Cutting-edge PCB printing from the Dorset coast

Posted on 9 Nov 2022 by James Devonshire

ASMPT UK (formerly ASM Assembly Systems Weymouth) claimed two titles at last year’s TMMX Awards: Product Innovation & Design (Large Enterprises) and overall runner-up for Manufacturer of the Year. Now, following a recent rebrand, the endto-end electronics manufacturing sector solutions provider is forging forward with its plans to “enable the digital world”. The Manufacturer’s James Devonshire recently caught up with Jon Maloney, VP for High End Printing at ASMPT, to find out more.

The printing portion of ASMPT was founded in Weymouth in 1968. DEK, as it was known, was then bought by the Dover Corporation in the US in the 1980s. In 2014, the company joined ASM, a much larger organisation and then, just last month, officially rebranded to become ASMPT.

Under Singapore-headquartered ASMPT, which has around 14,000 employees globally, the company is able to shape a bright and sustainable future for customers, employees, investors and society.

Jon picked up the story: “When we were part of the Dover Corporation, the focus was solely on printers. Now, as ASMPT, we provide end-to-end equipment and software solutions to the electronics manufacturing sector.”

When you say “printers”, we’re not talking inkjets, right?

JM: Our products print, primarily, but not always, solder paste onto a PCB. So we’re talking extremely high accuracy stuff (15 microns). To give you an idea, we could print something onto the end of a human hair if we needed to. The real key is being able to do it over and over again at high volume, as one PCB is printed every 10-15 seconds. There’s no scope to stop the machine and recalibrate in between. It just has to work, extremely accurately, 24x7x365.

Once printed, our Process Lens (solder paste inspection) solutions can then check the finished product to ensure it meets the exceptionally high standards in terms of solder paste volume and positioning.

The bottom line is the PCBs that feature in an array of electrical devices, such as smartphones, cars, medical equipment and more, could have been printed with one of our printers.

The printing portion of ASMPT was founded in Weymouth in 1968

The printing portion of ASMPT was founded in Weymouth in 1968

How about ASMPT’s culture?

In terms of the culture of the business, we’ve always believed in a collaborative and consultative management style, one that’s very open. In Weymouth we have open offices and we’ve always thrived on being a friendly organisation which encourages two-way communication among and within our teams. This has helped drive a highperformance culture throughout, which is underpinned by our POWER values: Passion, Ownership, Winning with our customers, Excellence and Respect.

Certainly the feedback we get from our staff, including new starters, is that it’s very friendly and open here; management is accessible and the organisation does not have a hierarchical feeling.

What were the driving forces behind ASMPT’s enormous success at last year’s TMMX Awards?

I’m not exaggerating when I say we weren’t expecting to win anything last year. The fact we walked away with two awards, including overall runner-up, was fantastic.

I believe the main factors behind that success is how we bring products to market, particularly the way we engage our customers. By having their involvement and bringing them along on the journey, we benefit from their voice throughout. The continuous, constructive feedback is invaluable during the development process.

Furthermore, we also involve and obtain feedback from every area of our business during development. After all, a product not only has to be manufacturable, it also has to be sellable, shippable, installable and serviceable, which is why involvement from the relevant teams in these areas is a must. All of this achieves the best possible outcomes and that’s been a large part of our success.

We’re also really open to collaborating with third-party partners. We will work with research institutes, universities and also our suppliers to gain a better understanding of how to develop certain technologies. It could be vision, it could be motors, it could be something for achieving a very high accuracy machined module. The point is we actively reach outside of our walls to achieve the best outcomes possible.

Another key component is ensuring all of our teams are well versed on all of our products. For example, we use e-learning to equip our CRM teams with the tools they need to talk to customers about products.

Something else we’ve introduced, driven largely by the pandemic, is virtual product acceptance. So instead of having to travel to us and inspect a product, our customers can do so virtually. We’ve set up a mini studio here in the factory which has four or five cameras trained on the machine.This allows us to run the machine from here and our customers inspect and scrutinise it remotely to ensure it fully meets their requirements.

