Reading time ( words)
I met a lot of interesting people at productronica, with an assortment of different products on display. Such was my visit with Oyvind Tafjord, CEO of Visitech. His purpose at the show was to meet with his customers, so nothing unusual about that. But his customers also had booths (or stands, as they call them), which is an advantage for him, as he explains here.
Patty Goldman: Hello Oyvind, please tell us about yourself and your company.
Oyvind Tafjord: I am one of the co-founders of Visitech and we started out in 2001. We are a Norwegian company and we are kind of special because we have no Norwegian suppliers and no Norwegian customers. (Laughing) We source worldwide and manufacture in Shanghai, with the R&D, sales and headquarters are in Norway. We also have a subsidiary in Germany.
I work with business development and sales from day-to-day, and I am the chairman of the board. Visitech is a technology company and for the past 20 years we have been focusing on the DLP technology from Texas Instruments. That's digital light processing, which you typically find in normal projectors in meeting rooms. There are 2 types of display technology in normal projectors, LCD and DLP, so we are all surrounded by this technolgy in our every day life. We see ourselves as experts on the DLP technology, and we have now implemented this into the direct imaging machines. We started with Direct imaging in 2010.
Goldman: So you make imaging systems?
Tafjord: Yes. We are offering at productronica a subsystem for machine builders making direct imaging machines. Typically, a lot of the exposure companies are very excellent mechanical companies, but when doing direct imaging, you need more sophisticated optics, electronics, software, hardware, and firmware, which is handling all the data, as you are printing in a different way. We have made a subsystem so we can combine our technology with the excellent mechanical capability of our customers and then they build direct imaging machines, which you can see some examples of in this hall.
Goldman: That's very interesting. What else can you tell me about Visitech and your other products?
Tafjord: We are also working in 3D printing, which is very similar to PCB lithography, just doing it layer by layer, so it's more or less the same thing. Physically, it looks different, but inside it is the same technology. We also do 3D metrology, where we are making the light source for 3D scanners. That is projecting fringes on different objects and then cameras detect the fringes to see how they're bending, and it is calculated to recreate the 3D cloud. Then you can compare the 3D cloud with your original 3D cloud from the 3D design and see if that part is okay. It's a quality control application. We are, again, making subsystems for our customers and I think we have more than 4,000 units out there. More or less, every German car brand has been measured with our projector technology.
Goldman: How has business been since Visitech came on the scene in 2001?
Tafjord: Business is very good. We started out as a consultant company. Our history is from an origin company called Davis, making DLP projectors—normal projectors for meeting rooms. Being in Norway, it was hard to compete when everybody else went to Taiwan for cost reasons, so that company stopped. But then, Roy Almedal, who is now Managing Director, and myself started Visitech because we had an excellent R&D team in that group. We worked as a consultant for companies working with projection technology for some years. Then after a while, we thought, why don't we make our own products again? Because we saw that we made great products for other companies, and they earned a lot of money based on our technolgy. So we changed our business model, stopped our consultant business, and focused on our own products. It's been a great triumph.
Goldman: That's good to hear. How many years have you been coming to productronica?
Tafjord: This is the third time, as we are focused on the PCB lithography business.
Goldman: When you say you do subsystems, basically you market parts of your products to other people that make imaging systems, is that it?
Tafjord: Yeah, so we are kind of unorthodox in the way we are presenting ourselves, because we are here to meet our customers. Our customers, that are using our subsystem, are exhibiting here also, so it's a very efficient way to meet them and see what they are displaying. It's a different approach, perhaps.
Goldman: It works for you. Like you said, it’s very efficient. Plus, you can also meet new people.
Tafjord: Yes, the PCB business people are here and new technologies are presented, all the guys with the chemistry and the other processes we have to learn and know are here as well. It’s a great opportunity to learn and to even look ahead for future products.
Goldman: Your technology is in other companies’ imaging machines, but do you also have your own machine?
Tafjord: No. Of course, we do have the stages of a machine in our lab, but it's for developing our equipment, not for the manufacturing business. Also a different approach, but it works very nicely for us.
Goldman: Is any of your technology new or updated recently?
Tafjord: We started out with a typical line/space of 30-50 micrometers and what we are doing now is 10 mm line/space and even down to 4 mm line/space, so we're entering more of the the advanced packaging area. We see a future trend of what is being done on wafers blending with what is being done on a PCB.
We are going down in line and space, making smaller features and prints on both PCB and on wafers. We are basically supporting a broad range from 50 micrometers line and space, which is typically for solder mask applications, all the way down in feature size to advanced packaging.
Goldman: The printed circuit boards fall closer to that high end of maybe 25 or 50 microns, but now you have another market with the packaging. So, that's nice.
Tafjord: Yes, we have four different systems. It's 50, 25, 10, and 4 microns line/space. So we're covering most of the PCB and advancd packaging markets.
Goldman: And, eventually, maybe the PCBs will want that 4-micron system. What do you think?
Tafjord: Yes, we need that for advanced packaging, embedded dies—3D PCBs. That's coming more and more, and benefits from the advantages of direct imaging.
Goldman: What would you say the percentage of machines imaging out there would have your equipment?
Tafjord: Just before productronica we had 107 machines out there producing every day with our technology.
Goldman: And a variety of imaging companies?
Tafjord: Quite a handful of them.
Goldman: Good to hear. Oyvind, thank you very much for your time. This has been very interesting.