Staying Current on Flex Manufacturing is Smart Business

Jan 1, 2019 0 Comments in Uncategorized by

Feature Interview by Barry Matties

Brendan Hogan, managing director of smart electronics manufacturer MivaTek Global, discusses how to better design for flex, and ways designers can stay current on manufacturing technology that can impact their flex boards.
Barry Matties: First, can you tell us a little bit about MivaTek and what you do?
Brendan Hogan: Miva Technologies has developed a new method of using DLP and LED. About six or seven years ago, we replaced the laser technology with a DLP-LED technology with a lower cost of operation and all the obvious drivers to do that. We’ve evolved very quickly over the last four to five years to get better market penetration in the U.S., Europe, and parts of Asia now. We’re starting to expand more rapidly. One of the benefits of our technology is that it maps into many different platforms, and is pretty simple to map in a new platform. So, that gives us a lot of specialty application opportunities.
Matties: How do your products fit into the flex area?
Hogan: A lot of the flex applications we currently do largely deal with A/B registration—the precision with which you can have the two sides run a check to each other for signal-to noise ratio or certain performance criteria, and how that end circuit performs in applications. That’s a more conventional application. In the last 12–16 months, we’ve been developing systems for reel-to-reel that have implications for flex and things like LED shadow mask and other reel-to-reel type applications. We see a lot of activity in Korea and China related to reel-to-reel, so that’s one of the main directions we’re headed.
Matties: If an OEM and their system designers are looking at integrating flex into their products, what considerations should they have in terms of imaging and technology that might help them improve either their overall quality or strategy?
Hogan: A significant element of direct imaging in general—whether you’re talking about MivaTek or anybody else—has to do with removing the A/B registration from an operator standpoint, and moving it into a digital camera-driven technology. You have better repeatability and control over your line width so that you can have a more predictive circuit at the end of the day. The other aspect with some of our systems is that you can go to larger and have longer cabling to reduce the connectivity from one circuit to the next. Thus, you don’t need connectors and can have much longer ribbon cables if you have a more extensive format system.
Matties: How does his designer learn about this or integrate this into their thinking?
Hogan: That’s a job for us in the marketing department to make sure we get out there and start writing more technical articles. The latest development of reel-to-reel technology is only starting to hit the market. We should be doing a better job, I suppose, of direct access through fine magazines like your own.
Matties: Thank you for that. What are the major points that they should consider when you say, “We need to tell the story more for them to understand us?” What is critical for them to know?
Hogan: Perhaps doing broader research than only talking to the circuit producer would help, so looking at some other standards and trying to understand what technologies are out there. The hard part about things like equipment technology is that as they emerge, a select few know about it. It’s very difficult to access the entire market simultaneously, so it’s kind of the job of the designer to be aware of what’s coming so that they can get into the design pattern. There’s a significant lag in the design loop—the lag time between design and production for the producer. By the time it hits the market for them, the product may be already outdated in terms of manufacturing technology and the best approach.
Matties: If somebody is looking at bringing flex into their product mix for the first time, do you have any advice for that?
Hogan: Well, that’s an interesting discussion because the transition from rigid panels to flex is an art form—it’s another animal. Participation in some of the industry groups is a valuable asset. Tap into the existing knowledge that’s out there, like IPC APEX EXPO in the U.S. or HKPCA in China, which both have a variety of training sessions on trade information. Establish best practice for that transition. There are a lot of new technologies and manufacturing methods coming. We participate in an organization called the CHIPS consortium, which is a group that formed to find new manufacturing methods. It’s out of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the U.S. We’re also part of a group with Apple and Google trying to find lower-cost methods for manufacturing these high-tech products. Participation in those groups seems like a cost factor because it’s not the high priorities that we’re all driven by, but it adds a lot of benefits for long-term planning.
Matties: I would think that when most designers look at information sources, they don’t look at a direct imaging supplier to a PCB fabricator. What lessons can they learn by talking to somebody like yourself?
Hogan: It’s a duality where we need to get better educated about the problems of the end user—not bypass our customers, but partner with our customers to better understand their problems at the customer level. Then, their end user also has to get some access to us. I
think trade shows are one route—that’s often where we get to talk to the end users by participating in panel discussions and so forth. We’re in that pattern trying to manage growth, and unfortunately, one of the things that gets lost in the shuffle is the outreach. We could
probably do a better job at that ourselves.
Matties: Is there any other advice that you feel we should share with a systems designer or a flex designer?
Hogan: I would recommend more collaboration at the multi-tier of the manufacturer—not only at that level. The smaller the producer, the more challenging it is to gain access to manufacturing methodologies—our approach versus the many other ideas in the marketplace beyond what we have. So, it has to be very challenging from that aspect. Working with their customers to work with their supply chain to be sure their supply chain is reaching out is probably a good early step.
Matties: Brendan, I certainly appreciate your insights, and we’ll be sure to share those with designers. Thank you very much.
Hogan: Thank you. I appreciate your time.

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