Anticipating the Future of Electronics Plating

Precision Plating implements competitive strategies...


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Precision Plating has been in the business of precision electroplating since 1904. Precision maintains its high-quality, high-technology plating reputation by re-evaluating its business strategies and making changes necessary to meet the needs of the evolving electronics, automotive and communication industries.

Recently, Precision Plating has been dedicating more of its time, energy and money to plating functional finishes. Finishes for connectors, finishes for wire bonding, finishing that would depend less on the commodities market. Designers are using more solid-state electronics because they are more compact. Solid-state systems use wire bonding, an old technology that is now becoming more commonplace because of this trend.

Precision invested several million dollars in a building addition, new plating lines, standardization and equipment to accomplish this objective. "One of the most exciting purchases is the scanning electron microscope," noted Jeff Belmonti, national sales manager. "With this, we can photograph a part at 2000x, attach it to an email, send it to a customer and have a conversation with the customer about it in a matter of an hour."

Technology such as this has allowed Precision to implement one part of its new business strategy, which was to develop itself as a full-service provider. Precision believes the technology, along with partnerships it develops with its suppliers and customers will help leverage more business for the company. Precision begins building these partnerships in the design stage of the parts, before plating is necessarily even considered.

"Our main customers are stampers and molders," said Jeff. "And they are competing against Singapore and China where the labor is cheap" These American stampers and molders design products for some of their electronics customers who then take the technology overseas where the prototypes are easily reproduced. Not only does the stamper/molder lose business, so does Precision Plating.

"We are trying to work with the electronics manufacturers, many of which are Fortune 500 companies, to help them develop and engineer products that can be made as inexpensively as possible in the U.S." stated Jeff. "This is a different approach than others in our industry. By establishing a working relationship with the people that engineer the product, our customers (stampers and molders) can be competitive and we can offer them better pricing than a plater that does one or two types of these jobs a week. We leverage our engineering abilities and technical astuteness into more business for ourselves."

Partnering begins in the design stage and lasts until "after the sale." Precision can support every job it plates because it has worked with its customers since the design stage. Jeff and his team advise engineers/designers up front if they feel a particular design will not plate well. With Precision Plating, part of the customer's purchase includes quality and technical support after the sale. "If a customer has a problem with something we have plated, we will take it back and fix it." stated Jeff. That is where partnering becomes effective for both the customer and for Precision."

"We have even developed partnerships through our website," said Jeff. "Our site (www.ppc1904.com) receives 400 to 500 hits a day." One partnership Precision developed, for example, was with a company that makes deep fryers for smaller food shops. The company was receiving complaints from its customers because the heating elements on the deep fryers were failing.

First, Precision worked with the company to determine why this was happening. They discovered that when users pulled the heating elements out each night to clean them, they would spray the bare connectors with a little ammonia and let them sit overnight. After months of cleaning the elements this way, they began to corrode. After a few days of emailing, Precision determined the problem and developed a plating and business solution that worked favorably for Precision and the deep fryer manufacturer.

Precision Plating has also developed strategic partnerships with its suppliers. One of the six new lines in the expanded facility was specifically designed for high-speed, high-volume plating of functional finishes for the semi-conductor market. Precision plates palladium multi-layer systems designed by Lucent Technologies on this line and encourages its customers to design this finish into its parts. "We are trying to gain acceptance of palladium by having engineers design the finish into wire bond designs. We work with customers from prototype through production. Precision can handle the prototyping end of the lead frames as well as production, including testing the wire bonding on site. We also work on failures that the customer may be experiencing," explained Jeff.

The other new lines are being developed as palladium cobalt lines for future consideration. "The wear resistance characteristics of palladium cobalt far surpass gold," stated Jeff. "They even surpass palladium nickel, which was supposed to be the substitute for gold plating in connector applications". The plating process supplier has measured sliding wear performance of hard gold, palladium-nickel and palladium-cobalt using frictional force and contact resistance.

In the tests, coefficients of friction increased for all finishes during the first 1,000 cycles. It then remained steady for approximately 10,000 cycles. Contact resistance increased to more than 10 megaohms for hard gold after 20,000 cycles. It did the same for palladium-nickel after 35,000 cycles. Palladium-cobalt remained at less than 10 megaohms after 80,000 cycles of wear.

All of this research and experience has made Precision Plating the highest quality, most technologically advanced plater of palladium and its alloys in the United States. "We are trying to provide this advanced technology to the rest of the world. Others are coming from all over the world to learn this," stated Jeff. "Because of this, we are earning a reputation as a house that knows semi-conductor and functional plating finishes from prototype to production and beyond. And we stand behind our work."


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