Orbotech’s Latest Technology at IPC APEX EXPO
Orbotech presented their latest new technologies at IPC APEX EXPO 2016. The Nuvogo 1000 is a higher power version of their multi wavelength direct imaging machine, as well as their new automated optical shaping technology which can add copper deposition to an otherwise defective PCB. I met with Orbotech’s Micha Perlman in their booth on the show floor, to learn more.
Barry Matties: Micha, you are the senior marketing manager for the PCB division. I think that most people in our industry know Orbotech, but just for some context, tell us a little about the company.
Micha Perlman: Orbotech is a worldwide company focused on providing manufacturing equipment to the electronic industry. We have a wide variety of products, usually high-tech optical and digital products. We have been involved in the business of PCBs for many years as well as in the flat-panel display business, and lately we also entered into the advanced packaging market.
Matties: Your well-known AOI was kind of the starting point for Orbotech, right?
Perlman: Yes, but this was a long time ago. We are still the market leaders in AOI for PCBs and for flat-panel displays, but today that’s only a small part of our business. Many years ago, we moved to production machines and brought unique laser direct imaging to the PCB market, which we lead today as well.
We are also involved in other areas like the production of advanced packaging. We are proud to say that any electronic product that you hold in your hands today has more than one component which was manufactured using Orbotech solutions. It could range from the LCD or the touchscreen of your mobile phone to the PCBs or the components inside.
Matties: I've heard the revenue numbers for Orbotech and they're just incredibly large numbers. You guys really have a lot of resources to apply into R&D. It looks like you invest a lot back into R&D.
Perlman: That's right. We invest a high percentage of our revenue—typically about 13%—into R&D. This is a very high number for a capital solution business like ours that offers equipment for production.
Matties: What is the North American market like for Orbotech?
Perlman: It's a market that we have been leading for many years. It used to be our largest market, but then there was a shift to the Pacific and China. It is still a very important market for us where expensive, complicated and ‘one-off’ products are manufactured. We see a lot of military and aerospace applications that rely on Orbotech’s manufacturing expertise. I hear a lot of appreciation from the North American PCB manufacturers for what Orbotech’s solutions provide, how we enable them to meet the advanced technical requirements of PCB production here in America.
Matties: Well, direct imaging certainly makes a lot sense, especially here in America. There’s a lot more competition that has come into that arena. How has that impacted your strategies?
Perlman: At Orbotech, we never stand still. We are always looking at new ways to improve and stay ahead of the competition in terms of the quality, the speed and the performance of our products. Direct imaging is, as you say, very important for North America, and very important for the manufacturing of advanced smartphones in the Pacific. There is no way to manufacture a smartphone without having the direct imaging equipment, and it’s better to have Orbotech equipment because of its superior quality and lower total cost of ownership.
Matties: What sort of demands do your customers put on you, as far as the types of technology, the terms, or the requirements?
Perlman: We have very close relationships with our customers. We talk to them a lot, share our plans with them and they share their needs with us. When they are asked to develop tougher, more advanced PCBs they come to us to see how and if we can meet those needs. As our roadmap is defined well in advance, we are often ready with the solutions they need and we help them to ramp up their production of their increasingly complex products.
Matties: Here at the show, are you showing some new technology?
Perlman: Yes, definitely. There is one new product and one new technology that we are showing here. The Nuvogo™ 1000 is a new direct imaging machine that significantly enhances the power and the printing speed of the Nuvogo family that was introduced 18 months ago,
At the end of 2014, we introduced direct imaging technology with multi wavelengths that gives a much better imaging quality. For that, we moved from solid-state laser technology to laser diodes which enables the multi wavelength and the higher energy that give the DI better quality, better adhesion, better sidewalls and higher throughput.
Matties: How do the demands from a North American shop differ from the demands from a Chinese facility? Are there different requirements in terms of the relationship between you and your customers?
