First, can you tell us a little about what Accumet does?
I’d like Accumet to be known as an advanced materials processing house—not just a laser and lapping service provider. Since purchasing Laser Services back in 2007, I quickly learned that lapping and polishing were complementary businesses. At Laser Services, we routinely subcontracted to Accumet for our lapping and polishing needs. Likewise, Laser Services was Accumet’s go-to laser house.
Accumet Engineering has been around since the 1970s and is widely known for lapping and polishing of ceramics and other materials. I decided to purchase Accumet in 2015 so that I could offer our clients “one-stop shopping” in relation to materials processing. The combination of the two allow us to process a vast variety of materials to precisely match client specifications.
Our service offerings include laser scribing, drilling, cutting, welding, and etching, as well as lapping, grinding, and polishing finish steps. We work closely with our clients to understand their needs, timelines, and ultimate expectations.
How are the company’s laser processing services enabling RF/microwave applications?
Again, we are not just a laser or lapping house or stock distributor. We have it all under one roof to manage client jobs with the corresponding materials that enable a smart supply-chain approach.
When I purchased Accumet and decided to merge the two companies, I had to make the decision of what to name the combined companies. Should it be Laser Services or Accumet? Both company names had been around for 50 years, so the decision was not taken lightly. I ultimately made the decision to name the merged companies Accumet. I felt that the Laser Services name incorrectly implied that we are only laser-centric. Yes, we are a large laser house, but we do so much more. We have a sourcing network that allows us to reliably provide the building block, or “substrate,” upon which so many work products are created.
Tell us about the company’s laser ablation services.
Laser ablation is a process that we use to remove layers of material while leaving the substrate intact. This process is routinely used for removing material to create solder dams, but it can also be used to remove unwanted traces on circuit boards to salvage parts instead of scrapping and remaking. In fact, years ago, that’s how we came upon this service. In response to a recognized need, we came up with this method to help out a client and we ended up saving a big production run for them.
Lapping and polishing are two services provided by the company. Can you talk more about these services and why they’re important?
As I mentioned previously, we provide the substrate. If our part of the project is not done precisely correct, the whole project can be adversely affected. If lapping isn’t done properly, for example, the client may experience an adhesion issue. Or if the holes aren’t clean, there may be a conductivity issue.
In terms of RF/microwave applications, what are some of the more difficult challenges you’re seeing from clients, and how is the company overcoming them?
Two come to mind initially. The first of which is when clients are pushing us to lap and/or polish to thinner thicknesses and tighter tolerances. I am constantly meeting with my engineering team to get higher yields while improving our processes to further advance our manufacturing capabilities. Repeatability is key to me, as it allows us to maintain competitive pricing and keeps our production schedule moving smoothly.
Secondly, client buying philosophies seem to have changed. Years ago, a large percentage of our production schedule was made up of annual blanket purchase orders, with pre-determined monthly release dates. While a fair amount of our clients still issue blanket purchase orders, I am seeing a slight decline in this buying method. I see clients preferring to buy more on an “as needed” basis to cut down on inventory and operating costs on their end. This change has pushed us to hone our production times and scheduling. That is, while we once had months to plan (in the case of a blanket purchase order), we now may only have days.
One last point I would like to mention is that when I merged Laser Services with Accumet Engineering earlier this year, my marketing team wanted me to drop “Engineering” from the Accumet name. But I said no. Engineering is a large part of who we are. We are here to deliver a quality product on a timely basis, but we are also here to help with any design or material questions a client may have. We also have a vast resource of suppliers who can be called upon as needed in the case of any second-tier outsourcing that may be required.