PCB production: Russia becomes competitive
Interview for Tehnologii v electronnoy promyshlennosti, no. 2' 2020
Anrew Kucheryavy talks about PCB production and electronics market as well as about private sector in the industry
How would you rate the state of the Russian PCB market in the global context?
According to various estimates, the global PCB market is about $ 62 billion in value. Russian share is still very small — $450 million (about 0.5% of global turnover).
Recently, we have seen the stability in orders in the Russian market, at the same time the share of high-tech boards is growing significantly, e.g. complex multi-layer, flexible and rigid-flex printed circuit boards.
In general, we are quite optimistic about the PCB production in the country and we believe that the demand for modern electronics is going to increase (fig. 2).
Is it possible to say that Russian electronics manufacturers are competitive?
If we are talking about printed circuit boards, the competition in the segment of small and medium PCB orders is already really evident. However, it is not possible to successfully compete with China in the mass production segment so far. To achieve this goal, the market should grow, the basic materials production and equipment market should appear within Russia. This would bring to the production costs reduction.
Who are your customers?
Actually, we have a lot of manufacturers in Russia, there are entire sectors of the economy where orders are very significant in the mass production segment, such as LED-technology, medicine, cash registers, fire engines, etc. One of the main specializations of our company is prototype orders with a very short lead time. There are numerous individual PCB designers, startups and new companies, which are entering the market.
We have industrial groups as our clients, with their own design bureaus. It often takes several iterations to check and make changes during the product creation. At the same time, prototypes have to be produced at the same high technological level as stock-produced PCBs. Before the product is released to the market, many steps can be taken, and the shorter these steps are, the faster the consumer can get the product.
Where the PCB production and assembly orders for the Russian market are placed now?
Large orders of printed circuit boards production are placed mainly in China. We’re doing the same for mass production orders, the majority of small and medium volume PCB orders is produced at our plants in Russia. With regard to the PCBA, the trend has changed comparing with the five years ago state. Now almost everyone has moved the assembly from China: somebody took it to EMS enterprises, such as “Rezonit”, others actively set up assembly lines (Fig. 3).
The market is highly competitive, considering an excess of production capacity. What makes your company different?
We stand out thanks to our commitment to quality, reasonable production time, costs, qualified staff and technological level of production. We have achieved a lot in printed circuit boards and now "Rezonit" is one of the leaders in Russian market. At the moment, the company mainly focuses on assembly and contract manufacturing, which corresponds to our main goal — to provide PCB designers with the unified production site for the production of competitive electronics in Russia. Recently, we have been actively investing in the creation of "smart manufacturing" (Fig. 4). Many of the practices that we’re successfully using in the PCB manufacturing, we have moved to the EMS services. We still have a very long way to go, but the effect of the first steps of the "Industry 4.0" principles implementation in contract manufacturing is already visible. Lately, we have upgraded, and in some cases even replaced the equipment in order to implement latest data exchange protocols and process tracking. We are constantly working on the technology and lead time optimization, so that we could provide our clients with the best solutions.
How does the trend of electronic devices miniaturization affect manufacturing?
Over the past few years, design approaches have changed. PCB designers are trying to minimize the size of products while increasing productivity, which means the increase of assembly density and requirements for microwave characteristics. Technologists face the need to reduce the size of the main elements of the PCB topological pattern and to master special materials. The role of quality, cost and reliability of both the products themselves and the technological processes for their manufacturing increases significantly.
I must say that now the progress of PCB design is expanding at a dramatic pace. Not long ago we feared a shortage of good soviet-time PCB designers in the industry, but fortunately, this did not happen. Young guys graduate from Universities, having good knowledge. We receive extremely complex PCB projects with microwave materials, impedance control and much more. Such designers are on the peak of the latest trends, both in Russia and in global electronics industry.
This motivates our company to drive productivity, and primarily to invest in technology. It is necessary to meet the growing market demand.
Ten years ago, there was a dispute between manufacturers over the topic "why is it necessary to invest in high-tech if there is no high-tech in Russia". Now life has given an answer to this question. Without constant investment in new equipment, enterprises are very quickly left behind. We use the most modern equipment and basic materials at our production sites and carry out systematic work to improve the technological level of production. We invest a lot of effort and money in IT-infrastructure, automatization, and online solutions. In terms of the automatization of production processes, our company is on the level with the world's leading PCB manufacturers.
Printed circuit boards and contract manufacturing as the key businesses for you? What other areas do you develop?
At the moment, the components supply is the most dynamically developing direction of the company. We offer a turn-key service: electronic components supply and assembly at our PCBA plants.
The customer can supply some material to us which will store in our own warehouse and dispatch material to ship for several orders after received customer confirmation. Therefore, the customer can reduce the logistics costs, which are unavoidable when dividing the order between different contractors and suppliers.
In other words, are you moving away from the customer supplied components to the EMS services?
