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42 FLEX007 MAGAZINE I JULY 2018 and to get the press cycles correct. We had the Schmoll representative here to help us with the drilling. We had some issues with registration in the beginning, and we took care of that with the operators and how they were laying up the flex. Matties: So you're selling flex now? O'Neil: Yes. We've done up to eight layers of regular flex, and single- and double-sided, so we're anticipating selling rigid-flex here really quickly. In fact, we are quoting an order today. Matties: From a customer's point of view, what is it that they're looking for from a flex supplier? O'Neil: They're looking for quality and time. Our stan- dard lead time is five days for non-flex work. Custom- ers know when they come to Prototron that they can depend on us to deliver on time. Our on-time matrix is extremely important to everyone within Prototron. As we continue to expand into flex, short lead times will be just as important as they are with our rigid products. Matties: Right now, you said you're doing flex and you're just starting the rigid-flex. What's that process been like for you? O'Neil: I've been very fortunate to have an engi- neer who just happened to show up one day, and he's really been spearheading this move to flex. He's been hand-walking things through and also teaching the operators the ins and outs of manufacturing with flex. He's had extensive experience in flex, and he was a really good find for us. Matties: What I'm hearing is, it's material han- dling and operator training? O'Neil: Exactly. That's the key. Matties: And in terms of the training, what sort have you had to focus on? O'Neil: We've focused in on lamination and imaging. Like I said, we had a little issue with drilling that really took some care. For etch- ing, we do two-core and three-core FR-4. Much of the RF/microwave materials we work with can act almost like rubber, and handling can be an issue with those, too. Plating and etching weren't a problem; it was mainly lamination and imaging. We're focusing more on using coverlays instead of the solder mask. The sol- der masking cycle time is longer, and although we do it, we prefer using coverlay vs. solder mask. Matties: In your 40 years, have there been any moments that really stick out as highlights or surprises along the way? O'Neil: One or two. When I was at C3, surface mount was making its way into the market, and the company got into that business early. That market grew quite a bit during those times. It was a great opportunity to work the challenges of technology and production. Also, that was my first exposure to quick turns. We had an individual group within the company that would run a prototype for a customer and then follow up with the production. That was kind of a novel concept back then. Not so novel these days, of course. Coming to work at Pro - totron and learning about materials has been a nice highlight. Before I came here I was strictly working with FR-4. I had read about microwave materials and processing, but I'd never been involved in any manufacturing. It was a great opportunity to learn manufacturing with these types of materials. Those two phases would stick out for me. It's nice when you're a bit senior in the industry and you get an opportu - nity to learn something new and challenging. Obviously being exposed to really quick turns is completely different. I told Dave Ryder that when I was working in production we would have eight-week lead times or longer. When I first looked at the WIP here, there were just two days filled up and there wasn't anything Kim O'Neil

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