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I almost always see American Standard Circuits’ Ken Moffat at the SMTA expos that I attend, including the Western Penn SMTA Expo. He is their director of business development and covers a fairly broad territory from his base in Toronto throughout Canada and parts of the U.S. from east to west.
Patty Goldman: We were talking earlier about flex and rigid-flex, and the fact that American Standard wrote an eBook titled The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Flex and Rigid-Flex Fundamentals. Has that changed things for you?
Ken Moffat: Yes, it has changed things for me because most of the product I’m selling now tends to be flex or rigid-flex designs. I’ve been with the company five years now, and 75–80% of my sales are in flex or rigid-flex.
Goldman: Were these new or existing customers?
Moffat: These are all new customers. Where I was before for 15 years, we would turn down any flex orders and wouldn’t recommend any other shops; we just couldn’t do it, and it was all just rigid boards. So, I had no background in the flex design side. American Standard Circuits (ASC) is very good at promoting and marketing themselves, so we go to a lot of these shows or expos. Many people come to me at trade shows like this; in fact, that’s where I’ve met a number of these accounts—ones that I never would have looked at before.
Goldman: Had these companies been buying or designing flex and rigid-flex circuits before, or was this new for them too?
Moffat: It’s kind of half and half. Many of them have been doing it for a number of years and were looking for local support in North America. Trying to get support from overseas is difficult at best when you have time change to contend with among other things. But it’s new to some of them, and what ASC does very well is the value-added support services that my team at the head office provides. I’m not the best or most versatile person on flex, but I have a great support team.
Goldman: I suppose you’ve probably learned quite a bit over the last few years.
Moffat: It has been a very steep learning curve at times, but has worked out well.
Goldman: Well, when you’re designing flex, it’s very different every time.
Moffat: It’s new, and a lot more complex. Many designers come to us, asking us to help them with the designs; hence, the book that we published. So, that has helped out quite a bit. A number of the designers that we see at shows like this are looking for whatever help they can get because it’s complicated and where the money is, to be honest. There’s not as much competition, and I don’t have to contend with a number of other board shops for the same business.
Goldman: Are your customers getting into flex because they think it’s neat or are they feeling space constraints, etc.?
Moffat: A lot of it has to do with space constraints. Components are now to the point where you’re trying to get as much as you can into a small package, and in the overall design of these products, they’re trying to remove bulky connectors and cable harnesses. Rigid-flex design is ideal for that.
Goldman: What types of products do you see people making with flex?
Moffat: A lot of it is medical robotics, which is a field that I largely didn’t even know existed five years ago.
Goldman: And when you say medical robotics, do you mean in hospitals or homes?
Moffat: In my case, this is a product that is put into place to help people with disabilities and paraplegics and quadriplegics. So, the medical robotics serve as assistive-living aids in this case.
Goldman: When you initially mentioned medical, I started thinking about smart patches and digestible applications, but you are talking a very different medical application. The applications are snowballing.
Moffat: I wouldn’t have thought of the medical industry either. It came out of the blue at a trade show when someone asked if we could help them.
Goldman: It’s a new end market, and there are most likely many of those out there.
Moffat: Exactly, but you have to be looking around to find them; otherwise, you’re going to be lost. Over three years, some of our flex and rigid-flex customers are now my biggest accounts.
Goldman: So, it’s never the same old, same old?
Moffat: When you think it’s like that, you’re done. No, it is something new all the time, and again, I’m glad for it because with the competition now on the rigid side, I don’t know if I’d still be here without moving on into the rigid-flex arena. It has been good. There’s never a dull day, and there’s always something to learn from the people I work with at the plan, and some of them are younger than me in most cases too.
Goldman: Well, we always talk about getting younger people into the industry.
Moffat: Yes, and that’s the future of the PCB industry as well as rigid-flex.
Goldman: Thanks for your time.
Moffat: Thank you.
Visit www.I-007eBooks.com to download your free copies of American Standard Circuits’ books, The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Flex and Rigid-Flex Fundamentals and Fundamentals of RF/Microwave PCBs, as well as other educational titles. To read columns written by American Standard Circuits, click here.