Reading time ( words)
I met with Rüdiger Lange, CSO at Schmid Group, in their spacious, comfortable booth at productronica. We discussed the current capital equipment market and Schmid’s business direction for the future while watching some of their new technology in action.
Patty Goldman: Rüdiger, please begin by telling me something about yourself and Schmid Group.
Rüdiger Lange: I’m responsible for the sales and marketing at Schmid Group, which I joined about 18 months ago. I’ve been working in the high-tech equipment business for about 20 years, starting in the early days with Philips Electronics doing OLED displays, flat panel displays, and then moved into more semiconductor technology, SMT technology, process technology for plating and semi-conductor.
Wet process equipment, Schmid’s core business, is an area that is very familiar to me. Schmid has been in the electronics business since the 1960s. The company is over 150 years old.
In its early days it was building production equipment for iron foundries and wood mills. In the 1960s we started offering solutions for surface treatment of PCBs, consisting of washing, cleaning, brushing and then very quickly we moved into chemical processing of PCBs. That’s still our main business today. We’re experts in chemical technology, chemical surface treatment, developing, etching—any kind of surface treatment on a PCB or substrate—and we also use this expertise in other applications and markets. We also offer chemical process systems in PV (photovoltaics), another core market for Schmid. Two more recent markets are batteries and automation. The latter has been a successful business for Schmid and is gaining momentum with new smart PCB fabs that rely on factory automation. Schmid Group makes 40% of its revenue in the electronics market. The productronica show is a very important event for us.
Goldman: OK, tell me what’s new here at Schmid with your PCB equipment.
Lange: We’ve been in the electronics business for quite a few years and have seen many changes in the industry. By carefully reviewing the roadmaps together with our customers, we’ve followed the trend in the past years to higher-end PCBs, which means the feature sizes on the PCB can go below 10 microns. We’ve been working on processes for those boards in our R&D labs for a while. We see more requests coming in from customers that are working on the HDI plus, SAP (semi-additive process) and mSAP panels, so the focus in our R&D and engineering is on how to serve this market of the future.
We’re convinced that this is where the electronics market is moving. It means higher integration and bringing embedded components into the PCB, and there’s a couple of things that are playing a role here. Number one: as I mentioned, line and space is going down. That has consequences for the process technology.
It brings in new requirements for the cleanliness of your processes and you get confronted with yield issues. Depending on the complexity, a traditional PCB panel might be anywhere between 100 to 400 USD per panel. If you integrate components you would have a multiple of that value. You can imagine that if we have a panel with integrated components worth, let’s say 3,000 to 5,000 USD per panel, and we lose a panel in the production, it has significant impact on the production cost.
To read the full version of this article which originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.