Collaboration: The Engine that Drives Innovation

By Joe Montano, President and CEO, Delphon

“Great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people.” Few in our industry would argue against this maxim, attributed to Steve Jobs. The reality is that true innovation is achieved not by one team but by multiple teams, leveraging each other’s collective strengths and core competencies to bring exciting new ideas to fruition.

Delphon’s Gel-Pak division has a 40-year track record of collaborating with key industry leaders. Drawing on our deep expertise in polymer chemistry and engineering, our team collaborates with our customers’ and partners’ teams to fully understand their challenges. This enables us to develop novel elastomer materials that are used to create unique component carrier products and films for high-tech companies. Building and sustaining these relationships is the engine that enables our ongoing innovation efforts.

Early on, Gel-Pak products gained acceptance as the preferred industry solution for handling small, expensive, and fragile semiconductor components. This was due to their versatility and ability to eliminate custom molded trays, allowing different die sizes to be accommodated on one tray. This foundation has served us well as we have continued to innovate and expand our portfolio. But how did we get here?

How it all began

Gel-Pak was born in 1980 out of Hewlett-Packard’s need to ship fragile beam-lead diodes for high-frequency circuitry. These minuscule, expensive and fragile diodes were not suited for shipping in conventional pocketed chip trays. Working with HP, we created the first hinged box with a proprietary “gel” coating. This elastomer-based carrier effectively immobilized these fragile diodes to protect them during shipping and handling. Over time, most other beam-lead manufacturers adopted Gel-Pak products, which expanded, through additional collaboration, to include gel-coated boxes of different sizes, as well as gel-coated trays, glass slides and films.

For the next major application – gallium arsenide field-effect transistors (GaAs FETs) used in military applications – Gel-Pak again worked with HP to develop a product configuration that could protect these small, high-frequency components. It wasn’t long before market exposure due to growing interest from other global GaAs manufacturers prompted adoption of Gel-Pak solutions for handling both bare die and packaged microwave modules.

By the mid-1980s, hybrid multi-chip modules (MCMs) had become more prevalent. Manufacturers realized that standard, pocketed chip trays could not deliver die with the precise positioning and orientation necessary to make them compatible with automated assembly processes. Hughes Aircraft and Gel-Pak collaborated to create a solution that would not only hold components securely in a pre-oriented position during shipping and handling, but could also release the part on-demand during automated assembly. After an arduous development process, the patented Gel-Pak Vacuum Release™ (VR) product was born. The pocketless VR uses a proprietary gel or non-silicone film membrane over a mesh material to hold components in place until they are released by applying a vacuum to the underside of the tray.

Versatile technology attracts diverse markets

Gel-Pak steadily gained popularity with companies outside the semiconductor space throughout the 1990’s. We began working with medical device manufacturers, creating carriers that were both biocompatible and able to protect sensitive medical components such as embolization coils, medical ICs used in pacemakers, catheter caps, and micromachined parts.

We also moved into the fine jewelry market, working with customers like Tiffany & Co. and Stuller to create Gem Boxes. These unique products immobilize and protect diamonds and other valuable gemstones and jewelry, ensuring damage -free shipping, handling and facilitating their cataloging and display.

Leveraging our polymer expertise

Over the past decade, Gel-Pak has leveraged our expertise in elastomer chemistry and our internal extrusion and coating capabilities to create films used in medical applications and flexible hybrid electronics. Most recently, partnerships with medical device manufacturers and those who manufacture novel wearable devices have yielded cutting-edge solutions, such as:

  • A custom film stack with low hysteresis that is compatible with conductive inks and pastes for a wearable therapeutic device.
  • A custom film infused with medication for use in an implantable drug delivery system. The device maker chose Gel-Pak because of our precision film-thickness control, cleanroom extrusion facilities, and ability to tune the extrusion to meet their rigorous standards.
  • A custom film used in surgical tubing. As release force for the liner and film coversheet was critical to the film’s performance, the manufacturer required a film stack with precise release liner properties. We leveraged our decades of expertise in polymer hold-and-release properties to optimize these forces, creating the custom film stack to the customer’s exacting requirements.

Some further examples of notable innovations Gel-Pak has recently developed with customers include:

  • Vertec® silicone-free, static-dissipative VRP and APV. These product resulted from collaboration with multiple customers needing a static-dissipative surface that could solve challenges around the use of silicone in their facilities. Leveraging our expertise in polymer chemistry, Gel-Pak created a product as reliable as our traditional Gel Box and VR products, but using a proprietary TPU instead of our silicone gel.
  • TXF film and carrier products. These products are the result of collaborative development with a large semiconductor manufacturer needing a universal JEDEC carrier that could immobilize components during various in-process applications, including singulated die test (SDT). The products are based on a proprietary micro-textured film we developed that mimics the “gecko effect.”
  • Vertec VMF series. An optics manufacturer needed to handle sensitive fast-axis collimating (FAC) lenses, used in beam-shaping systems for high-power diode lasers. The active area of the FAC device was extremely sensitive to damage and residue, so the company required a carrier that could hold these valuable optics in place without leaving any residue, thereby eliminating a costly cleaning step. Gel-Pak worked closely with the optics maker to design a custom injection-molded tray using a unique, low-transference elastomer chemistry.

Gel-Pak has built our family of product offerings by continually engaging with companies in virtually any market you can think of where unique shipping and handling challenges arise. As this post has illustrated, our solutions are limited only by our imagination – and yours.

To learn more about how we can help you create the ideal solution for transporting your valuable products, click here.