Making things happen – more and more often
Increasingly, Plansee products are needed for manufacturing modern mass products such as LEDs, smartphones and displays. And molybdenum and tungsten parts, either in the form of components used directly in our customers’ products or in the form of tools for manufacturing those products, need to be available in large quantities in very short timeframes.
There is an unmistakable trend for products in the semiconductor and consumer electronics industries to be launched onto the market with major functional improvements in ever shorter cycles. In this context, the major manufacturers are targeting global markets, which they are supplying with huge quantities of products simultaneously. Nowadays it is commonplace for a well-equipped smartphone or tablet to contain components made from anything up to 60 different elements of the periodic table. Among the indispensable materials in the consumer electronics industry are molybdenum and tungsten. Plansee’s ambition is to be able to custom-develop, manufacture and deliver molybdenum and tungsten products to meet any quality requirements in the shortest possible time, whatever quantity is required.
Expectations are growing. The many years of experience that Plansee has to offer in the development, manufacture and reliable supply of the materials molybdenum and tungsten represent one of the key requirements of customers from the electronics industry, who have extremely high expectations. The new challenges are to be found in becoming part of an extremely complex, global value-added chain and producing and delivering the product at the specified time, in the correct quantity and quality and in a specific country.
And that’s not all: It is not rare for the order to be placed while the engineers are still specifying and elaborating the design details and the precise properties of the materials. “In such circumstances, an extremely rapid response and concurrent working are needed in order to adapt the manufacturing techniques and make the necessary production capacity available,” says Damir Blazevic, head of the Electronics market unit at Plansee High Performance Materials.
In spite of all Plansee’s experience and the fact that its capacity for manufacturing molybdenum and tungsten products is the largest in the world, every project presents obstacles that need to be overcome. There could be issues related to the quantity or specification of the raw material required. Or in developing suitable tools that take account of the properties of the material while at the same time meeting the stringent quality requirements. Or in procuring special machines. Or in logistics, if the available air freight capacity is limited, which has already happened, due to the high weight of molybdenum and tungsten. “At first sight, many of these projects seemed simply impossible. But our ambition is to make it happen – thanks to our extremely tightly networked organization,” says Damir Blazevic.
The organization adapts to the situation. There are only a few months between confirmation of the order and the start of production, and these are hectic weeks. In a very short space of time, Plansee puts together a project team made up of specialists from all the required disciplines. One crucial issue is where the product will be manufactured. This is where Plansee makes good use of its worldwide production network of highly specialized plants in Europe, the USA and Asia. And then things start moving very quickly. Process engineers develop a suitable production process, and this is increasingly done using sophisticated computer simulations. The machines and systems that will be needed are specified and ordered. Production staff are taken from other units or hired and given training in the new processes and quality standards. Damir Blazevic: “Whenever our customers need large quantities of tungsten and molybdenum products as quickly as possible, we are the right people to come to. There’s no such word as ‘can’t’.”