MicroTool (Colorado Springs, CO), supplier of advanced robotic alignment equipment to the semiconductor industry needed to find a way to collect and combine data quickly and accurately.

The LP-3000, a single, complete alignment unit, was developed to eliminate operator error caused when technicians set up, align and calibrate the automation equipment using the "eyeball" method. The unit includes all gaging requirements in one package, replacing eyeball alignment.

Data is collected from more than 12 measuring devices with different sensors, including digital indicators and a digital inclinometer. The company found that it was a problem being connected to all of the measuring sensors while reading and analyzing multiple gaging points continuously.

MicroTool selected the FlexPort Gage Interface FP-4U model developed by Midwest FlexSystems Inc. (Flint, MI). The FlexPort is both an interface and a multiplexer. An interface lets the devices communicate to a PC, and a multiplexer lets multiple devices talk to a communication port on the PC.

The interface works for MicroTool because the company takes multiple readings per second from several measuring devices. According to Dan Sternbergh, at MidwestFlex, the FlexPort is designed with 32-bit technology, and can be stacked together to achieve up to 99 inputs. "The FlexPort supplied the ability to connect and collect from the devices, and the processing power required for high speed data collection," said Sternbergh.

Kevin Harrell, electrical engineering manager at MicroTool, said, "The FlexPort interface allowed us the flexibility and versatility to gather the sensor data in a variety of ways. The programmability of the FlexPort Gage Interface is unmatched in our experience."

Harrell said the interface has reduced the time it takes to set up, align and calibrate equipment from weeks to hours. For MicroTool, the FlexPort was an off-the-shelf solution. It gives the company the ability to connect to various brands of measuring devices, the added benefit of being able to interact with the gages via software commands or push buttons, and has built-in error detection.