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18 PCB007 MAGAZINE I MARCH 2020 Feature Interview by Nolan Johnson I-CONNECT007 I spoke with Bill Bowerman of MacDermid Alpha as he described a paper he helped write on direct metallization and other advanced processes—such as Shadow and Blackhole— the benefits of adopting such practices, and what type of shops might consider the switch. Nolan Johnson: Bill, your team published a technical paper on your carbon-based process- es. We're publishing that paper in this issue of PCB007 Magazine, but let's step up a level, and discuss the business implications. How does this process deliver more profitability? Bill Bowerman: There is definitely an industry trend toward more acceptance of direct met- allization and how it contributes to business operations. The process uses less water, less power, creates less waste treatment costs, and requires fewer operators on the line. It's a fair- ly small footprint for space utilization. And, as we're talking about the need for fabricators to expand metallization capacity for any-layer design or HDI, keep in mind that every time we do a buildup layer, we have to go through metallization and electroplating. If we're look- ing at a seeding process like direct metalliza- tion and that has a lower cost and smaller foot- print, that's an advantage to them. If there's less water usage, there is a very significant factor in certain regions globally, where they are restricted on how much water they can use. In some cases, if they want to expand in a plant, they have to take something out to put something new in the plant. Those facilities are at a zero limit for expansion on water usage. The other factor, very simply, is that electro- less copper uses palladium for the activator. Palladium is now at $83 a gram; it has gone up over 50% in the last year. A year ago, it was probably around $1,400 per troy ounce. It's at $2,600 per troy ounce today. Johnson: It seems like the PCB fabricators are getting squeezed every which way. Bowerman: Unfortunately, that's true. It's a tough business to be in right now. The Business Case for Metallization Bill Bowerman

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