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I have been following value added vendor Nujay Technologies for a number of years now because I like their story and their positive and helpful attitude. Their mission, if you will, is to provide their customers with whatever they need. They are also willing to talk to their customers and prospective customers to find out what their biggest challenges are when it comes to finding and purchasing PCBs. Thus, they embody the classic definition of a business, which is to find a need and fill it.
I sat down and talked to co-owners Nesh and Urvi Dholakia recently to catch up and see how things were going for them.
Dan: Good talking with you again. It’s always fun to see how you have been progressing since the last time we talked. What have you been up to lately?
Nesh: Dan, good talking with you. Since last time we talked, we have new alliances and strategic partnerships with domestic as well as off-shore suppliers. We have added new capabilities to our portfolio so that we can offer a complete PCB solution to our customers.
Dan: So you are using new vendors to expand your product offerings to your customers. That sounds very good. I know that your strategy is to use the flexibility that comes from not being a brick and mortar company to expand your technological capabilities so that you can provide your customers with just about any kind of PCB they might need. Let’s talk about some of these new technologies, like roll-to-roll (R2R). Who uses R2R flex and why do they use it?
Nesh: Roll-to-roll flex technology is not related to PCB design technology, but has to do with manufacturing technology. High-volume flex circuits, typically single and double sided, are manufactured using this roll-to-roll technology. By high volume, I mean hundreds of thousands of flex circuits in production in one batch. Typical users of R2R technology are, therefore, high-volume users of these flex circuits.
Dan: So is there a wide market for it?
Nesh: Yes, there is a wide market of boards with R2R technology. I was reading one online article on the demand of electronics devices manufactured by R2R technologies. As per that article, the demand is to reach nearly $22.7 billion by 2017.
Dan: I have to say that number sounds high. Where did you find that statistic?
Nesh: That came from an article I read in the webzine Solid State Technology. You have to remember, that number is for all of the business, not just the rolled PCB part of it. However, it is still a very good up-and-coming market.
Dan: It sounds like a product whose time has come.
Nesh: Yes, absolutely.
Dan: How many companies in the U.S. are doing it?
Nesh: Very frankly, I do not know. According to one of my customers, less than five companies in the U.S. and Canada are offering R2R manufacturing technologies.
Dan: I guess that opens it up for you pretty well doesn’t it?
Urvi: Yes, it does. Our niche is finding PCB solutions for customers who are having a hard time finding them for themselves
Dan: Put in that light it makes you much more than just a broker, doesn’t it?
Urvi: It does, and that is what we are striving for.
Dan: And you have some offshore partners that do rolled flex?
Nesh: Yes, Nujay has very strong partners in South Korea. I surveyed them in June of this year. There are a few good manufacturers in Taiwan and China as well. We are working to qualify one or two of them in the coming months.
Dan: Exactly what is rolled flex and how is it built?
Nesh: Roll-to-roll flex is manufactured exactly the way its name says—roll to roll. The raw material, copper clad polyimide, comes on a roll. The manufacturing facility mounts that roll on the highly sophisticated automatic processing machine. For single-sided flex circuit, this machine will unwind the roll and apply dry film, expose the image, run it through developer, etching solution, dry film stripper, and anti-oxidant applicator, and then roll back the partially finished circuitry on a roll.
After these processes, circuits on a roll are inspected and mounted on another machine, which will apply cover layers, stiffeners, and then auto punch the holes and circuit profile. Then again it is rolled back into the roll.
Many customers take delivery of circuits on rolls. I have seen some customers asking PCB manufacturers to produce flex circuits up to the last stage on R2R, but asking them to deliver flex circuits either individually or on a panel.
Some boards, due to the requirement of a specific surface finish, various stiffeners and other features (like adhesive tapes) are manufactured partially using R2R and then they are cut in to large panels for the further processes.
Dan: Tell me more about who is using it?
Nesh: As mentioned before, whoever uses high-volume flex circuits are the ones who use R2R technology. Customers who are in Industrial lighting, LED Lights and automotive lights, manufacturers of automotive dashboard gadgets, smart cables and PCB connectors, cell Phones, camera and other mobile electronics devices use flex circuits made by R2R technology. Last but not the least, customers who are in RFID-related manufacturing also use flex circuits made through this technology.
Nujay was approached by one Fortune 500 company with a request to find a suitable offshore supplier who could produce flex circuits using R2R technology. At that time, Nujay did not have a supplier who could address this requirement. However, we approached our international partners and finally found two very capable suppliers in South Korea. I personally visited Seoul in December 2014 and then again in June 2015 to meet with the factory management and audit the manufacturing facilities. The customer was impressed with the suppliers we found and immediately approved us as one of their vendors.
Dan: So let’s elaborate a little bit on something you said earlier, Urvi. You are saying that if customers want something and it’s hard to find, you will find someone to build it for them?
Urvi: Yes, that is what we do for a living and what we offer to our customers. Nujay is a mortar-less and borderless PCB supplier. Our promise to our customers is that we can source any kind of PCBs for them. We do not have any capacity, capability or geographical restrictions.
Dan: So if a company is having a problem finding a certain technology vendor they should call you?
Urvi: That is correct.
Dan: Nesh, what other technologies fall into this category? What other technologies are you providing?
Nesh: Recently, we were talking with a leading German flex manufacturer to provide rigid-flex boards with as many as 30 layers. With our domestic alliance with a Southern California-based company, we can provide quickturn HDI boards.
We can offer large volume metal core boards as well as heavy copper boards. Recently, there has been a trend to make rigid-flex boards at the fraction of the cost of making conventional rigid-flex board. [LL1] Our few partners are making such boards using high precision control depth routing. These kinds of boards find their applications in the fields where boards are not bent continuously. This means these types of boards will bend once or twice to accommodate their assembly into electronic gadgets.
Dan: Can you elaborate on heavy copper? What kind of companies use that technology?
Nesh: Heavy copper PCBs are used where there is a need of higher current. Customers in industries such as planar transformers, high-power distribution, solar power supply units, and industrial power amplifiers, etc., use heavy copper PCBs. Nujay can provide PCBs with as thick as 15 OZ copper.
Dan: What other technologies do you feel are needed that you are in the process of finding a solution to right now?
Nesh: We are currently working on via-in-pads with conductive epoxy-filled holes. The technology has been around for some time now but our customers are designing more and more boards based on this technology. Another thing we are working on is to find a reliable offshore supplier that can make heavy copper six-layer boards with aluminum core and T-Lam as prepregs.
Dan: Thank you both for taking the time to speak with me today. It has been interesting and inspiring as always.
Nesh: Thank you, Dan, for giving us an opportunity to talk with you.
For more information, go to www.nujaytech.com, or send a note to email@example.com.