ATLANTA, Ga.—Much like the face of a circuit board, the story behind bringing SIPAD to the United States has many intricate twists and turns. SIPAD Systems Inc. president Matt Kehoe enjoys telling the tale of how the process made its way from Germany to the United States and how his company, now celebrating its 10th anniversary, has grown and thrived.
Developed for Siemens in Germany by research scientist Dr. Werner Miawald in 1986, SIPAD (pronounced “See-pad”) was originally conceived as a way to produce small quantities or prototypes of printed circuit boards (PCBs). Today, the process continues to be used for prototyping and to assemble small quantities quickly and easily. SIPAD solid solder deposit (SSD) replaces solder paste stencil printing by pre-loading the surface mount pads on PCBs with solid solder deposits, eliminating stencil printing, open shorts, cleaning, and voids. SIPAD Systems applies SIPAD SSD to complex surface mount PCBs, enabling the attachment of all surface mount parts, including very small, fine pitch, and blind termination components by hand or machine with “perfect” results, Kehoe explained.
Before being introduced to SIPAD in Germany back in 1988 and subsequently signing the sales rights for it in the U.S., Kehoe honed his manufacturing and sales skills making circuit boards for his wife’s father, Ray Crenshaw, at Proto Systems of Atlanta from 1981 to 1987.
Kehoe’s first company had the sales and marketing rights to SIPAD in the U.S., but a failed attempt to build the critical flattening machine needed to produce the SIPAD process stalled the development of the company. Kehoe left the business and began a relationship with Midwest Printed Circuit Boards (MPCS), who set up shop in Atlanta with Kehoe after they brought over a flattening machine from Germany. Midwest gained 40 new customers for SIPAD in 36 months and prospered for four years. But customers were not keen on changing circuit board vendors just to use SIPAD, so feeling these constraints, Kehoe decided to leave.
“Leaving MPCS was difficult, but I knew that if this (SIPAD) process was going to grow, we needed to be able to apply it to anyone’s circuit boards no matter where they were built,” Kehoe said.
He teamed up once again with his wife’s father, Ray Crenshaw, and started SIPAD Systems on Sept. 1, 2001, just ten days before 9/11. “Timing wasn’t on our side, but I was committed to making this work,” Kehoe said.
With three flatteners from Germany—SIPLAN 300s—that were able to press PCBs from 12” x 16,” Kehoe decided to build his own flattener (SIPLAN 500) in 2009 that could handle full-size 18” x 24” panels. The new flattener would be able to press PCBs as part of an on-going contract with Kiddie Aerospace (located in Wilson, N.C.), the world’s leading supplier of fire protection products for civilian and military aircraft.
“The flattener is the key to the whole process. All the rest of the equipment can be found in any assembly shop. The flattener is what makes the difference on how to engineer the stencils and get the right amount of solder into the right place. That’s the secret to SIPAD,” Kehoe said.
SIPAD Systems caters mostly to the aerospace, military, medical, satellite, radar, LED, and microwave industries. Some of its biggest clients include General Dynamics, NASA Goddard Space Flight, Jefferson Labs, Micromeritics, and Harvard University.
SIPAD’s SSD has recently been added to the new IPC 7093 specification, targeting bottom termination components (BTCs). “Getting added to the IPC spec has really legitimized the process. We’re not just a novelty anymore,” Kehoe said. PCB assemblers are struggling with bottom termination components because there’s been difficulty with getting them to attach to the circuit board. There have been many void defects associated with these components when used with traditional methods, but the way SIPAD is applied reduces and many times eliminates voids, Kehoe explained. “It’s not just easier to put the chip on there, but it also creates a more reliable solder joint. Being added to that (IPC) spec could make people think about SIPAD more often. Bottom termination components are a huge boost to our business,” Kehoe said.
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