Bypassing 2.5D

Did Nvidia’s announcement that it would use 3D packaging with silicon-through-vias on some forthcoming Pascal graphics processors to make more memory available with minimal delays signal the start of a general acceptance of stacked memory chips?

IPC Apex Expo was the best in many years. Attendance was good, both in the conference as well as on the show floor. Even Thursday morning saw potential buyers visiting exhibitors in their booths. Capital equipment buyers were twice as optimistic as in the prior year — about 65% stated that they planned to buy equipment this year versus about 30% last year. Exhibitors stated that they were making sales and getting commitments for future trials in their booths during the show — event though there was little in the way of new systems to be seen in the hall. One independent equipment sales rep stated that he had more customer meetings at this show than at the five previous events combined.

New product introductions and improvements abounded. EarthOne Circuit Technologies Corporation (dba eSurface Technologies) created quite a stir with its sponsorship of the Tuesday luncheon to announce its new additive printed circuit board process.

Six OEMs responded to the IPC’s effort to get them more engaged at the management level. The Ambassador Council held its first meeting to explore how it could provide help to further the knowledge and success of IPC members. The executive management meetings’ programs were excellent but still failed to bring in more than a handful of bare board fabricators. Counterfeit components was one of the hot topics throughout the event.

On the other hand, a number of historic names (Christopher Associates, Multiline) were missing from the show — victims of the business conditions and America’s continual decline in the bare board market as well as direct incursions by foreign capital equipment producers. Some exhibitors were still introducing their “new” systems and processes after three or more years of failing to gain traction. However, it warmed my heart to see the resurrected Dynachem name and logo back in America in Osvaldo Novello’s booth, Automatic Lamination Technologies S.R.L.

The IPC event has appeared to have morphed into an analog of the old Nepcon West in terms of massive entertainment activities. The major corporate exhibitors not only took large booths but also used to arrange major hospitality events, receptions, and cruises which captured many of the show attendees. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at Nepcon. This put the smaller exhibitors at a distinct disadvantage.

When the IPC established its first trade show it decided to level the playing field a bit for the smaller exhibiting members. It banned major hospitality events during the show that would take attendees away from the event. Some companies that violated this rule were even penalized by having their chance to select the following year’s booth moved to the last position. The IPC arranged for cruises (in San Diego). It produced major galas with music, food, entertainment, and other activities. It solicited sponsors — who received credit for their participation. The price for admission to the event was reasonable. Many companies bought tickets for their customers. It was a great night for all.

But, things have reverted. Companies with deep pockets have already started to reserve ballrooms, night clubs, and to plan other major events for IPC Apex Expo 2015. I do not think that this is a good trend.

Bob Black of Juki Automation said that sales closed during the first two days of the show actually “more than paid” for the show. He said that although January was a bit slow, February sales were strong and he expected March to also be a good month.

Chris Fussner of Yamaha (TransTech) stated that he expected a good year in 2014 as his American distributor organization achieved a positive cash flow in second year (2013).

Don Walsh stated that Ueymura had a record year and a strong start in 2014.

Nihon Superior’s Tetsuro Nishimura said that his booth was busy throughout the show and that he was glad that he came. He’ll be back next year to exhibit with the IPC for the 15th time.

OMG’s Mike Carano (admitted to the IPC’s Raymond E. Pritchard Hall of Fame, the IPC’s highest honor, during the awards luncheon) stated that his company has now captured a 30% share of the North American market for its products.

Dr. Bill Elder introduced Maskless Lithography’s (MLI’s) direct imaging system for liquid photoimageable solder masks (LPISM).

Crunch time

Early reports from the CPCA show state that it is a “disaster.” One of the major exhibitors said that no one came to their booth on Day 1, and only a dozen or so – but no buyers – on the second day. Another stated that Day 1 was awful and that Day 2 was a bit better, it was just terrible in terms of attendance. Semicon China held in Shanghai at the same time was reported to also have experienced the same malaise — a dearth of customers, prospects or visitors of any type.

Can the international uncertainty be the cause? Can the economic woes and diplomatic strife in the world be the reason? Could the international cultural differences and distrust as shown through the investigations of the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 be at fault? Are the rapid changes in the electronics industry coupled with continued closures and consolidations be the reason? Could it be that potential buyers are tired of sending armies of their troops to exhibits to see much of “the same old stuff?”

Do these events need to change for today’s and tomorrow’s technology, markets and products? Is the gravitation of business to fewer larger enterprises at fault? If so, how? We believe that ALL of these — and more — are at fault. At the same time, we note that technical conferences, which do not need to draw volumes of visitors to consider them successful, generally continue to attract members of their particular buying public.

 

About Gene

Gene Weiner has spent his entire career -- spanning more than 50 years -- in the printed circuit industry. He spent the early part of his career in chemical engineering at MIT Lincoln Laboratories, then became employee no. 4 at Shipley, and later vice president of sales and marketing at Dynachem and president of New England Laminates. He has been a consultant to leading materials, circuit board and semiconductor companies for several years, and sits on the board of Wong’s Kong King International and the MBA advisory board of the Malcolm Baldridge School of Business at Post University. He was inducted to the IPC Hall of Fame in 2006.
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