Mission: chip-size and space vastness

With upcoming SEMICONEuropa in Dresden we had the plaesure to have a chat with one of the exhibitors, Compugraphics International Ltd, with a long experience in the photomasks field.

- Brian, you are leading a company with more than 45 years’ experience. What makes your business so appealing?

Brian Young GM & VP Business Development
(Photo: Compugraphics Ltd)
What I think appeals to our customers, and many of our employees, who have stuck around the business for much of the past 4 decades is that the industry is constantly changing and, most importantly, Compugraphics strive to be ahead of the curve.

Considering the dynamic nature of the business - everything we make is a custom order, there are no finished goods in inventory, we never have more than a few weeks of orders on the books, the sales distribution by customer changes radically from year to year – these factors bring their own energy and tensions to the business to keep us all interested and on our toes. 

It is this that keeps us passionate about the photomask industry which we believe shows in our work and is why our customers come back to Compugraphics again and again.

- Compugraphics produces photomasks. How long does it take to create one photomask? And how do you test its successful production?

The theoretical cycle time for one photomask can vary between a few hours to a few days depending
(Photo: Compugraphics International Ltd)
on the dimensions, defect and overlay precision, complexity and the number of process steps involved.

There’s no concept of sample inspection in photomask manufacturing. A photomask may be used to print thousands or millions of products so a fit for purpose photomask usually means zero defects.

This requires metrology, defect inspection, and repair equipment which is expensive to buy and requires intensive maintenance and calibrations. Every one of our photomasks is subject to thorough testing against all the critical criteria so between our investment in this equipment, and our testing processes, we produce masks which are the highest quality possible. 

- You are located in Europe and the U.S. What do Europe and the U.S. offer you and what are their basic differences? 

More than 70% of the photomasks we build get shipped back to customers within 5 days of receipt of order. Mask making occurs at one of the pinch points in terms of time to market for new product development. Sometimes we need to get masks back to customers within hours of receipt of design data. 

(Photo: Compugraphics International Ltd)
Having facilities in Europe and the US allow us to meet these demanding requests. The world does seem much smaller today than years ago but even so it’s not possible to serve the global market from a manufacturing base in one economic region. 

Each of our sites have similar capabilities but produce different mask sizes. Our facilities in California and Scotland are comparable in capabilities but our facility in Jena can produce large area masks up to 16” or we have high technology partnerships which can go up to 32”. We also have a Repell facility in Austin, Texas dedicated to reattaching Pellicles and reconditioning damaged masks.

Compugraphics started out in Scotland and has branched out to the US in the 90’s. It’s possible there is still room for our focused strategy and business model in other regions too.

- In 2014 you have been involved in the Rosetta Mission. How did you get involved in this 'Mission Impossible' and what have you learned from it ever since?

We made these masks for Rosetta Mission many years ago and at the time had little sense of what an exciting project we were to be a part of.

One of the real lessons in this is to be more inquisitive about what kind of research and projects our photomasks are a part of. It certainly gives a sense of purpose to the team to know they are enabling a greater good and not just satisfying a demanding customer.

- What role does research, innovation, and technology play in your organization?

Compugraphics is uniquely positioned in the photomask competitor landscape. We don’t have the scale, geographic reach or the technology to be the research partners to the biggest names in Semiconductors. We are, however, perfectly positioned to partner with the research leaders in other specialist lithography applications required to support technologies like MEMS (Microelectromechanical Systems) Photonics, Silicon Photonics, and WLP (Wafer-Level Packaging). 

- Your products are applied in many different areas. In which fields would you like to work in the future?

(Photo: Compugraphics International Ltd)
I think it is gratifying for us to know that you don’t need to have to be at the bleeding edge of lithography technology to have an exciting role to play in developments in Silicon Photonics, Wafer level Packaging, Internet of Things, Sensors, MEMS and Biosciences to name a few. You do, however, have to be on your toes and to keep close to your customers and evolve with them. 

- You visited the Laser World of Photonics in Munich this June. At the beginning of October you will attend SEMICONEuropa in Dresden. What are your expectations about the upcoming SEMICONEuropa?

We attend these events, particularly Semicon, for many reasons. There is, of course, the obvious benefit of meeting potential customers but equally we like to go along to hear what others have to say about what’s going on, or what’s next, in the industry.

Events, such as Semicon, are also a great opportunity to meet with our customers. As you can probably imagine with Compugraphics being around for over 45 years, we have made a lot of connections over the years. Semicon is always great for catching up with customers who have busy schedules and where better to do so than the beautiful city of Dresden. 

- Innovation always plays a big role in today. Compugraphics is also active on social media, why and since when did you as an organization went digital (Facebook and Twitter)? Is that not too 'future-oriented' for an industry that is traditionally doing business on a B2B basis? 

