Automation and Traceability Critical for High-Throughput Probe Testing


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Matties: You mentioned R&D. When your R&D team is working, how much customer input do they take to drive their next generation? Or are they looking ahead of their customers and saying, "Here's what you are going to need?"

Brandt: This is one of the most critical issues. In the R&D department, with what they are doing, they have very little contact with the final customers. The sales team are the people who catch this information from customers and communicate it to our R&D team. We look at different worldwide markets, because their segments of market demands are sometimes completely different. We work out what the global demand of a technology can be, and if this kind of technology is an improvement for us. Then, we generalize and give this information to our R&D people. Then, internally, in the big meeting, we decide our future developments.

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Matties: That must be a tough decision though, because it's a big investment to develop new equipment.

Brandt: Yes, you need to start at least two years before and you need a decision at least three years before the machine will be available on the market. It's a long process of specification, pre-development, assembly and then the final test.

Matties: Not to mention all the competitors chasing the same opportunities, right?

Brandt: Exactly. You always need to be one step in front of the rest of the competitors.

Matties: As I look around, there are more and more competitors, especially in the Chinese market. With densities getting smaller and tighter, what are the testing challenges there for you?

Brandt: The testing challenges are for the HDI products, or the regular mobile phone and workstation products in HDI. The biggest challenge is the 4-wire Kelvin measurement. For special applications, it’s the latest test technology, the 4-wire Kelvin test. In that case, you want to test neckdowns on tracks or weak microvia connections. At the end of the day, also a big challenge is the high-frequency measurements. This is a big challenge, because under a certain level, when the tracks have a little bit of tolerances, their high frequency condition can be completely different.

Matties: I was recently at the Altium Live Event in Munich, and Lee Ritchie, a top designer in the world, was telling the 300 designers in the room, "If you're not doing HDI now, you're about to be doing HDI." Have you seen that in your customers? Is that what you're experiencing out there?

Brandt: We see that the HDI technology has also entered the market of server board applications, of military and space applications. We see a trend from the conventional mechanical drills and multilayer technology to the HDI technology driven by higher clock frequency. The boards also, in the server board technology, will become smaller and smaller. They try to reduce the number of layers, and the requirement to do this is to introduce the HDI technology for this kind of business.

Matties: And really, if you don't get it right in the testing, it's too late.

Brandt: Yes. You must also prepare them for testing. You need a tester that can do the density and has the performance and the electrical measurement parameters to do this.

Matties: Now that we've finished the board, we've tested it, and we've collected a lot of data. How are your customers using that data?

Brandt: It really depends. It depends how much data they want to collect. In general, they can collect every single measurement. They can store it on a big server. Then at the end of the day, they can analyze lot numbers, dates, tolerances, measurement parameters, etc., but also system operating parameters. There is a huge variety of data mining that can be done.

Matties: What is the biggest challenge when developing new products?

Brandt: To develop new products, we need strong relationships and partnerships with our customers. They open their future roadmaps and push us for the latest technology. Knowing their schedules guarantees that the development will be on time. We know the people. We know our technology and our customers’ technology. Without these key customers, we would not be able to introduce a new products into the market. We need this strong partnership between our key customers and our R&D team.

Matties: How does that process work?

Brandt: For certain cases, we force our R&D people to go directly with the customer team together, to share information, so we don’t get some information filtered or lose any. We always try to have direct contact. So our R&D people are involved with them and can have a big influence in order to move the development.

Dr. Jochen Kleinertz: There are also key projects which drive our development and, of course, also the development of our customers.

Matties: You have a vested interest.

Kleinertz: Yes. In Asia and the U.S., we're talking about 5G or about substrates. There is a lot going on and new requirements coming up. In the end, it's those projects which we do together with the customer that help us to develop our capabilities.

Brandt: We need this customer. When we develop a technology or equipment, this isn't the first theoretical idea, but an idea which is working on prototypes and how this will work with different products and different customers. At the end, you need your customer in order to improve this kind of development.

Matties: What advice would you give a fabricator looking at a testing solution?

Brandt: In my point of view, when you are looking around in the worldwide market, please take care about good technical support. Please do not make a short decision to any equipment supplier where they only want to sell a machine, and do not give you good, long-term support. This means valuable technical support, with good telephone support and fast support. Our machines have very fast setup times because we are at the end of the production process, which means if our machines are not working our customer cannot generate any revenue.

Matties: Is there anything that we haven't talked about that you feel like you should share with the industry?

Brandt: No. At the moment, my brain is completely empty. (Laughs)

Matties: Peter, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

Brandt: Thank you very much.

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