A size and shape of the material reception surface of the nozzle 50 may correspond to the size and shape of the path P. For example, as a result of the initial alignment of the nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91, movement of the nozzle 50 along the path P may

continuously provide portions of the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50 directly below the orifice 94 of the dispenser 91 while the material M is dispensed from the orifice 94. Upon completion of the movement of the nozzle 50 along the path P, each of the portions of the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50 provided directly below the orifice 94 of the dispenser 91 while the material M was dispensed from the orifice 94 may together define the material reception surface of the nozzle 50. The size and shape of the material reception surface of the nozzle 50 may correspond to the size and shape of the path P that the nozzle 50 moved along during dispensing. Further, because the size and shape of the path P may be based upon the characteristic of the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50, and because the size and shape of the material reception surface of the nozzle 50 may correspond to the size and shape of the path P, the size and shape of the material reception surface of the nozzle 50 may also be based upon the characteristic of the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50.

[0043] The characteristic of the nozzle 50 and/or the size and shape of the path P may be input by an operator into the controller 16 via the user interface 18 and/or the control panel 20 and may be stored in the memory of the controller 16. In embodiments, the characteristic of the nozzle 50 and/or the size and shape of the path P may additionally or alternatively be

automatically determined by the controller 16. For example, an image of the nozzle 50 may be captured by the camera 81 at the inspection station 80. The controller 16 may determine, e.g., a diameter of the circular nozzle 50 based upon the image of the nozzle 50 captured by the camera 81. The size and shape of the path P may be determined automatically by the controller 16 based upon, for example, the determined diameter of the circular nozzle 50.

[0044] Upon completion of step 304 of the process 300, solder may be dispensed from the nozzle 50. Dispensing of the solder from the nozzle 50 after completion of the treatment of the nozzle 50 at step 304 may include dispensing solder from the nozzle 50 at a first flow rate for a period of time (e.g., 2-3 seconds). The first flow rate may be greater than a second flow rate, which may be a typical operating flow rate for the soldering machine 1. The dispensing of the solder from the nozzle 50 may include reducing the flow rate from the first rate to the second rate after an expiration of the period of time. The pump 12 may automatically effectuate the dispensing of the solder from the nozzle 50 at the first and second flow rates. According to aspects of the disclosure, dispensing the solder from the nozzle 50 at the first flow rate (i.e., at an increased flow rate relative to a typical operating flow rate for the soldering machine 1) may improve removal of oxidation from the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50.

[0045] The process 300 may be iterative. For example, the process may be restarted at step 302 after operation of the soldering station 70 of the soldering machine 1 for a

predetermined period of time. The predetermined period of time may be stored in the memory of the controller 16 and the controller may automatically restart the process 300 upon an expiration of the predetermined period of time.

[0046] FIGS. 4-7, show an initial alignment and relative movement between an exemplary circular nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91 in accordance with aspects of the disclosure. As shown in FIG. 4, the initial alignment of the nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91 may include movement of the nozzle 50 in the z-direction such that the opening 54 of the nozzle 50 is provided at a vertical distance (e.g., at 0.5 mm) below a center 94C of the orifice 94 of the dispenser 91. The vertical distance between the opening 54 of the nozzle 50 and the orifice 94 of the dispenser 91 may remain constant throughout treatment of the nozzle 50. Alternatively, the vertical distance may be varied during treatment of the nozzle 50. The initial alignment of the nozzle 50 may further include movement of the nozzle 50 in the x and y directions such that a center 54C of the opening 54 of the nozzle 50 is aligned with the center 94C of the dispenser 91 in the x and y directions, as shown in FIG. 5. That is, the center 54C of the opening 54 of the nozzle 50 may be moved to an initial x, y coordinate at which the center 94C of the orifice 94 of the dispenser 91 is disposed. The initial x, y coordinate may be an origin of an x, y Cartesian coordinate system extending in the x-y directions.

