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At productronica, MacDermid Enthone Electronics Solutions and Alpha Assembly Solutions had one large combined booth to promote the companies’ integration. Right across the aisle MacDermid Enthone also participated as a partner in the 3D MID association booth, all of which made for a comfortable setting. Over a buttered pretzel (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it), we talked about the newly amalgamated company, something everyone in the company is quite enthusiastic about.
Patty Goldman: Rich, please start by sharing a little bit about yourself.
Rich Retallick: Well, I'm happy to be here in Munich, drinking beer and eating pretzels. What a great place to learn about electronics! I've worked at MacDermid Enthone for 33 years and currently hold the position of Global Product Director for Electronics Materials. I started within the MacDermid organization, and since the recent merger between MacDermid, Enthone, and OMG’s Electrochemicals assets it has been an exciting time and we're doing well.
Goldman: What does that look like?
Retallick: The focus of our Electronics Solutions Group is on printed circuit boards and PCB fabrication. But also within this group, there is a need for the same type of chemical processes that aren't specific to PCB fabrication. For instance, MIDs (molded interconnect devices) that require plating for 3D molded interconnect devices, semiconductor lead frame packages requiring roughened lead frames for adhesion of the epoxy mold compounds, and the plating needs required in LED lighting and photovoltaic products. These all fall under the specific umbrella of Electronics Materials as part of the broader Electronics Solutions market.
Goldman: Does MacDermid get involved in creating those MIDs?
Retallick: We provide the plating solutions. Much of the MID growth occurred out of a process called LDS, laser direct structuring, which uses a laser to activate a thermoplastic embedded with a catalytic material. After lasering, the parts go directly into our plating baths and the circuit is created. Typically, it's all electroless copper plating and no electrolytic plating is involved. The plating stack is a copper-nickel-gold layer. Most MIDs are commonly used in antennas for smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
Goldman: That's an interesting technology. You said that the actual roughening or the adhesion promotion happens by laser, so features are laser-defined. How fine are those features?
Retallick: Well, they're getting smaller and smaller. The main market for MID had been in cellphone antennas, where the features are relatively large. But now, the trend is to consider semiconductor packaging opportunities where they're actually making these laser-defined traces on top of the epoxy mold compound in a semiconductor package. We're talking features down to 20-micron lines and spaces.
Goldman: You get good adhesion? You've been there 33 years; you know the problems with electroless adhesion from the old days.
Retallick: Oh, I remember all too well. But the adhesion in this technology is good. The other benefit of laser activation is that it roughens the plastic to provide topography for good adhesion. It provides a mechanical bond between the plating layer and the substrate. Additionally, with our experience in electroless plating processes, MacDermid Enthone offers plating technologies to maximize the adhesion.
Goldman: But you said you had a catalyst embedded in there.
Retallick: Yes, it’s mixed into plastic itself, but it does not become active until it is hit by the laser.
Goldman: That's what starts the electroless plating. A very interesting process.
Retallick: The other area that we work in is semiconductor lead frame packaging. We provide technologies that roughen the lead frame. After the die is attached to a leadframe package and wire bonds are formed, you need to encapsulate the package with epoxy mold compound (EMC). Our processes provide good adhesion between the epoxy mold compound and the lead frame substrate below. Another interesting opportunity in this market is bringing in the merger of our combined organizations, MacDermid, Enthone and Alpha. Alpha is in the electronics connection business. Using our combined knowledge, we not only offer chemical processes to roughen the lead frame, but we have the die-attach adhesives from Alpha. We can adapt our chemistries to work completely seamless across that application.
Goldman: I can picture some of that technology transferring to circuit boards, as features get smaller and smaller. That's pretty interesting stuff.
Retallick: The three companies have really come together to form, I would say, a powerhouse in the electronics industry now. Previously, we didn't really have a lot of competing technologies. Now, between MacDermid, Enthone, and Alpha, we really have products that cross the spectrum of anything that's necessary in making an electronic circuit. All our independent technologies actually broadened our portfolio as we merged. And I would say, over the two plus years since the merger everything is going great. There haven't been any real struggles or differences in philosophies and cultures. We all get along and we’re moving forward with growing the business.
The other thing that I wanted to talk to you about is our electronics offerings overall within the MacDermid Enthone organization. In the printed circuit board area, we have many products and markets that we're targeting. Number one is electrolytic copper plating. With the continuing trends in via filling and through-hole filling, not only in printed circuit boards but also in LED substrates for heat dissipation, we have several products coming into the market that are exceptional for through-hole filling of acid copper to give us the competitive edge in these markets.
Goldman: The main reason to copper-fill the vias is for heat dissipation, correct?
Retallick: Exactly. Then, we have our final finishes. We're the market leader in final finishes as well. We have the combined product offerings of MacDermid and Enthone. We have our silver processes, Sterling and AlphaStar. We both have tin processes including Ormecon, and of course organic solderability preservatives (OSP) like the ENTEK Plus HT. Enthone was always the market leader with their OSP. We now can offer a full range of final finishes, and our focus is to become a dominant supplier of nickel-gold, ENIG, and ENEPIG, and promote these processes into the market as well. The logic is, we're established in final finishes with silver, tin, and OSP, and now nickel-gold is one of our target markets.
Goldman: How about the direct metallization and the non-electroless processes?
Retallick: Again, here the company has the three processes that lead the market. We have Blackhole from MacDermid, Shadow from OM, and our ENVISION DMSE, a conductive polymer process coming from Enthone. We offer everything. We can offer traditional electroless copper technology for through-hole plating plus all these direct metallization technologies.
Goldman: I would guess with the traditional electroless processes you have three companies that each had at least one, and I suppose you pooled the best of it all together.
Retallick: Are we finished with that process? No, because when you get into these processes used in specific markets, namely automotive, they are spec'd in and we try to avoid any disruption in the market that's going to affect our customers and frankly our revenue. We are very careful about which products we would discontinue. But we're continuing to evaluate and prove to our customers, based on the merger of our companies, the best products offerings in our portfolio and promote them.