Preparing for Solar Flares Print E-mail
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Written by Mike Buetow   
Wednesday, 23 November 2011 10:13

Solar manufacturing is now enjoying the same up and down roller coaster that the semiconductor industry has virtually patented over the decades. OEMs that made inroads in selling equipment to solar production sites are now turning their thoughts back to SMT, reasoning slow growth is better than no growth.

At Productronica in November, DEK President Michael Brianda explained some of the trends to CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY Editor-in-Chief Mike Buetow.

CA: There’s been a big slowdown in solar and some disruptions in SMT. What is DEK doing to prepare?

MB: DEK continues to focus on our core competency – high-efficiency printing technology. This focused approach is what has enabled us to not only maintain, but extend, our technology leadership. There are many market sectors and applications where we can apply our expertise and partner with customers, and we are doing just that. Our objective is to engage with customers early on so that we are effectively part of their technology strategy – whether that’s moving to a new region, taking on more challenging fine-pitch/miniaturized processes or developing a completely new technology.

For our business, we don’t see a drastic slowdown. DEK is fairly flexible, and our parent company, Dover, is straightforward in its expectations. With a more balanced approached – the goal being revenues from services and consumables – DEK is far more adaptable to market swings.

Cost of ownership is still a big subject in all sectors. As you know, DEK’s print expertise is also key to high-volume solar processes and we have seen dramatic shifts here. In 2009, China’s solar market was challenged and in 2010 it overheated resulting in overcapacity, which I feel will last for the next two to three years. Solar is a fantastic, mobile way to generate power. The megacities in China are an interesting indicator.

CA: LEDs are complex in that the length of some of the boards can be up to 2 meters. What gains have you made there?

MB: LEDs are very intriguing. LED has high efficiency and now needs high volume, whereas solar had a high volume, now it needs high efficiency. We have effectively delivered solutions for both conditions. For example, to address the complexity of the board length, our ProFlow enclosed printhead can accommodate a variety of different angles for LED print techniques. Another approach is to incorporate three print stations in a line. It would not be ideal, but it could be a solution.

CA: You mentioned dispensing.

MB: We don’t want to become a dispensing company. There are already many fine companies that focus on dispensing. Our philosophy – from a print technology point of view – is that dispensing should support the printer. In the case where customers don’t need a dedicated high-volume dispense solution, our technology works very well. We continue to develop this offering for customers.

CA: How do the Dover companies interact these days?

MB: There’s a bigger drive than ever in Dover to ensure that their operating companies share their strengths and expertise – working more closely together. In the past three years, there’s been a big shift toward internal synergies. Dover companies look at each other to see where they are located, and where it makes sense to share facilities, and we work toward understanding each other. Dover also assist with sourcing and management. It’s not directed, but it’s offered. Dover has invested a lot in supply-chain management, so that we can provide more cost-effective (products). There is a lot of trust – Dover lets us do what we do best and, frankly, they aren’t interested in being involved in customer activities. But for all non-customer facing opportunities, Dover wants to help in three areas: SCM, acquisitions and talent development. If you acquire another company, you want to keep that entrepreneurial spirit and Dover wisely recognizes that.

CA: DEK has made a push toward licensing and franchising its stencil technologies. What was the thinking behind that?

MB: We deliver about 50,000 stencils annually. We knew we could optimize the process; we defined this four or five years ago. The simple fact is that stencil purchasing is regional, not global – decisions are made locally. You have to have good laser-cutting technologists who understand the data and can produce a stencil quickly, shipping it out the same day or the next morning. With the franchise approach, we have delivered the local element and satisfy the quick delivery requirements. DEK selected seven stencil manufacturers ourselves. We then evaluated how we could expand globally, which included sales through distribution and franchising. The franchisees fully benefit from DEK’s stencil expertise – all processes, equipment and staff are DEK certified, so the high-quality controls consistent without standards are in place. Stencil customers want providers that can delivery high-end stencils in volume. The franchisees are not only utilizing proven DEK processes, but also licensing our leading technologies such as VectorGuard and using our latest innovations like stencil coatings. There has already been notable expansion year-over-year with more than 20 franchises established in the last five years, a track record that speaks for itself in terms of the success of the strategy.

Last Updated on Sunday, 04 December 2011 21:57


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