Flexibility Is Key to Direct Imaging Success


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Hogan: A lot of our focus has been from other elements and processes within the industry because we’re trying to build a portfolio of talent in our organization. We’ve been pulling some people from the circuit board industry as opposed to equipment supplier because pulling in process knowledge and what the average consumer of our product goes through is a critical aspect of making your product better.

We don’t want to target our customers for talent, but in the résumé aspect, we usually look for somebody who has worked within the industry hands-on and has “green under the fingernails,” We want them to have encountered problems and learned how to reach resolutions; they should be able to anticipate what’s going to happen instead of waiting for something to happen, and then start thinking about a solution. We try to get ahead of those things.

Johnson: When you get the candidate around the smell of solder mask, and they smile, that’s when you know you have the right person.

Hogan: Right. I’ve been through the smell of tin lead-reflow, so now some readers out there know that I must be of a certain age (laughs). 

Johnson: You’re bringing people in from these various disciplines to work on the machine design. What are your plans?

Hogan: A lot of the influence for us has been how we developed the product. When we first identified the problems of developing a lower-cost solution to direct imaging—direct write—we set course to convert from film and chrome mask-making into direct-write, and we collaborated and asked a lot of questions internally and externally. We were outward-looking and didn’t assume we knew everything. That’s how I got involved with Miva in the first place; they were looking for answers from a different experience set, and then I pursued a lot of other industry people to try to establish a series of options. I think it shows in the product that we have solved a lot of those industry problems.

Our product doesn’t require as much of a cleanroom as laser-based systems. Even on the micro side, we have machines running that are not in hyper-pure cleanrooms, and we still get a very high yield. When we put a new product out, we design with realistic expectations of the market to the greatest extent possible. We spent a lot of time and effort in temperature management because it influences the registration accuracy; a lot of our customer base is not going to be able to spend that money on cleanroom and controlling to a tenth of a degree and those kinds of conditions that are commonplace in the microelectronics segment. We needed to design with flexibility to extend the investment time horizon so that down the road a few years, as your market changes and your customers’ needs change, the product can evolve as well.

The problem in our industry, especially in say the North American market, is that they need a universal tool because, in a few months, they’re going to be building something that nobody has ever built before. If you don’t build flexibility into the product nor have the ability to do many things, then you’re selling both your customer and your market short; you’re not serving each very well. The capital expenditure is too large to have a narrow, application-specific tool.

Johnson: That seems to be the one takeaway we need to know. With direct imaging, you need to be flexible.

Hogan: Exactly. You can’t think about what you’re trying to do today and your moment-to-moment problem, you need to have a bit of a roadmap because the product has to last five to 10 years. It’s very expensive capital equipment. Most of the people that buy our machines are not going to have the opportunity to spend this much capital too many times in their careers. You need to have the vision to see what you will need in a few years. And what is the market going to need? They need that from the supplier, but they also need to do it in their equipment selection choice.

Johnson: We’re having this conversation at productronica; what equipment do you have here?

Hogan: It is Miva’s newest model—the 2400 Dual Tray System—six light engines operating with four wavelengths simultaneously and very high throughput. This particular system will be integrated with a fully automatic third-party solution for automation. We support many different forms of automation, but the real push in the industry—whether it’s micro or circuit board—has a lot to do with product handling and data collection, and our system supports all of the newest approaches to barcoding, etc. When you integrate with automation, the system then becomes a data collection tool, whether it’s the sub-part on the panel or every panel. Who touched this panel? What did the panel experience? It’s all about process parameters through process results. What are the influencers so that downstream when there’s a problem, they can look at data and have that analytical ability?

Johnson: The Industry 4.0 building blocks are becoming a cost of doing business.

Hogan: Yes. People are still trying to figure it out, including us. We’re communicating a lot with our customer base, trying to see what they want and need. Too often, perfect becomes the enemy of good, so we’ve built our system to be upgradable both in software and the tools; as it changes, we can move with it. When you get the eddy currents of change, it’s not always clear where they’re coming out on the other side. You can’t take in a piece of capital equipment like this and say, “If we only knew.” That’s not how we operate. 

Johnson: Fantastic. Thanks so much.

Hogan: Thank you.

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