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Interested in all aspects of our industry, I have lately been especially focused on our suppliers, because more and more of my board shop clients are concerned about their vendor support chain as more of them are either reducing their presence in North America or leaving altogether. I am also keenly interested in companies whose mission it is to help the PCB industry survive, especially a company that does not abandon the “little guys,” but rather is focused on helping those smaller companies to compete with the giants whose goal is to run them over.
Artnet Pro is one of those companies; their goal is to provide companies with the best in high- tech equipment at affordable prices. So I felt it was important that everyone know about this company and what they do for the industry. With that in mind, I turned to my friend Meir Polack, one of the founders and owners of Artnet Pro, to discuss what his company is doing to support their customers all over the world and what he thinks of the North American and global markets today.
Dan: Meir it is good to see you. Thanks for talking to me today.
Meir: Hi Dan. It is great talking to you and thank you for opportunity.
Dan: So let’s get some history. What is your background?
Meir: I went to college in Israel for hardware, computers and optics engineering. I joined Orbotech in 1986 shortly after my graduation, I worked there for five years. During my time at Orbotech I worked on the AOI machines as well as the imaging systems, getting a lot of experience in the field of optics, hardware, mechanical assembly, applications and computers. In 1991, Orbotech transferred me to the USA to work as a senior customer support engineer specializing in optical, mechanical and application issues.
I left Orbotech in 1997 and opened a joint venture with a good friend and fellow worker in Orbotech, Roni Hod. Together we started Image Pro, which was a service provider for the graphic art products and the PCB photoplotters. The company was growing very quickly up to 2000 when we merged with Artnet Technology. They were specializing in engineering services for the PCB industry.
The new company we established was named Artnet Pro. In this new company we combined all services together for the PCB industry—plotting services, scanning services, PCB design, engineering and CAM services as well as equipment services, sales and support for Orbotech equipment. Since then, the company has grown by supporting the PCB industry with Camtek and Orbotech equipment and the CAM engineering services, including reverse engineering, scanning, file conversions, photoplotting and more.
Recently we added company a service department supporting LDI equipment with both sales and support. Our goal is to find alternative solutions to current expensive high-end machines now available on the market. We are trying to find lower cost solutions for those customers who can’t afford spending millions of dollars on equipment in order to survive and be able to compete in today’s tough marketplace.
Dan: So, your primary goal is to help companies have the best equipment they can afford?
Meir: Yes, we are trying to help as many companies as possible to achieve technology levels that will help them compete in this very expensive market. As you know Dan, the price of equipment is getting higher all the time and if you are say, a five or 10 or even $15 million shop you have a very hard time paying almost a million dollars for an LDI machine.
Dan: A million dollars—is that really what they cost?
Meir: Yes, once you add in preparing the room to place it in and the ongoing maintenance agreements.
Dan: So what can you provide them for as an example?
Meir: That varies. We can provide a good used rebuilt 4-watt Orbotech LDI for around $175K and a 16-watt Orbotech for about $400K and that is installed and maintained and with a one-year guarantee.
Dan: That is truly affordable. And having that equipment is a real game changer for a board shop.
Meir: Yes, absolutely.
Dan: So, what is the make-up of the company? Tell me about the rest of your team and where they are located.
Meir: My partner Roni Hod also came from Orbotech-Israel where he managed the mechanical assembly department, which had more than 25 employees. This department assembled plotters and AOI machines per customers’ orders. They worked with companies from all around the world. During this time Roni gained a lot of experience in complicated mechanical assemblies, R&D and managing. In 1992 Roni was relocated by Orbotech to the San Jose office where he was mechanical expert to resolve complicated issues at customers’ sites. In fact, we currently have a few ex-Orbotech and Camtek engineers working for us here in the USA, in San Jose.
Dan: Tell me more about that facility.
Meir: Our large facility in San Jose is where we are doing everything for CAM equipment including rebuilding the machines as well spare parts storage, repair and testing parts. We also have a clean room for rebuilding and refurbishment the LDI equipment.
Dan: And I understand you have a facility in China as well?
Meir: We also have a facility in China that is managed by our partner, Danny Mor, another ex-Orbotech engineer with many years of experience as a product expert. Danny also managed the customer service department of Nova USA. The China facility is also selling refurbished Orbotech and Camtek machines and giving support services for those machines. In the China office we also have some ex-Orbotech and ex-Camtek engineers. And we recently opened a new operation in Southwest Asia and added few engineers in this area as well.
Dan: Meir can you describe in detail exactly what your offerings are?
Meir: The main core of the business is the equipment services and the CAM engineering services. Currently, we are concentrating on the LDI market which is a growing up market around the world. We are continuing to try and provide the best possible alternative solutions to small and medium businesses in the PCB market, so that they will be able to keep and compete in this tough market by meeting the future challenges of the PCB production technology. We are offering an affordable solution with secondhand machines that we are refurbishing in our facilities; the machines we are selling come with a full warranty for up to 12 months. Additionally, we are offering yearly maintenance services for Camtek and Orbotech equipment, including Orbotech LDI, with attractive prices as possible.
Dan: Who are your customers?
Meir: Currently we are servicing customers like Bay Area, Streamline, Sanmina, Delta Circuit, Sunrise, Rockwell Collins, Naval Crane division, Westak, and many more in the USA and around the world.
Dan: Can you go into more detail about reverse engineering?
Meir: We have a team of professionals who are specialists in artwork and bare PCB boards scanning; they can provide our customers with Gerber data that can be used later for editing or redesign purposes. We have a very high rate of success and customer satisfaction for a professional customer support in the reverse engineering services.