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I recently sat down with Artnet Pro Co-owner Meir Polack, to discuss his company's move to represent Altix in North American, South America and parts of Asia. Artnet has traditionally sold pre-owned Orbotech and Camtek equipment, especially LDIs, but due to the increasing competitiveness of this high-end market they decided to seek out the best alternative in new DI equipment. After ample research, they chose Altix and signed a contract to sell and service their products in various parts of the world, including North America.
Dan Beaulieu: Meir, Thanks for talking with me today. First, please share a little bit about yourself and your company.
Meir Polack: My pleasure, Dan. It’s always good to talk to you. I graduated from the University of Ben Gurion Israel in 1986 in Computer and Electronic engineering. I joined Orbotech after my graduation and worked on AOI and photoplotter systems. I was transferred in 1991 to work at Orbotech USA in our San Jose, California office, where I remained until 1997. In 1997, my partner Roni Hod and I formed Image Pro, which later become Artnet Pro when we purchased Artnet Technology.
Artnet Pro today services the PCB market with CAM engineering, reverse engineering of PCB boards, high-resolution photoplotting up to 50,800 DPI, scanning services, laser direct imaging, photoplotters, AOI and legend printers, maintenance services with yearly agreements, and time & materials, sales of used refurbish Orbotech and Camtek equipment.
Beaulieu: I understand that up to now, you have been selling and servicing used equipment, but recently you have changed direction and started selling and servicing new equipment as well. What influenced you to make this decision?
Polack: The PCB market is changing and becoming more innovative when it comes to technology. More customers are looking to buy the LED DI machines, and the market for that equipment is very competitive.
Until we discovered Altix, there really wasn’t anything comparable to the pre-owned Orbotech laser direct Imaging products that we are selling and servicing to our customers. In some instances, we lost deals due to Orbotech domination of the market. Their control of the licensing issues in the U.S. made it difficult for our customers to purchase used Orbotech equipment. Because of this, customers started looking to buy new machines and modern technologies. This drove us to go out and find new equipment so that we could compete more aggressively in the North American market by offering a comparable alternative to the used Orbotech LDIs we still sell and service in the U.S. We believe that the Altix machine that we are now selling is more of a comparable alternative. Their specs and performance ratings are the same or better in some cases to the Orbotech LDI and at more attractive prices. So, combining Artnet’s customer base with our years of experience servicing the PCB market and adding Altix’s older and newer products will be a good fit that will help us to serve our customers much better. Our customers are our strength and we will strive to give them the best we can.
Beaulieu: Why is the Altix direct imaging system better than other systems?
Polack: We feel that this is the right product at the right time. It is much simpler to service, it has a much friendlier human interface and is much more flexible to use than any other machine on the market today, including the Orbotech. The Altix product is built to work around the clock and for years to come. It is the most solid machine we have ever evaluated when it comes to accuracy and performance and ability to handle the highest PCB technology of today.
Beaulieu: Will you be selling just the direct imaging equipment or other Altix equipment as well?
Polack: The main product we will sell and service will be the direct imaging system, but as a representative of Altix, we will offer all their products to our customers. This includes Afosa, a semi-automatic panel-to-panel exposure; Acura, a fully-automatic double-side panel to-panel exposure; Arrow, a fully-automatic roll-to-roll exposure; and the AcuReel, a fully-automatic roll-to-roll Exposure.
Beaulieu: Meir, I want to go back to the direct imaging equipment, because that is really what our readers want to know about. Can you elaborate further on this equipment?
Polack: We chose the Altix Adix DI product because of its similarity to the Orbotech laser direct imaging, structure and performance wise. The Altix Adix DI product is bringing new technology trends in the market for a 4-wavelength LED light source that works with any dry film or liquid material to image inner/outer layers, solder mask and LPI processes.
Additionally, the Altix DI is built to last. It is built on a granite table for accuracy and stability and has a linear stage to allow the table to move quickly and smoothly. This machine has a steady printing head and only the table is moving which will make the machine more accurate when it comes to registration. The human interface on this machine is based on Windows 7 and it is one of the best on the market, providing a friendly and easy to maintain user interface. The machine is fast, and the data handling is simple and easy to operate.
The Adix DI printing head comes with separate 4-wavelength high-power LED light sources on each printing head and built on a self-contained environment inside the machine so the machine is more protected from any outside dust or chemicals. The machine can come with one to six printing heads for faster imaging. The machine has an excellent vacuum system and unique clamping mechanism allowing for better handling of all kind of materials including, flex, rigid and rigid-flex process. The 4-wavelength high-power light source provides more flexibility to work with any material available today with the most efficient exposure power for the specific wavelength this material will be exposed the best, at 365, 380, 395 and 405 nm.
Beaulieu: Please describe the services that you provide.
Polack: We will service all the DI equipment we will sell in the North America as we currently do with all the products we are currently selling worldwide. Our engineers will train at the Altix facility during the process of manufacturing the machines. Altix will support us with the first few installations as needed until Artnet is able to take over the installation and training for our customers. Artnet will offer our customers a yearly service agreement, or time & materials-based maintenance services.
Beaulieu: How are you staffed to do this?
Polack: We currently have our engineers to cover the first few installations. Our engineers are familiar with the Orbotech LDI and the learning process for them will be fast. As we hope to sell many machines to the market, Artnet will recruit more engineers as needed for each region based on number of machines.
Beaulieu: Are you selling just in North America or do you have other territories to cover?
Polack: Oh no, our coverage is much wider than that. We are selling equipment all over the world including, but not limited to, South America, South Korea, Vietnam and China.
Beaulieu: Is this only the beginning? Are you looking for other new lines to represent?
Polack: As I said before, Artnet is looking to serve our customers in the best way possible by giving them access to the best equipment available on the market today. We believe that our long years of experience of selling and servicing refurbished Orbotech and Camtek equipment has fully prepared us to be able to sell and service most high-tech equipment lines to our customers.
Besides Altix, we are looking for other high-tech equipment lines to offer our customers. We are currently looking for the very best laser-drill equipment as well as legend printing equipment to sell to our customers. We want only the best lines, the ones that will meet all our customers’ needs
Beaulieu: How do you see the PCB market today?
Polack: The PCB market today is a tough market; with the U.S. market shrinking, it is very competitive. Although the PCB market in the U.S. is small, it is a lucrative market—and still important enough that all equipment manufacturers want to sell and service this market. The PCB market in the U.S. is a unique market as the technology becomes more demanding, and it is challenging as the fabricators strive to meet the challenges of all the new OEM products that are being developed by high-tech companies like Blue Horizon, Space X and Tesla. These companies building products of the future are designing boards that are exceeding the limits of the board shops’ capabilities and technologies. American shops are always trying to deliver innovative technology while the Asian shops are still working on more mature products and looking for large production orders. This is what is keeping the American market an attractive target for equipment vendors.