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Publication Date: 04/1/2012
Archive >  April 2012 Issue >  Electronic Mfg. Services > 

Stellar Microelectronics: Making Micro a Big Deal
Generous-size production facility also houses large clean room.

Miniaturized neuro-stimulators, mission-critical satellite assemblies, retinal implant devices, and control systems for a Mars Rover — unrelated items, yet they share a common source. Stellar Microelectronics, Inc., a full service Electronics Manufacturing Services provider, specializes in building highly complex, high reliability components that go places where space is at a premium and failure is not an option.

Walking into Stellar's expansive, ultra-white facility can be an eye-popping experience. First-time visitors are often amazed by the sheer size of the production floor. The 140,000 square foot building includes a world-class manufacturing and testing laboratory, a 100,000 square foot surface mount and PCB assembly area, a 15,000 square foot Class 100K clean room, as well as offices for engineering and operations.

Military Die Processor
The company was founded in 1974 as a die processor for the emerging military market. At that time, it specialized in Multichip Packaging (MCP), later adding Multi Device Subassemblies (MDS), Chip-on-Board (COB), and other assembly capabilities. By the 1990s, the company had developed and patented integrated power substrate technologies and secured high-speed and RF design capabilities.

In 2003, the company was acquired by biotechnology philanthropist Alfred E. Mann. Stellar's customer base quickly grew to include medical and industrial customers seeking precise and durable electronic assembly services. As the company's popularity increased, it became apparent that an expansion was necessary. An extensive investment in SMT automation soon followed, with the new facility opening in 2008.

The new building improves on prior operations through lessons learned. Experience instilled the need for a more fluid and flexible manufacturing process. As a result, the new facility offers features to meet every possible customer requirement, incorporating all available ways to achieve high production efficiency.

One of the new building's key strengths is providing processing capability with immense flexibility of scale. The manufacturing area easily adjusts to accommodate new production lines. Equipment is modular for quick changes. Electrical power and other supply lines are routed through the floor, accessible through hatches spaced at key intervals. To guard against manufacturing delays due to factory downtime, all major equipment is duplicated.

The factory is equipped with a wide variety of analytical, test, repair, rework, and inspection equipment to support microelectronic and SMT assembly lines. All equipment, work stations, floor and personnel are grounded for Electro-Static Discharge (ESD) protection. Air ionizers are used for critical processes involving Ultra-Static Sensitive electronics. Temperature and humidity are strictly controlled in both the clean room and the extensive PCB assembly area. Foreign Object Debris (FOD) mitigation programs in all manufacturing areas are enforced.

Reducing Cycle Time
Engineers skilled in Design-for-Manufacture (DFM) enhance the production process by reducing cycle time and improving quality. These engineers work in conjunction with manufacturing personnel to continually improve all aspects of production. This increases the efficiency of the facility and the functional quality of the end product, delivering a higher return on investment to clients. Program managers and quality personnel echo these efficiencies by adapting lean and Six Sigma methodologies. An advanced database management program tracks the manufacturing process right down to the component level, proactively managing potential issues such as supply shortages or conflicts in delivery deadlines.

The company's agile organizational structure supports automated enterprise resource planning (Oracle ERP), product lifecycle/configuration management (via Agile PLM), program management, material logistics, rapid response prototyping, and short cycle time lean manufacturing.

Stellar is an ISO9001, ISO13485 and AS9100 certified manufacturer, recently achieving an upgrade of registration of its Quality Management Systems to AS9100:2009 Revision C. AS9100C represents the highest level of registration for aviation, space and defense organizations. Stellar is also a Trusted IC Supplier for the Department of Defense (DMEA Certification of Trust) and ITAR registered.

Optimizing Client Products
"We excel at optimizing our clients' products," says Gregory Horton, President of Stellar. "Optimizing the product, the process, and the program, we assess each facet of a customer's relationship to their product and customize our approach to suit them. Our engineers and supply chain experts streamline the manufacturing process, and our product managers are adept at creating delivery systems best suited for each client. We help our customers design effective products and enable them to slide their scale of production as demands require. This helps them stay competitive while keeping production stateside, IP safe and quality high.

"We have customers who have considered offshore production. However, typically when a new product is introduced, production is relatively low, then ramps up to meet demand. Offshore setups typically have to make a `jump' from low quantity stateside production to large-scale manufacturing thousands of miles away. This `jump' interrupts production and, because it essentially initiates a new production line, can threaten quality.

"More and more companies are realizing that offshore projects are not the bargains they appear to be — intellectual-property risk, the cost and time of travel to audit distant suppliers,

unpredictable fuel costs impacting shipping, general global unrest, and the consequences of separating manufacturing from engineering staff, all increase the cost of doing business overseas.

"Because of our dedication to process management and flexibility, we can compete economically with offshore solutions. In 2010, we had over 100 new product introductions. The added benefit for our customers is that they can adjust production levels without having to change suppliers. Many of them also appreciate the IP protection found at our secure site, as well as the high quality product we maintain even at high run rates.

"It's all about managed, measured manufacturing. We minimize the risk for our clients by providing lower costs, higher quality, and efficient product delivery."

By anticipating and adapting as technology changes new opportunities are created, and Stellar has grown with its clients' needs. The company's ability to design efficiency into products, manufacturing tooling, and automated processes, allows the company to stay cost-competitive in a global market yet provide services stateside, keeping IP safe — priceless in today's competitive market.

Contact: Stellar Microelectronics, 28454 Livingston Avenue, Valencia, CA 91355 661-775-3500 E-mail: Web:

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