Friday, June 22, 2018
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Pro-Active Is True to its Name
Pro-Active Engineering counts on Cobar Solder Products as a main supplier of its lead-free solder materials for its automated PCB assembly processes.

Customers certainly benefit from a company as proactive as Pro-Active Engineering, a contract manufacturer located near Madison, WI. For the past 17 years, the firm has enjoyed healthy growth by living up to its name. Started in 1996 by Toby Klusmeyer, who originally served as the firm's owner, president, and sole engineer, the company has expanded into a multimillion dollar operation that includes in-house design engineers, manufacturing engineers, production managers, assembly personnel, and a consultative sales team as well as expert customer service. Pro-Active offers customers a long list of benefits, including state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment and the expertise to use it; extensive design for manufacturability knowledge; fast-turnaround, high-quality printed-circuit-board (PCB) prototyping; familiarity with documentation packages; and broad application experience. These extensive capabilities are backed by a company-wide philosophy in which every customer is recognized as important and no customer's job is too small or too large.

Klusmeyer explains this philosophy and general attitude of his people: "We are called Pro-Active for good reason. For us, today's challenge is tomorrow's success. We are eager, enthusiastic and motivated to team up with customers for their electronics design projects, electronics manufacturing, or electronics box build requirements."

Building Partnerships
Whether for PCB engineering design, PCB assembly, or integrated engineering solutions, the company is successful at building partnerships and growing business. It takes the claim "24-hour PCB prototype" very seriously, striving to be the best contract manufacturer in terms of time to market. Because of this, Pro-Active does whatever it takes to get customer files to the floor; its design and manufacturing teams work in parallel to solve problems and get a customer's product built. Currently, the company works with numerous OEMs in many different sectors on an assortment of products featuring internal electronic circuit boards. Pro-Active supports a wide range of industries, including medical, lighting, food, HVAC, agriculture, light and heavy industrial, environmental, scientific instrumentation, and start-up companies.

Material Quality Is Key
To remain at the top of such varied industries and markets, and to continue its growth, Pro-Active must use the highest-quality materials in its products. One of these materials is SN100C lead-free solder from Nihon Superior Co. Ltd., a revolutionary tin-copper-nickel-germanium alloy that has become one of the world?s most popular lead-free solders. The special properties of SN100C make it possible to achieve high productivity in soldering processes and produce reliable, cost-effective solder joints. The material's outstanding features include high fluidity, low copper erosion, low drossing, superior wetting, and freedom from shrinkage defects. SN100C was invented in 1999 by Tetsuro Nishimura, President of Nihon Superior Co. Ltd., and more than 14 years later has become one of the world's most popular lead-free wave soldering alloys. Although it was developed as an economical wave solder, SN100C is also appropriate for reflow and hand soldering as well as spheres for the attachment of area-array packages.
Hand-soldering, when necessary, is performed expertly with Cobar wire solder.

Pro-Active works with Cobar Solder Products for the purchase of SN100C solder wire, bar solder, and solder paste. Cobar, a primary licensee for SN100C, is a supplier of advanced soldering materials throughout the world, and is also a source of extensive technical knowledge and experience. Pro-Active began working with Cobar in 2006, originally procuring lead-free solder paste but now using SN100C solder wire, solder paste, and bar solder. In addition to the quality of Cobar's products, Pro-Active values the expertise from Cobar on the use of those products. Klusmeyer commented that Pro-Active knows that it can discuss current challenges and be given guidance from Cobar's experts and that the Cobar team is generous in sharing its expertise. This has led to a solid, trusted relationship between the two companies.

Pro-Active knows that it can count on Cobar as part of that relationship. "Cobar has a perfect delivery record, which results in a significant time/money save for us," explains Klusmeyer. "For example, if we run out of paste, the line goes down, etc., we know that we will be covered and that is huge," he adds. The trust runs both ways, however. Klusmeyer recalled a situation when Pro-Active helped Cobar when it needed supplies for one of its customers. Cobar knew that Pro-Active had stock of its product and called on the company to help.

Growth Strategy
Pro-Active's growth strategy is important to its people and a key part of its business plan. Klusmeyer helps fuel that growth through aggressive capital investments to continuously add state-of-the-art equipment. The company's newest acquisitions include:

    • DEK Horizon 01i screen printer complete with post-print verification;

    • MYDATA MY12e high-speed pick-and-place machine with hydra speedmount head and linescan vision system;

    • Vitronics Soltec XPM3 full forced convection oven with its unique heat transfer system;

    • Vitronics Soltec Model 6745 selective soldering machine with Dropjet fluxing and rapid response preheaters; and

    • Titan FL-MD450 wave solder machine.

Klusmeyer explains the company's approach to larger-volume jobs: "We excel at up to 5000 units but have mastered quantities above that as well." He added, "With a philosophy built on growing business, we are especially suited for new product companies and new product lines." Cobar is there to help in this philosophy and provides a casual, straightforward relationship that includes both answers and free samples to help with those new product lines whenever possible.

Charting Consistency
Consistency is another key element of the company's success. It follows the same electronics manufacturing process whether it is doing a run of five or 5,000 with the identical documentation, equipment, and personnel dedicated to the job. Its PCB prototypes are production-built, not hand-built or part production/part hand. By automating the circuit board assembly process, it reduces the opportunity for error. However, as streamlined and efficient as it is, Pro-Active's PCB contract manufacturing system allows for flexibility and is designed to allow extra steps to be added to standard PCB assembly procedures as needed. Additionally, it follows IPC-A-610 Class 2 Standards for all its assemblies.

Simply because a PCB assembly job has been passed to "manufacturing" does not mean that it has been forgotten by members of the "design" team. The company's in-house process ensures a smooth transfer of designs from one team to the other. Cross-functional training between teams ensures that all involved on a project work closely together throughout the entire PCB design and PCB contract manufacturing process. Pro-Active's manufacturing engineers are experts at pre-flight operations and recognize an issue before it hits the production floor. An advantage of this close cooperation is that Pro-Active's electronics manufacturing documentation packages are thorough and professional, with some of the most complete details in the industry.

Electronic design and PCB layout services include electronics manufacturing design requirements, PCB design requirements, electronic and software design, design validation, and rapid PCB prototyping. Electronics manufacturing and custom product development services include quick-turn PCB prototyping, multi-volume production, low-/no-cost tooling, concept through delivery, mechanical design, PCB prototype builds, automated SMT assembly and through-hole assembly.

Of the relationship with Cobar, Klusmeyer concludes, "Cobar knows what the industry is using and why, and we trust its expertise about that. Over the years, we convinced ourselves by running tests and using its product in our assemblies. We have been very pleased with the products we currently use."

Contact: Pro-Active Engineering, Inc., 350 Business Park Dr., Sun Prairie, WI 53590; 608-837-7838, E-mail: or (,


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