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Connecting Technology

Trackwise are very pleased to present their first newsletter using the new company branding rolled out in October 2012.

Why Connecting Technology?

At a fundamental level printed circuit boards are (inter) Connecting Technology – the technology (printed tracks) connecting components to form a functioning circuit. Trackwise’ principle line of business is the manufacture of specialist RF and antenna printed circuit boards – vital components in telecommunication systems, a technology, used for (nod to Nokia) connecting people.

Connecting Technology especially applies to the base station antenna PCB that (as the dipole or patch or other radiating element) is the ‘air interface’ i.e. the last piece of physical technology prior to the transmission of the call, data packet or text to the connecting party.

It also describes a key 2012 innovation of Trackwise – the manufacture of flexible multilayer printed circuit boards of any length – to 8 metres / 300 inches or more – which is being promoted as Improved Harness Technology. A wiring harness, like a printed circuit board track, is connecting components or equipment (technology) to form a functioning subsystem.

Connecting Technology also captures the essence of Trackwise as a customer service operation. We may be a manufacturing business but fundamentally we are providing a service to you the customer, effectively matching our experience and expertise to your specific requirements and thereby bringing your technology to life in a timely, cost effective and high quality manner.

A Company ‘In Motion’

Without doubt, this year has been the time to revisit our brand. Much has happened to reinforce our business as a quality-driven, innovative and ambitious organisation and we wanted to reflect this change with a new identity.

Since our last rebranding in 2006, we have made a significant acquisition, set up a joint venture in India, raised patents, supported research and invested in our core infrastructure. As always, our most important continued investment has been in our expert and loyal team.

Multilayer Flex, Improved Harness Technology

A recent process innovation has extended Trackwise’ capability to the manufacture of flexible multilayer printed circuit boards of any length, more than 8 metres / 300 inches in length, making these the world’s largest flexible multilayer PCBs.

Flexible multilayer PCBs can offer significant benefits over conventional wiring harnesses, notably in terms of space and weight saving but also a reduction in assembly time and cost – as well as an increase in product precision, reliability and repeatability.

The use of flexible multilayer PCBs can generate up to 75% weight saving as compared to traditional wiring harnesses. In high value, mass-critical applications this represents a significant opportunity to improve system performance.

The maximum size that a flexible multilayer PCB is usually available is of the order of 610mm / 24 inches, exceptionally 914mm / 36 inches and this innovation is therefore a huge step change in manufacturing capability.

Image shows a 5 metre long 6 layer flex PCB – manufactured by Trackwise for multiple uses including aircraft, rotorcraft, space and UAVs.

Investment, Improvement and Innovation

Following a sustained period of record order intake, in H1 2012 Trackwise embarked upon an accelerated investment programme. This has included expansion of the current manufacturing facility in Tewkesbury as well as the introduction of new state-of-the-art equipment including surface finishing and an improved solder mask print facility. These investments, as well as new manufacturing software (Softwires Printed Circuit Professional) and recruitment of a new generation of staff are intended to expand our capacity and capabilities so as to continue to ensure that we offer the best possible service to our customers.

In combination with these investments and in order to continue to improve our service offering, we have upgraded our QMS – ISO9001:2008 and EMS – ISO14001:2004 to accreditation by UKAS and enrolled with ADS SC21 – 21st Century Supply Chains initiative. ‘SC21 is a change programme designed to accelerate the competitiveness of the aerospace & defence industry by raising the performance of its supply chains. International competition, together with the challenges posed by the defence industrial strategy, necessitates rapid improvement in the effectiveness of our supply chains.’ Trackwise have continued to expand their business in the defence sector and commitment to SC21 is a statement of our intent to continue to improve our performance to our defence and commercial customers.

Trackwise has a proven record of innovation and 2012 has seen a further major step with development of the world’s largest multilayer PCBs. This development – innovative on a worldwide basis – as well as a new antenna filter technology suggested to a customer (and subject to a new patent application) show Trackwise continue to offer innovative products and service solutions, not just build-to-print PCB manufacturing.

2012 A Great British Summer

Trackwise are proud to have contributed to the success of the Olympic and Paralympic Games though supply of PCBs for antennas both in the Olympic stadium itself and also in London buses.

In spite of a seventh successive poor Summer – UK Met Office figures for this summer show that it was the second wettest in records that go back to 1910 – we hope that, like us, you enjoyed the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. 2012 was a Great British summer!

4G Rollout – Is ‘Mobile Data Explosion’ Hype or Happening?

It is like Katie Taylor vs Sofya Ochigava, the noisiest event in the Olympics – ever?!

In the blue (Hype) corner Analysys Mason are warning that ‘Instead of worrying about the impact of a mobile data explosion, operators should worry about making it happen in the first place.’ In the red (Happening) corner Qualcomm are getting ready for the ‘1000x challenge: Mobile data traffic is exploding. Globally, the traffic has been doubling each year during the last few years. However, now the industry is preparing for an astounding 1000x increase.’

So is ‘mobile data explosion’ hype or happening? The answer to this question is key to Trackwise; our core business is the provision of antenna PCBs for advanced network infrastructure antennas and therefore the Happening scenario should bode well for business over the next few years. Trackwise has already been very busy on antenna PCBs for 4G networks around the world (Canada, Russia, USA, Spain, Mexico, amongst others) but the world economic problems, limiting capital available to network operators, combined with the Hype scenario would mean a much less positive future forecast. The situation is complicated further by operator and network consolidation and of course technology development.

So is ‘mobile data explosion’ hype or happening? Trackwise would very much appreciate your views!

(For the record, Republic of Ireland boxer, Katie Taylor – wearing red – won the Gold medal on 9th August 2012.)

Trackwise Epitome India Localisation Increases

Trackwise Epitome India (TEI) – Trackwise joint venture established in 2007 with Epitome Components Ltd, India’s largest manufacturer of single- and double-sided FR4 PCBs – has continued to benefit from the trend to localise in India the manufacture of product for the local market.

This trend has been reinforced by controversial protectionist Indian regulation. It has been reported that the Indian Telecom Ministry may mandate telecom companies to buy a certain percentage of their network equipment from Indian manufacturers. The policy also envisages value creation on Indian shores which could force foreign players to transfer their IPR to Indian units. Foreign players have objected to this policy and have raised WTO norms in a bid to block it.

Booz and Company have recently published a forecast that the Indian telecom equipment market is expected to grow at approximately 10% between 2011-20 to reach USD 37 billion by 2020. Roughly 50% of that is made up of handsets and the other half of broadband (USD 10 billion) and wireless network equipment (USD 8 billion).

To discuss your India localisation requirements please contact Trackwise Epitome in India:

Epitome in India: Anuraag Dhoot

Or Trackwise in the UK: Philip Johnston