Ventec: Eye on the Future, with Automotive and Lighting Front and Center

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Ventec’s Thomas Michels and Didier Mauve sat down with I-Connect007 Editors Patty Goldman and Pete Starkey and enjoyed an upbeat and enlightening conversation. Among the topics covered were the importance of working partnerships in maintaining supply chain continuity, market drivers for thermally conductive materials, and development of enabling technologies to support the automotive electronics revolution. And did we mention these guys at Ventec are having fun? They are!

Patty Goldman: It’s nice to sit down with you here at productronica. Let’s start by telling our readers about your positions with Ventec and then we can talk about your deepest interests.

Didier Mauve: I'm sales marketing manager with Ventec Europe. I'm also the leader in the team for thermal management and for the new product introduction in this segment.

Thomas Michels: I'm the managing director of Ventec Europe, responsible for the entire Ventec materials range, as well as being the global leader for Ventec's non-CCL materials.

Goldman: What materials are you exhibiting at productronica?

Mauve: A full range of dielectrics and prepregs, which cover a lot of hot topics as far as thermal management is concerned.

Goldman: What is pushing thermal management, in your opinion?

Mauve: Power and lighting in the automotive industry, and DC-DC converters, also in the automotive industry—lots of applications now are consuming and using more power, which we need to drive out of the boards. Therefore, there’s a need for new dielectrics with special thermal conductivity properties.

Thomas_Michels.jpgMichels: Well, this is about specific materials, but the other message that we would like to give to the market is that we are committed to the European market and the Western market and we have, meanwhile, two fully equipped service centers in Europe to keep the supply chain up and running. At the beginning of the year, we had, for example, a big issue regarding copper foil shortage and it's very important that companies work together. We are a part of the supply chain so therefore we like to make sure that customers understand we can help them to keep the supply chain up and running.

Pete Starkey: Thomas, you mentioned the copper foil situation. I realize it's pulling the conversation away from its original focus, but I think it's a very relevant topic. How have you managed your way through this situation and what is the current position?

Michels: Because we’ve always worked in very close partnership with our suppliers, we haven't faced a big issue since the beginning of the year. We faced allocation, but not as much as others. Meanwhile, during the last nine months we have worked very closely with our key supplier for copper foils so that they give us the right allocation, but besides this we're going to see a problem with the cost of copper foil at the beginning of next year at the latest, due to London Metal Exchange.

Starkey: Currently the supply situation from Ventec's point of view is under control?

Michels: Under full control.

Starkey: But the fact of life is that LME metal prices will push the foil prices up.

Michels: Exactly. Supply chain is under control. Costs, well, this is something we just have to follow the market.

Goldman: When there's a high demand the cost matches. There's just no getting around it.

Starkey: Sorry to have interrupted but that was very important to pick up on. Didier, back to you and the thermal management side. Thermal management requirements are making life more and more interesting for the substrate suppliers!

Mauve: That's correct.

Starkey: The applications are demanding more and more in terms of substrate capability, dielectric thickness and dielectric thermal conductivity. We started off seeing thermal conductivity of two, two and a half watts per meter Kelvin and we saw this increase through three, four, five, six, and seven. Where are we at now?

Mauve: Currently we have dielectrics up to 10 watts per meter Kelvin. And as a matter of fact, what you pointed out is correct—the thickness matters. Of course, the thinner the dielectric the lower is the thermal resistance. But on the other hand, if we consider the market for converters for automotive, there is a requirement for higher dielectric thickness.

Starkey: You're handling much higher voltages for this situation?

Mauve: Exactly.

Starkey: So, you've got two conflicting requirements. You must maintain the thermal conductivity on one hand, and electrical insulation on the other.

Mauve: Exactly. The beauty being that we have the capability to offer the full range of dielectric thicknesses from 50 microns up to over 200 microns; that’s two mils to over eight mils, and heading towards 10 mils. We can offer our customer a comprehensive thickness range that is compatible with our process of manufacturing. For us this is not a problem at all.

Starkey: Does the customer generally know what he wants, or does he rely very heavily on you for his applications-engineering advice, and support?

Mauve: Pete, we talked about that in another interview. As you know, IPC has not yet issued the relevant standards, although this will probably happen in the coming years, when the main players and suppliers of the industry have agreed on the details. In the meantime, you have a lot of values popping up in data sheets with very different ways of measuring them.

Starkey: Even when there has been some international agreement on standards.

Mauve: We generally use IPC specifications for our products, if IPC has released something. When they do not exist, we refer to other specifications that the main players are using.

Starkey: Ventec publishes good objective data sheet information. To what extent do the customers understand the specifications, understand the data sheets, and know what to specify? And to what extent do they call in the guy who knows, and ask “This is what we want to do, how do we do it?”

Mauve: That’s a very good question, because we must translate the data sheet into a language that the customer and the end users and designers can understand, and use the values in their materials calculations.


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