'A Bridge between Concept and Manufacturing' Print E-mail
Written by Mike Buetow   
Tuesday, 16 July 2013 01:18

Multek last week announced it would open a major tech center in the Silicon Valley, leveraging its Flextronics assembly arm while performing critical research on everything from new materials and manufacturing processes to signal integrity. Multek president Franck Lize and CTO Dr. Bill Beckenbaugh discussed the Interconnect Technology Center with PCD&F editor in chief Mike Buetow on a July 11 conference call.


MB: The news of the Interconnect Technology Center came as a bit of a surprise. How did this come about? Was this in the works internally for some time?

FL: So the new center is very interesting. We spent the past 4 months with customers to understand what their requirements were for the next-generation products. With the telecom market, with the 4G and 5G, and even the consumer business with flexible products like wearables and the flexible phones that we hear about in the news, there’s a change (coming) in the PCB industry because there are different requirements for those PCBs.

Our customers need much more solutions now than ever in the past 20 years. Multek’s goal has always been to be a technology leader. Multek wants to be a pioneer here. We asked, How can we do an even better job than we have in the past? The ITC is part of the solution that Multek is putting together.

MB: Is it a standalone entity?

FL: It’s not a standalone entity. It’s part of a full system. We are co-located next to the big NPI center that Flextronics has in the Bay area.

MB: Could you provide a little more detail about that?

FL (photo at right): We needed a place for knowledge and engineering, and we wanted to be in the best location in the world for electronics, which is the Silicon Valley. But the ITC is it’s much more than that. We are leveraging on our network of field applications engineers, which we have all over the world. Thanks to this extended network, our customers have direct access to this great capital of PCB and flexible circuit knowledge , no matter where in the world they are. It fits into the full Multek solution. Whether it’s a field application engineer or our top engineers in the Silicon Valley, we are working to provide early engagement, for new materials, signal integrity issues, and new flexible designs. For any new challenges that our customers have, Multek helps them to make the bridge between concept and actual manufacturing in our factories.

MB: We are seeing leading-edge companies such as Agilent and IBM change their, and I hate to use this word, “paradigm” so that their design kickoff meetings involve everyone from the SI engineer to the hardware engineer, the firmware guy, the fabricator and the assembly process engineer. The DfM rules are hard-coded at that time, so that there are no changes down the line. What are you seeing insofar as this, and did it play into your decision about the ITC?

BB: This is the trend we are seeing over the past several years, and it’s why we wanted to move past our internal paradigm of inward looking at what the company can currently do and turn it around so that the requirements and cost of the functions are designed in early, because if we don’t participate in it, we won’t be able to help the customer do a better job, but also because they might be doing something using an older technology than they need to, one that might cost them money or be less efficient.

We wanted to make it customer-focused and not limited; an open-ended ability to create a team and bring the right people with the right answers to the right problem set. It also helps us define our future capacity and technology requirements better.

MB: How will you staff the ITC?

BB: The team is led by a Ph.D. in Engineering. Other folks have Ph.D.s and advanced degrees in materials science, chemistry, polymer science, mechanical engineering, thermomechanical simulation, high-speed electrical, signal integrity. We have both experienced people and more junior people in the industry. For the younger members, we will help develop their careers.

MB: To what degree will ITC be involved in blue sky research outside of what’s directly needed by customers?

BB: Blue sky for us is defined for something that’s been coming but traditionally we have put it in terms of the optimum solution for copper-based interconnects. But at some point we will move to other ways to move to signal propagation. I don’t want to describe any more of that, but the future will be very different.

This industry has only gone through 2 or 3 revolutions in the past 25 years. We feel the next one is coming in the next few years. I don’t want to give too much about that because of our customers and the proprietary nature of it, but it is something we are working on.

MB: Bill, what are you seeing in terms of 3D packaging, which from your Surface Mount Council days you probably used to call MEMS?

BB: Let’s talk about that. Overall, Flextronics has a tremendous investment in being a leader in advanced assembly technologies. So being located with the Product Innovation Center, we are able to provide the interconnect part to accelerate our Flextronics corporate roadmap, and provide a Multek interconnect solution for MEMs packaging – all of those are enabled by our cooperation.Beckenbaugh

We are in mass production on product with package driven interconnect pitches and component densities and assembly requirements. We see sensor integration and integration of MEMS devices is a key driver of the next generation of interconnect solutions. I’ve been in advanced packaging as part of my career and am very sensitive to it driving the next generation of electronics and PCB boards. It’s the key to the future of electronics growth.

MB: From the assembly viewpoint, we see issues where the tolerances for SMT assembly require bare board yields in the 98%, 99% range, and not just by visual inspection, or there are problems with printing. These problems will be even more severe with smaller components such as metric 0201s.

BB: You’re touching on the area with is exactly why we are co-located with our Flextronics Assembly Engineering Lab. Regardless of whether it’s a module, or a chip on a package, all require flawless assembly. From a Six Sigma standpoint, it’s necessary to fully control all the aspects of the process.

MB: Franck, you’ve been president since January. (Ed.: Lize has been in finance and operations with Flextronics since 1999.) Was the transition to Multek a surprise, or were you being groomed for the job?

FL: It did not come as a surprise. I was in the global operations group of Flextronics. One of those groups was Multek, and I knew what the plans were. Every company needs to evolve, change what’s not working and focus on what makes Multek successful.

MB: In light of the factory shutdowns (in Germany and Brazil), could you provide some color as to what happened to the existing programs at those sites?

FL: Of course we cannot comment on individual customers. In general, I would say there was a solution for each customer – some went to Multek, some went somewhere else.

MB: What do you anticipate will be your biggest challenge over the next 12 to 18 months?

FL: I wouldn’t say it’s a “challenge” as such. I see lots of traction, whether it is on the ITC, or on Multek overallon the whole. I think it’s about focusing on that and being successful. … We are want to be more than a PCB manufacturer. Multek want to focuses on providing powerful solutions for our customers’ success. There’s lots of PCB manufacturers in the world; but few can offer the full solutions that Multek provides.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 July 2013 02:19




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