Orbotech’s Gaby Waisman: 'The Future is Digital'
I sat down with Orbotech President Gaby Waisman at CPCA in Shanghai recently, and he offered a comprehensive explanation of why digitalization is truly the future, especially with regard to increasing throughputs. We also discussed Orbotech’s company vision and products, as well as its role in “helping to drive the industry into fully digitalized imaging technology.”
Starkey: Gaby, could you begin by giving me some idea of Orbotech’s company vision? How do you see the industry and its requirements for the future?
Waisman: Absolutely. So what we see today in the industry are several major trends that we need to address. One is obviously cost reduction or having better cost per print. The other one is yield enhancement, which is in a way is associated but has much more to it. The third is automation. The fourth is being greener, saving energy, catering for waste treatment and becoming greener in general, which is obviously not only one of the regulatory requirements, but in general this is what the industry is trying to strive for. What we're doing in addition is trying to add a layer of additional value and insight into the production floor team, giving them and management an ability to analyze the situation in each and every moment by aggregating information from the tools, as well as providing a business intelligence layer. We want to offer not only this kind of insight but also pre-emptive maintenance in order again to improve the uptime and overall yield of production efficiency.
Starkey: If we begin with your assessments of the market requirements, what information do you need to feed to your development people and your design people? What do you need to be producing to satisfy that market requirement?
Waisman: We need to offer digitalization. Digitalizing the production floor, we need to cater for thinner materials, tighter line-space. We need to do it faster and we need to do it more efficiently. We need to find ways to also increase the yield. And I will discuss it specifically with one of our machines. If we take a look at the booth over here, the first machine that is catering to such requirements is the Sprint, which is basically an inkjet. Its purpose is simply to digitalize the world of silk-screen, converting it from analog to digital.
Now this vision is not new. This is not the first time for us to present the inkjet machine. I believe we've been doing it for the last ten years, approximately. But we've moved gradually from offering solutions to quick turnaround, mid-production levels. For the first time now we can offer a solution for mass production. We are looking at the markets over here, Asia Pacific and definitely in China. The need is for mass production. We can offer a machine that offers similar, obviously better, cost performance, and cost per print, compared to the analog, silk screen solution. And in addition, it addresses the waste, saving steps along the process, saving on operators, saving on other factors related to the abilities of silk screen in general. And it offers better registration, alignment and so forth, and obviously automation. We can really offer, for the first time, a solution that can overhaul this industry, the mass-market, mass production industry, with this machine. This machine will be fully automated, offering up to 95 prints per hour. It offers superior quality, registration and all those aspects that not only can replace traditional silk screens but make it more efficient, save on the ink and material, make this a greener type of solution to something that is considered a base line production in the industry, and as I mentioned, in an automated way.
Starkey: I think you've made a very significant statement in saying that you now have developed inkjet printing to the level where you are confident to place it in a mass production environment. Always the association of inkjet is that it is a great technique for quick turn, small batch. In the past that's never really been suitable for the sort of volumes and the sort of throughputs you've been talking about.
Waisman: Very true. For the first time we've really managed this breakthrough from, as you mentioned, the small batch, quick turnaround, to mass production. It has been an evolutionary way, but it is a revolutionary step. This is the Sprint 200 that we're showcasing here, and I'm very confident that we are now seeing the beginning of the revolution, the era of turning analog into digital in this specific production phase.
Starkey: You have approached digital from two separate directions. You have for many years been identified as the leader in laser direct imaging for primary imaging. Now at the other end of PCB manufacturing sequence, you've brought a different digital imaging technology into play that can handle the sort of volumes and, as you say, you're helping to drive the industry into a fully digital, fully digitalized imaging technology.
Waisman: You're absolutely right, this is an additional step in the digital revolution that started about 10–15 years ago. It’s obviously apparent in each and every one of our tools. We haven't discussed the general advantages of digital versus analog—I think this is quite clear by now, with the flexibility and the other capabilities. But I think that specifically in silk screen this very important also because of the green trends and the need to have greener technologies that are digital, cost efficient, etc., and reduce the material waste. I think this is all very important in transforming this particular part of the industry.
Starkey: I can understand clearly what you're saying from personal background. I saw what could be achieved with screen printing. And screen printing can achieve very good, very precise, very high throughput results. Probably not to the level of definition that's required by today's design technology. There was a period when the interim solution was with a photoimageable ink but, as you make the point, it is a very wasteful process—probably 95% of the ink you use becomes an effluent treatment problem for you. With a digital process that's capable of very high definition, high resolution and high precision of registration, you're only using a fraction of the ink when you would be using, and you're not really creating any effluent problem at all.
Waisman: You're absolutely right. There are many other benefits, whether its serialization or enabling different types of prints in a much more flexible way, which we haven't discussed. I think the main points here are really the ability to have a digital, automated, mass market, mass production product in this tool.
Starkey: We see an increasing amount of automation in PCB manufacturing. We're very conscious of Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things, and all of the things that you have mentioned are modules that will build into this fully integrated system.
Waisman: It's all pieces of the puzzle. I think we're getting to a point in which we have the full puzzle sorted out, and this is obviously a critical piece.
Starkey: Again, from a personal point of view, I've seen the evolution of Orbotech over many years. In the beginning you were associated with optical inspection, you were associated with pre-production tooling. You've moved on from there to be an imaging company and, as I said earlier, you're imaging at the primary-image stage and you're imaging at the final-image stage. You are progressing more and more and more towards full automation. We see this as, as you said, the manufacturing concept for the future.