[0047] As shown in FIG. 6, the initial alignment of the nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91 may include movement of the nozzle 50 in at least one of the x and y directions from the initial x, y coordinate (i.e., from the x, y coordinate at which the center 94C of the orifice 94 of the dispenser 91 is disposed) to a second x, y coordinate of the Cartesian coordinate system. The movement of the nozzle 50 from the initial x, y coordinate to the second x, y coordinate may provide a distance D between the center 54C of the opening 54 of the nozzle 50 and the center 94C of the orifice 94 of the dispenser 91. The distance D may be based upon a characteristic of the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50 and may define the size and shape of the path P that the nozzle 50 may move along while the material M is dispensed from the dispenser 91.

[0048] The characteristic of the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50 that the distance D may be based upon may, for example, be a radius of a circle associated with the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50. For example, the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50 may be bounded between the circular inner and outer edges 52, 53, as shown in FIG. 6. The circular inner edge 52 may be disposed a radial distance from the center 54C of the opening 54 and may define the boundary of the opening 54. The circular outer edge 53 may be disposed a radial distance from the center 54C of the opening 54; the radial distance from the center 54C of the opening 54 to the circular outer edge 53 is greater than the radial distance from the center 54C of the opening 54 to the circular inner edge 52. The characteristic of the outer surface 51 of the nozzle 50 that the distance D is based upon may be at least one of the radii of the circular inner and outer edges 52, 53. [0049] In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 6, the magnitude of the distance D may be a median between the magnitudes of the radii of the circular inner and outer edges 52, 53 of the outer surface 51. Accordingly, the center 94C of the orifice 94 may be provided directly above a mid-point between the inner and outer edges 52, 53 of the outer surface 51. The second x, y coordinate may be any x, y coordinate in the Cartesian coordinate system that is located the distance D from the initial x, y coordinate (i.e., from the x, y coordinate at which the center 94C of the orifice 94 of the dispenser 91 is disposed). That is, the second x, y coordinate may be any x, y coordinate in the Cartesian coordinate system along the circular path P. The circular path P may be centered on the initial x, y coordinate (i.e., from the x, y coordinate at which the center 94C of the orifice 94 of the dispenser 91 is disposed) and may have a radius equivalent to the distance D.

[0050] As shown in FIG. 7, the relative movement between the nozzle 50 and the dispenser 91 may include movement of the nozzle 50 in the x and y directions around the circular path P while the material M is dispensed from the dispenser 91. In particular, the center 54C of the opening 54 of the nozzle 50 may move along the circular path P. As discussed above, the dispenser 91 may dispense the material M only while the nozzle 50 moves in the x and y directions around the circular path P. Alternatively, the dispenser 91 may initiate dispensing of the material M just prior to an initiation of the movement of the nozzle 50 along the path P and/or may terminate dispensing of the material M just prior to a termination of the movement of the nozzle 50 along the path P.

[0051] According to aspects of the disclosure, upon completion of the movement of the nozzle 50 along the path P, the material reception surface of the nozzle 50 provided directly below the orifice 94 of the dispenser 91 while the material M was dispensed from the nozzle may have received and been treated by the material M. Further, since the center 94C of the orifice 94 may be provided above mid-points between the inner and outer edges 52, 53 of the outer surface 51 while the center 54C of the opening 54 of the nozzle 50 moves along the circular path P, the size of the material reception surface of the nozzle 50 may be maximized, which may improve the treatment of the nozzle 50.

[0052] While the disclosure has been described in connection with the various embodiments of the figures, it is to be understood that other similar embodiments can be used or modifications and additions can be made to the described embodiments. For example, while the nozzle 50 has been described as a soldering nozzle incorporated in a soldering machine, it is understood that the nozzle may be any type of nozzle. Therefore, the methods and systems as described herein should not be limited to any single embodiment, but rather should be construed in breadth and scope in accordance with the appended claims.

[0053] One or more of software modules incorporating the methods described above can be integrated into a computer system or non-transitory computer-readable media. Moreover, while illustrative embodiments have been described herein, the scope includes any and all embodiments having equivalent elements, modifications, omissions, combinations (e.g., of aspects across various embodiments), adaptations or alterations based on the present disclosure. Further, the steps of the disclosed methods can be modified in any manner, including by reordering steps or inserting or deleting steps.