Memories of the PCB Business at PCK Technology Division

by Brewster Barclay

I joined the PCK Technology Division in January 1982 as a fresh-faced young MBA with lots of ideas on how to change the world. My first task was to make the coffee every morning which brought me down to earth. Today, I would think that most people do not remember who PCK Technology was. The full name was PhotoCircuits Kollmorgen Technology Division. When Photocircuits was purchased by Kollmorgen in the early 1970's, every group within Photocircuits was made into a division and the group that had been developing and licensing technology became its own separate division.

What was fantastic about PCK was the wealth of experience of PCB technology distributed among the people. Photocircuits had been at the forefront of PCB technology for 30 years by the time I joined. They had invented a whole range of technologies which by then people took for granted: FR-4 laminates, CNC Drilling, Solder Mask, Tin/Lead etch resist, ductile electroless copper for PTH, some of the first multilayers, the Semi-Additive Process, the CC-4 Fully Additive Process, NT-1, which was way ahead of its time for plating, hole plugging and etching, and more. The people who had invented these technologies were almost all working at PCK.

John McCormack had been Bob Swiggett's second or third employee and he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of PCB technology and could immediately point one in the right direction when there was a problem. Rudi Zeblisky had been a key chemist developing ductile copper for PTH and had been there at the inception of fully additive copper. I asked him why they had called it CC-4. Simple, it was the fourth copper chelate that they had tried and it worked. Frank Nuzzi was another great source of information. Page Burr was looked up to as the great inventor of the printed circuit motor and his technology skills were used in all areas of Kollmorgen's business.

Dr. Karl Egerer was one of the unsung heroes of Photocircuits' success in developing technology. It was due to his efforts that technologies were patented and then licensed to the world. Through him, almost all the large electronic companies and materials suppliers to the PCB industry were licensees of PCK Technology. I learned all I know about negotiating from Dr. Egerer and his protégé, the inimitable John Dennis-Brown. John was able to go anywhere in the world and negotiate deals of stunning complexity. I worked directly for John for eight years and enjoyed many great times with him throughout the world of PCB manufacturing.

I also had the chance to work with many other remarkable people. George Messner and I shared an office for many years. He was a wonderful, kind and helpful person who was always willing to share his experiences with me. However, I never learned his knack of being able to take a nap of precisely 20 minutes at lunch and wake up completely refreshed. Dr. Hayao Nakahara was another office partner and his world wide knowledge of PCBs was already phenomenal. His ability to integrate between the east and the west was certainly a vital part in the development of a world wide PCB industry.

PCK Technology has come and gone but it was a place of great intellectual excitement and a ferment of new ideas which I have never seen since then. There are many people I do not have the space to mention but all of the people who worked there should be remembered for the remarkable impact they had on the PCB industry.

After my 10 years at PCK Technology I spent another 10 years at Orbotech and so have remained with PCB technology for almost my whole business career.