Indium Corporation is a valuable source of materials innovation for the electronics industry. They help solve customer challenges with an ever-expanding line of solder and assembly products. Founded in 1934, the company has provided technical support to electronics manufacturing companies from factories located in China, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the USA. We caught up with VP Tim Twining to get an in-depth analysis of where the materials science innovation breakthroughs will take us in 2020.
EMSNOW: Tell us something about your role with Indium Corporation and your background in the industry. I noticed you’ve spent time in Russia and Singapore. What was that like?
As Vice President of Sales, Marketing, and Technical Support, I have the privilege of leading all of the customer-facing functions at Indium Corporation. I’ve been at Indium Corporation for almost three years and came here new to the electronics assembly and materials industry after almost two decades in high-tech capital equipment used in process automation. With a background in engineering, my previous leadership roles included manufacturing engineering, quality, sales and marketing, strategic planning, and acquisitions. In my manufacturing engineering and quality roles for capital equipment, I did have some experience with electronics contract manufacturers and the occasional PCB failure on products. I have a good understanding, from an OEM perspective, of the pain that comes with PCB quality issues in the field, especially those in critical applications that involve safety.
Yes, I had the opportunity to participate in three diverse ex-pat assignments based in Russia, Singapore, and the UK. All three were wonderful experiences to develop myself both professionally by learning different business cultures and practices, as well as personally to learn about new cultures and travel to some pretty amazing places. I lived in Singapore most recently for four years in a regional role and spent significant time in Southeast Asia, China, and India developing business and building teams.
EMSNOW: What new technologies and products does Indium Corporation have on deck for 2020?
Indium Corporation has never had such a strong pipeline of new products! We implemented a strategic planning process about three years ago that we cascaded throughout the organization, most notably into our product development roadmaps and new product development priorities. We focused on the most strategic opportunities that aligned with industry challenges and our capabilities. For example, low-temperature PCB reflow has become more popular due to component warpage, as well as the desire to utilize less expensive components, energy savings, and the potential to increase long-term reliability of the overall assembly. We addressed the need for low-temperature soldering in a novel way through our Durafuse™ LT offering, which uses a mixed alloy solution to dramatically increase drop shock performance comparable to a much higher-temperature SAC alloy. We’re gaining traction with a recently launched, new high-reliability (hi-rel) alloy for the automotive industry to address the higher temperature performance needs of an automobile. We also recently partnered with Mycronic to develop PicoShot™, an industry-leading jetting paste. It’s currently a standard powder size no-clean solution, but we’re working on a water soluble and very fine powder version, as well. We have a full funnel for 2020, including enhancements to our solder pastes, such as clearer residues, higher electrochemical migration (ECM) performance, better in circuit testing functionality, and even lower voiding (Avoid the Void!™). We also have some enhancements coming for our Cored Wire offerings to improve both wetting performance and spattering reduction. In the power electronics and semiconductor space, we have rolled out (or will shortly roll out) some very exciting new products, including QuickSinter™, a pressure-less silver sintering paste; InFORMS®, a reinforced solder preform; and our AuLTRA™ ThInFORMS™ gold preforms and ribbon for high-temperature and highest-reliability applications.
EMSNOW: What global trends will most impact Indium Corporation’s business in 2020?
The biggest trend that will impact our business is the overall industry growth and geographic shifts of PCB and semiconductor electronics manufacturing. We are well positioned around the world to serve this market, so as business moves from one country to another due to politics or economics, we are able to more or less maintain and grow our market share, as we have over the past couple of years. We expect 5G infrastructure, automotive, and cloud infrastructure to drive the overall electronics market in the next few years. We also see the mobile phone market increasing due to both 5G and handset innovation. Finally, the power electronics market is very exciting with both overall growth in applications and new wide bandgap materials, most notably Gallium Nitride (GaN) and Silicon Carbide (SiC), that are enabling higher performance and functionality. We are working closely with the world leaders in the power electronics industries on both product development and capacity expansion to support them.
EMSNOW: Which region has the most growth potential for Indium Corporation? What end market is most active now?
Our business is fairly balanced regionally and as we budget for 2020, we’re seeing growth potential around the world. Southeast Asia (including India) is adding the newest electronics manufacturing infrastructure, but China showed surprising strength in 2019 and we expect a strong 2020 as well, despite the trade conflict with the USA. North America (including Mexico) is showing strong growth this year and with the potential for next year to be even stronger. Finally, Europe is one of the most exciting markets as production grows, particularly in eastern Europe, and the large cellular infrastructure, automotive, and power electronics leaders there develop new products on production lines closer to home. As I mentioned earlier, 5G infrastructure, automotive, and cloud infrastructure are the most active markets for us currently and we expect that to continue throughout the next few years.
EMSNOW: What are the challenges of electronics manufacturing from Indium Corporation’s perspective? Are there any obstacles that you see preventing growth in electronics manufacturing, e.g., compliance with hazardous materials regulations that are coming into effect?
From our perspective, the biggest challenges we see in the electronics industry is finding, developing, and retaining skilled people. As production moves from region to region or site to site, the need for experienced process engineers, technicians, and operators is more important than ever. At the same time, unemployment remains very low and some demographics are decreasing the size of the talent pool. With less experienced staff, our customers need more support. To address this need for more skilled support, we organized our sales team into technical sales and technical engineering teams. By having a strong technical engineering team who are not directly responsible for sales goals, we are able to provide more proactive support to our customers, including technical training, material qualifications, new product start-ups, line audits, and troubleshooting support.
EMSNOW: Are there other challenges? Do you see any global slowdown from geopolitical events, like tariffs or Brexit?
The geopolitics around China and the USA have surprisingly had ostensibly very little impact on the electronics market. We have been fortunate to have production facilities around the world, including China, to serve that market. Brexit is unfortunately causing much uncertainty in the UK and Europe, as seen by the impact on the electronics infrastructure spending in the region. That being said, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which trade between the UK and Europe is hampered, at least in the short-term. We are of course planning for a worst-case scenario but remain hopeful for a smooth transition.
EMSNOW: What are the strengths of the EMS industry from Indium Corporation’s perspective?
I can’t think of a more exciting industry to be in or one that has such strong growth prospects. EMS technology continues to evolve with new applications, as well as with new materials and new equipment available every day. Electronics are becoming even more pervasive across a diverse set of industries and applications. The diversity in industries and applications keeps the EMS industry healthy throughout end-market economic cycles.
EMSNOW: What else would you like to say to EMSNOW readers?
At Indium Corporation, we believe that materials science changes the world. We see examples every day where the people and technology in this industry are helping to make the world a cleaner, safer, and more enjoyable place to live. We continue to focus on supplying the highest quality products supported by world-class technical support.