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Q First of all, how did your appointment to the IPC Board of Directors come about?
MEESE: After nominating and discussing several candidates, the SMEMA member companies, through their Council Steering Committee, asked me to serve on the IPC Board. Before I accepted, I visited the IPC in Northbrook, Ill., and came away with the impression that the IPC is a very agile, open and competent organization the right environment for surface mount equipment manufacturers to contribute to the overall advancement of manufacturing in the electronics industry.
Q In this new role, what do you hope to accomplish in the near term?
MEESE: Over the years, SMEMA has successfully developed standards and guidelines for our segment of the industry. As part of the IPC, we can greatly enhance and speed up this work.
My primary role is to serve as the liaison between the IPC Board and the SMEMA Supplier Council Steering Committee. The committee has a number of important initiatives underway. I hope I can help bring these and other initiatives to successful conclusions. Furthermore, as an IPC Board member, I hope to contribute to the strategic direction of the IPC.
Q Looking forward, what are the long-term objectives for the SMEMA Council?
MEESE: SMEMA, as part of the IPC, now has the prerequisites in place to give the surface mount equipment manufacturing industry "a face and a voice." IPC's dedication to competitive excellence and financial success of their member companies, and their competence in creating industry standards, conducting market research, providing training, advocating for public policies, etc., will certainly help and inspire all SMEMA companies.
The long-term objectives here are to have the IPC and SMEMA provide value to each member company, to represent all member companies collectively, and to advance and enhance our industry as a whole.
Q What is the SMEMA Council's role in the IPC's development of the APEX 2000 trade show?
MEESE: With the IPC Printed Circuits Expo show as an example, the SMEMA member companies and the SMEMA Council initiated discussions with the IPC about creating a new trade show following the basic outline of the Printed Circuits Expo. This led to the creation of APEX 2000. The first APEX trade show will take place from March 14 to 16 in the Long Beach Convention Center. To date, more than 160 exhibitors have already signed up.
Q The SMEMA organization was extremely successful in standardizing surface mount equipment. Is standardization among equipment providers the primary agenda for the SMEMA Council?
MEESE: Standardization is an important item, but not the only item on the agenda. The APEX trade show, statistical programs, conferences and training programs are other activities the council is interested in. Specific initiatives include lead-free solder, equipment characterization, bulk feeding of chip components, etc.
Q Where is surface mount technology headed over the next five years?
MEESE: The most significant technology change is the addition of area-array components to the already extremely wide spectrum of SMT componentry. BGAs, CSPs and flip chips will grow proportionally. There will be an increasing convergence of semiconductor back-end packaging and advanced board assembly.
Q To what extent is Universal Instruments involved with advanced packaging and microelectronics technology?
MEESE: Undeniably, array packaging represents the "third wave" in semiconductor packaging. In recent years, Universal has played a significant role in advanced semiconductor and microelectronic technology by providing innovative solutions to both Level I and Level II packaging. Now we are staking out a leadership position in advanced packaging and microelectronics through four initiatives:
1. Very high accuracies with newly developed VRM Linear Motor technology.
2. Process development and support through our SMT Lab.
3. Acquisition of Alphasem, a Swiss die-attach equipment manufacturer.
4. Focus because the Advanced Semiconductor Assembly (ASA) Div. is operated as a separate business unit.
Q Will the surface mount industry continue to evolve in this direction?
MEESE: In a recent market survey, we selected 14 high-volume products classified as "rapidly developing systems," like office LAN, set-top boxes, etc., and had those technology changes identified that are visible today. It turned out that 10 of these 14 systems have or will have array componentry assembly (CSPs or flip chip). Because these rapidly developing products drive future changes in mature products, it is clear that the SMT industry will be faced with major changes in regard to semiconductor assembly.
Q How would you characterize business today?
MEESE: We are coming out of a down year and see certain improvements in our business, but have no clear indications that this trend of improvement will continue. However, our three growth initiatives in high-speed chip placement, semiconductor/advanced SMT assembly and odd form/light mechanical assembly that we started last year show positive results and have contributed to market share increases.
Q What is the state of outsourcing in the surface mount market now? Two years from now?
MEESE: Outsourcing in our industry has changed our customer base and the way we do business. This outsourcing trend will continue far beyond the next two years. Today, more than 50 percent of our assembly equipment is being sold to contract manufacturers (CM). Universal's attractiveness to CMs is based on innovative and reliable equipment, as well as excellent support, which includes process support. We indeed help our customers to introduce new manufacturing processes like pin-in-paste, flip chip assembly, 0201 chip placement, etc.
Q What is Universal Instruments' role in the surface mount marketplace?
MEESE: Next to two Japanese assembly equipment manufacturers, Universal is the third largest supplier of SMT equipment.
With the recent release of the FlexJet, a concept that allows flexible and high-speed placement with the same tool, we are successfully competing against horizontal and vertical high-speed chipshooters, parallel placement equipment and mass placement systems. Now, SMT assembly lines can utilize only one type of placement equipment, providing enormous advantages for changeover, optimization, throughput and utilization, as well as flexibility and scalability.
Because of the added high-speed placement capability, my company believes that FlexJet-equipped GSM platforms applied to flexible placement machines maintain their status as the fastest, most accurate flexible/fine-pitch placer and are often wedged into competitive lines.
Q What is the central message Universal would like to convey to the surface mount industry?
MEESE: Future SMT assembly lines need to be modular, flexible and scalable, as well as optimized and balanced by intelligent software. They need to include equipment capable of handling array componentry with very fine pitches and should provide for the automation of odd component assembly because of quality and efficiency.
Such lines, stable and capable processes, and a well-managed manufacturing environment will allow dramatic improvement in today's unsatisfactory utilization of assembly equipment.
Q What are your biggest personal challenges?
MEESE: My biggest personal challenge is to accelerate Universal's success by maintaining our shared values, constantly raising the competence of the organization, providing for continuous improvement in our quality, increasing innovativeness and operational effectiveness, and focusing all of this toward our customers and their success.
SMT Magazine's Publisher's Executive Council consists of 37 electronics industry executives hand-picked by group publisher Marsha Robertson. They share their expertise and insights with our editorial staff and act as a sounding board for new ideas and concepts. These individuals also contribute much to the industry in general, working as leaders within their companies.
Gerhard Meese, president of Universal Instruments Corp., recently joined the IPC Association Connecting Electronics Industries Board of Directors. His appointment occurred in conjunction with the Surface Mount Equipment Manufacturers Association (SMEMA) merger with the IPC. In his new role, Mr. Meese will serve as liaison between the IPC Board and the SMEMA Council Steering Committee. SMT's interview will focus first on his new role before gauging Mr. Meese's unique perspective on the surface mount industry.
Gerhard MeesePresidentUniversalInstruments Corp.Binghamton,N.Y.