PCB007 Magazine

PCB-Jun2018

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JUNE 2018 I PCB007 MAGAZINE 15 sophisticated automated process control at IC substrate or wafer manufacturing. But for the metal finishing guys, we offer a program which they install. It involves control- lers and software that can be accessed securely online, where we can go in and check on their SPC and make recommendations. PCB manu- facturers, by contrast, for the most part, they have their equipment, they have their peo- ple, they have the double-checking, and not a ton of automated analysis and replenishing. A lot of the replenishment is just done on a per- square-foot basis. They have the metering pumps on the drums of chemicals; a light sensor will detect the board going into a process, and then when it has counted five boards, it pumps X milliliters into the bath, something like that. That's prob- ably the most common. Electroless controllers are widely deployed for most, but the rest of the baths, I think it's just per board. Matties: What about in the equipment area? Are you seeing changes in equipment to meet the new needs based on your baths that are coming in, your chemicals? Kologe: For high tech, it is about customiza- tion, for mid-range tech it is about compatibil- ity. There are certain processes that we release for advanced technology that are highly cus- tomized, and the equipment needs to be from an approved supplier. On the opposite side of the spectrum, a lot of the baths that we sell, even though they are specialty processes, they still are installable in existing lines. That's one of the things that our customers look for in a lot of the mid-range technology chemistry. Cullen: There are a couple of outliers on that. For example, the big vertical platers for plat- ing vias and filling vias—those are still kind of tightly controlled in the supplier of the equip- ment. We have great relationships with the guys who make these big vertical platers, and I guess over time that's going to commoditize just like everything else. You know the differ - ence with horizontal electroless, a lot of that market has been locked down to equipment specification. We are installing some horizontal electroless now with other equipment suppli- ers, so that is starting, again, to commoditize. The equipment that's arriving now for through-hole filling is extremely controlled, and it's not widely deployed yet, but for our customers who do that, we write the equip- ment specification and it's built exactly to our standards. That's kind of the other extreme of the equipment relationship. I've got a lot of cases from the photovoltaics (PV) industry, but not so many examples in circuit boards right now. Maybe a good example of chemistry/ equipment design coordination is in the han- dling of small parts and thin materials for flex. Matties: When people look at their wet pro- cess, are they looking at it from a cycle time point of view as well, or are they coming in saying not just cycle time, but even process step elimination? Kologe: For cycle time, in electroplating pro- cesses, for example, you just scale up the tank if you want to have higher throughput. Even if the cycle time is longer, if they are willing to install a larger line in their factory that can handle the amount of throughput, then the cy- cle time is kind of a non-issue. Cullen: That's always the thing. Jordan is talk- ing about making sure there's no rate-limiting step. If there's one step that takes much longer and it's out of sync, then they'll make that one

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