Productronica 2003

Circuit World

ISSN: 0305-6120

Article publication date: 1 September 2004




Ling, J. (2004), "Productronica 2003", Circuit World, Vol. 30 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Productronica 2003

Productronica 2003

Munich, 11-14 November

Keywords: Conference, Electronics, Electronics industry

If you spread 1,535 exhibitors over 11 exhibition halls over 12 ha for over 4 days there is always a risk, in any review of such an event, that you might not have quite covered everything which was of interest. But then you appreciate that in any particular field there is always some duplication, some quadruplication even, and there are perhaps limits to the number of ways you can wave solder circuit boards, or drill holes in them, or test and measure all the things which need testing and measuring.

There are some companies who like to put their heads above the ramparts, now the storm is over, publicly demonstrating their cheerful resilience as they punch the air with a gloved fist of defiance, and who tell the world what they are up to. But it is surprising that at a time when the circuit board industry in particular is still picking itself up off the floor there are few companies who want to announce their continued existence, and their pursuit of new products, technologies, or even refinements to a proven stalwart.

What does one discover, when in conversation with many, is that they have diversified, have changed. New companies have been born, new alliances forged, markets traditionally held by one company have been lost to the competition at times when any loss of market share would have been catastrophic. Some companies, once proud market leaders, have been reduced to rump product dispensers as a result of new ownership. Some companies, having struggled manfully to stay in the frame, and having started to see business pick up once more, have been rubbed out by their confused owners after serving the industry loyally and well for over 40 years. Some trade associations, having failed their members in their own country, now seem set on looking elsewhere in the world for income and in doing so there is the risk of losing the essential friendship of colleagues who serve the regions into which they have trespassed. Some trade associations have been active in supporting their membership, and have been bringing concerns and problems to the attention of their (usually disinterested) governments. A changing market indeed, but not necessarily for the better in some regards.

Amongst the many snapshots from the show we include a selection as follows.

Went to see what Shipley were up to, and found out that the name of Shipley is to disappear forever. It is to be replaced by the short and snappy title "Rohm & Haas Electronic Materials", which takes a bit longer to pronounce than, say, Atotech. Rohm & Haas say that it "will make it easier for potential and existing customers to understand the breadth and depth of his (sic) business's impact in the global electronics marketplace". Really? Except in the context of plating lines, understanding breadth and depth is not what Shipley customers do. Understanding the professional service and supply of proven chemistry is what they do, rather than spend time pondering the marketing philosophy of Rohm & Haas. If a company wanted a brand name in this industry, you would have to go a long way to get a better, and more established one than Shipley.

Even getting onto their stand at Productronica indicated their popularity, and a look at their InSite range showed that they now have an established portfolio for embedded components as well as a host of new products aimed at the fine-line and HDI areas of PCB production (Plate 6).

Plate 6 Shipley will soon be called Rohm & Haas Electronic Materials

Then to see Jürgen Schulz at ISOLA AG. "The show is much better than we estimated, the industry seems to be coming back in a better way then before. The meetings we have had with our customers gives us hope that the volumes will increase slightly", said Jürgen. "As the last remaining copper-clad laminate manufacturer in Europe, we hope we can now pick up sufficient volume business to survive." Bearing in mind WEEE/RoHS which comes into force in July 2006, Isola introduced a new grade of CCL-IS500 - which has an improved glass transition temperature of 175°C and complements the halogen-free materials available in 2004.

Universal Instruments were keen to redefine their footprint and their Shawn Robinson introduced us to "Genesis" a multifunctional machine with the fastest high speed placement head in the industry (potentially 54,000 parts per hour) using linear motor technology and with a 50 micron pitch, and a vision system to monitor performance. Their linear motors run very cool, as they demonstrated, thus they can maintain calibration. Adam Brown showed us the new "Polaris" robotic multi-process work-cell family, which runs off individual toolboxes – lots of different sizes and formats.

Over on the Feinfocus stand, Robin Abray and Alastair Sharp of their UK agents Systegration, explained how their FOX X-ray system would permit both 2D and 3D inspection with a feature recognition of less than 1 μm with a standard tube, and less than 0.3 μm using a multifocus tube in nanofocus mode. Images are sharp and consistent, and this is an essential kit for inspecting HDIs, hybrids, encapsulations, MEMS, MOEMs and BGA measurement.

