Cerambus Discusses the Next Generation in PCB Plating


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Las Marias: How would you consider the competition in this market?

Nash: At the lower end, it’s fierce. There's a lot of local suppliers and they compete on price. We don’t compete as much in that market anymore. But at the higher end, we believe certain things. For example, to do an HDI and through-hole and do both together at a high current density, and get wonderful functional properties at the same time, we believe we stand alone. We’re really in a league of our own, and our competitor is ourselves. But even when you deliver a phenomenal product, the customer always asks for more. We know that and are now spending significantly more than we have in the past on R&D because of this.

This year, we have a new bath coming out. It doesn’t even have a name yet. We’re just calling it “Wow!” It's out in the field now in some of our customers’ sites. Even though they had our product before, which was already the best for the applications that I’m talking about, now we’ve got a product that’s come out that is better. And of course, we’re building on what we already know, but we've improved dramatically; we'll continue to improve. I don't really focus as much as I used to on the competition. I focus on trying to beat ourselves.

Las Marias: In our conversations with industry players in PCB manufacturing, one of the things they're highlighting nowadays is close collaboration with customers. How is it for Cerambus?

Nash: That’s very important because the equipment and the chemistry are so closely linked, so tied together. For example, you can have the best chemistry, but you take the best chemistry and you get the best shielding or you get the best fluid dynamic situation for your chemistry, and it makes your chemistry even better. We realized the need of working closely with the equipment vendors to give them our feedback. It’s a team effort really.

All the equipment vendors that we work with really have their own unique advantages and are very good today. Our chemistry just makes the product look and perform even better and helps us both to meet the specifications or other new challenges that we’re being asked to meet.

Las Marias: John, last year, everyone in the industry saw growth. Did that hold true for Cerambus as well, and what is your outlook for this year?

Nash: Our sales are already up—even before 2016 we were one of the industry leaders in hoist plating technology, and already had a huge chunk of the pie for VCP plating—but I'm happy to say that we achieved more than 50% growth in 2017. And so far, we’re seeing 2018 potentially topping that. After Chinese New Year, we have 10 startups alone in China, and we’re talking much bigger accounts than what we had several years ago in terms of startup. We’re hiring good people like crazy. We have some big industry names that are going to be coming on. I think we’re going to shock a lot of people with how quickly we’ve grown in the last year. And this year is going to be no exception.

Las Marias: Is your company focused on the Asian region or China alone?

Nash: In Asia, China is everybody’s biggest market because of the amount of shops here. I require all our salespeople to send me reports on Saturday morning; I'm amazed that every Saturday morning, 20-30% of the accounts that they’re mentioning they visited that week are accounts I've never even heard of. I mean, that just gives you an idea regarding the number of different board shops in East and South China. Other parts of Asia don’t have so many shops yet, but we're selling into those markets as well. Thailand is new for us in the last year. Because of our success in China, I think we must take it to other markets like Thailand. We already have the biggest account in Thailand, who chose our VCP chemistry for two lines. Another one who has been using us for a year is a top three account in that market. We’ve been in the Korea market for about ten years or more. We’re looking at other growth markets; I think we'll continue to grow everywhere.

Las Marias: What will be the next development in terms of plating technology, chemical technology?

Nash: Regarding VCP equipment, there are some limitations with these lines. The biggest limitation, and why there are still other plating lines out there, even with the labor and water savings being tremendous, is that these lines aren't the very best for doing things like high-aspect ratio plating such as for back panels or something like that. I believe this is the next layer of the onion—high-aspect ratios and these kinds of things on a VCP line. Right now, we’re already looking at our next generation of chemistries that can plate over 12:1 aspect ratios comfortably and get good results at high speed. High speed is almost synonymous with VCP, so to be able to do that at those kinds of speeds—and we’re already 30% faster than anybody else in the industry with the speeds and current densities that we’re running at.

Las Marias: John, thank you very much for your time.

Nash: I want to thank you for inviting us here and the opportunity to be a part of this.

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