Waisman: When we are talking about automation, we are addressing the different types of automation required by different manufacturers, whether they need to be in line, to be side by side, and now we have roll to roll. It's all part of the need to be more efficient, have better cost per print, and have cost reduction in general. This is all part of the same trend.
Starkey: You also mentioned your ability to produce information, which is not just manufacturing information, but can give you an awful lot of feedback from the point of view of manufacturing management, business management, analysis, etc.
Waisman: We will have a short demo to show you exactly what we're referring to. I think this is a very powerful tool to increase the efficiency even further. Trying to synergize between different data that we're receiving from different tools on the production floor—just another layer of efficiency using this kind of unique synergy. The second tool is concerned with yield enhancement. As you know, 75% or so of yield issues are caused by shorts. Here we have the tool, the Ultra PerFix, which is designed for automatic optical shaping. We have definitely led this kind of concept and over the year we’ve perfected the machine, basically in order to increase the throughput of reworking shorts.
Starkey: I've observed the evolution of this system from the original concept.
Waisman: We've focused on two axes, one to increase the throughput and the other to reduce the line-space. We started around 25 or 30 microns. Now the Ultra PerFix you see here on the floor goes down to 10, and it's not only addressing the rigid but also the flex. Again, full automation, roll to roll, different table sizes. This is another specific example of how you see yield improvement in general. Now, it's not only the yield improvement when we are referring to a standard base production. People tell us okay, we've improved the yield, perhaps this will no longer be required. From our experience it's not only doing it on a regular basis but also when you change technology for processes, when you need to change production needs basically; this is a fantastic tool to verify that you don't have a drop in yield while you are doing that. When you are moving between different kinds of technology, different kinds of processes and requirements, you can maintain your yield level using these kinds of machines. I'm very proud to say that this has become a tool of record for the advanced HDI and flex industry. This is the second example.
The third example refers to perhaps our core, our legacy of being AOI market leader. In that respect we've also invested quite a lot in ensuring that we deal with two axes of throughput and line-space. So this AOI over here, the Ultra family, offers machines that go down to five microns basically. So we're referring to PCB and substrate industries, or segments within the industry. As you know this is a very unique technology offering dual light source, both blue and red. Here we're showcasing a machine that goes down to 15 microns, and this is obviously the leader in the flex industries. Now we're seeing another wave of machines going down to 10 microns in the substrate realm. We are already offering machines that have five microns with very unique technologies that can address very flexible ability to manage five to 20 microns with the same machine, and a very sophisticated optical system.
Starkey: How is your business shared between the traditional PCB industry and the substrate industry? Is there a division between these industries anymore? Are they merging together?
Waisman: For us it’s definitely part of an overall market strategy. We don't necessarily differentiate it internally in terms of the segments. We have one team addressing the industry as it is. You can call it merged or you can call it segmented, but I think that the overall strategy is to have solutions for all of those segments as part of the PCB industry.
Now let's move to another crucial piece of the puzzle, which is the imaging that you mentioned. In this respect, as you know, we have been focusing on LDIs for patterning. What happened ever since the end of 2015 is that we have for the first time offered solutions for the soldermask segment. We are using different technologies in order to be more cost efficient and to address the different requirements in terms of flex versus rigid. We launched two different DI platforms. One is the Diamond, which is the solder mask DI addressing the mass production rigid market. The other one is part of the Nuvogo family, the Nuvogo 1000, which is basically offering a solution for flex, offering superior depth of focus and other characteristics that are required for this particular segment.
We've also perfected the offering for patterning, with solutions that address the needs of the MLB segment. In this respect we just introduced here in this show the Nuvogo 780, which is a unique platform offering higher energy to address conventional resist, with a throughput that can offer a cost efficient way to move from traditional exposure into digital LDI solutions for that segment. I think that this is another very crucial piece of the puzzle that we discussed beforehand. There's obviously a growing need to introduce digital, efficient, automated solutions for the MLB market of imaging and this is in the Nuvogo 780.
Starkey: So LDI becomes a practicable solution for the mainstream MLB market, and offers a cost-effective alternative to conventional exposure with conventional resist?
Waisman: Yes. This is definitely a segment that has not yet moved into the digital imaging area. We believe in the Nuvogo 780 we can offer not only competing cost per print versus traditional exposure solutions, but offer all the other advantages of digital technology for that market segment. This is the solution we offer—all of the standard advantages of a digital product: the registration accuracy, the scaling, the ease of use, the flexibility. In this particular case we offer maximum resist flexibility, which is critical when we're talking about that particular segment, but maintain a very high throughput. This is enabled by basically offering a very unique multi-wave laser technology coupled with very high energy. The combination of all these factors is presented by the Nuvogo 780. As you can see here a throughput of 300 prints per hour.
Starkey: When you talk about 300 prints an hour you’re beginning to talk about real production throughputs. We are looking at a technology that in its earlier days offered a high level of accuracy and positional capability, but tended to be throughput-limited. You've removed that limitation now and you've moved it on a whole generation.
Waisman: Exactly. There are so many different digital advantages that not only become a necessity, but also essential in the transformation of this industry going forward.
Starkey: Gaby, thank you for a most interesting discussion. It’s clear that the future is digital!
Waisman: Pete, you’re welcome, and thanks for taking the time to come and talk to us.