AEi developed an automation system to enable an operator to load a batch of unassembled guidewires on one end and remove assembled guidewires on the opposite end. The automated system supports repeatable process control over processes such as solder paste dispense, using machine vision-guided motion to align the distal end of the guidewire to the tip, cut the tip to length, apply solder paste, and reflow the solder; then use machine vision to inspect the assembly.

Platforms & Products:

  • FlexAuto

Application Requirements:

  • Precision alignment
  • Precision, consistent solder dispense
  • Solder joining without deformation
  • Inspection of final bond

Guidewires are used in minimally invasive medical applications to position devices such as catheters and stents. A guidewire is essentially a long (up to several meters) straight and flexible spring and is typically made of stainless steel with diameters ranging from 0.25 mm to several millimeters. The distal end of the guidewire generally has a flexible tip, made of an elastic material.

The system incorporates AEi’s machine vision tools to precisely locate and align the distal end of the guidewire and ribbon. Four servo driven axes (X, Y, Z and Theta) are used to position and align the guidewire and three axes (X, Y and Z) are used to position and align the ribbon. The solder paste is dispensed using a servo controlled auger valve and machine vision is used to check for the proper amount of solder paste. The components are then automatically positioned at the focal point of the soft beam laser using a coax camera and laser assembly. The reflow process is then performed and machine vision is again used to check for proper assembly.

AEi also integrated an optional automated guidewire feed into the system. This allows the guidewire to be automatically picked from a batch, fed into the alignment fixture then automatically removed and placed into an unload hopper once the solder process is complete.