For Pioneer MuTracx, the Future Looks Bright


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In this interview conducted at productronica recently, I-Connect007 Tech Editor Pete Starkey and Publisher Barry Matties speak with Arnoud de Geus, Executive Board member at technology company Sioux, about the success of MuTracx’ (owned by Sioux) first installation of the Lunaris machine in the Whelen factory in New Hampshire, and what this has meant towards proving it can operate in a full-time production process. Arnoud forecasts what’s next for MuTracx and what they must do in order to capitalize on the positive exposure.

Barry Matties: Arnoud, let’s start by talking about the Whelen factory. It's been up and running for more than six months now. What have you learned from that installation so far?

Arnoud de Geus: We started with Whelen about two years ago. Obviously, the whole technology within MuTracx has matured over the years, but you do this from your own development side and it's very difficult because you really have to be involved in the end customer process to be able to meet those real customer requirements. Whelen, as a leading customer, absolutely has been a wonderful partnership and also a way for us to mature our technology. From Whelen we’ve gained knowledge of the whole process both around and within our primary imaging step. Learning what goes in front of the system and behind the system—the pre-clean, etch and strip, and the whole combination of everything together. In order to be able to have a solution for an end customer, we have to have a working solution first. It is not just the machine that has to work, but the whole process.

This has been a tremendous learning step for us and it got us to the level now where we have matured the technology and we can now go from a real technology oriented phase, as a company, into more of a commercial phase. It means for us that we have to change the company to become more externally oriented. We have to get the focus from only technology and more towards end customers, as only end customers can keep the technology supported. That’s the process within MuTracx right now and how we are moving forward. There are negotiations around a second placement currently, maybe in Europe. It is my idea that going to a new situation where we can scale up the business is best done through three more customers having the machine in their processes. Then we’ll be fully up to the point where we can scale up to a more sustainable process. For us, having a second and third leading customer in Europe or the U.S. is absolutely vital to growing the business.

Pete Starkey: For the future, do you see MuTracx as a supplier of inkjet printing hardware, like an integrated inkjet process, or do you see yourself as the supplier of an integrated process line, where instead of just supplying the fundamental imaging equipment and material, customers could put in their laminates and take out their etched, inspected and pre-treated inner layer all ready to go into their layup room.

de Geus: Increasingly, our focus will be more on the whole process. So where Lunaris is a part of the process, we will go into very tight cooperation with the equipment suppliers of pre-clean, and etch and strip, in combination with Dow for those important chemicals, and we will really see this more as a turnkey solution. I think combining this with multiple suppliers is the solution for the end customer being able to produce inner layer and outer layer panels. That's the real value for the end customer.

Starkey: Your relationship and your partnership with Dow I think is fundamental. Dow specifically to Lunaris is a supplier of very specialized inks, but Dow on the broader horizon is a supplier of virtually the whole range of processing chemistry. By building upon that initial relationship where you've done the joint development for inks for the imaging process, you can take advantage of the established relationship to innovate further.

de Geus: I think the Dow and MuTracx relationship is a very fruitful relationship. We’ll handle application knowledge, in our case combined with the equipment suppliers who are in front and behind our process—that combination is a real end solution for the end customer. Of course, Dow being a large company and having established relations in the market has the ability to meet those end customers and have access to the market. For us as a smaller company that's also very beneficial. Now we are at Dow booth at productronica and we have arranged for a number of joint customer visits where we both can share our information about the market and put our needs on the table and jointly meet those customers.

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