Interview: Ross Berntson – Indium Corporation

Ross Berntson has recently taken over the reins as President & COO at Indium Corporation. Trevor Galbraith interviewed Berntson to discuss his view of the company and his plans for its future.

Congratulations on your appointment. As you move into your new role, what do you think are the key strengths of Indium Corporation?

Thank you, Trevor. It’s an honor to serve the company in this new position and I’m very excited about our future. Indium Corporation is thriving as we continually deliver new and innovative products to market supported by the best technical team in the industry. 

Indium Corporation was founded as a provider of indium alloy. As a metals and interconnection company, you have expanded over the years into a variety of different markets. Which of these do you see as your core competence?

Honestly, I think our core competence remains within the hearts of our engineers. As a company, we have always been driven by invention and innovation. We’ve also always invested in building relationships within the industry. When you contact Indium Corporation, you speak directly with IPC and SMTA award-winning engineers who are ready to help you optimize your process with our materials.

Automotive applications are driving a number of new technologies, including 5G, LEDs, and LIDAR sensors. What specialized materials does Indium Corporation bring to these product areas?

Void reduction is still relevant to many industries and applications. Indium Corporation meets and exceeds industry-related requirements and expectations with high-performance Avoid the Void® solder pastes and custom-engineered materials which ensure low-spatter vacuum soldering. Our suite of materials has been developed to complement each other for enhanced reliability and ease of use.

As electronics assemblies and microelectronics packaging continues to miniaturize, what challenges does this bring and how is Indium Corporation addressing these challenges?

With miniaturization comes reliability concerns, as assemblies are expected to perform more functions faster but with a reduced footprint. The solution to this issue is two-fold: select a high-quality product that provides consistency; and optimize your process to get the most out of the material. I think our ability to help with both is what sets us apart. From solders to thermal interface materials, we can help with a highly reliable product that delivers lot-to-lot consistency. We back this up with top-notch technical support—whether you’re from a global company or a researcher working in a lab.

Will the need for higher conductivity in these smaller packages drive up the demand for higher cost Ag- and Au-based alloys?

Although the material appears to be expensive at first glance, a rigorous analysis reveals that for many high-end applications, Au-based alloys are still the most robust and cost effective solution. Whether used as preforms, ribbon or solder paste, Au-based alloys provide ease of manufacturing and high reliability.

The reduction of voids in bottom-terminated devices has been at the heart of your recent marketing messages. Is void reduction a multi-disciplinary effort or can acceptable levels of voids be achieved through chemistry alone?

Certainly, the solder paste chemistry is the most critical factor in ensuring reduced voids. Formulation innovation is where our testing has continuously shown our void-reducing solder pastes to outperform competitors. For example, Indium10.1HF Solder Paste joins our Indium8.9HF series products as an ultra-low voiding performance product for BTC devices, which also maximizes electrochemical migration and head-in-pillow performance. 

However, as you indicate, the true key to low voiding is to also optimize your process. Again, this is where our technical support engineers play such an important role. 

Thermal management—in everything from device miniaturization to crypto currency mining and 5G—is central to these emerging technologies. How is Indium Corporation developing the materials science to address these challenges?

When it comes to thermal management, maintaining a consistent bondline thickness is a challenge. Grease is unreliable and will pump-out and bake-out over time. Our metal thermal interface materials (mTIMS) give assemblers an easy-to-use drop-in replacement that not only maintains bondline planarity but also increases joint reliability. Combined with our LV1000 Flux Coating, we’re able to deliver low-voiding results, time and again.

Has the recent relaxation of regulations regarding the use of Bi in alloys presented you with any market opportunities?

Yes, low-temperature solders, which typically contain bismuth, are being piloted by many manufacturers concerned with issues related to elevated temperature exposure and to simply to improve the carbon footprint of assembly factories, In other words, low temperature reflow equates to less energy consumption. On the other end of the temperature range, bismuth-based alloys may be a high-temperature replacement such as our BiAgX. New applications are also emerging for traditional ‘step soldering’ systems, in which a low-temperature alloy is used after a higher temperature alloy, which remains unmelted in the second process). Many bismuth opportunities are emerging.

Indium Corporation is widely known to be a people company. You invest a lot into your internship programs. How has this benefited the company and its culture?

Investing in the careers of young professionals is critical to a successful tomorrow, and creates a dynamic work environment in which young talent are mentored and tested, and our experienced staff is stimulated with new ideas and energy. 

What are your future plans for the development of Indium Corporation and its brand going forward?

Indium Corporation is investing to expand capacity and capabilities to meet the ever-increasing demand of our customers. The outcome of this work is evident in our advanced materials for heterogeneous integrated packages, our novel thermal solutions, and our high-performance compound semiconductor precursors. 

–TREVOR GALBRAITH

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