This July Abrel are proud to be celebrating 25 years at the forefront of burn-in. We’ve come a long way over the last two and a half decades and shifted gear several times to stay one step ahead of industry trends.
It’s been fantastic to work with some many amazing companies right around the world and to have such a talented and skilled team working with us.
Every story has a beginning……
July 1994 – Burn-in Boards by Abrel
Abrel was founded by two industry experts Declan Brosnan and Paul Comerford in July 1994. Declan and Paul first met when working for Ubitech a Limerick based company. It wasn’t long before the pair were hatching plans to set up their own venture. They carefully focused on getting the right team in place with a blend of engineering, research and development, manufacturing, sales and marketing skills and Abrel became a reality.
Abrel open its doors in Limerick, and we are still based here today. Limerick was the perfect because we were already well connected to a lot of the bigger players such as Analog Devices who remain a client to this day.
Initially we focused on burn-in board repairs and preventive maintenance work, progressing into our own design and assembly. Demand began to grow and almost immediately we started to look for our own purpose-built facility. We took the leap of faith and bought a site and built a state-of-the-art production factory.
In 1996 the new facility opened, and we were able to grow our core team and ramp up production.
Burn-In Testers and Test Probes Introduced
Back in the mid 1990’s the landscape was different and semiconductor companies were quite big in Ireland, UK and Germany and these were very strong markets for Abrel. Declan had built up a lot of connections in the German market and this helped us get a foot hold in the region.
Burn-in boards remain our core business and our expertise lies here but over time we also introduced new products to meet the needs of our clients in a changing landscape. At the time there was nobody in Ireland producing their own boards and only one in the UK, so it gave us an excellent competitive advantage.
Gradually we evolved and began to manufacture Burn-in Board Testers and IC Socket Test Probes. Within the first five years of setting up we were manufacturing our own tester and supplying it to many of our clients. In 1999 we also commenced manufacturing of HAST boards having secured a patent.
South East Asia – A New Market for Semiconductor Manufacturing
As time passed semiconductor manufacturing in Ireland, UK and Germany became very expensive. We began to realise quite quickly that the market was changing, and production was shifting to South East Asia. Germany remained quite strong as the automotive industry is very well established there and we still have many clients in this space but Ireland and the UK both grew smaller.
In 1998 we began to take a more serious look at the SE Asian region and learn more about how we could support companies located there.
We began working doing a lot of work the Philippines and Malaysia and we contracted agents and sales teams to support this growth. Today approximately half our turnover comes from South East Asia.
New Markets and New Products
The next decade continued in an upward trajectory from both a sales and product innovation perspective and we are now a full-service provider. Increasingly our customers sought a turnkey solution and we focused on making this possible…..
2000 was an exciting year with the release of the Bibtest55XL Burn-in board tester, now the market leading BIB tester. In 2001 we achieved ISO9001 accreditation. 2006 saw the introduction of the Endzone Burn-in System and a year later in 2007 we began offering device programming and tape and reel.
We’ve continued to add a variety of new services for example offering device BI vector generation and debug.
Our markets continued to expand and in 2011 we appointed a distributor for USA to support the growing business there and in 2017 we began working with a new agent for Malta and Italy.
Most recently in 2018 we delivered our first products to customers in China and Vietnam, two countries that are central to our ambitious growth plans for the coming decade.
Future Trends and What Next for Abrel?
When we were starting out 25 years ago it was fairly common for our customers to have their own wafer fabrication facilities. With the increased costs this has become less common and most of our customers are now fabless – particularly the case for newer companies.
The trend seems to be continuing that wafer fab is outsourced. In 1994 it was DRAM memory foundry companies that made up a lot of our customer base, now it’s all about fabless companies developing products for mobile, automotive and the Internet of Things (IoT). The next generation customers for Abrel will include those involved in manufacturing devices for Autonomous driving, machine learning, WIFI, MEMS and much more.
We are preparing for this next evolution and have some very exciting plans in the pipeline so, watch this space for more details!
We are going to be extending and upgrading our manufacturing with a considerable investment in new equipment. We’re also beginning a recruitment drive with new hires in Finance, Engineering and Production – exciting times ahead!
Once again, we’d like to thank to all our customers and staff from the past 25 years and we look forward to working together for many years to come.