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What’s the Deal with Packaging? Tape and Reel Encapsulation to Protect Parts

June 23, 2020

Precision stamped components need to be in an assembly-ready condition when they leave the stamper’s facility, and they need to stay in that condition during transportation and storage and until the customer needs them. Moving components between facilities and general handling present many risks to that assembly-ready condition the stamper achieved. That’s why careful packaging is such an important part of the stamping process.

Tape and reel encapsulation

Tape and reel packaging is a standard method precision stampers use to keep parts free from damage, corrosion, and particle contamination. The process may be manual or automated, but the principle is the same: components are placed in individual pockets embossed in a strip called the carrier tape, then a thin layer of pressure-sensitive cover tape is applied to seal it inside.

The carrier tape is made of a strip of inert polystyrene or polycarbonate with sprocket holes on each side to guide it through the machine and advance the next pocket for loading. The pockets are embossed in the carrier tape in a thermoforming process, and depending on customer requirements, dimensions and depth of the pockets can be customized to fit the component and hold it still to minimize abrasion and or shifting.

The cover tape is usually clear so it’s easy to see the contents without opening the pockets. Some tapes may also be resealable.

Once sealed, the strip of encapsulated parts is fed onto a second reel for easy access at the point of assembly.

To further protect against corrosion due to moisture, reels of encapsulated components can be vacuum sealed in bags or packed with clay- or silica-based desiccants to absorb it. A card indicating humidity level in packaging may also be included as an extra precaution.

Inspection and verification

Once components are placed in the carrier tape pockets but before they are sealed inside, the packaging is inspected with a computerized vision sensor. The tape advances to the camera, where an image is captured and analyzed. Special software compares the image to stored reference images in order to determine if:

  • a component is present in the pocket
  • the component is the correct one
  • identification marks on the component are correct
  • the component is correctly oriented in the pocket (i.e. upside down, sideways, etc.)

Custom precision stamping is all about the details. Starting with design and continuing through manufacturing and cleaning, your stamper’s attention to specifications is critical to the success of your finished products. But it shouldn’t stop there – the right packaging ensures your components arrive ready to use. Contact us to learn more.

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