The direct laser soldering technology. Cutting-edge soldering process optimization
Projektpartner: CERN European Organisation for Nuclear Research / Sommersemester 2015
This project was part of the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s seminar course “New Business Development”. The client was CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire), the European Organization for Nuclear Research with headquarters in Geneve. In the process of constant improvement of the performance of the tracking system at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), CERN developed a new technology denoted as Direct Laser Soldering (DLS), which constitutes a novel interconnection technology to connect silicon chips to flexible printed circuits (FPC). The new Direct Laser Soldering technology contains a number of significant benefits in comparison to conventional chip bonding processes which have the potential to revolutionize the state-of-the-art processes of today.
The aim of the project was to find, evaluate and recommend new application fields for an already existing technology, as well as to setup a market entry strategy for the chosen, most promising application fields. A final recommendation for the practical implementation will be given to allow CERN to be able to take a well-founded decision with regards to the market entry strategy of DLS.
Identification of use-benefits
By the means of a problem-based search the highly sophisticated technology has been evaluated and the technology description reduced to its main need-oriented benefits. This was achieved by the means of Qualitative Research. Over 50 interviews with potential users and industry experts have been conducted. Potential users are primarily interviewed to find out about their respective user benefits. Reducing the number of benefits to the most important ones, as well as abstracting these, simplifies communication with heterogeneous individuals.
Search for potential application areas
In this phase, people and companies whose problems can be solved by the benefits found in phase 1 are identified and therefore new potential application areas were discovered. Several internal and external methods were used in this process. To take advantage of the project team’s ‘external’ position to ‘think out of the box’, the project team used creativity methods like brainstorming and scanned patent databases to find similar problems. Broadcasting and pyramiding were also used to find even more distant fields of application. With a combination of these methods it was possible to identify a high number of potential fields of application.
Analysis of application field's attractiveness
In Phase 3 the commercial attractiveness of the potential fields of application was determined in a two-stage process. The first step consisted of an analysis of the strategic fit and the benefit relevance of all identified fields of application in order to identify those with the highest commercial attractiveness. In the second step, the SWOT analysis was set up to combine internal and external factors influencing company and environment, and to provide information for the commercial strategy.
Assembling of commercial strategy
Phase 4 deals with the creation of a commercial strategy supported by the Business Model Canvas for the relevant fields found in phase 3. This model analyses 9 aspects that have to be considered by a company while creating a commercial strategy: Key partner, Key activities, Key resources, Value proposition, Customer relationship, Channels, Customers, Costs and revenues. The focus of this analysis lies on the market side.
Key findings of the project can be summarized as follows: In accordance with the project partner, the three application fields of solar panels, medical x-Ray detectors for CdTe dental imaging and development of 3D integrated circuits have been chosen and have been thoroughly investigated.
The Global PV market has a market potential of € 24.3 billion (2013). On the one hand, the market for soldering solar panel wafers is very promising since production in Europe shrank drastically over the last two years and the Asian market started growing. This can be seen as a chance: European producers have to increase competitiveness compared to the Asian market. However, two more things have to be evaluated before tackling this market. One of them being how long it will take to develop the technology until it is fast and cheap enough for the market. The other issue is how much the efficiency of the solar panels will be increased with direct laser soldering. This question is crucial since it determines whether CERN will find a collaboration partner to develop the technology further or if CERN has to drop this field of application.
On the other hand, DLS could present the solution for the bonding issues in CdTe detector manufacturing, which would benefit significantly from its efficiency. The Global dental imaging market accounts for € 1.516.6 million (2014). The focus lies especially on small players, which dominate the market of detector manufacturers and are more likely to adopt the technology. The improvement of the DLS process in terms of usability, scalability and time to market is obviously the same issue for medical applications, as for solar cells. We see nonetheless high potential for CdTe sensors due to the high incentive for the whole industry to invest in better and high precision technology, supported by social and public interest.
Development of 3D integrated circuits can lead to a high social impact. Due to lacking communication and information, however, the project team was not able to further evaluate possible options. At this time, though, partnerships with innovative firms in the semiconductor industry are recommended. Possible partners for long-term development do exist and they are approachable. Thinkable cooperations range from bilateral agreements to participation in research consortiums and many more.
To sum it up, it is recommended to choose the CdTe dental imaging market as the primary option for CERNs DLS. Even though the dental x-Ray market size is still in its infancy, it will experience constant growth not only in EU and NA but also in Asian markets, and the high social impact in the medical sector is a fundamental requirement for the strategic interest of CERN. Furthermore, after DLS has been adopted in one field and was able to reach market maturity for a broader rollout, new x-Ray markets and other CdTe application fields (like e.g. solar cells) can be tapped.
European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN)
Route de Meyrin 385
Gehrmann Lennard Fabian
Wakounik Saša Benjamin