More clever stuff on the Baccini booth. Richard Donaca of Baccini North America explained how their magnificent green tape production line operated, and for whom. Having cleared up the fact that green tape is in reality blue, and established that this is thick film technology, Richard took us through the screen printing process, using a #350 stainless steel mesh stencil to give a printing accuracy of ±6 microns, through drying and then to the collating line which took up to 20 layers in a pile before firing. The end product is for use in solar and fuel cells, oxygen sensors, and areas of demand for frequency control in the telecom and automotive industries. Beautifully engineered and fully automated production equipment for an unique sector, but one in which they reign supreme.

Another stand that caught the eye was that of Concoat. Graham Naisbitt, the MD showed us the Bag on Valve (BoV) aerosol which he is using for their new HumiSeal water-based acrylic conformal coating qualified to MIL-I- 46058C. It provides a higher tack temperature and excellent moisture insulation resistance and can be chemically removed or soldered through. It meets the requirements of IPC CC- 830A Type AR Class 3 (Military) and fluoresces under long-range UV light for ease of inspection, says Graham. It can also be dip, spray or selectively coated. It has very low VOC which reduces the risk of solvent exposure to operators, reducing the need for extraction and ventilation. It also considerably reduces the environmental impact of the process; thus, it is recommended for those companies looking to achieve ISO 14000 status.

Systronic® were showing off their new SC 1800 double-sided spray coating in-line system. Diethard Kapp-Schwoerer talked us through the system that can apply primary resists as well as LPISM, the RC4000 for roller-coating inner-layers at 4 m/m, and the new HTDC high temperature double convection drying system that can be employed for both applications. The HTDC drying system uses 500 m3 of air per minute and thus uses volume of air as a primary drying principle. The SYS 172-2000 automatic cleaning system for stencils, screens, solder mask frames etc. looked efficient, too. Good display of equipment here on a large stand.

Assembléon's Gus Van Hoofstadt explained how the company had been formed back in 1992 from the Philips EMT division, and, still a wholly-owned Philips subsidiary company, they are exporting 95 per cent of production of pick- and-place machinery and support software around the world to some of the largest consumer product and contract electronics manufacturers. Unlike turret technology, Assembleon use precision X-Y axis positioning platforms that give the highest placement accuracy as well as component flexibility and low cost placement. Gus said that they had had an excellent show, and were well-placed to take the advantage of the long-term programme amongst companies who were pursuing outsourcing, including assembly, thus making more of their fixed cost variables.

The aptly named Herr F. Layer at Lauffer Pressen gave us a detailed briefing on the impressive and stylish SL 80-2 fast cure lamination system for multi-layer boards. Capable of taking up to 15 layers, it uses an in- line press for heating, using an outer layer of aluminium foil as the heat transfer, and the platen itself has a press force of 88 USton. Currently, the cycle time is 5 min for pressing, and the radical design eliminates the need for press plates, and their subsequent cleaning, and is the precursor to their planned SL1000-2 which will operate at between 4 and 6 m2/min. Some lateral thinking from a company used to work in a vertical plane.

Silke Gaiser at Schmid had plenty to show on their enormous stand. As Silke said, there is a limit to what you can do with wet processing, but there is a lot you can do when you fully understand that technology sector. As a result they have joined the group of famous names manufacturing ink-jet systems, but Schmid have gone for a granite base to support the application system – this uses piezo technology all the way with a grey-scale head that can use small drops to define and yet, jet large drops to fill-in behind. At present, 100 μm lines and spaces are readily achievable, but in Q1 2004 they will bring that down to 75 μm in the primary imaging field, and will have ink-jet for LPISM in Q2. Amongst other fine equipment we noted their panel measuring table that combined ease of use with an ability to not only measure PCB copper thickness on an X-Y axis, but also to monitor and adjust etching lines.

One of the more prudent moves by companies emerging back into the public gaze is that of consolidation. Hence, it was good to see Posalux sharing a stand with Bürkle so that equipment could be displayed more effectively. Michael Van Loo of Burkle posed proudly by the new multilayer press that he had just sold to Graphic PLC. Klaus Fahnenstich of Posalux had moved to Frankfurt, and was as cheerful as ever. They had the not new but still impressive UltraSpeed 3X3 machine in operation, three axes_three stations, =nine spindles for ultra- fast drilling of micro and blind via holes on high- density circuits including BGA and HDI (Plate 7).

