Inkjet printing has become an attractive technology for numerous applications, from OLED display to printed electronics, PCB, and photovoltaics. As a digital technology, inkjet printing offers high flexibility and cost-effective processes for precisely depositing conductive lines or dielectric materials on electronic devices. According to Yole Développement’s forecast in our Inkjet Functional and Additive Manufacturing for Electronics report, the inkjet printer market is expected to reach $1.1B revenue in 2023 at a CAGR of 26.9%.
(Source: Inkjet Functional and Additive Manufacturing for Electronics, Yole Développement)
Jérôme Mouly, Analyst specialized in inkjet and microfluidics at Yole Développement, interviewed Erik Corduwener, Marketing and Business Development Manager at Meyer Burger – a leading technology company specialized in innovative systems and processes based on semiconductor technologies. He discussed with him the challenges and opportunities linked to inkjet printhead integration and process development for functional and additive printing.
Jérôme Mouly: Can you introduce Meyer Burger and its equipment – specifically, the Pixdro family?
Erik Corduwener: Meyer Burger is a leading global technology company headquartered in Thun, Switzerland. It specializes in innovative systems and processes based on semiconductor technologies. The company’s focus is on photovoltaics (solar industry), while its competencies and technologies also cover important areas of the semiconductor and optoelectronic industries, as well as other select high-end electronics markets.
At our location in Eindhoven, Netherlands, we focus on the design and manufacture of functional inkjet and thin-film coating equipment. The PiXDRO inkjet printer family consists of the versatile LP50 and IP410 engineering and pilot printers, and the robust JETx platform of mass production systems. We offer a complete inkjet portfolio, from research to production.
JM: Can you summarize Meyer Burger’s 2016 and 2017 commercial activities? How do you position yourself versus the competition?
EC: With the advantages of inkjet becoming widely recognized and appreciated, there is strong interest in inkjet printing among several industries, including semiconductor packaging, PCB, PE, and OLED. These advantages are especially evident in cost reduction and the enabling of more design flexibility. All of the aforementioned industries are at least qualifying inkjet technology, and several have used it in production for several years now. Hence, we’re selling quite a volume of machines for R&D and engineering purposes, and we are seeing significant momentum in the sales of our JETx production machines.
Our competitive advantage is the offering of a full range of printers, from desktop R&D to 24/7 production, and clearly our experience in mass production, specifically in the PV industry but also in semiconductors. The modularity and flexibility of our solutions, which address a variety of applications, is also highly valued.
JM: Can you explain the choice of inkjet printing technology as the core technology for your Pixdro equipment? What feedback have your clients provided?
EC: As I mentioned earlier, our PiXDRO platform has a highly customizable design that addresses a wide range of applications. Of all the positive characteristics offered by our equipment, this is the one our customers value most. They are not necessarily buying a printer for just one application, but desire the flexibility to easily configure it for other processes and products too. Beyond our equipment, another important added-value is our process and application knowledge.
JM: What are the challenges linked to inkjet printing integration (printhead choice, ink formulation, substrates, process, etc.), and how do you work with your clients to confirm the right choices for their needs?
EC: Absolutely, the right printheads and inks play a crucial role in the successful application of inkjet printing. We offer a range of industrial printheads that can be integrated in our PiXDRO systems, and we work closely with several ink suppliers and institutions for materials and process optimization. This creates a good foundation from which our customers can further develop their own applications. A major challenge is that each customer has their own specific applications and needs. No single customer is exactly the same, largely because inkjet printing is in an early phase of adoption and so much exploration is ongoing.
JM: What kind of markets are you targeting with Meyer Burger’s Pixdro portfolio?
EC: We see high potential in semiconductor advanced packaging, printed (flexible) electronics, OLED, and PCB. There are also some niche markets of interest, such as PCM (chemical machining).
JM: In 2017, Meyer Burger launched a full-range JETx functional inkjet platform for applications from small to large substrates. Do you see a growing demand for mass production using inkjet technology, and if so for which application types?
EC: Mass production on the JETx inkjet platform for specific semiconductor applications, the OLED arena, and in the PV industry has been proven, although production ramp-up can vary significantly between different industries and applications. We’re now beginning to ship JETx production systems to the PCB industry for solder-masking applications, so there is definitely momentum.
JM: What are the key features of your JETx equipment?
EC: Certainly the high degree of customization possibilities for various products and applications, as well as CoO optimization, are key features. Specifically, the throughput versus investment and Opex, which for example can be managed by means of adjusting the number of printhead arrays and other features. JETx is a proven, highly reliable, precise production platform that is user-friendly and low-maintenance.
JM: OLED display is showing high interest in inkjet printing technology. What about the photovoltaic market and PCB, where conventional technologies are still well-entrenched?
EC: This is probably inkjet technology’s main challenge: to prove itself as a reliable alternative technology offering compelling advantages related to cost, functional performance, flexibility, and as a miniaturization enabler, as well as being a green technology because of significant material savings and much less chemical waste. Qualification processes are very extensive though, especially in automotive, aerospace, and medical applications.
JM: What can we expect from Meyer Burger in the next 2 – 3 years?
EC: Traditionally, Meyer Burger’s main focus is on the photovoltaic industry, but our non-PV business is important too. Future-oriented successful technology platforms like PiXDRO are evolving to address a broad range of applications in both traditional and new markets for Meyer Burger.
Erik Corduwener is Marketing and Business Development Manager at Meyer Burger Netherlands for inkjet printing and thin film coating equipment. Erik is a seasoned professional and executive manager in business development of high-tech industrial equipment. He has over 30 years of experience in the semiconductor equipment industry, specifically in the areas of customer service, marketing and sales account management, with extensive international and multi-cultural expertise, especially in the Asian business environment. Erik holds an engineering degree in precision mechanics.
Jerôme Mouly serves as a Technology & Market Analyst specialized in microtechnologies for biomedical & medical imaging applications at Yole Développement, the “More than Moore” market research and strategy consulting company. Since 2000, Jérôme has participated in more than 100 marketing and technological analyses for industrial groups, start-ups and institutes related to semiconductor & medical technologies industry. Jérôme holds a Master of Physics from the University of Lyon.
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