The main trend of electronics industry which dominates in the world can also be applied to Russia: the electronics assembly industry should produce more, but with less effort and for less money. This is why we are actively implementing a one-stop service. For instance, we offer a comprehensive solution for manufacturing a finished prototype of a product - "express electronic assemble" (Fig. 5). We call the "express electronic assemble" a printed circuit board with an assembly on it. In accordance with the developed design documentation, the service "express electronic assemble" " allows to reduce the time and costs of a new product launch, and customers can focus on PCB design and save on supply and manufacturing.
You mentioned a stencil production service. Could you please tell more about it?
We are working actively on the stencils production for SMT assembly. We make stencils of almost any standard type: on universal frames or on the aluminum frame, with the edge, for reballing.
In the nearest future, the company is planning to take the leading position in this market segment. We have the most modern stencil machines in Russia, which include not only laser cut machines from the world's leading manufacturer, but also additional machines: for laser legend printing, electroless polishing, net stretching, etc. And we continue to invest in this direction, both in equipment and in the new technologies.
So, it means that you produce not only standard stencils?
Of course, we have such options as laser legend printing with a bar-code or QR-code application on any side, multi-level stencils Step Up and Step Down (where the thickness of the steel on certain sections of the stencil differs from the basic thickness of the stencil). This technology has been in demand recently. At the moment, we can perform Step Up and Step Down on any side in accordance with IPC standards. We have been making these stencils for a long time, but this year we are upgrading this particular technology. Another popular option is electroless polishing of the stencil.
Is the electroless polishing of the stencil required?
In our experience, although in many cases you can do without electroless polishing, it is often useful for improving some of the characteristics of stencils. It helps to smooth the walls surface of the apertures, remove micro-sprays and any other possible defects in the cutting area or on the surface of the stencil. Thus, the increase in the cost of polishing is justified. The stencil polishing is especially important for assembly of components with small pitches, BGA, as well as for some special stencils, for example for implementing extremely small apertures on fairly thick steel. In such cases, polishing becomes necessary, and sometimes it is even the only way to get a high-quality application of the paste. Periodically, we use SPI in PCB assembly sites to conduct comparative tests of complex stencils on mass orders and assess their effectiveness. Tests show that in some cases it is finish polishing that helps to achieve an acceptable result.
What else can we expect from the "Rezonit" in the near future?
Our most ambitious project is currently in its active phase - the construction of a new large production and assembly of printed circuit boards plant (Fig. 6). The process is well under way: we are completing the exteriors of the building, and in the summer, we will move on to communications and internal work.
The launch of the new plant is planned in 2021. The production complex with an area of about 15,000 m2 is located in the territory of the Special Economic Zone in Zelenograd. The entire technological infrastructure of the project was developed by our engineers, without involving third-party experts. We have invested all the knowledge gained over 20 years of work in the field of production and assembly of printed circuit boards in this plant.
During the conversation, you touched upon the issue of young professionals' growth. Effective interaction between the University and the manufacturer always contributes to the quality increase. Does "Rezonit" help to improve the level of University graduates?
Yes, we contribute to the education of students of the Institute of nano-and micro system technology and the Institute of micro devices and control systems of MIET. The students have already listened to several lectures from our specialists, and they regularly visit our production in Zubovo with career-guidance tours. I hope they get a detailed understanding of the practical application of the knowledge acquired during the training courses.
In addition, we continue to participate in the activities of the competence Center and start-up competitions. We plan to continue work on a thematic course on printed circuit board production and assembly technology, as well as on coursework special tasks. We are interested in making young designers improve their professional engineering skills, and we are happy to help them.
In my opinion, the improvement of the designer level is facilitated by an informal communication environment, for example, domestic and international Internet forums, video channels, and online courses. To support young PCB engineers we created and published video tutorials on PCB manufacturing and PCBA technologies on our YouTube channel. What is more, we regularly update the Support Center on our website to provide reference information on PCB design.
"Rezonit" is a Russian company, which specializes in electronics manufacturing services, PCB express orders, medium and mass production, delivery of large PCB orders of any complexity, all types of PCBA and stencils production for SMT assembly. Today “Rezonit” is the largest PCB manufacturer in the country and one of the leaders on the electronics manufacturing services market in Russia. PCB plants and assembly sites of the company are located in Zelenograd (Moscow), Klin (Moscow region) and Saint-Petersburg. PCBs are supplied to a wide range of industries, including telecommunications, car electronics, medicine, LED screens, consumer electronics.
Plants of “Rezonit” in Russia produce prototypes, small and medium PCB orders up to 32 layers. Advanced PCB manufacturing capabilities allow fabricating PCBs of the highest quality, for example, hybrid multilayer PCBs, high-temperature and microwave PCBs, flexible and rigid-flex printed circuit boards. “Rezonit” has the capabilities to assemble 01005-size components, BGA, Flip-Chip, CSP, SIM and SD slots, and other complex packages.
All manufacturing steps at "Rezonit" are verified by its own multi-stage control program.