Are There Advantages to Changing Your Registration System?
I recently had a conversation with DIS's Tony Faraci at IPC APEX EXPO 2015, to learn more about their pinless registration system. What was most interesting to me are the potential advantages a pinless system offers and if so, why the process has not been widely adopted.
Barry Matties: Hello, Tony. Thanks for sitting down with me today. Could you please tell us about the DIS pinless registration system?
Tony Faraci: Yes, thanks, Barry. What is happening with this type of a system, as opposed to a conventional pin lamination technology, is that we are optically aligning all the internal layers of a panel. Conventional wisdom used to be that you would post-etch punch all your cores and then pin. Now, you are eliminating that whole process. You are eliminating pinning, you're eliminating all of that punching and all of that pin tooling and now we are optically aligning all the layers and tack bonding them together.
By optically aligning, all those mechanical pin tolerances are eliminated, and of course you are not limited to certain panel sizes. The layers are aligned optically and then we use an induction bonding system that actually bonds the layers together. The advantage here is that the registration can be checked before lamination, which really can't be done with any type of pinning system.
You can kind of do it with a riveting system, let's say, or eyelets, but with this type of system, now you can check your registration before going into the lamination press, then you laminate the panel, come out, and now you can again check the registration of that panel. Having the data immediately before and after lamination can show what's happening inside the press.
Besides this valuable data set, this is also telling you what our system is doing. It's giving you an overall view at different points of the process which they've never been able to do before. You can kind of do it with a riveting system but you're not going to do such high layer counts and it will not be repeatable. So DIS pinless technology is the next step up from pin because it eliminates all those mechanical problems.
Matties: For those who already have a pin system in place, are there any special processes or changes that they have to make?
Faraci: It changes a little bit in the process. What you're doing is using similar targets like they do on a punching machine, but now they are adding these welding coupons. They are just a quarter-inch by three-quarter-inch solid copper pads at four points on the panel that we'll use to tack bond.
Where it really changes is the reduced handling and lay-up. The machine is basically an optical lay-up machine, so instead of handling the panel once at post-etch punch and then going through oxide or oxide alternative, where there is some more stretching of the layer, and then laying up on mechanical pins, where most of the bulk error is, we’re only handling it once, at optical lay-up.
We're not selling a product that's competing against the post-etch punch; it's a process change. It eliminates that pin-up process and instead is optically aligning the layers; this really is the biggest change.
It's a little bit different in the process, so there is a learning curve. But the benefit for the customer is great, because now they can start looking at what's happening in the press. Today, most high-end shops work with pins, so what do they do, they lay up a book and you don't know if there's a shift -did it happen at lay-up, did it happen in the press, did it happen at transport?
So, that's one of the biggest changes. Another product that we developed about six years ago was a multi-camera system that allows us to check the layers front to back, in order to figure out where the best fit positions are for that layer. That also works well with our systems, because that data gets captured and it goes into our alignment systems.
Matties: How does that benefit?
Faraci: Let's say a customer is running higher-end boards. They can, if they have an LDI process for example, print a 2D bar code on every layer, serialize the core, and then our multi-camera system can actually measure that core and capture the positional data. And of course it's tied to that serial number.
Then when it gets to our alignment machines, they read that barcode and they know the positional data of that core, based on the eight targets, and now we can process the panel. So it enables all our existing two-camera machines—for example, what they have at DSG—once customers buy this unit, they’re able to have it work like an eight-camera system. Or you could use it off line just to measure panels to make sure that the layers are within tolerance before you use them at lay-up.
Matties: So, with your system the border is now smaller?
Faraci: Yes. What happens is we don't have a slot or a pin or any of that stuff; we have a small welding coupon and it can be as little as six millimeters, a quarter of an inch wide, and that's it. They can place it closer to the edge. On average, some customers are seeing about 12-15 millimeter borders. They've cut that border down a lot. It gives them a lot more panel utilization.
Matties: How many installations do you have here in the US?
Faraci: Right now of the latest versions of machines in total, worldwide, we've got about 70 of these units installed. We've been getting a few more over the last few years in the United States, which is kind of nice, and in Europe. It's diversified a little bit, not just selling only in one area.
