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During IPC APEX EXPO, I sat down for an interview with with Jeroen de Groot, CEO of Mutracx. He detailed the company’s plans to install new equipment at a facility in Romania, and he explains why having a green manufacturing operation is not enough—it must also be economically feasible.
Andy Shaughnessy: I'm here at the IPC APEX EXPO with Jeroen de Groot, CEO of Mutracx. For anybody who's not familiar with Mutracx, give us a brief background on the company.
Jeroen de Groot: At Mutracx we actually machine to print inkjettable etch resist, so what we do is focus on innerlayer PCB manufacturing. Instead of lithography or light, we use ink to cover all the traces that need to be in copper, before etching and before stripping. By doing so we bypass or we eliminate quite a lot of the process steps, so it's more efficient, it's faster, it's very green, so there's hardly any waste water.
In terms of quality and in terms of inside the process, it’s inline quality control. We know exactly what we produce and there are simply more good panels coming out of our machines.
Shaughnessy: I understand you all have been pretty busy the last year or so.
de Groot: We've been pretty busy. We have had an installation at Whelen in New Hampshire about two years ago. For the past few years, we have been working very hard with them to get the machine at the required level, and about half a year ago we more or less passed that moment and we believe we're ready. We've got four to five machines now in manufacturing, in production. We're looking at the second installation now in Romania in the April timeframe.
We see a lot of interest, a lot of curiosity in the industry about inkjet, about the Lunaris, about tools that are really production-ready, 24/7 reliable and producing innerlayers.
Shaughnessy: You mentioned Whelen, and that it has been very good advertising for your machines.
de Groot: It's very impressive. A lot of things they do is made possible because of the inkjet technology, but in total it's a fabulous setup in terms of the philosophy behind it and the way they executed it. We fit very well. If you look at your results in terms of wastewater reduction, in terms of cleanliness of the process, in terms of labor, in terms of the time it takes to produce PCBs, the results are incredible and we're happy to be part of it.
Shaughnessy: You mentioned the Romanian operation and how that’s green, which is really important. That was important in Europe before it was important in America.
de Groot: The thing is, being green in itself is not enough. We believe green is great, but it needs to be economically viable as well. That is, I think, the struggle that people see. You almost don't want to pay too much extra to be green. In terms of cost of operation, we can offer a similar or even a lower cost of operation, and we're green and we're fully digital. In that respect we really combine a fully automated inline machine that’s green with similar or even lower cost of ownership. So almost too good to be true.
Shaughnessy: Are you demo-ing any of this here at the show?
de Groot: No, but we will be in the second half of this year. We're looking at a larger scale introduction at the show. The phase we're in today is that, together with customers, we're going through the routine of sampling, measurements, electrical measurements, controlling the impedance, etc. We want to really have a stack of reports to be able to show customers what it will do for them in terms of cost and in terms of the electrical capabilities. That's what we're working on and we're quite happy to be able to do that together with customers. That is in Europe, in the U.S. and in Asia.
Shaughnessy: Is there anything else you want to add?
de Groot: No, I've only been here a few hours now at the show, but I'm already very pleased by the amount of interest in 3D printing and materials available to print, so if I look from one IPC APEX EXPO show to the next, there is a lot of interest in it. It's taking off, it's taking off.
Shaughnessy: That’s great news. We'll be sure to catch up with you at another show and you can update us on it.
de Groot: All right, thank you very much, Andy.
Shaughnessy: Thanks, Jeroen. I appreciate it.