The decision, or the objective, with social media was never to start using the medium for the sake of
(Photo: Compugraphics International Ltd)
making us appear innovative. Our slogan is “the experts behind the mask” and social media gave us the opportunity to prove this to a wider audience. 

Digital channels and social media allow us to engage with, and help, our customers faster after years of them telling us how much they value our expertise.

The introduction of social media presented Compugraphics with the ability to open a conversation with customers like never before. We use social media to share information our customers actually value and listen to their feedback. 

Social media is a powerful tool for businesses, whether you are B2B or B2C, as it gives you the chance to interact with your customers in real time. Yes it seems the Semiconductor industry is a little behind in the uptake of social media but I think it will become common place like it is in many other industries in the near future.


Unesco International Year of Light 2015. A chat with Dresden-based Startup Holy Trinity

HOLY TRINITY Karsten Reichel and Matthias Pinker
- Could you please introduce yourselves?
All started by chance. We, Matthias and myself, used to go out with the same friends, to spent time together, to go skiing and parties together. Our business is actually the story of a friendship long a few years.
Matthias has always been a visionary, a product innovator, passionate for design. Me, on the contrary, I have always had a passion for strategy and business administration. From a mere professional point of view we are completely different but for our business our skills match perfectly.   

- How did the business start?
At that time I lived in Berlin. I was working for a company in the communication field. 
One day my "old" friend Matthias came to me with an idea one has only once in a life time. He said to me, "Look Karsten, either I bring my idea into life now or I will regret it forever." Matthias' idea hit me, it was just brilliant. 
It was about re-shaping the interaction between consumer and product, letting them play together and bringing out the best of both. It was the light, a key element for life in general and, in particular, to improve our physical and psycological well-being. Since the lamps, as we all know them, have been created, we could decide to switch them on or off, to direct the beam in a direction or in another. Now we can decide to move the light beam from the right to the left or viceversa, or to focus it in the middle, without the need to move the lamp itself. The beam positioning chances are more or less infinite. And there is more, being Matthias an innovator, he wanted for his interactive-light-idea an innovative product: LED. So we had two men, an innovative product and a crazy idea. A good mix to start a start-up!

HOLY TRINITY led suspension Light KALA at Factorberlin
- How far have you gone since then?
Since the time Matthias told me about his idea, back in 2009/10 we have taken part to many competitions here in Dresden-Saxony where our start-up is based as well as worldwide and won different awards (winner 2010 of the reddot design award, Publikumpreis at the IFA USABILITY PARK 2012, Nominee at the German Desing Awards 2012, Core77 Design Awards). We are partners in international projects and our lights reached customers in America and Asia and of course also in Europe. 
At the moment our lights are making a 3-years world tour with the exhibition called "Handmade in Germany " a unique chance offered to 150 German manufactures, craftsmen and designers to show their masterpieces. We have also an office and a showroom in Berlin.

- What is your Unique Selling Proposition?
HOLY TRINITY AREA gesture controlled light
The light-beam of our lights easily adjustable and 100% intuitive is at least for the time being our
USP. In the coming future we are moving into the Internet of Things #IoT. We are already testing our lights to be fully controlled using a mobile app., comfortably sitting on the sofa. Dresden has a long tradition in optic and optical applications. The city is also known as #SmartcityDresden and we want our lights to be part of this vision.

Moreover, we can fix our lights in ceilings and walls, and produce them in different shapes and colours. Our lights are made to meet the needs of families as well as of companies and facilities.
HOLY TRINITY led table light RIMA

They combine top quality materials and technologies with innovation and design. This is Made in Germany and locally. 
Please visit our webside as well as our Facebook page and Twitter to know more about us.


News from Sòphia High Tech S.r.l (Naples-Italy): how things have changed in the past few months

Antonio, in January 2014 you have released an interview to HTxA Blog. Things have changed quite a bit since then and Sòphia High Tech S.r.l has celebrated its 2nd year of life just a few days ago.

Angela Incampo: Could you please describe your customer satisfaction regarding your product/service and the success of the business in the European market?

Antonio Caraviello: Sòphia High Tech, "born" in July 2013, has been classified by the Ministry of Economic Development (Italy) as an innovative start-up. This company classification identifies a company that has as its sole goal the development and production of products and services with highly technological value, and whose founding members are at least PhD students. 

The idea, behind the establishment of the company, was to design and sell standard fixtures (according to UNI, EN, ISO, ASTM, DIN, BS, AF, etc.) and special fixtures to perform mechanical tests on innovative materials, as composite materials. The approach to the market requirements has been very flexible because Sòphia, over assisting clients in the testing phase, ensures total support in engineering with high technological value, especially in R&D. Then the growth of Sòphia, evaluated relative to the market, has a high performance index since its birth (about half a year ago) has enriched the core business of all the skills of PhDs and university professors, in the shareholder structure. 

