Patty’s Perspective: Faster, Faster, Faster…or the Need for Speed, More Speed!

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I wonder: Do we really need more speed in our connections? When will we hit that proverbial wall everyone worries about? Of course, if we want things like autonomous cars, intelligent robotics, and extended IoT, then we will continue to press forward—or rather you, the PCB manufacturer, designer, and supplier of high-speed materials will keep at it.

As is our wont here at I-Connect007, we felt a strong need to survey you, our readers, on this subject. In our most recent survey for this month’s topic, high speed materials, we asked several questions—some open-ended, some not—to gain a better understanding of what is really happening out there. The answers we received did not boil down to a simple two or three issues. So, let’s discuss further.

The first thing we asked was (our favorite question): What are your greatest challenges when working with high-speed materials? It was like opening a Pandora’s box. Answers ranged from materials adhesion to bendability and thickness; from drilling and other processing to sourcing, price, and lead times; from impedance control and accurate testing to educating the customer. Sounds like this is not an easy arena to play in and when you read the discussions we had with fabricators, you will see that is indeed so.

Next, we asked the percentage of orders where the material is pre-specified by the OEM; the response was overwhelmingly on the high end with 60% of respondents putting the level above 50% (and a few claimed it to be near 100%). We asked a couple of questions on growth of this market, which may explain why so many are working with the high-speed materials and building these difficult boards (Figures 1 and 2).



Regarding which traditional markets are seeing the most growth of high-speed constructions, it appears that communications is leading the pack. But Figure 3 shows that, when combined, military/aerospace applications are right up there. Automotive lags but we can expect that, as the autonomous car begins to take hold, there will be a big jump in that area. Which makes one begin to wonder about the various markets that increasingly overlap: For instance, dashboard electronics in an automobile could be classified as part of the automotive, computer, communications, and consumer industries.

Judging from what we learned from Dan Feinberg’s recent CES show report, “CES: Disruptive Technologies,” medical might also be on that list. Of course, I realize they still fall under the automotive jurisdiction. Let’s get to it and I’ll tell you what’s in store this month.

We start off with Sidney Cox of Cox Consulting, a long-time flex enthusiast from the (DuPont) materials side. He brings us up to date on materials for high-speed flex circuits—one of those growing markets, as you learned last month.

Next is a most interesting discussion we had with three fabricators making high-speed PCBs. They are Gerry Partida with Summit Interconnect, Joe Menning of All Flex Flexible Circuits and James Hofer at Accurate Circuit Engineering—definitely guys worth listening to and reading about.

We’ve been working to hear more from European PCB fabbers, and next up we have an article from Optiprint, a company specializing in RF and microwave PCBs. Jim Francey and Terry Bateman give us a wonderful dissertation on the technology requirements for millimeter-wave interconnects and antennas covering materials choices as well as circuit design and manufacturing requirements.

We had a great opportunity to speak with TTM’s Craig Davidson about embedded optical interconnects and we present that conversation. TTM is far along this path and Craig gives a great overview of the technology and what drives it forward.

Well, that’s a lot of heavy-duty technical info to take in. Let’s move off topic to other no less important tidbits from a few of our columnists. Gardien’s Todd Kolmodin (aka Testing Todd) describes a system to improve the flow of information that will help ensure correct electrical testing and minimize delays and errors. Keith Sellers, NTS−Baltimore, provides a detailed explanation of several thermal shock and cycling test methods which many should find very useful. RBP Chemical’s Mike Carano gives us some good basic troubleshooting info on peeling copper circuits.


But we’re not done, by a good bit. As always, we have a technical paper unrelated to the theme. This one is by Steve Vetter of the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana (USA) with other authors. The subject is implementing a trust accreditation process for PCB manufacturers, so this is worth a careful read. To quote a short passage: “…the trust accreditation process will be critical for securing the DoD, PrCB [PCB] industrial base going forward…”

Our regular columnist, IPC President John Mitchell, presents three manufacturing policy initiatives for the Trump administration to consider to help strengthen manufacturing. And of course, last but not least, the Launch man Barry Cohen gives a primer of best practices for crafting worthwhile news releases. Do read these!

Next month, we stray from the typically heavy technical content to a personnel subject. One of the things that is almost always brought up in conversations at meetings, over drinks, in interviews, or almost any time, is the “graying” of our industry and what to do about it. So we’re calling our May issue “Help Wanted!” and it will focus on the challenges of finding and retaining younger workers that will become the next generation of PCB manufacturing gurus. If you haven’t already, subscribe now to get it delivered to your inbox the moment it’s published so you can dig right in.  

Patricia Goldman is a 30+ year veteran of the PCB industry, with experience in a variety of areas, including R&D of imaging technologies, wet process engineering, and sales and marketing of PWB chemistry. Active with IPC since 1981, Goldman has chaired numerous committees and served as TAEC chairman, and is also the co-author of numerous technical papers. To contact Goldman, click here.    

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of The PCB Magazine, click here.


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