Plate 7 Posalux shared a stand with Bürkle

Always a pleasure to talk to Dr Rosanna Pascolo of New System srl who was also having a good show. She told us that ink-jet is really beginning to take off now, they have sold over 30 legend inkjet printers around the world including the Far East and Australia. Currently, they have obtained UL approval for the Avecia soldermask and etch resists used in their machines, and these resists are commercially available under the JeTrack label. They have sold the soldermask and etch resist machines in Italy and Slovenia thus far, and will be delivering shortly in other European countries, as many other enquiries are coming in. In fact, New System have not less than three models of inkjet equipment for each application (legend, etch-resist and soldermask), and understandably they do claim to be ahead of the competition.

Not all the interesting things were on the big stands, either. On the Curamik® Electronics GmbH stand Alexander Roth said us all about water-cooled circuit boards. Direct bonded copper (DBC) substrate consists of a series of micro- channel structures of thin copper layers which are hermetically attached to each other during their patented bonding process. The highly increased copper surface area makes for very effective cooling, with the micro-channel structure determining the thermal resistance, the pressure drop and the flow rate characteristics of the cooling substrate. This is the ex-military technology, currently being used by the customers such as AirBus, BMW, and there is no competition, they claim. Probably true.

We also liked the miniature microscopes, which caught our eye on the Scientific, Precision Instruments GmbH. Ralf Mages allowed us to play with their technical industrial miniature microscopes, which can both illuminate and resolve structures down to 0.5 μm. There is also a frame grabber, which can connect directly to a notebook or PC monitor, using windows. This is an essential kit for those operating in the surface mount business.

I can recall being asked if it would be possible to print barcodes on circuit boards about 10 years back by a PCB fabricator supplying the military. Supply has awoken to demand and Nutek have an excellent automatic barcode labelling system for PCBs which chucks out a fully labelled circuit board-about every 5 s. It can apply all 1D and 2D barcodes and has a fully integrated computer system that makes machine operation quite straightforward. BLC 2000 HE is the model number if you are looking for such a thing.

Heike Schlessmann at Seitz and Hohnerlein gave information on what is happening at SEHO. They have a new selective soldering machine – GoSelective 350 – which allows for conventional components to be soldered into place after the reflow process. Their reflow soldering system FDS Maxipower is a classic example of a company who have taken lead-free solder paste into the equation during design, and in this equipment the higher content of colophonium is managed through the four-stage condensation zones. Their new MWS 2300 modular wave soldering system also takes leadfree and mixed production into account, it will handle those in the low-oxygen soldering atmosphere before entering the integrated and temperature controlled convection cooling module, another unique feature on SEHO equipment.

Juki who have just joined forces with Universal Instruments under a Comprehensive Business Alliance Agreement (which might be the new title for a good marriage) had not less than three new assembly machines on their stand. Martin Kunz, European Marketing Manager explained what two of them were and what they did.

The KE-2050 is a flexible high-speed assembler and is the successor of the KE-2010. Speed, said Martin, is essential for a chip shooter and the KE- 2050 offers an increase of over 25 per cent compared to its predecessor. The placement accuracy is increased to 50 μm at three sigma, which allows for the placement of components emanating from some future technology.

The KE-2060 is a flexible all-rounder for a whole range of SMD components. It is equipped with a quadruple chip placement head plus a high- precision IC placement head. An unique feature is the option of laser and vision measurement of components even on the quadruple head; this almost doubles the placement throughput of vision components. SOP, QFP, BGA and BGA can now be placed at a rate of 3,200 CPH. The complete vision system has been improved as well. Placement accuracy is increased to 30 μm at three sigma.

