A day at the European Microelectronics Packaging Conference Brighton, Sussex 12-15 September 2011

Microelectronics International

ISSN: 1356-5362

Article publication date: 20 January 2012



(2012), "A day at the European Microelectronics Packaging Conference Brighton, Sussex 12-15 September 2011", Microelectronics International, Vol. 29 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/mi.2012.21829aaa.021



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

A day at the European Microelectronics Packaging Conference Brighton, Sussex 12-15 September 2011

Article Type: Exhibitions and conferences From: Microelectronics International, Volume 29, Issue 1

The tail end of Hurricane Katia had ruffled the Sussex coastal waters to a muddy hue, but the need for umbrellas had evaporated along with the crowds who normally throng the seafront at this seaside city. Autumn had arrived, as had the 18th such iMAPS event. EMPC is a gathering held every two years throughout Europe, organised in turn by each chapter, with the UK hosting this year’s event. Held in the cheerless anachronism that is the Hilton Metropole Conference Centre, the delegates received a warm welcome from Andrew Hall, iMAPS UK Chairman, who, along with Professor Nihal Sinnaidurai, President of iMAPS Europe, introduced the iMAPS leaders of the European chapters, and welcomed Mr Rajen Chanchani, the iMAPS North America President, who had flown over especially for the occasion.

The conference got under way with two keynote speakers, the first being Professor Radimir Vrba of Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC) in Brno in the Czech Republic. CEITEC is an EU-funded project to develop a European centre of scientific excellence in the fields of life sciences and advanced materials and technologies. Two vast new buildings are under construction in Brno, housing 25,000 m2 of research laboratories. There are six main academic and research partners in CEITEC, employing some 557 researchers, and working on no less than seven research programmes involving 54 research groups. Of interest to this event is the research programme RP1 which will consider semiconductor nanostructures, metallic and magnetic nanostructures, nanotubes and nanowires, supramolecular structures and novel nanoelectronic circuits (More-than-Moore). With a budget of €210 million, this will be one of the world’s leading institutions, and of great benefit to the technological lead needed by Europe to sustain economic recovery.

Bill Bader is the CEO of iNEMI, who, in March this year, released their 2011 Technology Roadmap to industry. This covers six products segments and 21 technology areas pertinent to electronics manufacturing, It identifies needs in six product segments, and at this conference Bill concentrated on just two of them – automotive and medical electronics.

Automotive electronics are showing significant growth, due to demands for fuel economy, vehicle efficiencies, vehicle safety systems, luxury features, and the growth of hybrid and electric vehicles. The automotive electronics industry was valued at $114 billion in 2009, and growth is expected to increase at about 8.9 percent per annum thorough to 2015. China is now a producer of automotive electronics as well as the largest car market in the world. Asia now accounts for 37 percent of automotive electronics production, with Europe on 31 percent, ahead of Japan and the US with about 16 percent each. In the world of microelectronics, both embedded and non-embedded sensors are used, many of them MEMS devices, with the average car using over 40 different ones. Three main drivers occurring now are:

  1. 1.

    vehicle electrification;

  2. 2.

    connection to the internet (in-vehicle access will grow to 62.3 million vehicles by 2016); and

  3. 3.

    advanced safety systems.

In the medical world, there are new applications everywhere. About 15 percent of GDP in North America is spent in medical care, in three different sectors – the first is implantable, operating under a strict regulatory procedure, and driven by battery life. Here there is a need for long-term reliability, product life cycles are long. The second area is in portable monitoring equipment, which allows critical monitoring in the home, a sector which will grow significantly. The third area is diagnostics, medical imaging systems, IT equipment and biochemical analysis equipment. Critical issues include growing uncertainty of Pb-free solder issues, and the long-term availability of tin-lead components. Medical MEMS applications are expanding rapidly, with challenges including miniaturisation, and this is essentially consumer driven, with needs for the targeted delivery of drugs, for illnesses such as cancer, and the growing use of implants in children. Medical electronics production totalled $76 billion in 2009, and has been growing at 7 percent per annum ever since.

He confirmed what we already knew, which was that converging markets led to the development of system in package (SiP) in both 2D and 3D structures, and increasing performance requirements have led to optical interconnects being deployed at backplane/board level, upon which embedded passive and active components will be utilised. High density PCBs will use discrete devices only down to 0201 format, and, interestingly, it has been noted that printed electronics are now moving into initial applications with many infrastructure challenges.

During the day many good technical papers were presented. It would be fair to say that EMPC had a technical programme that was fully comprehensive running over the four days, complimented by a popular exhibition area in which no less than 35 companies were represented. The last session on the second day was devoted to the business aspects of the industry, and here the speakers covered a range of subjects, all germane to the spirit of the conference.

Michael Lane is the President of Streuthers-Dunn, based in South Carolina, USA. His company has a nice business in the traffic control systems business, where his company’s relays are used. Traditionally relays contain mercury, but mercury is a banned substance in the USA, so mercury based relay would have to be replaced. The mercury-based relay has many advantages; it withstands voltage surges, and handles lightning induced currents surges, etc. Solid state relays are also good at handling surges and current, so why not use the best features of both and have a hybrid relay? And where might the best place be to manufacture the final product? The choice was between the USA, Mexico, China and India. Exports as a percentage of GDP showed that China exports 42 percent. Also China GDP growth is 10 percent per annum but most of it is in exports. Is there a domestic market in China? Not yet. But India does have an automotive industry, and a domestic market growth that is as fast as export market growth. Michael had made a comparison between all the countries, and India won; His products are now made in India, and all is going well, with new markets in street lighting, resistive heating and food manufacturing. China has labour cost increases, increasing social costs and considerable social unrest to come, thought Michael. Inflation is creeping up in China, again due to social costs, whereas our low inflation in the west is mainly due to the fact that much of what we buy is not made in the west but hitherto in China. However, this is all due to change, as electronics manufacture moves away from China. Michael did not conclude by saying that it would return to the west, however.

