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CyberOptics’ Sean Langbridge and I spent some time together in China recently during the Nepcon China 2015 Show, where we discussed, among other things, the company’s newest product launch, a 3D AOI and SPI platform. Langbridge also discusses the latest requirements for inspection.
Barry Matties: Sean, let’s begin with a little background on CyberOptics and what it specializes in.
Sean Langbridge: Professor Steve Case, who unfortunately is no longer with us, founded CyberOptics in 1984, and we are primarily a 3D sensor company. We are based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We just launched our latest 3D AOI and SPI platform here at the Shanghai show.
Matties: 3D is the big deal right now?
Langbridge: Yes, it absolutely is a big deal. 3D AOI is moving in a similar way to how 3D SPI did 10 years ago. Initially, the market was mainly 2D SPI, then 3D SPI emerged and gradually it became dominant in the market. Now, we have no in-line 2D SPI at all. I believe 3D AOI is going the same way, but at a much faster pace and that the whole inspection market for post reflow will be primarily 3D AOI within two or three years.
Matties: When you look at the market like this, how do you determine the size or the scope?
Langbridge: We use independent data. We can access market-based data to look at the size of the market. The AOI market currently is about a $500 million market, globally. There is a lot of data that supports that figure and it’s growing about 5–7%, year-on-year.
Matties: Where is CyberOptics in terms of market share?
Langbridge: We are quite a small player. I would say we’re less than 5% in AOI. We’re about 15% in SPI, so we have a larger share of that market. But AOI is definitely a growth area.
Matties: Considering that there is only a handful of large players in AOI, what sort of value proposition do you bring to displace them?
Langbridge: We have a completely different approach with both our sensing technology and image analysis technology, and I’ll start with that. Most of our competitors use algorithm technology. That’s well-understood and well-known in the AOI market, but it’s a little bit cumbersome when it comes to setting up an inspection task, and ongoing production tuning is quite long. We use a modeling technology that is much more nimble and faster to set up and we believe that will play an integral part in our success in the 3D AOI platform.
Matties: How does the modeling technology work?
Langbridge: It is image-based, so it is real-world variation that we model. In our system we acquire the image of a product, and the technology analyzes production variation in real time. You don’t have to set difficult parameters to try to catch defects. We can catch unanticipated defects through this modeling approach.
Matties: For this modeling approach, are you starting with a known good?
Langbridge: We’d take a known good—that would be an ideal starting point. It doesn’t have to be good, but it has to be known. We just take the real product as it starts its production life and then we learn that over time. Our modeling tunes into the key variances it sees and it’s unique to that individual production facility. It makes adjustments as it goes.
Matties: You said there is a speed benefit. What sort of percentage in speed are you talking?
Langbridge: On the modeling, the speed benefit is in time to set up, time to create an assembly, and the ongoing production tuning. On the front end we could be saving hours or days, depending on product. It is definitely substantial.
Matties: That’s great, and how is the market responding to this technology?
Langbridge: For the 2D AOI the market responded very well. We grew from zero to about 4–5% very quickly, but we hit a plateau there because sensing technology at the time wasn’t moving as fast as our software technology. We were limited to just doing the 2D top-down optic space and the market was calling for angle cameras, pseudo 3D vision. Now we’ve got a new 3D sensor and we can look and explore the benefits of the modeling approach much more widely.
Matties: With strong 3D interest in the world this seems like great timing. Where are your competitors in this race?
Langbridge: We believe we’ve got two or three key competitors in the 3D AOI space that are well known—two Korean companies and one European. We believe we can close the gap very quickly because of our sensor technology, zero calibration, high-speed 3D capability, and the modeling software I just described.
Matties: What sort of demands do your customers put on you?
Langbridge: The primary requirements are fast time to program, high-speed, low false failure, and 100% defect detection.
Matties: And in terms of price point, where do you come in?
Langbridge: I would say that we’re competitive. 3D AOI is a higher price point than 2D AOI and has more players coming into the market, so there’s no doubt that we’ll drop down a touch, I would imagine.
Matties: Is your primary focus in Asia?