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Progressively Flexible(HKTDC Electronic Components & Parts, Vol 02,2006)

Compass Technology Co Ltd

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Compass Technology Co Ltd is a high-end producer of high density flexible substrates for mobile phones and mounting interfaces for ICs

Proving that persistence pays off, Compass Technology Co Ltd is now at the top-end of the hi-tech production of high density flexible substrates for mobile phones and mounting interfaces for ICs.

Backed by strong management and technical personnel with years of experience in the semiconductor industry, the 1997-established manufacturer claims it can handle even the most demanding specifications.

"For example, we are currently mass producing 1- and 2-layer metal tape substrates. We also produce flexible printed circuit boards for use in small-size TFT-LCD driver module applications," asserts CEO and president Chee W. Cheung.

Flexible substrates are found in cellular handsets, telecommunication infrastructure equipment, plasma TV receivers, digital cameras, notebook computers, personal digital assistants, colour printers and high speed optical reading heads for routers.

Other products from Compass include micro ball grid arrays (BGA), chip on flex (COF), chip scale packages (CSP), flexible printed circuits (FPC) and CMOS camera modules.

The firm's Hong Kong production flexibility is combined with Japanese manufacturing technology and quality and includes state-of-the-art, automated reel-to-reel production lines; world class clean-room facilities designed for sub-micron lithography; a training programme; and hi-tech R&D.

"At first, we brought in production lines from Japan," says Cheung. "However, we have since developed our own technologies with assistance and research from several universities, including a collaborative programme with the University of Science and Technology and the Polytechnic University - both of Hong Kong."

Compass presently manufactures verified pitch products at the 35 microns level. "While 35 microns is very fine, next year we will bring out products at the 20 microns level for customers like HP and Motorola for different ASIC processor packaging technology," Cheung says.

"ASAT of Hong Kong, possibly the second-largest assembly subcontractor in the world, is also a customer - in fact, just about all the major subcontracting houses buy from us, including Korea," he enthuses.

Cheung says that when he started the business his first priority was start-up capital. "In 1997, I went to the venture capital market and raised US$16m to launch my plans," he recalls. "Compass now has a paid-up capital of about US$70m." The CEO believes these figures make Compass one of the largest manufacturing investments in post-1997 Hong Kong.

"We employ some 450 skilled personnel in Hong Kong and another 450 on the Chinese mainland, and we believe our technology prowess is ranked among the top five in the world," says Cheung. "We moved the labour-intensive part of the operation, which are the inspection procedures, onto the mainland because we could not find sufficient manpower in Hong Kong."

Compass also provides companies such as US-based Staktek Holdings Inc with memory modules. The old 1MB, 2MB capacities have been left far behind, and users today expect 8-16GB in one stick.

"These large capacities demand 4-layer production using highly specialised technology known as micro-vias - which are super-fast, tiny linkages," says Cheung. "We can make micro-vias as small as 8.5 microns, which even surprises the Taiwanese, as happened when we presented a paper at a technical symposium there. There are big Taiwan firms involved in PCBs and FPCs, yet even they were surprised when they saw our progress - all achieved in-house."

Compass is certified for environmentally clean manufacturing. "We spent over US$2m on a waste treatment plant and obtained our discharge licence from the Hong Kong government's Environmental Protection Department. We use water curtains and scrubbers to clean the air before release into the open, thus we are a responsible manufacturer and fully RoHS compliant."

ISO 9002-certified in December 1999, Compass achieved ISO 14001-certification in December 2000 and also has a Certificate of Merit from the Hong Kong Productivity Council.

Compass has a sales office in Singapore and representative offices in Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the US. The firm advertises in trade magazines and at trade shows.

The message is as clear as it is precise: for products in the telecommunications, data-communications, aerospace and medical equipment industries, Compass is as good as you can get.

WRITTEN BY TONY HENDERSON

Compass Technology Co Ltd

Suite 10, 5/F
Chiapua Centre
12 Siu Lek Yuen Rd
Shatin, New Territories
Hong Kong
Tel: 852-2688-8900
Fax: 852-2636-5626
Email:
compass@cgth.com
Web: www.compass-flex.com