Advanced Packaging: on the road again

We had such a great time, met such interesting people, and learned so much on our first Roadshow trip that we knew it was just the beginning of a great new element of Advanced Packaging. Where to visit next was the only question. The answer came in the form of an invitation from Norm Quesnel, marketing manager of Advanced Thermal Solutions, who had been working with us on a cover feature for the May/June issue. Not far from their location in Norwood, MA, is Advanced Interconnections in West Warwick, RI. Ann Cibelli, marketing manager, graciously accepted our request for a tour of their socket manufacturing facility. So, once again, the shirts were donned and the camera and signs were packed, and off we went to learn all we could about these companies and what they contribute to the industry.

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Advanced Interconnections, located in West Warwick, RI, is family-owned and operated, and specializes in custom-designed socket solutions for the semiconductor device industry. What began in a first-floor walk-up apartment with a $300 ad has grown into a globally competitive company. Customers include Fujitsu, Motorola, Intel, and Sony.

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Left to right: Glenn D. Dunmire, senior account executive for RDW Group Inc.; Françoise von Trapp, managing editor; Ann Cibelli, marketing manager; John Ross, operations manager; Michael Murphy, president and founder; Kathy Poggi, associate publisher; and Lee Mather, assistant editor.

Murphy founded the company in 1982 with his father, Jim, and wife, Ann. The first product to market was a tooled pin grid array (PGA) socket. They received their first order as a result of successfully lowering the insertion force of their PGA – something key competitors hadn’t been able to do.

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Our tour took us to the quality lab where John Soares, quality technician, demonstrated a force tester performing a pin-on-spring test. The force tester is used to test the first cycle of a spring to determine its load value, he explained.

Soares, the son of a manufacturing manager, exemplifies the company’s practice of promoting from within and encouraging family involvement.

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Advanced Thermal Solutions Inc. (ATS), located in Norwood, MA, develops state-of-the-art cooling solutions and test instruments for electronic devices. Shown here is a sampling of ATS heatsinks, custom-designed to suit particular challenges.

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Françoise von Trapp presents Kaveh Azar, CEO of ATS, with a preview of the May/June 2006 cover of Advanced Packaging, which featured one of ATS’s cooling technologies. Azar explained that heatsinks are highly commoditized, with lots of “me-too” products out there, and many companies that manufacture them. To be a success in the market, they needed to carve a niche. “Our forte is tough-to-cool, tough-to-package applications,” he said. The company holds six patents with 13 still pending.

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The ATS team welcomes the Roadshow Crew. Left to right: Lee Mather; Stuart Green, VP, customer affairs; Kathy Poggi; Kaveh Azar, CEO; and Françoise von Trapp.

The company employs slightly over 40 people, two of whom are fully dedicated to research and development. Our visit included a tour of the two state-of-the-art thermal test labs, where ATS research engineers demonstrated test equipment.

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Advanced Interconnections attacks efficiencies through lean manufacturing. Ross’ focus is to transform the floor from lines to a work-cell model to maintain a flexible work condition and help to reduce lead times.

In addition, they continue to push the limits of technology and have become known for taking chances. “Rather than put up with vendors telling us what can or can’t be done, we just opted to buy our own equipment,” said Ross.

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The company is vertically integrated and produces their own terminals, insulators, and molds in-house. Above, Mike Mattias, tool maker, demonstrates how the Charmilles electrical-discharge machine (EDM) makes molds by burning cavities into steel.

Their satellite facility houses the screw machines where they machine their own pins. Being equipped to machine and repair their own molds helps set the company apart from competitors.

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Here Chhork Sam and Rick McCarthy, molding technicians, demonstrate the injection-molding system used to make insulators for connectors and sockets, and also for molding high-volume carriers for PGAs and BGAs.

Low-volume carriers are custom-drilled in-house using the Excellon Concept 129 that achieves pitches down to 0.5 mm, something carrier vendors claimed couldn’t be done.

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Wes Goodman, mechanical design engineer, showed us a research-quality wind tunnel that uses smoke for flow visualization. Velocity is calibrated in a wind tunnel capable of low- (natural convection) to high-velocity flows, with air temperature ranging from sub-ambient to 150oC. As with most of their equipment, the wind tunnel was built for their own consulting and test purposes, but is now available for purchase, explained Goodman.

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“Seeing is believing” is ATS’s credo. Goodman explained that the wind-tunnel test is more accurate than simulation software. In the example shown here, ATS re-created a customer’s challenge to custom-design the thermal cooling solution.

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Bahman Tavassoli, Ph.D. (left), and Mojtaba Pourvash (right), both research engineers, demonstrated the water tunnel which can be calibrated to measure approach air velocity and air flow distribution on a PCB or a flow through the fin field of a heatsink. They compared an off-the-shelf pin-fin heatsink with an ATS patented maxiFLOW heatsink.

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Small jets dispense ink through the water flow, demonstrating “shoot-out” as the ink flows around the sides of the pin-fin heatsink. However, with the maxiFLOW, the ink flows through the fins, simulating how air would flow and cool the device.

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