Interview with Peter Tallian

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622075-Global SMT Jan_selected-pagesBTU International is a global supplier and technology leader of advanced thermal processing equipment and processes to the electronics assembly and alternative energy manufacturing markets. BTU has a unique set of capabilities, know-how and experience supporting precision temperature and atmosphere applications up to 1800˚C. The company has operations in North Billerica, Massachusetts, and Shanghai, China, with direct sales and service in the USA, Asia and Europe. Our editor recently spoke with Peter Tallian, BTU International’s newly appointed General Manager to find out more about Peter’s role and how the company plans to keep its competitive edge moving forward.

Peter, congratulations on your new role within BTU International. Can you give us a brief description of your professional background?

Thank you. My career has been focused primarily on high-technology manufacturing businesses with worldwide operations. I gained a very solid foundation at IBM’s semiconductor operations for 13 years and then moved through executive positions at technology leaders in telecommunication, semiconductor and specialized manufacturers. I am trained in finance with degrees in finance and management.

How long have you been involved with BTU International and what roles have you held over the years?

I joined BTU in 2009 in the role of CFO. In 2012, I added the responsibility of Chief Operating Officer. With the acquisition of BTU by Amtech Systems at the beginning of 2015, I assumed the role of General Manager. Amtech Systems, Inc. is a global supplier of advanced thermal processing equipment to the solar, semiconductor/electronics, and LED manufacturing markets.

What does the title of “general manager” mean within BTU International? What do you hope to accomplish in this role?

The general manager of BTU is responsible for the overall performance of the BTU division and sets the strategic goals of the organization in all aspects of the business. We have sales and service locations throughout the world. Each Amtech division is run in a similar fashion with a high degree of independence. BTU International has long been recognized within the industry as a technology leader and innovator. How will you continue this strategy presently as well as in the future? BTU International started out as BTU Engineering and has been in business for over 65 years. BTU’s approach to delivering innovative solutions to our customers is multi-faceted. Our reflow and belt furnaces are customized to specific user applications. We start with the detailed knowledge and expertise of our worldwide agents and distributors who have been with BTU for decades. We continue with a deeply experienced sales force that works with our engineering experts in China and the USA. As you listen to our customers, you will hear of the long-term partnerships, the applicaInterview tions and the engineering expertise that we bring to each of our working relationships. It is not unusual for us to have shipped 40 or 50 machines to a customer and, in some cases, we have shipped well over 200 machines to currently active customers. We partner with other Amtech divisions, leading research institutes and startup ventures on applied R&D. BTU takes great pride in its proven engineering capability.

What are your growth plans moving forward? Which regions are growing the fastest currently?

Our growth plans focus on our two core businesses, reflow equipment and high-temperature belt furnaces for multiple markets. We are pleased with the level of new customers that we add to our customer base each year and are working hard to expand to adjacent markets. Our proven skill in manufacturing top quality equipment supported by strong applications and field support are the primary drivers of our growth. Regionally, we are seeing strong demand in Asia including China, Mexico and the USA, compelling us to further strengthen our support teams to meet this demand. From a segment point of view, we have been strong in our partnership with the Taiwanese SATS providers and continue to gain share in the automotive market.

We understand you’ve had measurable success in Mexico through your representative SMarTsol. What needs does the Mexican market have that BTU can fill better than competitors?

We are really pleased with the excellent partnership we have with SMarTsol in the rapidly growing Mexican market. SMarTsol knows and supports the customer base in a superior and highly effective manner. They are the partner that all the furnace suppliers want to have on their side. We are growing our installed base in Mexico due to the robust technical strength of our equipment supported by excellent, on-site field service. The automotive market is a key driver in Mexico and we are selected due to the quality, repeatability and technical capability of our solution. Our closed-loop convection technology is fundamental to this market, enabling oven repeatability run-to-run and line-to-line.

In the news recently, we have noticed a focus on the company’s commitment to reflow and high-temperature belts. What is the reasoning behind this strategy? What benefits does this provide to customers? How does this focus fit into your overall growth strategy plan?

BTU has a 65-year history of excellence in reflow and high-temperature belt furnaces. We have thousands of machines installed and operating – many for decades. Following the merger with Amtech Systems, the BTU team is actively focused on its areas of strength and success. We believe focus strengthens our commitment to our customers and supports our growth plan. We’ve always felt that our high-temperature expertise is a benefit to our reflow customers. Our expertise does not end at 350° or even 400°.

Our engineers routinely handle problems upto 1800°C, greatly increasing our knowledge base in solving critical thermal processing problems.

PYRAMAX is quickly becoming an industry standard. Over the years, it has developed and grown in order to benefit more than electronics manufacturing. What other markets or industry segments can benefit from the PYRAMAX technology?

Our PYRAMAX product is focused precisely on the reflow market and we are constantly innovating to reduce operating costs and to broaden its use within solder reflow. Our well-proven and carefully engineered convection technology has been used in many other markets.We have a configurable offering through our custom furnaces group that extends the use of convection heating to other markets. The closed-loop convection plenums can be configured for very wide widths, long heated lengths and heavy loads. This type of convection dryer is called a CHT. As a result, we’ve been able to deliver a highly customized solution that has the built-in, field-proven reliability of a volume product. Convection is by far the best choice for heating and cooling at lower temperatures.

From what we understand of the PYRAMAX platform of ovens, it would be an ideal fit for LED production. Is that the case? Is the PYRAMAX gaining popularity in the LED market? If so, what features make it a good fit for LED production?

The PYRAMAX was developed originally to handle very large backplane boards that were common during the communications ramp-up years ago. These boards were so large and so heavy that only PYRAMAX could handle the job. Now, what’s old is new again: LED boards that are three or four feet long are not uncommon. For LED, we are seeing demand for our longest Pyramax configuration, the 12 zone Pyramax150z12.This gives LED manufacturers the throughput they need while ensuring thermal uniformity on a very long board. The process repeatability of our closed-loop convection technology is an added benefit to ensure yield on these high-value boards.

BTU has continued to maintain a strong global service infrastructure to support customers in both the electronics and LED markets. Please describe your service infrastructure for our readers.

We are justifiably proud of the BTU global service and support team. We provide BTU support out of more than 30 locations worldwide, including parts depots on three continents. Our BTU support is supplemented by excellent teams managed by our key distributors. The success factors of our support are the quality of the BTU product, and the training and experience of a service team with a willingness to move mountains to keep our customers up and running.