Perlman: There are fundamental differences in the business models between North America and China. In China, the focus is largely on high volume and low cost, both for simple and for very advanced products. Their business model is focused on pushing the production cost down—high speed, high efficiency and low cost of ownership.
Here in North America, the emphasis is more on advanced engineering to support low volume production of unique products. In the Pacific, it is not unusual to see an entire fab dedicated to one production line for a period of three or four months. In America, different and unique products are manufactured every day requiring a lot of engineering resources, experience, knowledge and advanced tools in order to deliver the required results.
Matties: Does that create a challenge for Orbotech, in terms of the technology itself?
Perlman: It does, but as a result of our vast experience and unique global view, we have comprehensive solutions. We have a wide range of products and solutions, and we have the flexibility to support different applications and different requirements. We also have very experienced engineers and field experts that enable our customers to get the most from our solutions, whether we’re talking about our high-capacity, high-quality, high-yield, advanced fab customers in the Pacific or the specific technological challenges of the American market.
Matties: Well, you mentioned the word "flexibility.” I think in North America that's absolutely key, as well as process setup time. I would think the ability to switch from one product to the next in the simplest and shortest fashion possible would be a big demand.
Perlman: You’re absolutely right. You need flexibility to be able to make changes quickly and easily, and to serve the needs of different products or different applications. This is precisely the concept behind digital products, and this is what we offer. Direct imaging and inkjet printers are digital products— there is no need to prepare a film or a glass master or a screen mask. Load the new job design and start the new product imaging or printing immediately.
Matties: Back to the R&D and the investment that you're making. A huge conversation in the industry is the 3D printing of printed circuits. It seems to me that the technology that you have, when you look across the product line, makes you a company well-suited to take on that particular market segment. It certainly is a segment that is growing in our industry.
What do you think about the 3D printing market and how does that affect Orbotech? When you look at a company like Nano Dimension focusing on 3D printing of circuit boards, which is also right out of Israel, does that look like the infancy of things to come?
Perlman: Israel is actually very strong in inkjet printing, in general. Orbotech is a leading inkjet supplier for the PCB industry and we are evaluating different printing technologies, including inkjet, for new opportunities in the printing electronics market. As far as the area of 3D inkjet printing for PCB, we obviously follow what Nano Dimension is doing. After all, we are neighbors and the geographical distance between our offices is no more than 10 miles.
But, we do not compete with Nano Dimension. They are actually addressing the in-house prototyping needs of the electronics design centers and less focused on mass production. I think there's still a long way to go with 3D printing as far as reliability and adaptability to PCB market needs.
Matties: Let’s talk about the new technology Orbotech is presenting here.
Perlman: Sure. As I said, this is a very unique technology which we call automated optical shaping or AOS. If there is a missing copper area on the PCB pattern on tracks or on pads, we have the technology to save the PCB by analyzing the area and adding copper using a local copper deposition. It is a very unique and new technology.
Matties: It sounds a lot like 3D printing! [Laughs]
Perlman: It is, but it's very local deposition on a small and specific area and not a pattern printing.
Matties: Is this a derivative of your AOR (automated optical repair) system?
Perlman: You could say so, it's a revolutionary, complementary technology to the AOR technology. The AOR, which we developed in the past, is a solution for shaping excess copper. We can identify excess copper, and use laser ablation to remove it.
The new technology can automatically identify where copper is missing and can complete it. It adds the copper and shapes and builds the track to its original design.
Matties: You're salvaging what otherwise would be in the scrap pile, right?
Perlman: Exactly. Now we not only have the capability to save scrap PCBs with excess copper, but we have the technology to save those with missing copper as well.
Matties: Have you already placed this into the production environment? Or is this brand new?
Perlman: This is brand new. It's a new technology that we have been developing for a long time and it will be integrated into products in the future. We are in the testing stage of the technology and so far we have had very promising results.
Matties: Congratulations, and thank you so much for spending time with us today, Micha. This was great.
Perlman: You're welcome.