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New Plant With Breakthrough Technology Negotiating $1.4 Billion Deal


September 5, 2002
Copyright © 2002 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Two local engineers are set to take China by storm, introducing new technology to be implemented there as industry standard and, in the process, opening a potential $1.4 billion market.

Luis Rivera Oyola, founder and president of Caguas-based Manufacturing Technology Services (MTS), has formed a strategic alliance with Joseph Vilella, founder and president of San Diego-based Vectron Inc., to open a plant next month in Aguada.

The plant, to operate in a 30,000-plus-square-foot Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. (Pridco) building, represents a $2.6 million investment for the two engineers, who studied together at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez. It will open with 28 employees and is likely to create a total of 150 to 200 jobs next year.

The plant will manufacture the K2-AOI machine, which retails for $250,000 each. It will also initiate research & development (R&D) to expand the machine’s potential. Initially, the plant will have the capacity to build 500 of these circuit board inspection machines a year.

The Aguada plant will deliver the first models of the K2-AOI to China in first-quarter 2003. Oyola and Vilella anticipate delivering 200 to 250 of these machines, which are currently being manufactured in San Diego, during the first year. "My Chinese colleagues say conservatively that we could quickly escalate to 1,000 machines annually to supply their market alone," Vilella said. He already has requests from the private sector in China, Singapore, and Europe.

"It is truly incredible that–thanks to the help of Secretary of Economic Development & Commerce Ramon Cantero Frau, who had the vision to invest $5 million of Pridco’s funds in Vectron–Puerto Ricans will lead the way for China to follow," Vilella said.

The K2-AOI, developed by Vilella in 1996, is the only one of its kind in the world. "I have the patent for the high-resolution digital color–in a fully parametric world–machine with the most advanced technology for the automated optical inspection of printed circuit boards," Vilella said.

He explained that with each passing day, the chips that compose the circuit board are made even smaller, until they’re as tiny as a grain of sand. Because the chips are so difficult to spot, the likelihood of human error during the circuit boards’ inspection increases.

The K2-AOI’s sensors magnify the diminutive chip components, which can number anywhere from 400 to 500 per circuit board, making them visible in full color and enabling the manufacturer to see and correct errors.

The competition’s cameras, Vilella said, are black-and-white and work by superimposing a photograph of a perfect board over a newly manufactured one to determine if there are any differences. "This is obviously not as accurate, and it is not in color," Vilella said.

Rivera Oyola explained that the Aguada plant will be doing R&D to find ways to boost the K2-AOI’s current six million-pixel image resolution first to 11 million pixels and later to 16 million. The Aguada plant has already hired three engineers and Vilella expects that number to grow to 12 within two years.

Vilella will be meeting in October with China’s minister of science & technology, who intends to install at least one machine per production line of surface-mount technology. China has 7,000 production lines of surface-mount technology and wants to increase these by 20% annually. Puerto Rico has 68 of these production lines. The Chinese ministry is targeting the telecommunications industry as the first to receive the K2-AO1, aiming to make China the worldwide leader in circuit board production.

Rivera Oyola is preparing his Caguas plant to produce the K2-AOI, just in case there’s an extraordinary large request for the machine. The plant in Ireland will also be ready to join the manufacturing efforts should there be overflow and can be used to supply the European market.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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