It is entrepreneurs who start up companies, said Dr Malcolm Wilkinson, the CEO of Kirkstall Ltd, He has had 24 years experience in starting up companies, and has found that the lessons learnt during this time know boundaries. So, who are they, these entrepreneurs? Not necessarily students, nor undergraduates, but business people with a lot of industrial experience, who become frustrated with the bureaucracy of the large company and yearn for the small flexible operation. A good time to start up a company is now – office rents are low, the best qualified staff are available, and if you can survive now then you will be in a good position in an upturn. What sort of business? Try consultancy, or contract research, or what he calls the widget business, i.e. making things. The best analogy is what Malcolm calls the “budgie business”. You may not make much money selling budgerigars, but you can sell the cages, the food, the litter, the trays and the toys as added value. Four risks to bear in mind – technical, the market, people and finance. Make sure that the technology works, and that it can be manufactured in volume at the right price. Do not run out of cash, and make sure that you attract and retain key staff.

Malcolm has been good at introducing a culture of bringing people to think beyond R&D to manufacture, and how to explain to investors about technology and robustness in the business model. Investors are now more risk averse, for sure, but the Americans will invest more at an early stage. If you draw a blank there then Singapore is a place to look, and Thailand as well.

Dr Kitty Pearsall of IBM was looking for a smarter supply chain in which there is end to end quality management. At IBM they look at the whole chain from design to delivery, as well as the IT input involved. Supply chain management is complex and even more complex is the assurance of quality right down the line, and at the same time ensuring that your supplier is as enthusiastic about it all as you are. IBM need to be able to monitor changing situations, their people have to communicate and interact, be intelligent and have intelligence. Forecasting depends upon knowledge, and that knowledge has to be both vertical and horizontal in source and application. It is called strategic mapping, where the roles and responsibilities are well understood and honestly undertaken. IBM have commodity councils who take what they learn from market intelligence, brand requirements, and supplier’s abilities and they converge on the missing links. With 500 suppliers, this is vital. Kitty gave a very detailed introduction to the way that IBM works, but it is undoubtedly a system of total and dedicated management both inside and outside the company walls. Maintaining it is another matter entirely.

Brian Smith of the High Density Packaging (HDP) User Group has 30 years experience, has seen how the EMS industry is structured, and knows that working collaboratively with industry colleagues is mutually beneficial. The industry used to be dominated by large vertically integrated companies who were self-contained. They made their own PCBs, they tested them in-house, they assembled them in house, they tested them in-house, and it was a happy internal affair. Not any more. Contract manufacturing has seen more specialised companies coming into being, taking on responsibility for providing technical solutions for the future. OEMs could no longer maintain the facilities needed for their own products, as volumes had declined. There was also the knowledge that moving large-scale manufacture to low labour cost countries overseas was attractive. The consumer, however, was keeping up the pressure – profitability, reliability, all at the lowest cost possible. Collaborative approaches are now being taken as a result; these can be bilateral or multilateral, comprise government/regionally funded initiatives; research/academic institute programmes, and industry R&D consortia organisations. Obstacles to avoid if possible include NDAs, IP, contractual agreements, a partner who de-commits and something called “scope creep”, or a loss of focus. Keep the project concise, he counselled.

The advantages are there to be had. A case history on laminate performance evaluation, involving 15 companies, and nine laminate suppliers was described. Three PCB manufacturers processed the boards, all 865 of them, and the result was that the laminate suppliers learnt more about their own products than they knew before, and the PCB manufacturers learnt about their own products too. The total cost was about $1 million; the benefits were incalculable.

The last speaker was Aubrey Dunford of Europartners who was asked – is the electronic components market a truly global one? As a man who has served for 25 years with Philips Components and Semiconductors, he was the best man to answer. It is not a yes or no answer. Modern communications have made it possible for people to “come together” to buy and sell, so there is, for the most part, a global market. But is it for electronic components? When is something electronic, and when is it electrical? Aubrey gave a light-hearted presentation of what was what, and when. Or was it? He progressed to an entirely acceptable analysis of what the global market is, and where there is not a global market, for example when military matters are in view. In the UK the market will grow by about 7 percent, and next year we will be back to where we were in 2005, a £4 billion market in electronic components. The UK market is growing substantially, but these components are bought in the UK, then shipped abroad for use in manufacture. The same pattern is being seen in Germany. Aubrey said that the matter may best be summarised as “ It may be a global market, Jim, but not as we know it!”

Putting together an event of this magnitude, comprising four days of conference, with up to four parallel sessions, encompassing 72 papers, 23 poster sessions and a day of workshops, is not for the faint-hearted. iMAPS UK rose magnificently to the occasion, and the hundreds of unpaid hours of dedication and sheer hard work put in by their members was evidenced in a well-attended and totally comprehensive programme. They deserve the congratulations of all who came to Brighton, who will have gone away considerably better informed.

John LingAssociate Editor

September 2011

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