Steve Williams from Real Time with IPC Interviews Dr. Subodh Kulkarni, President and CEO, CyberOptics.
Interviewed at APEX, March 2017
Advanced MRS (Multi-Reflection Suppression) technology delivering significant yield and productivity improvements to customers for various inspection applications.
Q: We were talking about AOI to maximize ROI, what do you mean by that?
A: AOI stands for Automated Optical Inspection of course, and many circuit board manufacturers are realizing that to get the most value out of their equipment, they do need to minimize the defects, maximize the productivity and maximize the yields, and for a relatively modest investment in a 3D AOI system, they do manage to get their productivity up, yield up and get the defects down. They do a true ROI calculation; they do find that the investment in AOI, particularly 3D AOI, they find that it pays for itself very quickly.
Q: So, your customer base is across a number of different industries and levels in the supply chain.
A: Yes, that is correct. We actually service three verticals – Semiconductor, SMT which is why we are at this show and Metrology vertical so people who are making scanning and scanning services. Within SMT, we serve EMSs, the large companies that are building their own memory boards for instance, semiconductor companies, so we cater to many customers.
Q: So, you have been with the company for how many years?
A: The Company has been around for more than 30 years. I have been with the company as a board member first for a few years and then I took over as President and CEO just about 3 years ago.
Q: You had a unique vision when you got to the company – you saw a need in the market for the next best thing. What did you come up with?
A: One of the reasons I came from the board inside the company is because at that time, three years ago, 3D was already becoming a need in the industry, not just SMT but semiconductor and metrology too and one of the challenges of 3D at that time and it continues to be the case is speed and accuracy both at the same time. You can have very fast sensors but not so accurate or very accurate but not so fast but having both at the same time was critical and in CyberOptics I knew that we had an interesting, exciting new technology that we had invented that we could do both speed and accuracy at the same time and that’s what we call MRS, Multi-Reflection Suppression 3D sensor technology so essentially we are suppressing the bad signals trying to enhance the signal to noise ratio so it’s really a mathematical algorithm technology that gives us the speed and accuracy at the same time and that’s really what we are doing and what we are showing at the show.
Q: Is that part of your Ultra-High Resolution technology?
A: Exactly, at this show, we launched an Ultra-High Resolution sensor for the 3D AOI SQ3000 system and it is using a 7 micron resolution camera, which is the state-of-the-art. I don’t think anyone of the floor has anything close to it. Most of the players are talking about 10-15 micron cameras so we are using a 7 micron resolution camera but also at a very high speed and that is what MRS enables. You can use a very high-resolution camera but you have to drop down the speed most of the time but with MRS, we can get the speed and the accuracy.
Q: That is amazing, so, your company and you are actually setting the bleeding edge of this technology, developing as you go, it does not really exist right now (aside from CyberOptics developments)?
A: That is correct. Our secret sauce if you will is the mathematical algorithms. We are buying components and putting them together in sensors and systems, but really, what we are good at, where our IP is in the mathematical algorithms, but we are definitely leading edge if not bleeding edge. We do invest a lot.
Q: As it gets rolled out, what are the benefits of this for the customers as compared to traditional technology?
A: The value the customers get is the images they see are far superior compared to any other conventional technology and better quality images, leads to better inspection obviously, so if the images are good, the inspection is good, so the false call rate goes down and the first pass yields go up, so the customers definitely are getting the benefit of this new technology.
Q: Your sensors do every from PCBAs to solder paste to other applications, right?
A: The standard application of course if PCB manufacturing, SMT applications, but lately we are finding that the semiconductor industry has rolled out a new technology called Fan Out Wafer Level Processing or FOWLP as they call it and Fan Out Processing is getting to be like SMT inspection and those are the packages that are getting into your iPhones and the Galaxy’s and the latest smart phones. Those devices do need SMT inspection type of equipment and that is where we are playing in now.
Q: So that is a whole other market for you isn’t it.
A: Yes, exactly. Three years or four years ago, FOWLP was not on anyone’s horizon at all and right now, that is one of the fastest and most exciting market places for us.
Q: I think you mentioned earlier, they are actually driving some of the new demand for your technology.
A: Yes, if I look at where have sold more in the last 12 months, it has been more to those kinds of advanced customers not to the traditional SMT type customers. It is definitely a growth area for us right now.
Q: So when you conquer this technology and it becomes mainstream, what is your next vision?
A: Well, we are just at the starting point. I like to say that this is just our first year of commercialization of this technology and this is going to be a baseball game, so we at year 1 of a 9 or 10 year run here, so it’s going to be a long time before we run out of this technology and things to do, but certainly one of the things we’re pushing right now is how can we take this sensor technology to front-end semiconductor. So today, if you look at the front-end of semiconductor to inspect a full 300mm wafer, it takes you 2 hours and that is why it is very difficult for them to do. With our technology, we think we can do it in 2 minutes and if we can do that, then the Intel’s and the Samsung’s of the world will be able to inspect every wafer and that will improve their yield and that will improve performance for them, so we feel really good about where we can take the technology.
Q: That is exciting.
A: We are excited about the technology and what we can do with the new products coming from this new technology.
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