Apex Day 2: Expansion Continues, On the Floor and Off PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Buetow   
Thursday, 01 March 2012 11:38

SAN DIEGO -- Day 2 at IPC Apex Expo continued the trend of improved traffic, although by mid-afternoon the floors had slowed noticeably.


We spent considerable time with the materials vendors yesterday. AIM noted sales were up 41% year-over-year in 2011, while Cookson saw sales at its Alpha unit rise about 18%. (Raw metals price inflation contributed strongly to the increases.) AIM will open a plant in Poland to blending powder, liquid flux and bar solder, and plans to expand its Montreal and Juarez operations as well. Henkel rolled out four new products, including underfill brands for jetting (seeing more of that, too) and traditional dispensing. Many materials companies noted the huge potential in the LED market, although one suggested some lower-energy, higher-brightness alternatives such as ITO should not be ruled out.

Several AOI OEMs, Koh Young, Mirtec, CyberOptics and Viscom among them, are doing a much improved job of tying SPI and post-reflow inspection data to the screen printer. The attention and efforts in this area to make the data captured during inspection meaningful for in-process production was noticeable.

More evidence fears of a lingering slowdown are overstated: Soldering oven manufacturers such as BTU and Speedline Technologies as well as CyberOptics and BPM Microsystems indicated strong demand, especially since January. Automotive seems to be driving much of the recovery. BTU is planning an expansion at its Shanghai-based campus. Likewise, PCB cleaning equipment OEM Teknek will double its headcount in Asia and has added a small number of staff in Germany as well.

There's some disagreement as to how much the conversation over low-silver solders will translate into actual use. Some vendors tell us that there is plenty of discussion and it's starting to materialize into actual production. However, other vendors say it's mostly hype, adding that the cost-savings tradeoff versus the amount of process development work that needs to go into characterizing each alloy makes change questionable at best. We also are hearing SAC305 is losing popularity. An iNEMI project team led by Dr. Greg Henshall of HP is evaluating 16 different alternate solder materials: It could be that once that group has completed its work, the picture will become clearer for users.

Yamaha makes for an interesting presence, with a large booth and several machines, not all of which were for placement. The company, which is slowly separating from its longtime Americas distributor Assembleon, also had an AXI machine on display. (Assembleon, we should note, did pick up an NPI Award for its new iFlex placement platform.)

Aegis Industrial Software has a slick new tool called inForce, a touchscreen and I/O unit that monitors and controls boards as they proceed down the conveyor, and feeds the data back to the Aegis MES factory software, aiding traceability of boards.

We had a nice long (for the show) talk with iNEMI president Bill Bader, who provided a rundown on the consortium's programs -- and there are a lot of them. iNEMI officially launched three new projects in medical in January and three more are in "definition." UL Research is leading a project to update its standards and specifications methodology. Also, a white paper on harmonization of environmental data management is underway. We will post the full interview at a later date.

We noticed the show itself is not as well organized as in the past. Previous shows grouped the fabrication suppliers in one place and the assembly suppliers in another. That's all changed. While industries (fabrication, assembly) are delineated (sort of) by the color of carpet in the various exhibitors' booths, there is a nearly random nature that makes trying to visit all the suppliers of a certain product inconvenient.

Movers and shakers. Brian O'Leary, formerly of KIC, has joined Trans-Tec (Yamaha's distributor in the Americas) as general manager. Seho appointed Alexander Riedel director of customer service, and Europlacer named Chris Round global marketing manager.

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 March 2012 12:18


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