New York " GE Advanced Materials, a division officially formed Jan. 1, has hit the ground running in pursuit of 10 vertical segments, including electronics applications. "We are participating in all our markets for two reasons: to increase productivity in each market and to provide aesthetic differentiation," president and chief executive officer John Krenicki said at the division's recent coming-out event here.
Formed out of GE's former plastics, silicones and quartz businesses, the Pittsfield, Mass.-headquartered division's combined product portfolio encompasses such diverse items as the quartz crucibles used to grow silicone ingots; heat-dissipating, interface-management materials to protect ICs; connector materials that can survive high-temperature infrared reflow soldering; silicone-based gels, coatings and encapsulants; high-performance polycarbonate and polyetherimide films; and wire coatings for plugs and dc power cords.
"Over the past two-plus years, while the materials industry was in a downturn, we didn't sleep," said Greg Adams, general manager of global marketing for GE Advanced Materials, Plastics. "We repositioned, focusing on global electronics/electrical as one of our priorities. We view ourselves as a strategic, wing-to-wing, fully integrated supplier."
The company "pumped $55 million into a 40-year-old plant that will continue to produce traditional compounds as well as [diversify into] copolymer materials," said John Dineen, a vice president and general manager for GE Advanced Materials, Plastics.
GE also invested 300 million euros (about $378 million) in a plant in Spain for producing Ultem films, used in mobile phones, laptops, pagers and PDAs.
Advanced Materials' Structured Products business last month introduced a line of optical display films made from Lexan polycarbonate resin. The Lexan Illuminex diffuser films feature optical properties that are built into a film formulation and/or molded into a film surface. Target applications include TV screens, PDAs, desktop monitors, notebooks, GPS navigation units, cellular phones, automobile LCDs, cameras and portable DVD gear.
John Madej, global business leader for the business, said the films can improve yields. Most competitive diffusers are coated polyethylene terephthalate films that can fail during handling and assembly, leading many LCD manufacturers to experience yield rates as low as 75 to 80 percent, Madej said. The Illuminex film technology builds in optical performance through the resin and surface technology, eliminating the need for coating.
GE last year opened a $64 million technology center in Shanghai, China, that is partly focused on materials. "Our expansion in China is exponential because of local demand," said president Krenicki. "We don't see commodity product production there. The Chinese have smart engineers, on a par with the West, and they want to develop advanced materials for internal use."
One issue affecting materials is thermal management. GE's silicones business offers low-thermal-resistance die-attach adhesives and greases. New offerings will enable use of a thinner bond line between the semiconductor and heat spreader.
In Gotemba, Japan, the Electronic Materials Technical Center will open in the spring. Some 20 GE scientists will offer full-scale characterizations of a range of electronic materials. The plant will feature a full flip-chip assembly line as well as failure- and reliability-analysis equipment. "We're making a significant investment in this facility to drive our materials business forward," said Wayne Hewett, vice president and general manager for silicones.