K&S and Assembléon: A Perfect Marriage of Technology and Services

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At the recent Productronica 2015 event in Munich, Germany, we spoke with Jeroen de Groot, Vice President for the Advanced Packaging (Mass Reflow) Business Line, and Chan Pin Chong, Vice President for the Wedge Bond, Capillary, and Blades Business Lines at Kulicke & Soffa (K&S), about K&S's acquisition of Assembléon and its benefits to their customers, as well as the latest innovations happening at the company's product lines.

Stephen Las Marias: Jeroen, could you please tell us about Kulicke & Soffa and how it has been since the company's acquisition of Assembléon?

Jeroen de Groot: Assembléon was formerly part of the Philips group. We went through a name change from Philips to Assembléon. The Company was establishing and moving market focus from SMT to advanced packaging. However, we faced with challenges such as the lack of presence in the market and a strong name that customers could recognize.

Becoming part of K&S was a very big opportunity for us. It gave us access to a bigger install base and sales network and people who knew the market for advanced packaging, whether it was for wire bonding, wedge bonding, thermo-compress bonding, etc. For our customers, we kept all the machine names. The machine names are what the customers recognize. And for us, it’s important to the commitment we have together within the K&S portfolio towards advanced packaging.

Las Marias: What was the rationale behind K&S's acquisition of Assembléon?

de Groot: If you look at the world of packaging, the world of making components and the world of making electronic products, you will see that there are numerous ways now that lead to Rome. There is not only one process. Traditionally, packaging included parts of wire bonding and parts of flip chips, but we see more and more mixed applications. The systems and applications are changing, flip chip bonding has becomes more widely used, and we are seeing emerging volumes in certain applications such as thermo-compression bonding.

In order to provide customers the different solutions to support the various processes, having a wider portfolio of solution to meet these requirements are essential. From a customer point of view in advanced packaging, you should be able to provide a wide portfolio of solutions. That is where I think we complement what is going on within K&S already at the moment.

Obviously, the historical role of ball bonding and wedge bonding is where we’re very strong. Thermo-compression bonding is an upcoming new process which is a local reflow process, a copper pillar-based process, which complemented what we do at Assembléon. Mass reflow really complements the portfolio and provides a wider base of solutions to our customers.

Las Marias: So far, what has been the impact of this acquisition to the overall K&S business portfolio?

de Groot: If I look at it from the customer, sales, or R&D point of view, the operations we have around the factory are extremely independent. If you look at it from an engineering and business point of view, after five minutes people knew from each other what they were talking about. We recognized opportunities for our customers and recognized that we had much more in common than we originally thought. That has gone very well. That’s also the way the customers view it. They welcome it. and I think it has worked out very well.

Las Marias: With this branding now changing all your Assembléon brands to K&S, what will be the impact to customers? How will their perceptions change?

de Groot: I think it will be recognized. Customers that know the K&S name, but not necessarily the SMT world or the Assembléon name, will see something familiar and still something new—something familiar in terms of the name and commitment of the organization, but the product underneath obviously will be new for them, which will definitely trigger their interest.

It also works the other way around because the existing Assembléon customers will look for the Assembléon brand name. They will see something else, but they will also see new equipment and a new organization. That’s very complementary both ways.

Las Marias: I understand you are presenting some of the new technologies from the company here. Maybe you can tell us more about it and the significant improvements that they have over your previous models.

de Groot: If you look at the former Assembléon SMT and advanced packaging part, you have the iFlex. We are continuously improving and enhancing the iFlex series of machines with additional smart flexibility functions and features. iFlex is the best option for customers looking for smaller batch sizes, preparation of line, production on the machines, and fast changeovers.

We also have the more traditional SMT high-volume equipment, which is very successful in the automotive and 3C applications. Apart from that, we have the Hybrid, which is truly a process machine—a platform where we combine different processes. At almost every show, almost every month, we add new capabilities to that machine to be able to provide customers with more processes.

Las Marias: What industry trends are driving innovation strategies for your products?

de Groot: Looking at the big picture, to a large extent it’s related to miniaturization—integration of functions, lower cost, high volumes, better yields, shorter time to value and so very short ramp up times to a lot of good products. That’s what we see.

We also see a lot of specialization, a focus on quality and better yields, getting more out of your machines, and high degrees of automation looking at big data, Industry 4.0, and transparency. What process is your machine running? Is it within the process boundaries or not? The machine should guide the operator. The machine should guide the customer.


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