Now, of course we've started to introduce a registration system for flex. This is our first machine here at IPC APEX EXPO, which is the Automated Rigid Flex system and with this machine, we can tack bond on the internal part of the panel. Many customers who run flex actually pin on the inside of the panel. Instead of pinning, we've eliminated that process and we'll internally bond the layers. That's our latest new product.
Matties: Then, also in the lamination process, I understand that your plates are untooled?
Faraci: There are no holes; there's nothing...exactly. Much cleaner. With the pin process, for example, you're locked into certain panel sizes and for some shops that's okay. But there are a lot of headaches where you have pins and bushings. You have to clean the lam pins and you have to clean the bushings. It's a lot of work. The separator plates are dirtier because again, you get these resin spots and so on. So, you eliminate a lot of that cleaning and checking. Also, the other thing that I say with our system, depending on what type of press you have of course, you don't really need a heavy lamination plate.
The reason for a lamination plate is to have enough engagement into the pin to hold the pins for the top and bottom. So that's why people use a lam plate. But, if you have decent platens on your press and decent separator plates, you don't really need a lam plate. A lot of customers have gotten away from them, like DSG. What that does is, if you have a decent press, you're going to get really good heat transfer from the platens and you get a much better product that way.
Matties: With all the benefits that are visible, why have you only sold 70?
Faraci: This is the part that always frustrates us. Why only 70? It’s a bit frustrating that the customer base has been very slow to adapt to it, until they get a system in and then they say “Why didn’t we do this earlier?”
Matties: What are the roadblocks?
Faraci: The biggest roadblock I think has been that many customers that do have existing tooling don't want to change over, because they have a lot of money, time, and development into that process, so they see this not as an equipment change, it's a process change. So, it's been a much harder sell for us, to change that process. I think as registration requirements are getting tighter and tighter, it's inevitable, it's going to happen; they will need to optically align the layers.
I lived most of my earlier career selling tooling machines and going into places and looking at the registration, and that's when I decided to start making the equipment and start working on an optical lay-up system because I saw the limitations of the mechanical pinning process, and it wasn't a machine problem, it's a process problem.
The biggest roadblock for me has really been the process change. In Asia it's been much easier because they're already doing some kind of an eyeletting process which is similar and they don't want to go to a pin lamination system because it's costly.
In the US and somewhat in Europe, but mostly the US, the roadblock is that they have a lot of time and money invested in tooling and they don't want to change the process. Also, I believe that the process engineers are very busy and they view a process change as risky. It’s a safer bet to go the old proven method than the perception of sticking their neck out for a new technology. I think that's the biggest one. It's really not the equipment cost. It's really the process change.
Matties: Do you find this mentality of process change in America to be an issue?
Faraci: Mostly in the USA, I have to tell you. In Asia I find that the process change hasn't been the issue. They've embraced it much more quickly. In USA it's been kind of hurting us with a lot of the customers, but in Europe as well, although in Europe they’re more open to it. In the US I've had really the most difficult time. It frustrates us, because we make the equipment here and it's designed, developed and patented here.
Matties: Have you measured cycle time reduction? Do you know what that would be compared to traditional?
Faraci: Yes, actually we're a little bit faster because we're eliminating the double handling. Because when you use a pin lam process, you're handling the layer at punching, and then you're handling the layer again at lay-up. Here the lay-up and alignment is all in one unit.
Matties: How much time have you estimated that they save?
Faraci: It's about 20% faster with our process, because what happens is when you get to our system you're going through the machine, it's doing the alignment, so as soon as it has completed the first panel, it is ready to go into book lay-up and into the press. Whereas in a pinning process you have to punch all the layers first and then start. With optical lay-up you get it in the press faster.
Matties: That 20% adds up fast.
Faraci: Yes, exactly. Now, every shop is going to be a little bit different depending on how many layers they do and so on. That's been about the average that's usually reported by my customers, not by us.
Matties: Tony, thank you so much.
Faraci: All right, well thank you very much and I appreciate it.