Hannover. Meanwhile, there is no electronic device that can do without circuit boards. In principle, they have the same function as wiring harnesses, i.e. they create electrical connections. But the differences are enormous. "Printed circuit boards are becoming ever more powerful and ever smaller," says Christian Georg Behrendt.
Together with Thomas Michels, Behrendt is the managing partner of the Ilfa company (the abbreviation stands for "Industrial electronics and PCB production of all kinds") in Hanover-Anderten with 160 employees. The medium-sized company is mainly active in the high-tech segment. Customers are companies and research institutes from the aerospace, satellite technology, robotics and medical technology sectors, among others. An order from the Aachen-based company PyroScience was recently received. It wants to assemble ventilators with the circuit boards from Ilfa.
"We don't manufacture for the mass market; that is mainly served from Southeast Asia," explains Behrendt. Ilfa, which most recently posted annual sales of 18 million euros, produces prototypes and medium-sized series of up to 100,000 units in Germany. "Our strength is that we can respond to the special requirements of different customers right from the start of the development of a printed circuit board. This saves them costs in the end," says the managing director. For larger series, Ilfa maintains offices in the Taiwanese capital Taipei and in Shenzhen, China.
Opticians, mechanics, chemists and process engineers work in Anderten. They develop printed circuit boards with up to 38 individual layers of different materials, assembled to a total thickness of less than four millimeters. In addition to size and performance, heat dissipation and, increasingly, data security also play a role in product quality.
About 65 companies produce printed circuit boards in Germany. "In terms of technological competence, we are among the top three suppliers", Behrendt explains.
What currently concerns the Managing Director is the stability of the worldwide supply chains and the dependencies that result for companies in Germany. Due to the corona pandemic, they are currently interrupted in many areas. "This does not only apply to protective clothing," he explains.
On the other hand, Ilfa has benefited from the situation in that PyroScience has attached importance to the fact that printed circuit boards are produced in Germany for the respirators that are increasingly required during corona times. "They were looking for a reliable partner," says Behrendt. This helps Ilfa a great deal. "We, too, are affected by the economic effects of the crisis and have to fight hard," explains the Managing Director. Short-time work had already been considered, but so far the company has been able to keep all employees in full employment.