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20 PCB007 MAGAZINE I MARCH 2020 Johnson: For the fabricator management team evaluating the manufacturing floor, giving real thought to what works best, if they're looking at a process like Blackhole—which you addressed in your paper—what can they expect to see for an implementation plan? What's the project go- ing to look like to convert? Bowerman: There's a history out there of lines that exist today. We support over 600 direct metallization lines globally today, which is in excess of what we support for electroless cop- per lines. That has given us many years of expe- rience to know exactly what kind of equipment is needed. We can go to the customer and say, "This is the plan for the piece of equipment that we want to design for your product mix," and we will sit down and talk to them. We ask ques- tions like, "What is the product mix? What are your expectations, panel sizes, thicknesses, mi- crovias, through-holes, material types?" These questions are at the front-end of the discussion about starting a plan for a new line. Johnson: Let's talk about conversion time. Can I use a pre-existing line in my factory? Do I need to find open space to put in something in paral- lel? How complex is this? Bowerman: The lines will be unique for the pro- cesses. We have separate specifications for Black- hole and Shadow. We also have a specification for our conductive polymers system. They're similar, but each line is specific with respect to the se- quence of the modules in there. Thus, they can't use an existing line; it will require a new line. Johnson: You're looking at a new line that will reduce the overall usage of local resources, such as water, and bring some additional capabili- ties. What's a typical ROI? Bowerman: A lot of it depends. If we're putting a desmear line with it, or if we're talking about the direct metallization, the numbers could vary. I would estimate, though, that at a compa- rable cost, the direct metallization line is going to be about 50% of the cost of any electroless copper line going in a factory. Johnson: You're going to get a faster ROI giv- en the fact that you're not spending nearly as much money up front to buy the line. Bowerman: For the same production output, the cost is going to be about half. The cost of the desmear side of it, if that's going in new, is identical, but the cost for the direct metalliza- tion has half of the electroless copper. Johnson: It seems like we're on the cusp of a return to more captive facilities. One opinion is that captives got out of the market because of the chemical-related liabilities and the environ- mental issues that created for them. Now, with processes like Blackhole and other techniques for reducing waste and recycling chemicals to create a zero effluent factory, we could see the return of the small- or medium-sized captive. Do you see that? Bowerman: Absolutely. It's true, especially for companies in the aerospace or the defense mar- kets. They build some very complex and high- ly proprietary designs that, frankly, they don't want to even let out to public fabricators. I can count about four or five new shops in North America, albeit small prototype shops, that have been installed in the United States. However, I don't know if it's going to move the needle as far as total revenue for PCB pro- duction in the United States. This motion so far is on the very high end of what is being de- signed. But, from an intellectual property pro- tection standpoint, captive is a significant factor. Johnson: When an OEM is looking to build a captive facility for their production, they main- tain control. They have the opportunity to build greenfield and put in state-of-the-art equipment and build for zero effluent. It seems to give the captive facilities an opportunity to be at the cutting edge and be very competitive for them- selves. Bowerman: That's true. Sometimes, the material sets that they're building on are quite unique and not commonly used in a standard PCB fabrication shop. That's another reason. Other

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