If you had to guess which Israel technology most affected Microsoft's Surface tablet, you would probably think of some smart hardware component that improves communications, or perhaps an algorithm that runs in the core of the operating system. But you would be way off the mark. It turns out that the most substantial Israeli presence in the Surface is to do with the device's magnesium casing.
When electronics giant Flextronics began producing the Surface in 2012, it discovered a problem in the process of casting magnesium, of which the back of the device is made. The production line needed to shave 70 microns (a micron is a millionth of a meter) from the magnesium sheets, so that they would fit the profile of the device. This led to a substantial portion of the magnesium sheets being rejected, and hurt the production line's operating efficiency.
The solution came from ScanDirect, the Chinese distributor of Israeli company GraphiTech. GraphiTech's technology measures, rapidly and automatically, mechanical parts involved in semiconductor processing (IPI, or in process inspection). According to GraphiTech, the solution was good enough for Flextronics to be able to receive within seconds precise values for the location at which the magnesium sheets needed to be shaved, and for the usage of the production line capacity to rise to the required levels. GraphiTech estimates that the percentage of rejected sheets fell from 70% to less than 15% after its technology was implemented.
The next stage was that Flextronics bought GraphiTech's solutions, in a deal estimated at about $3 million. This deal illustrates the high level of sophistication that electronics manufacturers must provide.
"The requirements of manufacturers as far as the precision of electronics manufacturing processes is concerned are constantly growing," says Jonathan (Jony) Bassan, a partner in GraphiTech and president of ScanDirect. "It gets down to the level of single microns, and requires the involvement of sophisticated equipment, while at the same time labor costs in China are rising, which means trying to solve as many things as possible automatically."
ScanDirect was founded in 2005 by GraphiTech and China Direct. It's involvement in portable computing did not begin with the approach from Flextronics. About a year previously, its solution was integrated into a similar production set-up, this time of another electronics manufacturing giant, Jabil, which built Apple's iPhone, and later also the iPad.
In addition, the technology, which is laser based, is used in heavy industry, and the aviation and defense industries. Natan Mossak, CEO of GraphiTech, says that the company hopes to leverage the ties formed with Flextronics in China to integrate its products in the electronics manufacturing giant's production lines in Latin America and Europe as well. ScanDirect believes it will end 2013 with 600 measuring systems installed in China, meaning revenue of 20 million yuan ($3.3 million), and that it will grow by 50% next year. The company has no plans at present to raise money to finance its activity. It currently employs about twenty people in China and six in Israel.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 12, 2013
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