‘An End-to-End Solution for Assembled HDI Rigid-Flex’ Print E-mail
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Written by Mike Buetow   
Monday, 30 January 2012 17:36

Multi-Fineline Electronix (MFLEX) and AT&S last week announced an agreement to share their respective printed circuit board technologies. Under the agreement, AT&S's high-density interconnect (HDI) rigid PCBs and MFLEX's flex board capabilities will be offered to respective customers, and the two will partner on rigid-flex technology.

MLFEX executive and PCD&F columnist Jay Desai spoke with editor-in-chief Mike Buetow about the new partnership.

PCDF: Typically we see alliances between two companies where one is seeking to gain access to a geographical market or a trade of NPI capacity for access to volume. I can’t think of one like this between two market leaders. How did the partnership come about?

JD: You are correct; it’s a strategic alliance between two industry leaders. It was established on the basis of supporting customers, of which we have quite a few in common, for their electronic packaging requirements. AT&S is the leading global HDI rigid PCB manufacturer, and MFLEX is a global leader in flex circuit fabrication with complex electronics component assembly capability. We believe the combination of AT&S’ HDI rigid PCB capabilities with MFLEX’s multilayer flex manufacturing with assembly capabilities enables us to provide a best-in-class solution to the customer base.

We feel that the intent of this alliance only adds to our strategy of providing the broadest solution offering and being an industry leader for technology and innovation. To our customers, this alliance offers new opportunities in design and applications.

The alliance enables both companies to pursue increasing market opportunities in their core business, while providing HDI rigid-flex circuits as a value-add solution to their individual product offerings. This value-added solution is unique because customers currently cannot get assembled HDI rigid-flex circuits from a single vendor with expertise in HDI PCB technology, as well as flex circuits manufacturing and assembly. We believe the alliance offers customers the least risk and the quickest way to get best-in-class assembled HDI rigid-flex printed circuits.

The alliance provides an industry leadership position in technology and innovation, a higher level of design, strong key account and program management, and the ability to integrate assembly capabilities for finer densities. It’s a total end-to-end solution for assembling HDI rigid-flex printed circuits. 

Also, the close proximity of our manufacturing facilities helps in communications between engineering, quality, operations and logistics teams from the two companies.

PCD&F: How long ago did the discussions begin?

JD: We’ve pursued discussions for a while. There was a meeting of minds and synergy at the highest levels – the CEO and executive leadership teams – that infiltrated through the organization. We have a lot of common elements: We’re both publicly traded companies serving the mobility market with good value systems. We want to provide the best solutions to our customers.

PCD&F: Does the agreement provide for actual technology transfer between the two companies, and if so, how will that work?

JD: Manufacturing is done autonomously in each of our respective plants.

To create a successful alliance, MFLEX and AT&S will jointly collaborate on and improvise manufacturing capabilities to provide customers with the highest quality, most sophisticated HDI rigid-flex and assembly solutions. We will optimize our supply chains and continue to advance technology development. We will also market and promote unique capabilities through customer education.

PCD&F: So to be clear, the partnership isn’t an attempt to push HDI rigid-flex, but rather to serve as an offering to those customers who wish to design it in?

JD: We want to target HDI rigid-flex at the design stage for applications requiring packaging solutions integrating HDI PCB technology used for high-density interconnects with three-dimensional flex circuit packaging solutions eliminating connectors, thereby saving space and weight, making the devices thinner, lighter and smaller. 

PCD&F: You mentioned the advantage of companies’ proximity. So will it be the plants in China taking on the primary responsibility?

JD: The engineering, quality, operations and logistics teams at both companies’ manufacturing plants will take on the responsibility for execution. The responsibility for all communications with the customer through the entire product lifecycle will reside with the prime vendor.

PCD&F: How do the respective companies work with OEM designers, and how will you apportion the revenue?

JD: Determination of the prime vendor will be customer-dependent, as well as depend upon whether assembly of the HDI rigid-flex printed circuit is required. The prime vendor will take responsibility for all communications with the customer through the entire product lifecycle from initial engagement until end-of-life, including liabilities and returns. The alliance has a revenue- and profit-sharing agreement in place.

PCD&F: Does this agreement preclude MFLEX from other partnerships?

JD: At this time, both companies are focused on providing the best-in-class solution for HDI rigid-flex circuits through this alliance.

PCD&F: What percent of MFLEX’s customers currently overlap with AT&S?

JD: We are primarily focused on the mobility market, whereas AT&S serves customers in the mobility market, but also operates outside it. So in the mobility market, we do have customers that overlap.

PCD&F: What about areas like telematics for industrial applications such as tractors that share technology with mobility?

JD: Over a period of time, it may evolve to that. Our initial focus is on the mobility market, but there are other opportunities beyond the mobility market that we intend to pursue.

 

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