Scoop TV Interview with Dr. Subodh Kulkarni at APEX 2020

Philip Stoten, from Scoop TV discusses inspection, metrology and industry trends including interconnecting data between machines with Dr. Subodh Kulkarni, President and CEO, CyberOptics. On location at APEX 2020 in San Diego, California.

PS: Hello, I’m Philip Stoten, I’m at APEX 2020 and I’m joined by Dr. Subodh Kulkarni from CyberOptics. Thanks for joining me Subodh. Always new stuff coming out from you guys, and I know that there’s more and more demand for inline solutions and you’ve got some technology there. Tell me a bit about what you’re doing at the moment.

SK: Thank you for the opportunity. We are pretty excited about the inline CMM, which stands for coordinate measuring machine functionality, that we have incorporated in our SQ3000™ platform. Basically now you can do not only SPI and AOI, but you can also do inline CMM at the same time. It means you don’t just give a pass/fail report, you actually give all the XYZ dimensions, and many customers, particularly the more demanding customers, want to know the measurements and how they can use those measurements to improve their process control. So they’re finding quite a bit of value in combining SPI, AOI and CMM in one tool, and that’s where we are getting a lot of traction. We’re pretty excited about that at the show.

PS: It’s a software addition that sits within each of those machines, or is it a hardware addition?

SK: The hardware is identical; it is all the software additions. When we are collecting data we have the raw images and we are doing the measurements. Now what we are doing is capturing all the summary measurements and keeping that, and then we use the software to do the XYZ measurements.

PS: When you’re using that data, obviously that data is very valuable for traceability which is one example, but also you’re using that data intelligently to influence processes before and after those machines. What kind of modifications or updates are you doing to those machines to improve performance?

SK: That’s a good question. For instance, in a micro LED kind of application, where micro LED dies are being placed on glass or plastic substrate, they really need to know if the dies are placed accurately because that is controlling your display resolution. And that’s where you really need the CMM functionality, to know what the exact dimensions are because that data gets used to feedback to the placement machine and they can actually adjust the placement on-the-fly. So in case the placement machine is going off, we are helping the placement machine in real-time to get back on to process right away.

PS: When we look at those kind of closed loops between various different machines, but beyond that, there is a software architecture required across all inspection and the way the different machines connect to each other. Is that something you are involved in and is that something that customers are demanding from you now?    

SK: I wouldn’t say they are demanding, but it is getting there and we are providing a higher level architecture of all the connectivity tools and we are a part of the various industry forums where data is being freely exchanged back and forth. Customers like to see how the various pieces of data come together at a higher level so they can look at the overall yield and overall productivity. So definitely, things are moving there. But there is no one standard format that has been established for AI, for instance, so far. Different customers are experimenting with different things, and frankly sometimes, the connectivities can create some problems too, so customers can be reluctant to try to connect too much data and try to make too many inferences from that data.

PS: If you’re going to rely on data for a decision you’ve got to absolutely make sure it’s right. I know you’ve got the CFX around your booth, so I know you’re involved in that, but what about working with other standards? I know SEMI have a new ELS standard specifically for the SMT industry. Are you working with all those different standards?

SK: Absolutely. I would say that more than half of our customers right now that are buying our SMT, AOI and SPI type of equipment, are semiconductor customers, either fabs themselves or OSAT’s. So we are definitely part of all the standards that the semi industry is needing. They actually do a little better job in the semi industry than the SMT industry in tying the different pieces of information together. I guess that comes from the heritage of the front-end fab where they have to do that kind of stuff, so they do a good job of connecting and looking at the data. The good part for the semi industry is also that the parts are very repetitious. That makes it a little easier to use and deploy AI tools in the semi industry. In SMT, as you know, we are dealing with everything from a capacitor, to an inductor, to all kinds of parts.

PS: There is a big mix and I think it’s interesting what you say because I think as a supplier but also an industry, we can learn from the semiconductor industry because they did invest a lot of money in connecting their equipment over the years.

SK: Yes, absolutely they have, and they are spending a lot right now. There is no doubt the semi and SMT industries are merging in the back-end right now. Many times, it is hard to know whether it is a semi application or SMT application these days.    

PS: And it’s important with connectivity and what you do in terms of software that you can apply that to both. Thanks so much for stopping by, always a pleasure to chat. We’re at the start of the show, so I hope you have a great show and we’ll talk again soon.

SK: Thank you.