Sòphia has started from the realization of testing equipment and now realizes, for example, an appropriate customized equipment for a customer, to perform the tests of friction welding  titanium. For this reason the company is undergoing a spin off accreditation at the University of Naples Federico II

 A.I.: Please describe the achievements of your growth strategy over the past 2 years.

 A.C.: Below the goals for business growth, achieved in the past 18 months of activity:  
  • Purchase of certified FEM software with high technological potential (MSC PATRAN, NASTRAN, ADAMS, MARC) 
  • Purchase of CAD design software (CATIA, ENOVIA, 3D VIA COMPOSER) 
  • Quality Certification: ISO 9001 
  • Spacious and professional Headquarters, adjacent to a manufacturing company (Mek Euro) 
  • Creating jobs: No. 10 
  • Creating internship: No. 1
  • Creating university internships: No. 3 
  • Professional training for employees (from University Professors) 
  • Partnerships with manufacturing companies (MP, Mek Euro, Zito) for a valid supply chain
  • Partnership with the University of Naples Federico II for technology transfer 
  • Admission to Smart & Start financing (Start & Smart, an initiative of Invitalia and the Ministry of Economic Development, finances innovative start-ups which have an innovation project characterized by a significant technology content) 
  • Sòphia has been named by the Ministry of Economic Development: National Success case 
  • Creating a solid network of customers in Italy (Fincantieri, FIAT, University of Naples Federico II, Alenia Aeronautica, ENEL, DE WALT, Ansaldo, National Institute of Nuclear Physics, Magnaghi Aeronautica) 
  • Access to internationalization programs with the Italian Trade Agency through managerial training 
  • Creation of a Marketing Strategy (stickers, brochures, website, trade fairs, business card, business ties, social networks, interviews) 
  • Writing a research program 
  • Awareness for the return of the brains 
  • Writing an academic paper, still in validation  

A.I.: What are the key strategies that allow you to be innovative?

A.C.: The key strategies that led TBiz results, are summarized below:

1. To train technical team and management.

Sòphia is a company with limited liability, but the people who work for it have the typical approach of a joint stock company, maintaining the flexibility that distinguishes SMEs. Each of the young PhDs who founded Sòphia has a management role and therefore is training day by day in order to improve the overall business performance. Engineers have been trained to act ad hoc in order to gain a highly critical skill on engineering problems. Because the company's core business is focused on research projects it is necessary for the human resources to have an eclectic expertise on technical problems as well.  

2. To involve human resources in the company's mission. 
Sòphia considers its employees the main stakeholders of the company. The founders were able to transmit to each employee the corporate vision, spending time to plan their personal growth. The partners have therefore decided to support themselves economically not perceiving gains or a fixed salary from the company, despite working actively in Sòphia. Sophia believes enormously that the managerial sector meets continually technical field, generating the necessary knowledge exchange. This because we strongly believe that the technicians of today will be the managers of tomorrow.

3. To find the right partnerships. 
Innovation is pursued offering to customers a complete package which includes not only the digital prototyping but also the physical mock up and testing. For this reason, the first partner of Sòphia is Mek Euro, a manufacturing company, which operates in the field of precision engineering. Both companies are located in the same building, so each market request is processed through both for  design, for production and industrial automation.  

4. To involve the University. 
Sòphia is the bridge between research and company (business) since it was founded by researchers who gained high industrial skills. Sòphia is waiting to receive the spin off accreditation from the University of Naples Federico II, and it actively works in close collaboration with the DICMAPI - Department of chemical engineering, material and industrial production of this university.  

5. To make an appropriate business communication. 
The web now defines Sophia "the team of red ties". The idea is always to introduce ourselves as a compact team, inspired by TEAM of Formula One or football TEAM: All united and ready to solve a problem, or to answer a need.   

6. To study. 
The managerial areas of Sòphia are all driven by PhDs. They look deep at everyday issues related to their work and make strategic choices increasingly innovative. Even in this sense, the approach to customers is highly technical, involving them from the outset, in the technical and operational choices.  

7. To join the national financing. 
Sophia stood out in Italy for its uniqueness and therefore had access to funding programs promoted by the Ministry of Economic Development. As a innovative start up Sòphia received funding from INVITALIA, with 70% of the grant. This allows to accelerate exponentially its business investments, focusing constantly on business growth. The TEAM, highly motivated, sees the professional challenges as the solution to a continuous growth in order to become LEADER in the field of Engineering

We are also very proud to announce that we have been choosen for the European Business Awards amongst 24,000 companies.

Antonio, many thanks again for making us aware of the developments occured in the past months.