This technical information has been contributed by
EBW Electronics

EBW Electronics Lights up the Auto Industry

EBW Electronics’ manufacturing footprint grew five-fold from a 15,000 square foot plant in 2011, to a 71,000 square foot plant in 2014. It also increased its staff from 100 employees to 230.
Photo courtesy of EBW Electronics.

Rebecca Carnes
Design-2-Part Magazine

EBW Electronics made its first automotive light in 2009, when it had little to nothing to do with the auto industry. But with LED lighting on cars becoming a quick sign of prestige with consumers today, demand for LED lighting from automakers is booming, and now 85 percent of the EBW Electronics company serves auto, especially when it comes to lighting components.

EBW Electronics (EBWE) now provides lighting items—such as tail lights, running lights, and blind-spot indicators—for 23 different major auto OEM makers, according to the company’s president, Cory Steeby. Venturing into LED lighting has fueled massive expansion and growth at EBW. Its manufacturing footprint has grown almost five-fold since 2011, from 15,000 square feet of factory space to 71,000 square feet. During that period, the company has more than doubled its staff from 100 employees to 230 employees presently.

EBWE, based in Holland, Mich., is a highly-automated electronic manufacturing firm specializing in printed circuit board assemblies (PCBA), especially for the lighting industry. And it is the type of rapidly growing advanced manufacturing industries that are thriving in the U.S., as hailed by President Obama’s manufacturing initiatives that are creating hubs across the country and pumping federal dollars into technology advancements.

EBW Electronics made its first LED part for the auto industry in 2009 and has since seen exponential growth in its automotive market for printed circuit boards containing LEDs.
Photo courtesy of EBW Electronics.

OEM and TIER 1 Automotive Electronics

EBW’s automotive electronics and lighting market is comprehensive and can be found both inside and outside of almost every major automotive company.

Selected Products:
  • External lighting (CHMSL, tail lights, and day-time running lights) 
  • Internal lighting (door handle, foot well, and badge lights for sill plates) 
  • Interior and external electronic control devices (self-dimming mirrors, blind-spot indicators).
Source: EBW Electronics

In the past five years, EBW’s sales have increased by 300 percent to about $50 million annually, and Inc. Magazine recognized EBW Electronics for its rapid growth, ranking it as the fastest growing, privately-held company in the five-state Midwest region during 2009 through 2012. It also made the Inc 5000 list of America’s Fastest Growing Companies in 2013 and 2014, and is on course to make it for 2015 as well, Steeby said. EBW was also named one of Michigan’s Top 50 Companies to Watch in 2007. In 2015, EBW Electronics Chairman Pat LeBlanc was awarded the Michigan Small Business Person of the Year award for adding to the economic growth of the state.

Focusing on making PCBAs populated with LEDs was a natural conversion for the company due to its electronics design and lighting experience, Steeby said, adding that the knowledge and expertise in these areas “transferred to automotive lighting design and manufacturing very well.” Since its inception in 1992, EBWE focused on such endeavors as electronic monitoring equipment for underground storage tanks and fluorescent lighting ballasts.

EBWE provides engineering support through all phases of a product, from inception through production and service at the end of life. The company keeps a short supply chain for its customers, allowing them to take better advantage of the fast-paced improvements and developments in LED technology. Because EBWE is so entrenched in the automotive world, very high expectations are met and the company services PPAP, PFMEA, IMDS, and APQP requirements every day.

“We have a great base of electronics design and manufacturing talent and we focused that on the automotive light market.”

—Cory Steeby, president, EBW Electronics.

“We have a great base of electronics design and manufacturing talent and we focused that on the automotive light market,” Steeby said. “With our experience, we are able to expand our manufacturing capacity very quickly to support a market that is growing rapidly.”

EBW Electronics products also serve commercial LED lighting and industrial controls markets, such as for street lights.
Photo courtesy of EBW Electronics.

LED lighting is exploding onto the auto scene with lighting becoming a customer signature for each vehicle. LED lighting provides some major advantages over traditional incandescent light in the automotive market, Steeby said. LEDs allow for innovative lighting aesthetics and they essentially do not burn out, so warranty claims and maintenance costs go down. Also, LEDs offer energy savings in vehicles. This can be important because with the increased acceptance of various computerized systems in vehicles, the resulting demand on their batteries can become an issue. Reducing that demand by utilizing LEDs rather than incandescent lighting provides more battery capacity available for these current and future computerized systems, he said.

Commercial LED Lighting, Controls, and Electronics

EBW Electronics products also service office furniture, indoor track lights, municipal street lights, parking lot, high-bay lights, and various industrial control devices. 

Selected Office Furniture Lighting:

• Underbin products
• Freestanding
• Desktop Systems
• Linear LED Systems 
Selected Other Commercial Lighting:
• Modular puck systems
• Street lamps
• High-reliability, auto-dimming welding masks
• Construction equipment (Hoists, lift trucks)
• Furnace controls
• Hitch and towing converters
Source: EBW Electronics

“We work to improve performance, lower costs, and produce your idea exactly as you dreamed it, if not better.”

—EBW Electronics President Cory Steeby

For auto, EBWE designs and manufactures day-time running lights, fog lights, stop-turn tail lights, running board lights, interior lights, and more. The company’s lighting systems also appear in other markets, such as for office furniture, indoor track lights, municipal street lights, street lamps, parking lot lights, high-bay lights, furnace controls, construction equipment, and more.

EBWE is familiar with a wide variety of power supply, light combinations, environmental challenges, and size restrictions for circuit boards containing LEDs. Selected capabilities include 120 VAC to low-voltage circuits, dimming control, current control, low-voltage supply for circuitry, and getting projects through UL and compliant with the FCC.

The company has nine automated high-speed SMT assembly lines, each with automated optical inspection.
Photo courtesy of EBW Electronics.

The company covers all electronics design disciplines, such as power electronics, low voltage electronics, micro controller based products, and PCB design. Prototypes are developed and tested to various industry standards in the engineering lab.

“We are electronics design experts and work closely with our customers to help facilitate the design of lighting. For example, our engineering team provides expertise in thermal analysis as customers integrate our electronics into their lighting assembly,” Steeby said.

Many of the lighting products developed by the company have to overcome thermal challenges, he said. LED lighting circuits produce heat which must be managed to assure long term reliability of the product. Heat radiation in an LED light is often overlooked by some manufacturers, but EBWE meets the challenge with LED lighting by creating a path for the heat to escape as conducted energy, he said.

EBW Electronics keeps a short supply chain for its customers, allowing them to take better advantage of the fast-paced improvements and developments in LED technology.
Photo courtesy of EBW Electronics.

EBWE’s manufacturing capabilities center around electronics assembly with nine automated high speed SMT assembly lines. Each line has automated optical inspection and in-line laser etch and in-line X-ray capabilities as well. There is another automation line used for conformal coatings and there are two automation lines with select soldering systems. From automation, the product moves to an area in the plant where there are numerous dedicated work cells, where customer operations are set up to singulate, program, assemble, and test the finished assemblies.

An expert team, an ability to plan ahead and to anticipate and respond to future LED lighting demand is key to EBWE’s outstanding growth, Steeby said. And although there is constant competition from mainly Mexico and China, the company’s attention to detail and customer satisfaction keeps customers loyal, he said.

“There is a lot of overseas competition, but we find that through excellent design, great manufacturing, supportive customer service, a short supply chain, and the ability to ramp up quickly, we are then able to provide better overall value. Low piece price is only one part of the story,” Steeby said.

This technical information has been contributed by
EBW Electronics

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