The ninth design class is already a standard

Significantly improved configurator, two new drills, new MDI, rigid-flex and flexi plates as standard production. And new enquiries from Romania, Finland or Ukraine. That's Gatema PCB saying goodbye to a crazy last year. Once again a record year in terms of order volume. This year should be no different, despite the raw material crisis. The alignment of processes with the recently acquired German company Kubatronik, which opens the door to the world of extremely sophisticated boards for Gatema, should help.

What do you consider to be the key message of 2021 from your perspective?

Radim Vítek (Production Manager). This corresponds to 75-micron joints and gaps. We produce dozens more of them every month as standard. This changes the overall view of the company. We are no longer just a specialist in quick and simple prototypes, but can also make more complex boards in very good quality and at extraordinary speed. Already at the beginning of last year, more complex orders started to flow to us. I'm glad we've incorporated flexi plates, the operators can process them as standard. Overall, the proportion of complex orders has increased substantially.


Does the portfolio of companies in terms of their field of activity change along with the higher sophistication of boards?

Zdeněk Cápal (Chairman of the Board). What may look complex to a customer may be a simple board to us. And vice versa. If we are talking purely about the manufacturer's perspective, it will be a little bit different. The field of application is similarly misleading. Someone in a field that sounds very flashy from a layman's point of view may use a simple board. Conversely, another who works in a common industry may need a very sophisticated board.


Would you be able to pick out a very unusual commission from last year?

Radim Vitek: Thanks to the transition to sophisticated technologies, we had a lot of unusual orders. But the case that sticks in my mind the most is the one where we had to drill one eight-layer board six times. First, it was pressed and drilled as a four-layer. And then again with six and eight layers. Always double-sided. And finally we riveted it with a non-conductive paste, which is already a big non-standard.

Is your cooperation with Kubatronik already making its way into your production? The German company that has specialised in the production of the most complex boards for decades - and whose acquisition you announced less than two years ago?

Zdeněk Cápal: The whole situation was quite affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the associated travel restrictions. So far, it has only happened on partial projects, when we can help each other with experience or materials. But we are trying to harmonize our production processes. Because a semi-finished product always has an environment in it, there are some assembly holes, ready for specific production. If we were to take over such a board in the middle, everything has to be clear in advance. So far, our cooperation looks more like they give us certain less complex projects. For them it's a relief from a capacity point of view, for us it tends to be more technologically demanding. But by being able to rely on their know-how, we have so far always solved everything to the customer's satisfaction.

Radim Vitek: The first step was to stock the same material used by our colleagues at Kubatronik. We don't differ in the basic material, we would like to take over orders that we would work on together from start to finish. We want to have the process set up and under control from the very beginning.

Traditionally, you invest in production machinery. Which parts of production have you innovated in recent months?

Zdeněk Cápal: There are two new drilling machines that have helped us to expand the production bottleneck. We're able to get that into other operations faster. Qualitatively, we've got a new MDI, which puts us at different numbers in terms of speed. It's a little bit different than the original one from 2015, which now had its limits.Jak zákazníci reagují na vylepšenou verzi konfigurátoru?

Radim Vitek: We have had excellent feedback, which we are happy about. The automation of all the processes helps significantly on all fronts. Both in the technical preparation of production, where merging or data preparation has been automated a lot in recent years, and in the business itself, where we see less errors because less and less data is being transcribed from emails or orders. By having everything connected to our production system, there are far fewer errors along the way.

Zdeněk Cápal: By having the specification given and guided, the customer has nowhere to go. This is a big help for us. Of course, with the data itself, it's not able to help much, it's still up to us and education. That's why we are again publishing the PCB designer's guide and the individual technical specifications that the customer must be able to do in their data design. We are gradually removing the errors.

Radim Vitek: In the future, such a configurator might be able to help with the data itself. To be able to do preparation or pre-preparation, to do basic things in a much more sophisticated way.

Are there any markets you would like to target as a priority?

Zdeněk Cápal: It doesn't change too much. We have to be where the technology is. And it is still mainly in Western Europe. The domestic market will always be important for us as well. At the same time, we try to monitor the eastern markets to see if there are any interesting companies emerging there. During the autumn, we had customers from Romania, Finland and Ukraine. We are not defending ourselves against anyone, but we have already proven many times in Central and Western Europe that we are good and the carriers can do it.

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Zdeněk Cápal