PHOENIX – Benchmark Electronics has joined the ranks of vertically integrated manufacturers with its new 122,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art factory in Phoenix.

The end-to-end process encompasses a dedicated design center, board fabrication, assembly and test, highlighted by a state-of-the-art factory 4.0 lights-out SMT line.

The plant, which houses a Benchmark Lark Technology team as well as other Benchmark operations, celebrated its grand opening earlier this month.

It is just the fourth greenfield fabrication plant built in the US in the past 20 years, the others being Whelen Engineering’s captive shop, which opened in 2015; GreenSource Fabrication, which launched in 2018; and TTM’s new plant in Chippewa Falls, built in a converted 20-year-old, 40,000-sq. ft. warehouse and officially opened last winter.

Benchmark is the fifth-largest EMS company in the US and 18th in the world, according to the CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY Top 50.

The fab shop features automated plating for copper and final finish, laser-direct imaging (LDI) and an automated MSAP line capable of producing 1 mil (25 micron) lines and spaces. The company has two laser drills and two mechanical drills, with the lasers capable of microvias to 2 mils, while the mechanical drill capability is currently 6 mils, with the expectation it will reach 4 mils later this year. Sequential lamination processing is standard. Final finishes include ENIG, ENEPIG, and EPIG. Benchmark can process a variety of laminates, including rigid, polyimide, BT, and high-performance blends, LCP, PTFE, and mixed-material hybrid constructions. Legends is screen, but inkjet is planned for later this year.

A big part of the site investment was the ISO 7 and 8 cleanrooms, adds Kevin Walker, product line director, RF & High Speed Circuits at Benchmark Lark. Inventory is kept in the cleanroom.

While the company had manual plating as part of its partnership with HSIO that started in 2018, the Phoenix plant upgraded to automated copper for direct plate and final finish for precision deposition control.

The MSAP process will enable size, weight, performance and cost (SWPC) improvements for many end-markets, with a focus on aerospace and defense customers, who are “enthusiastic supporters of what we are doing,” said Walker.

The SMT area includes a volume production line, with an NPI line to be installed by the end of the year. Benchmark installed 3-D x-ray, Sonoscan microacoustic imaging, a laser confocal microscope for surface analysis, and performs microwave test up to 110GHz.

Daniel Everitt, vice president, Benchmark Lark, says the fab shop gives Benchmark “the opportunity to eliminate superfluous packaging, achieve high-reliability designs and performance for our customers, as well as mixed technologies where we mix an SMT and microelectronics assembly to create a hybrid module, which is commonly used in space, military and defense applications for the most highly demanding scenarios, as well as the highest reliability scenarios.”

While Arizona is not a water-rich state, the shop has closed-loop treatment systems for air and water.

The site will build bare boards for both OEMs and other EMS companies.

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