In a look around the DEK stand Martyn Buttle showed the new vector guard screen printing frame system, that accommodates stencils from 23 to 29 in2 with all the advantages on handling, ideally suited to short-run, quick-turn work including prototypes. The stainless steel stencil is locked into the frame and tensioned equally on all four sides (110 N side) within seconds, and is then press-ready. Ian Aldham-Breary took a tour around the new Galaxy printer, the first in DEKs new Micron class. This has been built in response to speed and accuracy drivers, and also in conjunction with Southampton University in the UK and Atlanta University in Georgia, USA. It is twice as accurate as the earlier models, and has repeatability of 10 μm. Alongside that was the Instinctiv system, which sets printing machines up for the customer. This gives more functionality; they found that customers were normally using only 10 per cent of a machines potential, so more versatility will help,

No visit to Productronica would have been complete without a visit to Siemens Dematic where their brand-new placement machine Siplace HF/3 was attracting a great deal of attention, as it might. Siemens say that it exceeds electronics market's expectations. The electronics market demands a lot of the placement machines it uses: flexibility, quality, availability, component diversity and, last but certainly not least, speed. With their brand-new three-gantry Siplace HF/3, Siemens Dematic meets all these needs. The placement rate of up to 41,000 components per hour is only one of the outstanding features of this machine that can place any component ranging from 0201 to 85 × 85/125 × 10 mm. At the Productronica 2003 show, electronics manufacturers from many different industries like automotive, IT and telecom exhibited particular interest in this world premiere from Siemens Dematic.

Siemens commented that whilst high volume electronics manufacturing is becoming firmly established in low cost locations such as China, the Far East and Eastern Europe, Europe as a whole is becoming recognised as a hot spot for prototyping and high-technology medium to low volume production. As a result, Europe remains a primary focus region of particular importance to the company. A philosophy shared by others, we hope.

March Plasma Systems developed a two-step plasma process that effectively modifies Teflon® surfaces and desmears resin at the same time. They also have the excellent Vicki Worth, who can explain such things. It would appear that whilst desmear is designed to remove smeared resin from the barrels of inner-layer posts to ensure an electrical connection after plating, normal chemical processes do not have the flexibility to treat Teflon® surfaces and other resins mixed in the same panel. So March scientists have developed plasma processes for pure Teflon® material and filled Teflon® material (fillers include random glass micro-fiber, woven glass reinforced, and ceramic PTFE composites) that replace liquid chemical processes with low cost plasma processes.

In the land of green paint Coates Circuit Products had their usual modest stand which always appeared to be bursting at the seams. It might have been the usual sociability of the firm, as well as the popularity of their products, but they now claim to be the largest supplier of aqueous developing soldermasks in Europe. Or so Chris Whitmarsh told us, but they have developed Imagecure not only as standard halogen free and high temperature resistant versions, but one for LDI as well. Good to know that contemporary ink people are aware of what is involved with lead- free soldering.

Down the aisle on the Electra Polymers Steve Woods chatted about their business around the world, and their increase in market share in certain sectors. New from them is a product called Track- Fill which is a single-component UV curing dielectric resist used for PCBs with heavy copper tracks. Use of this product allows a plane surface to be presented after brushing or sanding for further processing. Electra is another company who are starting to see the emergence of burgeoning demand. Sadly, we did not get to talk to anyone on the Lackwerke Peters stand, but we were given an impressive folder which indicated that they too had gone down the path of halogen-free LPISM, also for flex circuitry, and had some developments for ink-jet technology, namely a white UV curing legend ink IF2595 UV, which indicates that one ink-maker at least knows where that field is going.

In four 12 h days what we saw was only the tip of the iceberg. But like all icebergs what you see is only a fraction of what exists below the surface, and without becoming too analogous, it was good to see the industry flow again, and we liked what we saw. The atmosphere on the floor elicited that of 1999, and with the indications that the global electronics industry is entering a phase of rapid expansion in 2004, after undergoing a strong recovery in 2003, then the cheerful optimism was not misplaced (Plate 8).

Plate 8 Delegates queue to register at Productronica 2003

In the Press Lounge there are shelves provided by the organisers for the use of EVERY exhibitor at the show. These shelves are there so that exhibitors can leave their Press Packs on display for the benefit of publications such as ours to use, and be made aware of new products, new developments, company and people news in general. Sadly it is the minority of exhibitors who use them, there is perhaps an expectation amongst the majority that publication editors will beat a path around 11 exhibition halls to seek them out. Wrong.

What we did like was the typing error on the label for the Vantage Circuit Products shelf. This is the company run by Harold Marshall, and which now employs Fred Axon and Jim Brown. The label said Vintage. No further comment is necessary.

John Ling

Related articles