Reading time ( words)
Faraci: Yes. What happens is we don't have a slot or a pin or any of that stuff; we have a small welding coupon and it can be as little as six millimeters, a quarter of an inch wide, and that's it. They can place it closer to the edge. On average, some customers are seeing about 12-15 millimeter borders. They've cut that border down a lot. It gives them a lot more panel utilization.
Matties: How many installations do you have here in the US?
Faraci: Right now of the latest versions of machines in total, worldwide, we've got about 70 of these units installed. We've been getting a few more over the last few years in the United States, which is kind of nice, and in Europe. It's diversified a little bit, not just selling only in one area.
Now, of course we've started to introduce a registration system for flex. This is our first machine here at IPC APEX EXPO, which is the Automated Rigid Flex system and with this machine, we can tack bond on the internal part of the panel. Many customers who run flex actually pin on the inside of the panel. Instead of pinning, we've eliminated that process and we'll internally bond the layers. That's our latest new product.
Matties: Then, also in the lamination process, I understand that your plates are untooled?
Faraci: There are no holes; there's nothing...exactly. Much cleaner. With the pin process, for example, you're locked into certain panel sizes and for some shops that's okay. But there are a lot of headaches where you have pins and bushings. You have to clean the lam pins and you have to clean the bushings. It's a lot of work. The separator plates are dirtier because again, you get these resin spots and so on. So, you eliminate a lot of that cleaning and checking. Also, the other thing that I say with our system, depending on what type of press you have of course, you don't really need a heavy lamination plate.
The reason for a lamination plate is to have enough engagement into the pin to hold the pins for the top and bottom. So that's why people use a lam plate. But, if you have decent platens on your press and decent separator plates, you don't really need a lam plate. A lot of customers have gotten away from them, like DSG. What that does is, if you have a decent press, you're going to get really good heat transfer from the platens and you get a much better product that way.
Matties: With all the benefits that are visible, why have you only sold 70?
Faraci: This is the part that always frustrates us. Why only 70? It’s a bit frustrating that the customer base has been very slow to adapt to it, until they get a system in and then they say “Why didn’t we do this earlier?”
Matties: What are the roadblocks?
Faraci: The biggest roadblock I think has been that many customers that do have existing tooling don't want to change over, because they have a lot of money, time, and development into that process, so they see this not as an equipment change, it's a process change. So, it's been a much harder sell for us, to change that process. I think as registration requirements are getting tighter and tighter, it's inevitable, it's going to happen; they will need to optically align the layers.
I lived most of my earlier career selling tooling machines and going into places and looking at the registration, and that's when I decided to start making the equipment and start working on an optical lay-up system because I saw the limitations of the mechanical pinning process, and it wasn't a machine problem, it's a process problem.
The biggest roadblock for me has really been the process change. In Asia it's been much easier because they're already doing some kind of an eyeletting process which is similar and they don't want to go to a pin lamination system because it's costly.
In the US and somewhat in Europe, but mostly the US, the roadblock is that they have a lot of time and money invested in tooling and they don't want to change the process. Also, I believe that the process engineers are very busy and they view a process change as risky. It’s a safer bet to go the old proven method than the perception of sticking their neck out for a new technology. I think that's the biggest one. It's really not the equipment cost. It's really the process change.
Matties: Do you find this mentality of process change in America to be an issue?
Faraci: Mostly in the USA, I have to tell you. In Asia I find that the process change hasn't been the issue. They've embraced it much more quickly. In USA it's been kind of hurting us with a lot of the customers, but in Europe as well, although in Europe they’re more open to it. In the US I've had really the most difficult time. It frustrates us, because we make the equipment here and it's designed, developed and patented here.
Matties: Have you measured cycle time reduction? Do you know what that would be compared to traditional?
Faraci: Yes, actually we're a little bit faster because we're eliminating the double handling. Because when you use a pin lam process, you're handling the layer at punching, and then you're handling the layer again at lay-up. Here the lay-up and alignment is all in one unit.
Matties: How much time have you estimated that they save?
Faraci: It's about 20% faster with our process, because what happens is when you get to our system you're going through the machine, it's doing the alignment, so as soon as it has completed the first panel, it is ready to go into book lay-up and into the press. Whereas in a pinning process you have to punch all the layers first and then start. With optical lay-up you get it in the press faster.
Matties: That 20% adds up fast.
Faraci: Yes, exactly. Now, every shop is going to be a little bit different depending on how many layers they do and so on. That's been about the average that's usually reported by my customers, not by us.
Matties: Tony, thank you so much.
Faraci: All right, well thank you very much and I appreciate it.