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PCB | February 15, 2007

Exception sees big growth in “micro-miniature"

Exception,a specialist printed circuit board fabricator, is predicting significant growth in the area of micro-miniature electronics as it continues to invest in new technology and skills.
While many other PCB businesses have focused on cutting costs and reducing capacity, Exception's Tewkesbury facility has been investing in people and technology to drive its growth, which is currently exceeding its business plan.

Bringing added value and innovation to customer relationships is a mantra often heard in boardrooms, but seldom delivered on the shopfloor, according to Gordon Holden, managing director of Exception PCB. Holden believes that the business has been able to secure new business over the last year by concentrating on customer service and providing innovative PCB solutions.

“Unlike a lot of other UK PCB fab houses, we took steps to radically change the structure and strategy of our business a couple of years ago, so have gone through the pain barrier that many other European companies are currently experiencing. Having taken those steps a couple of years ago has enabled us to focus on the future and look at new areas of growth. One such area where we see huge potential is in the field of micro-miniature electronics", Gordon Holden said.

Exception PCB has just invested over €900,000 in the latest laser direct imaging and automatic optical inspection machine from Orbotech, which will enable it to provide a global quickturn service for the manufacture of BGA, flip chip and CSP substrates.

Holden comments: “Our latest and third LDI machine is able to image any type of UV sensitive media, including dry film and soldermask resists with outstanding quality, accuracy and throughput speeds up to 60 panels per hour".

Resolutions down to 1mil (25 microns) are achievable and with a print accuracy of 0.5mil (12.7 microns). Throughput speeds are achieved with “on the fly" registration, which provides a side to side accuracy of 1mil (25 microns).

In addition, Exception's Discovery 8HR AOI machine complements its existing AOI Orbotech fleet and allows greater speed to market with reduced set ups. The ability to scan 125 panels per hour in a variety of material laminate types with high resolution inspection down to a market demanding 35 micron is another benefit investment in new technology has created.

"With the installation of these new machines we have seen greater yield improvements and the ability to offer a new generation of high density packaging products", Holden commented.

This type of investment – which is just the start of a bigger strategy according to Holden – is being prompted by developments in the semi-conductor, mobile communications and bluetooth sectors, which are constantly striving for higher performance from smaller packages.

Further evidence of Exception's clear intention to become a leading player in the micro-miniature market, can been seen in its ongoing development to introduce a second class-10,000 clean room facility. This move will create a unique facility in the UK for this type of requirement that will focus R&D on the future technology of PCB/substrate manufacture.

“We are investing a lot of time at present establishing facilities and infrastructure that will enable our team to really understand the boundaries of micro-miniature manufacturing. This is a hugely exciting part of the business development work we are undertaking, which I believe really sets us apart from other European fab houses", Vin Makwana, technical manager at Exception PCB, said.

“Our work in this area has also encouraged us to work with some of the leading design software houses to help them create effective solutions that can deal with technology of sub-75 micron and below. We really see a huge amount of growth potential from working in this very specialised area of PCB fabrication", he added.

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