Interview—Gary Stoffer, Everett Charles Technologies’ CPG
Everett Charles Technologies is a subsidiary of Dover Corporation, a leading manufacturer of electrical test products and services, including Pogo® test contacts, semiconductor test products, bare-board automatic test systems and bare and loaded PCB test fixtures. ECT manufacturing, service and support facilities are ISO registered with locations throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. The company has been awarded numerous patents and participates actively in developing industry standards.
Gary, you recently joined the Contact Products Group (CPG) of Everett Charles Technologies. What business segments has your division targeted for growth?
For my prior tenure, I was based in Asia, heading the sales organization for ECT’s capital equipment group, atg-LM. Last September, I relocated to be near ECT’s headquarters in Pomona, California, to take on a great opportunity as global director of sales for ECT’s Contact Products Group.
I could not be more excited about joining the CPG team. This foundation of people has innovated and released numerous market-leading test solutions across a variety of market segments. These segments include semiconductor, printed circuit board assembly (PCBA), automotive and medical to name a few. The telecommunications and consumer electronics industry looks to continue fueling the semiconductor space as well as PCB Our ZIP® flat products are seeing great traction in the semi space and we are poised for a banner year. We also are focusing on growth within the ICT arena. CPG will continue to be a player in multiple markets, but semiconductor and the ICT space will be highlighted.
What new products will help the latter segments grow?
It is an exciting time at CPG. We have some great momentum in the semi space with our ZIP® flat family of products. Based on customer feedback, we feel that ZIP® is a game changing product that is showing to be a disruptive technology in the semi space. ZIP® is proving to meet the stringent demands of the semiconductor test market, while offering a lower price point than traditional radial products. ZIP® has a full suite of products that cater to multiple test segments and applications. ZIP® also gives the final test market cycle life up to one million insertions at speeds up to 44 Ghz. At the end of 2010, we released a ZIP® probe for the burn-in (BI) market (Z8). The BI market emphasizes price point because cycle life and test expectations are not as stringent as final test. I am happy to say that the Z8 BI pin meets and exceeds expected price and performance points, given customer feedback. ZIP® also addresses tough field applications. In cases of oxidized pads or tough surface finishes, such as matte tin, ZIP®’s patented scrub technology passes the test. A scrubbing action, under compression, is applied to break through surface contamination and tougher material, allowing a compliant connection. If high power and low resistance is your application, ZIP® offers a Kelvin pin solution designed to meet the latter demand. To see the full range of ZIP products and applications, visit www.ectinfo.com/zip.
Your ZIP® product family is flat in design, not the traditional radial. Please explain the difference between round vs. flat technology. Which technology is preferred for the semiconductor and ICT development markets?
Since the inception of the compliant probe connection, round (or radial) has been the standard. A round probe has up to four independently machined pieces. It is critical that the barrel and plunger are machined to allow a dimensionally accurate relationship because this connection determines the probe’s principal electrical integrity. As chip devices are driving pitches down to 0.2 mm, round probe assembly becomes exponentially harder to produce, hence increasing costs. Secondly, the internal spring of a round probe limits the travel length; that is, the difference between free length and probe under compression. Additionally, round probes are created through the milling of parts on a screw machine (referred to as a CNC machine in Asia). This milling yields rough edges that present challenges for smooth travel and achieving target resistance/inductance points that smaller pitch final test applications demand. The screw machine process also places a high price on producing round probes accurately in volume, not to mention the expensive cutting tools and dies used in the process. With the addition of an elaborate gold plating process, you are left with a cost point that is challenging for the end customer.
The ZIP® family of flat products solves all of these issues. ZIP® uses a three-piece contact born through a proprietary manufacturing process. The latter process enables ECT to build parts in high-volume repeatably and accurately, with little to no standard deviation. ZIP® ensures smooth materials and yields no rough edges because we start with bar stock that is rolled down to match the correct dimensions. Additionally, ZIP® is a very scalable product. A smaller pitch or a different tip requirement is an easy implementation, as ZIP® requires only a new mask and, in some cases, just a change in the external spring. Finally, the most compelling point is summed up in our ZIP® value proposition to the customer: “Market-leading scalable, mechanical and electrical compliant connections at a cost of test far lower than traditional radial probes.”
Asia looks to continue its pace of growth. What is CPG doing to make sure that it capitalizes on Asian market growth?
CPG is answering this growth from both the sales and operations side. We are in the process of adding direct country managers to complement our current distribution network. We also hired Chan Pin Chong as the new president for the ECT Electrical Test (ET) Group. Chan Pin will anchor the ET Group headquarters, located in Asia. In addition to the manpower efforts, CPG will look to house inventory locally to meet the time-to-market needs of our customers. The capital equipment (atg-LM) and loaded board fixture groups (FSG) have long manufactured their products in Asia. CPG will follow suit by manufacturing products that meet the needs of the local customers in the near future.
What do you see as your biggest challenges in 2011?
As most probes supplied to the industry have flash gold plating, the continually rising cost and availability of gold and other commodities poses a variable cost challenge. This is a challenge that taxes our entire industry. Fortunately for CPG, the ZIP® family only plates exterior surfaces, requiring less Au plating (compared to radial products where IDs are plated as well). Getting products out the door quickly is a key focus with the growth that we are seeing. We will work diligently to meet the delivery demands of the customer. Our growth trend looks positive to continue through 2011. Finally, we do not know yet the ramifications of the recent natural disaster in Japan. Supply chain affects and a potential change or pausing of consumer spending may be new challenges that our whole industry must react to.
How does the remainder of 2011 look for the ECT Contact Products Group? Do you plan to introduce any more new products?
Looking to the tailwinds fueling our target markets, matched with our product offerings, we are very optimistic for a great 2011. This growth will be highlighted in the semiconductor space as well as in PCB The CPG will look to expand its offering of flat technology within the ICT test market arena this year as well. We currently are under ICT customer product validations (with our flat technology), which look great. We will be announcing this new flat technology for ICT under the name “Edge” (patent pending) in the coming months.