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14 The PCB Magazine • August 2017 Alex Stepinski: The process has stabilized since the last conversation, and it's very predictable now from a quality perspective. From a labor perspective, we have consistent schedules and predictable labor and delivery schedules; we have predictable quality at this point. It's a ro- bust process, and it essentially runs itself, the control plan that's in place. Goldman: How was the startup? Stepinski: The startup was challenging from a couple of perspectives. One was the inkjet tech- nology and the second was reliance on small- er suppliers to deliver on a consistent basis. We had some late deliveries on things as well. Goldman: Once everything was installed, did it take a few months to get everything smoothed out? Stepinski: It was a few months to balance in the chemistries for recycling. The recycling was the biggest challenge there, because we kind of went out on our own in developing things. We didn't have all of the equipment configured from the beginning; we couldn't find any supplier that could give us full systems for recycling, even though we looked diligently. Everybody had only half measures; nothing was complete. We bought a lot of half measures and con- nected the dots to make a system, and this required a lot of research, data collection, ad- justments, improvements, and updates, to get to the closed-loop efficient system. A closed- loop inefficient system was how we started, and a closed-loop efficient system was where we ended up. Happy Holden: I have a couple questions on the inkjet printing. Both the innerlayer imaging and outer layer imaging utilize the same etch and strip equipment in the line but in a differ- ent order—for outer layers you strip and etch. I asked you earlier about this and you indicated that the innerlayers and outer layers aren't in- terspersed, they're run batch-wise. It's a manual intervention in terms of bypassing one process because it's been turned off and using another one. That's done manually. I assume then that there's an accumulator there? Stepinski: Yes. Holden: So if you're running innerlayers, you can still run outer layers, and the outer layers go into the accumulators while it's processing innerlayers, and then once you're finished with innerlayers it takes the outers out of the accu- mulator and runs on. It's probably a quick swi- tchover between innerlayers and outer layers, but it's not done automatically. It's done manu- ally since they're all inline. The other question about the accumulators was, are they also for the fact that all the conveyors don't run at the same speed? Is that why there's an accumulator for that optimal process? Stepinski: It's actually not because of speed. The speeds have all been balanced. The accumula- tors are going from a continuous process to a batch process; that's where we have accumula- tors. Not for speed, because the average speed coming out of the batch processes matches the continuous processes. It's just that they can't take them at the same rate, the same interval. For instance, an inkjet machine will probably deliver two panels at about the same time, and then there'll be a two-minute delay, and then it takes the next two. It's not doing one every minute. Holden: But if you had a change in thickness of the copper from one product line to another, you'd have to slow down the horizontal plater, WHELEN ENGINEERING, TWO YEARS LATER Figure 2: IPS conveyor line.

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