David Vye, MWJ Editor
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David Vye is responsible for Microwave Journal's editorial content, article review and special industry reporting. Prior to joining the Journal, Mr. Vye was a product-marketing manager with Ansoft Corporation, responsible for high frequency circuit/system design tools and technical marketing communications. He previously worked for Raytheon Research Division and Advanced Device Center as a Sr. Design Engineer, responsible for PHEMT, HBT and MESFET characterization and modeling as well as MMIC design and test. David also worked at M/A-COM's Advanced Semiconductor Operations developing automated test systems and active device modeling methods for GaAs FETs. He is a 1984 graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, with a concentration in microwave engineering.

A Stellar Partnership

September 2, 2011
Those of you following me on twitter (@mwjournal) received a tweet yesterday as I was about to meet with the folks at Stellar Industries in Millbury Massachusetts –a quiet New England town blending residential homes and “old-school manufacturing” facilities on the outskirts of Worcester. Stellar Industries, a manufacturer with just over 30 employees specializes in custom designed substrates and direct bond copper for photonics and microelectronics. The company does a brisk business selling products to the Telecom, Biomedical, and Defense Industries.

The company believes there is a good business opportunity for their products in the RF market, thus they requested a meeting to see how the Journal could help spread the word. With the recent inflation in gold prices, their copper clad substrate technology offers excellent heat-sinking properties at very competitive prices. Company President Ron Visser is well acquainted with the Microwave industry and has been attending the MTT-S IMS for years. Exhibiting at last year’s show, Ron and his sales manager Eric Brown were pleased by the amount of interest exhibition attendees showed for their technology.

The astronomical price of gold (thanks to speculators and other investors looking for safe haven) would give their copper submounts a huge cost advantage. And the company’s double-digit growth last year vindicates their bullish enthusiasm for revenue growth in the immediate future. So we look forward to hearing more from this company in the future.

Another tidbit that I heard from Eric Brown during our facility tour concerned a successful government initiative to support Stellar’s growth as a business. The Mass Manufacturing Extension Partnership offers companies training in the Time Wise® Principles of Lean Manufacturing to help them become more competitive. I was very impressed by this story, especially considering the news this week about the California solar panel manufacturer that received federal seed money yet is now filing for bunkruptcy because they can't compete with their Chinese counterparts.

Too often the media reports on the government’s shortcomings and one can come to believe the public sector is incapable of getting anything right. But based on Eric Brown's praise for this particular state funded program, this just isnt the case. In an age where government is portrayed as “the” problem and a roadblock to capitalism and the free-market, this example illustrates how government can be get it right. As any investor knows, in business you win some and you lose some. This example tells me that we need continued government support for the private sector, even if every effort doesnt succeed.

From the Mass Manufacturing Extension Partnership website:

Stellar also specializes in vapor deposited thin films and gold/tin solders on thick film and thin film as well as on semiconductor wafers. For small manufacturers, on-time delivery and high quality, long-lasting products are what separates them from larger companies and overseas competition.Stellar Industries, a manufacturer with just over 30 employees, makes a unique product which is good for business, but the types of custom requests it receives from customers can slow down delivery. The Millbury-based company makes miniaturized heat conductive ceramic blocks, similar to circuit boards, which are made-to-order for customers in the telecom, biomedical, and defense industries. Demand for their products is increasing and as the company grew, management recognized a need to more efficiently manage their production process. Stellar called on the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) to help streamline their performance on the production lines.

Utilizing the Time Wise® Principles of Lean Manufacturing, the MassMEP trained all 32 employees. Stellar Industries showed great progress in the time it takes to produce a product and improved their teamwork skills. "The MassMEP team opened our eyes to different ways of manufacturing," said Ron Visser, President of Stellar Industries. "We can now look at everything from a different standpoint. We take what the customer wants and break it down into smaller steps to increase productivity and product quality."Since the program was implemented, the dollar output per manufacturing employee has increased 8 percent to an all time high for the company. Product output has increased by 25 percent. For the first time ever, all weekly work orders were delivered on time."Communication is key. As a result of the training, we have opened up lines of communication that weren’t there before," added Visser.The company also conducts frequent Kaizen events, short bursts of activity to make small improvements with a goal of making large gains in efficiency and productivity, which will continue to wring out more waste from their operation. They now also have a Lean steering committee that monitors such activity."The next step for us is to be certified by the International Organization of Standardization (ISO), the world’s largest developer of production and manufacturing standards," said Visser. "Lean has allowed us to be more disciplined, so we should be able to go into ISO much easier than a year ago. Every day, we see improvements. It takes a continual effort."

About Stellar Industries

Stellar’s products include custom lapped and polished electronic grade ceramics composed of Alumina, Beryllium Oxide, Aluminum Nitride, or specialty ceramics. Stellar also supplies custom services for metalizations on these ceramics using a variety of thick film, thin film, refractory and Direct Bond Copper metalizations. Our ceramic substrates are used in a variety of electronic components including:
Laser Diode / Photodetector Submounts:
• Featuring precision machining and wrap-around metalization vapor deposited gold/tin solder alloys
High Power Microelectronic substrates:
• Featuring Copper Clad High Temperature DBC metalization
Microwave and RF thin film substrates:
• Featuring Precision Ion Etch geometries
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