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During a recent tour of the MKS facility in Beaverton, Oregon, I met with Todd Templeton, Chris Ryder, Kyle Baker, and Martin Orrick. As a reminder, MKS acquired ESI in 2019 and has retained the ESI brand. In this interview, they explain their approach to HDI and ultra HDI, the current state of base materials, and what the future looks like on the cutting edge of technology.
Nolan Johnson: Todd, what are you seeing in the market and what’s happening with your customers? What are the dynamics and what are their pain points?
Todd Templeton: When it comes to HDI, we have seen a big shift in historical spending recently, with a lot more investment into the IC substrate space. In 2019, we introduced the Geode™ drilling system, primarily targeted at the HDI market. Since then, we’ve heard customers say, “That’s great, but what can you do for me over here in IC substrate?” Therefore, we’re looking at ABF (Ajinomoto Build-up Film) substrates and investing more heavily to meet customer demand.
Chris Ryder: We’re expanding the Geode CO2 via drilling system into that IC substrate space, and it has turned out to be an excellent modular platform for a broad range of applications. It has worked well in adopting and adapting into various rigid panel products. The Geode via drilling system already has quite a breadth of range from standard commodity HDI products to mSAP and SLP substrates, but these are all copper-clad materials. Hence, we’ve been evolving and adapting the platform toward an additional ABF-specific configuration for the FCBGA market with a future plan to expand in that market.
To be clear, we already serve some portion of the ABF-based market with the higher end of the Geode via drilling system configurations, but there’s effort to focus more specifically on that product range and market segment. As we move forward, we’ll certainly be sharing more details.
Johnson: Are you finding more willingness to invest uniformly across the globe?
Templeton: Yes, we’re seeing it all over. It’s not regionally dependent. As Chris was saying, we have a solid platform with our products to address the HDI and mSAP markets, but our customers are saying, “Our investment has increasingly shifted to IC substrate; do you have a solution for me there?” With some minor adjustments to our system architecture, we can have a compelling product in that space. It has been driving some of our development and focus in the rigid panel space. When it comes to flex, we have multiple legs of the stool that support demand for our products.
Johnson: When the pandemic started, you had a good idea that those applications would lead the way. Has that shifted and changed?
Templeton: Has it changed? Primarily, that time was driven by 5G. We were looking to make sure everything had the right components, such as antennas, the bay stations, etc. I don’t think that it’s shifted much since then.
Ryder: The pandemic created more demand for high-power, high-performance computing, or “HPC.” That’s certainly been a driver behind the FCBGA and ABF upward trend. Development in this market was there before the pandemic, but the focus has grown and accelerated demand since.
Johnson: As well as the cloud-based data centers, and core streaming content?
Ryder: Yes. Servers, HPC, and data centers have definitely seen growth. There has been an uptick in demand over the last couple of years. On the other hand, our customers have become more thoughtful about which technologies to invest in, as well as the timing of these investments. This has somewhat changed the technology adoption pace of the past decade or so.
Johnson: It would seem to imply it’s slowing down and getting conservative.
Ryder: Not necessarily. Manufacturers are looking to react more swiftly to present trends vs. second guessing long-term trends. Our customers, for example, are looking for shorter lead times on our equipment to facilitate more timely decisions on when to execute for product integration, product implementation, and time to market. There have been some areas in the industry where we’ve succeeded by having a quicker response to those demands. When customers decide to pull the trigger on a project, they can’t deal with a one-year lead time for a manufacturing tool. Our agility has been beneficial for us.
To read this entire conversation, which appeared in the November 2022 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.