Interview: Richard Boyle, Henkel Corporation

Trevor Galbraith talks to Richard Boyle from Henkel Corporation about some of the future challenges with materials compatibility and a fascinating glimpse into how the world of printing is likely to evolve.

I am here with Richard Boyle, who is, the Global Product Manager?

The Global Technical Champion, I think is my title at the moment. I concentrate mainly on the solder materials, but looking over the whole product range within Henkel right now, and what benefits we can have from all the products we currently supply.

Henkel, manufactures a very wide range of different products, from encapsulant materials, to solders, etc. Let’s talk a little bit about the compatibility of these materials because one of the issues in electronics manufacturing, generally, is CTE mismatches. The minute you apply heat to the process, everything goes – pear-shaped.

That is not only down to the physical characteristics, the CTE mismatches, but you have the opportunity perhaps for some chemical interaction, as well that you were not expecting that could suddenly occur. What you find is, a company or customer will approve a single product, remotely from anything else. So they will approve an underfill, or they will approved a conformal coating, they will approve an adhesive, but they do not test them all together. That sometimes can throw-up some interesting results, because you do not know what is going to happen if you under-cure one, if you do not do exactly the right thing with something else. You may find chemicals there that you were not expecting. Within the Henkel Group, we are quite fortunate I would say, because we have that ability with the whole range of products that we can compare what interactions there could be. As a company, we are looking to develop materials that are, looking to be best in class in everything, specifically, from an environmental and sustainability point of view, so we want chemicals and products that are as safe as possible, as robust as possible on the board. As an individual product, you can test that and say yes, that is fantastic. Then when you combine, say conformal coating with a solder paste, you don’t know necessarily what that reaction is going to be. Part of the development process we have now is to look at that interaction, that compatibility, so working with the solder products, that comes into contact with pretty much everything that’s on the PCB. We, as part of the process there, are looking at testing those materials with the underfill, with the conformal coating, with firmly conductive materials, with gap pads, anything that you might put on top of the PCB to make the final product, to make sure they all work together. This is great for us as a company because we have all of these products. My concern generally is with the wider industry, where someone is perhaps using material they have used for 15-20 years, very happy with it, pretty safe, no issues with it at all, but what they tested it with, what they approved it with, is nothing like what they are using now, and then they add more materials on top. As an industry, we need to take a step back from who does what, who’s to blame for what, what are we doing here? We need to look at coming up with a solution, that enables us all, to show that there is compatibility with individual groups.

I think that is essential. It is going to become an essential part of the mix going forward because once we arrive at the point where we can make all of these machines talk to each other seamlessly, the next step is going to digitize the material’s characteristics and data.

Absolutely, I would agree one-hundred-percent. What the end-customer wants isn’t for us to say, don’t worry – it’s a step forward. What they actually need is maybe an independent test house that has that depository, has that library of those connections to say, we know if you’re using this amount of power, this temperature, something within that range – these products work together.

And even further than that. Once you get these material’s set identified, how did it travel?, what’s the storage? What about different environments, etc.?

You can look at a production line in a beautiful factory in Europe where they are making, maybe, one or two hundred products a week. You then take that same material set to factory that is producing twenty-thousand products a day and the combination is completely different, the handling process is different. There is more potential for interactions, for oddities to occur, things to happen that you never expected to happen.

I think you are right. The other thing that is going to push this forward, we talked about earlier, is the lot sizes are reducing. What’s happening is there is more customization coming into the business so people are not making five-thousand of a product, but they are making five-hundred. So the decision time is a lot shorter.

You have to make that decision instantly. It is moving forward on from the Industry 4.0, we’re looking at situations that now where someone like Amazon might suddenly say I need five-hundred tablets next week. The person producing that has to produce those five-hundred to deliver on the day you want. Not hold a massive store, not have fifty-thousand produced in one day. That amount of flexibility. We are probably looking at smaller factories closer to the end-customer, close to the warehouse, much more flexibility. That flexibility is where, potentially, you can get a mismatch happening. You don’t want to be cleaning off Product A and then put it into Product B. You want to be running continuously with something. That’s where the processing becomes a lot more strict, but more flexible. You have to have better controls at what you are doing, but be as flexible as possible.

It’s a fascinating subject, Richard, I could talk about it all day. Let’s get back to the real world for a moment. Looking at applications today though, we are having massive debates between jet-printing and stencil-printing. What is your view on this?

To be honest, in the short- medium-term, there is obviously going to be a need for stencil-printing because that is the way it is. People produce a two-dimensional board. The quickest way of doing that, by far, is by stencil. Even with the fastest machines in the world, we have a test board that we use, we have different equipment, we can print a test board in twelve seconds. We can jet the material in two-and-half-minutes. There’s a quality difference there. There are benefits for each one. I think for the future, that’s going to become a lot more integrated. You are going to have on the PCB high power close to very, very small, very fine-pitched devices. You can’t have that printed in one go. Even with stepped stencils, there is going to be limitations to what you are going to need to do. I can see the future as having to integrate initially the stencil-printing, followed by jetting, followed by adding in additional material, for doing those fine-pitched products. In the future, wearable tech, 3D materials, you’re going to have to have the ability to do the jetting.

You just need to get the jetting faster and keep up with the line speed. It’s also going to fold into this fact of the smaller job lots.

And the flexibility of a jetting machine you just barcode the next product you want to do and it’s instantly set up. For printing, the limitation is you have to take out the stencil, you have to clean it, put a new stencil in and that can, in some factories I’ve been to, take twenty minutes. In other factories, it can take hours. You don’t have that time. Time is expensive. Jetting machine, you just barcode and it’s done.

Also, jetting machines cut down on the defects you get. Seventy-percent of the process defects come from the printer. A lot of it is because it is a stencil.

It’s down to handling of the stencil, damage to the stencil, even the way the solder paste has been handled. There are so many factors that come in to it. Whereas if you are jetting, as long as the material in the jet head is stable, you are going to get a very repeatable result. Maybe not the same speed, maybe not the same number, but for that type of tech, it’s exactly what you want.

Fascinating talking to you Richard. Thank you for giving us a glimpse into the future.

– Trevor Galbraith


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