PCB | March 15, 2010

Multek is answering our questions

Mr. Werner Widmann, CEO at PCB producer Multek, has answered our questions about the PCB industry in Europe and the technical challenges for the PCB industry.
Multek is part of the EMS-provider Flextronics. Why and how is the company still unique and different?

Why? We have to serve all round customers; therefore, we have to be flexible, different and unique on creating values that increase customer’s competitiveness.

How? We are the only PCB shop that has global footprint, and we provide one stop shop solutions and best tool kit: PCB, FPC, Rigid-flex, Flexible Circuit Assembly; Displays and Touch Solutions with design, and Electronic / Optical Materials - ITO. The vertical integration with Flextronics not only provides us more opportunities, but also allows us to have closer communication and early stage involvement in the design process. This adds values to customers.

Many companies see an upturn in order intake and business in general. Do you agree?

Yes, recovery is picking up and shows improvements. But there are changes in the market with production and technology migration: growth opportunity shifting to emerging markets, especially in China. With the popularity of touch screen solutions – we see good opportunities in ITO and touch screen display business as well.

The European PCB industry is undergoing a material change. Does Multek plan any strategic partnerships with companies in Asia – or maybe specifically in China?

It is true that the trend of electronics industry production is shifting from West to East, and Multek has 5 key production facilities in China. While our Germany site is able to provide our customers the most advanced technology, our site in China can to provide low cost solutions to our customers. More than that, Germany helps to bring up the technology level in China

Speaking of Germany, do you plan any investments here?
We currently do not have any investments plan in Germany, but Germany is an important manufacturing area and value added to our customers with advanced technology.

What do you produce in Germany or better, what unit do you operate in Germany?

Our Germany site is art from technology perspective, it’s main products are for backpanels, server & infrastructure and high end computing. It has capabilities of 3 mil line/space, 250mil board thickness; high aspect ratio, and high layer boards up more than 46 layers.

Which kind of PCB has the brightest future?

It is a difficult question, as the market is dynamic; the kind of PCB products depends on the end market segment and technology. This year we see good opportunities on PCB for Smartphone, eBooks, and infrastructure especially for Chinese equipment suppliers, notebook continues to growth in volume base, while medical are stable markets, and military & aerospace PCB are protected to produce in US and Europe.

Are there any competing technologies for PCBs? And where do you see the advantages and disadvantages of each?

Low end PCB – high volume but high price pressure
We see more Chinese suppliers are able to go into HDI 1-n-1 but also 2-n-2, and as well able to do 26+ layer count PCB, and thus drives aggressive pricing. However, on the other hand we see more opportunities in advanced technologies such ELIC, 4-n-4, embedded, coins technology

What do you think of the potential of buried components inside the PCBs?

There will be buried components in the future and I believe that passive components will hit the road first (there is already a market in Japan for this) and that active components will come later, when exactly will depend on yield and cost

What are the biggest technological challenges for the PCB industry in the coming years?

PCB are having tougher technology requirements such as finer line/ spaces, higher layers counts and it is always a challenge to transfer new and advance technology in production with high yield rates in short lead times.

Also the higher technologies require more number of laser via, higher layer count requires more capacity, and in China it is hard to get new environmental license to expand capacity.

Multek R&D and Engineering Teams work closely with customers designs at very early stage to help overcome these technical challenges together.
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