Manz: A Total Process Solution


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Manz-2.jpgLiu: Yes, we work with Dow and have a very close relationship with them.

Matties: Would you say your equipment is primarily targeted for the Asia market?

Liu: More or less, yes. Our structure is this: for Asia markets, China is the biggest one, still 35–40%, Taiwan another 30%, and the rest is spread out through Asia, with a very limited percentage in Europe. Because we're a German company, we also sell a few lines to some companies in Germany.

Matties: Nothing in America?

Liu: Not yet. We have U.S.-based customers, but nothing installed in America. We need to think about how to serve the customer there before we begin selling something, because it's very long distance.

Matties: Is this something that you are looking at doing, or is it off in the distant future?

Liu: Actually, we recently hired a U.S.-territory sales manager, and the Manz group has two branch offices in the U.S. So we will try to penetrate the market through our own sales force first. But it takes time because the U.S. production is not a strong field, quantity wise. We need to choose what market we're going to penetrate because I think only prototypes and high-end boards can survive in the U.S. So first, we need to think about what kind of products will fit this market.

Matties: Let's talk about the market in China. What is driving technology there? Where do you see the market heading and what sort of demands are being put on suppliers?

Liu: Actually, we did a survey a couple of weeks ago regarding consumer electronics, especially in handheld devices. Let's take the iPhone as an example. For the iPhone 6 they are using 14-layer PCBs. I think if you want to integrate so many functions in such limited space you have to make a really, really fine line, and then the material must be ultrathin. Otherwise, you cannot manufacture 14 layers. So I think our marketing direction is in screen sizes, more integrated functions, and fine line.

Take, for example, a good etcher. Laser direct imaging (LDI) provides a very fine image, but in order to make it into a real circuit, very good developing and etching equipment is required. This is one thing, and the other is ultrathin materials. Many people are trying to process vertically. It's just preventing some thin materials from having some structure in the horizontal transportation. So I think this was still driving the equipment direction—ultrathin materials and more fine lines. This will be the future.

Matties: Cellphones are a big market for you, obviously, in China, where they are abundant. They're everywhere, but there's still a lot of room for new Chinese cellphone users, right? What sort of growth do you anticipate in cellphone sales?

Liu: I think that first we must talk about the technology difference. For example, Xiaomi is the most popular brand name in China and they are using traditional HDI—about 10 layers. If we want to penetrate this market, then we need to adjust our equipment. In the beginning we served the likes of Samsung, and now Apple, which are more high-end, so we need to adjust the equipment to more normal standards. For us, the biggest challenge is how to treat our Chinese customers. For example, how do we handle the payment terms, capacity-wise, and the reaction speeds; we need to modify both. They are expecting very high reaction. The term of the payment is different than the rest of the world, so we have to modify that.

Matties: What about the automotive industry? Is that a growing industry in China for you?

Liu: Yes, it definitely is. Last year, China sold approximately 21 million cars, which is a high volume. For us, it's due to the limited experiences with the multilayer board. So far we only have one customer, Cosmotech, which is in Korea. But we see this as a stable growth market. We think it's a positive market.

Matties: How long have you been in this business?

Liu: Since 1989.

Matties:  So you've seen a lot of change in this business arena. What is the greatest surprise that you've seen?

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