Interview – Greg Wood
With the economic slowdown in China and its move to higher-value manufacturing, where do you see opportunities for greater expansion of Nordson technologies into Asia?
The Nordson Advanced Technology Systems companies in Asia that I represent consist of Nordson ASYMTEK, Nordson DAGE, Nordson DIMA, Nordson MARCH, NordsonMATRIX, and Nordson YESTECH.
Nordson will continue to maintain a set of varied growth channels beyond pure GDP driven expansion. The first involves continuing to align ourselves with those markets and customers that are less susceptible to economic swings. Certain segments within mobile device manufacture and next generation semiconductor packaging have proven to be those high performing “safe havens” of late. Specifically, in SEA we have found a nice home in the space between PCBA and Semiconductor Packaging that is represented by MEMS, Camera Modules, Precision Flex Assemblies, etc. and expect continued growth in those segments. We also see opportunity in continuing to develop and deliver automation solutions in spaces that we were previously served by manual labor or underserved with automation that did not provide the Cost of Ownership that is critical in today’s competitive marketplace. An example of this in Southeast Asia is the significant number of PCB assemblies that are now being protectively coated (via Plasma or Dispensing) to improve quality and the Automated Optical Inspection systems being used to verify the processes. As the unit per sq/ft of all of our equipment has improved dramatically, coupled with our large installed base throughout Asia, fleet upgrades have become an increasingly important aspect of our business and an attractive way for many of our existing customers to improve their factory output and yield with less capital outlay and we expect increased growth in that segment. Finally, we will also continue down the path of acquiring businesses, such as the recently acquired MatriX and Dima that extend our process capabilities in Dispensing, Plasma Treatment, & Test & Assembly, and fit well within our Asia business model.
What are the trends and technology shifts you have seen since your move to the region?
Having been involved in the Asian marketplace for many decades it has been fun and interesting to observe the considerable technology changes. Right up until a few years ago Printed Circuit Board Assembly and Printed Circuit Board Fabrication were considered to be “easy segments” that required less sophisticated equipment and thus the majority of R&D investment fell to our Semiconductor product groups. In the past few years we have seen a rapid emergence of very sophisticated PCB’s and PCB assemblies, many of which have accuracy requirements that approach or surpass those in the semiconductor segment. This is particularly true of the modules and various sub assemblies required for mobile device manufacture. When one couples the precision and versatility that is required with the tremendous volumes that are associated with today’s electronics gadgets you will see that it is truly spawned a new generation of high performance manufacturing equipment. On the semiconductor side it is impossible not to mention how 3D packaging has had a profound impact on the products offered by all of our businesses. This ranges from automated TSV inspection, to wafer applied underfill material, to wafer level bump testing, etc.
Coming from a company that offers products in key segments of the industry, have you seen more uptick of packaged solutions? What are the benefits in this respect?
By design there is a large amount of synergy between the various products offered within the Electronics Systems Group. This could involve using Nordson MARCH plasma applied barriers to prevent the flow of Nordson ASYMTEK dispensed materials or Nordson YESTECH AOI to inspect selectively applied conformal coating, plasma to clean bond pads and Nordson DAGE bond testers to verify the process, etc. Although we don’t promote a “line solution” approach, we have created application development laboratories, staffed by experts, through Asia where customers have access to the full range of process solutions.
Could you contrast the growth of China’s electronics industry in the past decade with that of India and Southeast Asia? What are the challenges?
While Nordson’s business in China still relies heavily on foreign multinationals, the increasing number of extremely viable, autonomous, local businesses that we serve must be acknowledged. This fundamental shift has required many Western based businesses, like Nordson, to “localize” by establishing experienced applications and service teams that are empowered to make on the spot decisions, and establishing local manufacturing and engineering capability. Our concentration of business in India and Southeast Asia is still largely centered on foreign Multinationals. Although it should be noted that there is increasing amount of autonomy and decision making granted to these manufacturing sites. The emergence of more organic local manufactures in SEA will only come with more volume and volume will be driven by stable political environments, and improved infrastructure, etc. We will continue our strategy of paced investment of first and second level infrastructure in markets which have the best opportunity for accelerated growth such as Vietnam, India, and Indonesia.
Are there any new products or technologies in the pipeline that Nordson will be introducing in the coming months? Please give us a preview.
In terms of new product launches, 2016 promises to be one of the most exciting years ever for the Advanced Technology Electronics Group. All of the businesses are in the process of introducing products that align well with emerging technologies and economic realities. A significant amount of this R&D is being done in tight collaboration with key customers and/or industry consortia. Nordson DAGE will be introducing new X-Ray products that will greatly improve: image quality, speed, and automation features for PCB, Semi, and Wafer segments. Nordson ASYMTEK is in the process of releasing two new fluid jets for their lines of automated dispensers and conformal coating systems and a host of process control tools that dramatically improve upon the speed, accuracy, and process control, of products currently available. Nordson MARCH will be releasing several products to improve the cycle rates of products requiring additive or subtractive plasma. This will be accomplished via a combination of larger chamber sizes, improved handling capability, and technology that leads to significantly improved plasma etch rates. Nordson YESTECH is rolling out a new line of 3D AOI tools and will be adding additional key features to their line of automated Conformal Coating & Semiconductor inspection tools. Our new MatriX division will be introducing new technology aimed squarely at the 3D packaging space.
Greg Wood has been vice president, Nordson Advanced Technology – Electronics Systems, Asia, since 2010. He joined Nordson ASYMTEK in 2003 and served as sales manager, Americas and key account manager for Intel. He’s been involved in the electronics industry since 1984.