CyberOptics’ Coup

It’s always a good deal when you can simultaneously supply an end-product to end-customers and critical components from said end-product to competitors.

And that’s the situation CyberOptics now finds itself in after inking a deal last quarter to put its sensors in erstwhile AOI competitor Viscom’s solder paste inspection products. (CyberOptics acknowledged a deal in February but did not disclose the company until today.)

It’s a great move for CyberOptics, which continues to impress under Kitty Iverson’s leadership. The company, which by most accounts trails privately held Viscom in terms of annual revenue in the uber-competitive electronics assembly AOI market, has rebounded steadily from the market slide of 2008-09 and the tragic death of founder Steve Case. Sales doubled in 2010 to $57 million, and by becoming a supplier to its AOI competitors, CyberOptics triangulates its customer approach. Given that CyberOptics also supplies sensors to DEK for printers and Juki for placement machines, the modest company is positioning itself to become a true bellwether of the electronics assembly market health.

Out of Place?

I probably am getting ahead of myself — in fact, I hope I am — but the epic war over the world’s placement equipment business is more and more looking like it won’t include Siemens. The Munich-based OEM, which last year put its electronics assembly business on the block, today announced another difficult quarter.

On the bright side, the placement equipment unit narrowed its first-quarter loss, but sales for Siemens’ discontinued businesses (of which electronics assembly equipment makes up the major share) for the period ended Dec. 31 fell 69% year-over-year.

Perhaps worse, the loss was €15 million on €62 million in sales. Obviously, that’s not sustainable.

I know lots of people at Siemens, and I have tremendous respect for CEO Guenter Lauber. But with only modest improvement expected in the sector this year, it doesn’t look good.