ASMPT claimed two titles at last year’s TMMX Awards Product Innovation & Design (Large Enterprises) and overall runner-up for Manufacturer of the Year

ASMPT claimed two titles at last year’s TMMX Awards Product Innovation & Design (Large Enterprises) and overall runner-up for Manufacturer of the Year

What advice would you give to anyone considering entering the TMMX Awards?

For us, a valuable part of the exercise was involving the whole team. Our Weymouth facility has around 400 people, but we wanted everyone to know what we were doing, why we were doing it, etc., to ensure everyone understood the reasons and possible outcomes. Throughout the whole process, we kept our people updated on progress via town hall meetings, team meetings and newsletters.

From the very outset, we went into the process wanting to learn. We wanted to discover more about ourselves, identify areas of improvement and benefit from the insights and feedback of the industry experts involved. What we didn’t do was go in thinking we’re in it to win it.

Something that was really great was seeing the pride our people take in showcasing what they do. Of course, everything was conducted remotely via video calls, but that didn’t stop our people giving virtual facility tours and explaining the different areas – from talking about the paternosters we’ve installed to improve our material logistics, through to designers explaining the methods behind product management and how we engage with our customers.

I’d also advise any aspiring TMMX entrants to appoint someone to manage the process, as we did. It doesn’t need to be full-time but having one person focused on collating the documents and ensuring you keep to timelines is very beneficial.

Nominations are now closed for this year’s TMMX Awards. Did you submit your entry ahead of the deadline?

We actually haven’t entered this year. That was a conscious decision driven from our desire to take stock of the suggested improvement areas we need to address. We are now actively following up on those suggestions.

Will we enter again in the future? I think there’s a good chance and we’d probably look at different categories (maybe people-related) as it’s another of our strengths.One of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers is the ongoing skills shortage. How is ASMPT addressing this? We’ve been working hard to combat this particular challenge for some time. First of all, we do a lot of work with local colleges and other academic institutions to raise awareness about our business. Getting the ASMPT name known by pupils and teachers alike in the local areas has been a particular focus.

We’ve also done a lot of work on our employer value proposition, as well as how to get people interested in STEM subjects and subsequent careers. We work with a lot of the local schools and colleges to help them understand the world of work. Part of this is our young enterprise projects and apprentice open days, where people can come along and find out more about what it’s like to work here.

We take in around 14 placement students every year, who spend time here and can then apply to be part of our graduate retention scheme. This allows them to finish their final year, working with us for around eight hours a week in their project time, before returning full-time once they’ve graduated. This has been really successful in our R&D department, particularly software.

The feedback we get from our placement students is how refreshing it is here in the fact they get to actively participate and deal with customers. So rather than just watching and learning, we encourage them to get more hands-on and that’s further boosted our reputation among graduates.

Something else we actively promote and facilitate is work experience for year 10 and 11 pupils. This sees young people coming in and shadowing our staff over a two-week period. This gives them a fantastic insight into ASMPT and what it’s like to work in such an organisation.

Internally, we’ve created a supply chain academy, which is designed to help find career pathways for our people. It enables our production staff to upskill and forge definitive career paths for themselves. This is an important aspect as it demonstrates to people who come in at the production build area that there are potential careers here for them.

ASMPT's Weymouth facility employs around 400 people

ASMPT’s Weymouth facility employs around 400 people

What’s on the horizon for ASMPT?

These are exciting times right now. We’re investigating some innovative new printing and deposition technologies. We like to keep moving forward at all times.

There’s also the rebranding, which I think will really help us as an organisation obtain our own unique identity. The previous ASM brand and logo that most people will know is actually something that came from a lot of different companies which split off into different pathways over the years. Now we have our own unique identity, our own brand and logo, which will now act as a platform for us to take the next steps on a global level as a business.

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