PD&D interviews Jim Griffin, Vice President of Sales and Service at BTU International, to discuss the new Dynamo reflow oven that is specially designed for portable electronics.
BTU International is a global supplier and technology leader of advanced thermal processing equipment and processes to the electronics manufacturing and alternative energy markets. BTU equipment is used in solar cell, nuclear fuel, and fuel cell manufacturing as well as in the production of printed circuit board assemblies and semiconductor packaging. BTU has operations in North Billerica, Massachusetts and Shanghai, China with direct sales and service in the U.S.A., Asia and Europe.
Here we spoke with Jim Griffin about BTU’s new Reflow Oven, Dynamo, recently launched and specially designed for Portable Electronics.
Q. Jim, we understand that you are introducing a new reflow platform. With the great success of your award-winning Pyramax, why is the company introducing a new platform?
We introduced the Pyramax in the late 1990’s. The Pyramax has been upgraded and new features have been introduced in the years since then, and by almost anyone’s estimation it’s the best performing reflow oven in the market now, but the market has gone through significant changes in some segments in the last few years. In the Portable Electronics segment cost is a major factor. Many manufacturers are trying to get by with ovens that only offer low initial cost and end up with an unreliable machine doesn’t offer a stable process. We felt there was an opportunity to develop a reflow oven that had the quality and process performance that you’d expect from BTU, but met the cost requirements required for Portable Electronics manufacturers.
Q. How has the industry changed since the PYRAMAX was designed?
When Pyramax was designed in the late 1990’s it was early in the growth stage of the global EMS (Electronics Manufacturing Subcontractor). There was significant market growth in communications infrastructure, with the internet and mobile communications driving much of that. Our customers needed both performance and flexibility. They wanted to run “any board, anytime, anywhere”, and some of those boards included very heavy and wide back-plane boards. Pyramax was developed with 24 inch width capability for this reason. In addition, BTU’s exclusive Closed Loop Convection Control was a major benefit to global customers, allowing them to have the same convection performance regardless of geography.
Today one of the fastest growing segments of the market is Portable Electronics. We’ve all noticed that the meteoric rise of the tablet and the Smartphone is taking over the mobile phone market, but most of us don’t realize that Portable Electronics has different production needs from electronics for Industrials (server, military, medical, power, etc) and Semiconductor Packaging. Portable Electronics is the market that relies on production quality and efficiency, with low cost of ownership. Portable Electronics needs to use equipment that has high uptime, excellent repeatability and reliability, so that with the investment of the fixed assets, they produce high volume and high quality products. This is even more important to high-volume manufacturers because they have multiple lines that produce large volume of boards within one factory or even across different factories. Repeatability is critical for them to ensure stable and good quality of end products across the lines and maximize their throughput overall. Meanwhile, the consumer wants to pay less now for better product than their last handset. BTU has been listening to the needs of these customers, and developed Dynamo bringing Portable Electronics unmatched repeatability and reliability. Through series of tests from feasibility to customer evaluation, in the field of consumer electronics, we proved that with Dynamo you pay less and you get the performance you expect from BTU.
Q. What should customers expect with Dynamo?
In a word, value. They’ll get BTU reliability and performance for less money than they expect for a quality BTU product. How could we provide an affordable product for Portable Electronics with the quality and performance that customers expect from BTU? The secret is combining innovation and simplicity. The goals of our design team were aligned with our customers’ needs for performance at a low cost.
Dynamo provides unmatched thermal performance for Portable Electronics. Uniformity across the process chamber is superb. Repeatability on same profile same system across different days, as well as repeatability across ovens are a unique benefit Dynamo brings to Portable Electronics. This is accomplished by our unique design of convection flow dynamics, together with our unique feature of Close Loop Convection Control. We’ve fully utilized our knowledge from Pyramax, and earlier ovens, to make a new product with great thermal performance.
Besides reliability and repeatability to ensure good quality for our customers’ products, we’ve also focused on high uptime. Dynamo was developed with a focus on ease of maintenance. Parts can be easily accessed and removed, because we know that time spent changing parts detracts from customers’ throughput. We lay out the oven in a way that makes it easy to do maintenance and service. One major design change on the Dynamo is that we moved the blower motor out of process chamber. We know that a good product requires less service.
In addition, Dynamo is also supported by our world-class team of service and applications professionals.
Q. Now that BTU has two reflow oven products: Dynamo and Pyramax, could you share with us your strategy on the two products?
Dynamo is designed for Portable Electronics. The targeted customers are manufacturers of notebooks, Smartphones, tablets, as well as other light to medium boards.
These manufacturers’ most obvious goal is low cost of ownership of their equipment. The less obvious but as critical goal is reliability and performance of their equipment. Dynamo is designed for low cost of ownership and great reliability and performance, with a focus on the high uptime and yield. Dynamo’s unmatched repeatability is geared for large-sized manufacturers with high volume products.
Pyramax, the winner of over 15 industry awards in the last five years, has long been considered the benchmark for performance in the industry. Pyramax is known for unparalleled flexibility running boards as large as 24 inch, maximum temperature up to 400°C max temperature and O2 level as low as 3ppm. Pyramax features an incredible variety of options to meet customers’ various process requirements. Advanced options include: dual-lane dual-speed and HE flux management system for different applications requirements. Customization will still be a highlight of Pyramax.
In total BTU now offers a two-tiered product line that meets the individual needs of the market segments.
Q. How do you anticipate the Portable Electronics market will evolve? What’s BTU’s strategy to the market trend?
We expect the trend of outsourced production to EMS/ODM segment to continue. Recent reports indicate that the portion of 3C (consumer, communications, and computing) electronics that will be produced by EMS/ODM’s will grow by over 15% in the next years to 65% in 2016. We have a number of key customers in this segment and know that delivery, reliability and performance are key factors. Meanwhile, as the ASPs of the products are declining due to consumers’ demands and strong competition, our customer’s profit margins are shrinking. This motivates them to focus on cost even more intensely.
Dynamo’s focus on value is a direct response to that need and trend. BTU will continue to focus on design innovation to drive cost down. The other critical goal for both Pyramax and Dynamo is to keep them the best product in their respective market segment. The secret to maintain BTU’s position in the global market is continuous product enhancement and quality focus.
Geographically we expect the capacity growth to be led by China, Taiwan and Korea and emerging countries like Vietnam, Brazil and India. We continue to maintain a strong service presence in these countries.
Q. BTU has continued to maintain a strong global service infrastructure to support customers in both the electronics and solar markets. Please describe your service infrastructure.
We’ve really focused on keeping a world-class service organization. We know it is so vitally important to our customer base to have the support there when they need it. We employ a network of both direct service engineers and indirectly through our local service partners. Geographically we organize our support activities through our three global hubs in the US, China and the UK. From there we coordinate the efforts of our teams. We are fortunate to have service personnel, both in service management and customer-facing, with extensive experience on our systems and with many decades of combined experience. We provide ongoing training to keep the skill level top notch. Because of our participation in multiple markets our global footprint is extensive. We use our broad experience to develop best practices that are deployed across all of our market segments. For example, our semiconductor packaging customers introduced us to PBET certified training – we thought it was so effective that it is now our standard offering.
We also have very strong applications engineering teams, with labs located in both the US and China, we’re able to collaborate closely with our customers on their process development and optimization.