Interview – Benoit Pouliquen
Benoit Pouliquen – Corporate Senior Vice President and Global Head of Electronics at Henkel CA, USA
Henkel has grown into a uniquely diverse company, largely through acquisition. What key technologies do you feel have contributed most and from which acquisitions?
Strategic acquisitions are, indeed, a central component of Henkel’s strong growth and market diversity across all of our businesses. As a case-in-point, the recent move to acquire The Sun Products Corporation underscores Henkel’s ambition to solidify a leading position in the North American laundry care business. For electronics, there have been numerous acquisitions over the years, but a few stand out as the most significant contributors. The addition of LOCTITE adhesives in 1997 not only bolstered our electronics business, but several other divisions within Henkel such as construction, transportation and consumer packaging and is one of the most globally recognized adhesive brands. In 2008, our acquisition of National Starch & Chemical solidified us as the frontrunner in die attach materials; continuous innovation has enabled us to maintain this status. And, in 2014, Henkel’s addition of The Bergquist Company to our electronics portfolio placed us squarely at the top of the thermal management sector.
An acquisition is only the beginning, however. With the technology toolbox that all of these strategic moves have provided, Henkel has leveraged the staff expertise, formulation success and chemistry platforms to continuously innovate, provide our customers with unique, product-enabling materials and maintain our global leadership status.
As microelectronics get smaller, thermal issues become exponentially greater. What materials and technologies will come out of the Henkel stable to enable reliable microelectronics assemblies in the future?
This is absolutely true and is largely why Henkel made the strategic Bergquist Company acquisition. With today’s shrinking dimensions and expanding functionality, thermal management is more critical than ever for reliable performance. We also recognize that the successful thermal control solutions of the past, while still effective for some applications, may not necessarily satisfy the needs of current and future product designs. Innovation is essential in order to meet our customers’ evolving reliability requirements. For example, Henkel recently introduced GAP PAD EMI 1.0, an award-winning thermal interface material that combines both heat management and EMI absorption capabilities to help streamline processing and enhance component function. Higher thermal conductivity and lower stress materials, such as GAP PAD HC 5.0, satisfy the needs of high power density applications within internet and computing infrastructures.
But, when it comes to microelectronics, being able to automate thermal material deposition and conform to smaller dimensions is the way forward for Henkel’s development initiatives. This is where formulation expertise is critical, as developing robust thermal performance in a dispensable material takes some know-how. Our liquid dispensed thermal solutions, like Gap Filler and LIQUI-FORM materials, enable a high degree of automation for maximum throughput and compatibility with challenging topographies and architectures.
You arrived at Henkel through the Bergquist acquisition. How much will your experience at Johnson Matthey, Sheldahl and Bergquist influence the future strategy of the Henkel electronics division?
I think the professional experiences I’ve had during my 30-year career in electronics have more than prepared me for this role and, uniquely, the scope of Henkel’s broad electronics offering. My past leadership positions have spanned the semiconductor fabrication materials, assembly materials and PCB and flex circuit manufacturing markets. Having this foundation is invaluable and certainly informs strategic and tactical decisions. I’m also fortunate to be surrounded by a team of exceptionally talented, smart colleagues and empowering them is central to delivering on our strategic objectives.
You have made great strides with your encapsulants and overmoldings. What can we expect to see from your solder family?
The industry has also witnessed significant product development success over the last couple of years with our solder materials. The 2015 introduction of LOCTITE GC 10, the game-changing, temperature stable solder paste, has defied all of the naysayers and proven its worth both on and off the line. The unique stability of the material delivers unmatched logistics simplicity, printing performance, reflow capability, the industry’s lowest defect rates and significant cost savings. We have continued to expand the LOCTITE GC portfolio with a water washable version, LOCTITE GC 3W, and will soon release a high-reliability formulation that incorporates our award-winning 90iSC alloy. This is just the start; there’s plenty more to come.
Miniaturization keeps pushing the limits and we are constantly staying ahead of the curve. Smaller form factors and continuing integration of function will remain challenges going forward, which has many implications from a materials perspective.
Your LOCTITE GC 10 product extended the pot life on many solder materials. Have your customers started to see real financial benefits from this product?
Absolutely. The stability of LOCTITE GC 10 ensures real benefits that translate to cost savings at every stage of use. With no refrigeration required, transport and on-site storage costs are significantly reduced. Stability on the line results in less material waste, superior printing performance, a wide reflow process window and excellent solderability in air, the ability to qualify a single material for multiple applications, and overall defect reduction for higher yields. In a nutshell, it saves on shipping, on scrap, on storage, on defect rates, on nitrogen use and on NPI qualifications.
But, this isn’t just Henkel talking. Recent independent, third-party testing compared LOCTITE GC 10 to three other commonly used industry solder pastes. The results were stunning. In the printing process, which has been identified as the area that accounts for close to 70% of defects, LOCTITE GC 10 outperformed all of the evaluated pastes in transfer efficiency, process capability (Cpk) and defects per million (DPM) on very challenging component types. Reflow capability in air was a similar story. As of today, LOCTITE GC 10 is unrivaled in its advantages and its ability to lower costs.
Do you see any major technology challenges ahead?
This industry is certainly never boring! Miniaturization keeps pushing the limits and we are constantly staying ahead of the curve. Smaller form factors and continuing integration of function will remain challenges going forward, which has many implications from a materials perspective. These dynamics drive the need for more effective thermal control, the movement of conventional solutions for challenges like EMI from the board to the package level, and dual function materials that combine capability such as protection and heat transfer, for example.
Henkel is well-positioned to offer solutions to the forthcoming challenges – perhaps even before our customers have to conquer them. Historically, that’s been the case. With products like LOCTITE GC 10 temperature stable solder paste, conductive die attach film and package-level EMI solutions, Henkel was the first to market. We have a broad and deep technology toolbox and this has served our customers well as we penetrate new market spaces, develop innovative materials and provide enabling solutions.
You have added the displays division to the Henkel Electronics Group. What does that comprise and where do you see the synergies?
Previously part of another business unit, Henkel’s device and display business is focused on adhesives and surface treatments for various display modules, enclosures and peripherals. Within the Electronics division there is a broad portfolio of electronic inks, adhesives for barrier films and one drop fill (ODF) sealants that serve the display space. There is such broad customer and project synergy that joining the two groups together under a single business unit made perfect sense, both from the Henkel and the customer perspective. This holistic structure, now housed within Henkel Adhesive Electronics, offers our customers a streamlined value chain and solutions knowledge base that is unmatched.
The many acquisitions that Henkel has made in recent years have propelled it into the upper echelons of industry giants, alongside such companies as Dow and DuPont. How do you compare to them and how do you compete?
There are several strong players in the electronic materials sector, to be sure. Henkel is proud to be one of them and of our status as the recognized industry leader in several segments such as die attach and thermal materials, among others. We believe our differentiation and competitive advantage are firmly rooted in innovation, advanced research and comprehensive global service and support. The breadth of the Henkel electronics portfolio and our global footprint are quite unique among electronics materials suppliers and our customers appreciate the value this delivers.
Where is the next big sea change coming from for Henkel. Will it be an acquisition, a new product family or incremental organic growth?
All of the above, actually. We are constantly exploring new markets, developing novel materials both for existing and emerging applications and keeping our eye on strategic acquisitions that advance our business objectives. Fortunately, Henkel has had success with all of these endeavors historically and we expect the same going forward.