New I-Connect007 Team Members Tour American Standard Circuits


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Seeing is Believing

by Jonathan Zinski, I-Connect007

I recently had the privilege of touring American Standard Circuits’ facility in West Chicago, Illinois. CEO Anaya Vardya was very welcoming and started us off with a PowerPoint crash course on what to expect. Being the IT coordinator for I-Connect007, I’m more familiar with putting together computers and troubleshooting software than I am building a PCB. In fact, I never really put much thought into it. Even in my hobbies, playing with breadboards and hand-soldering through-hole components, I realize now that I barely even scratched the surface.

I had never considered the many aspects of creating a PCB. I have gone on only one other tour, to Whelen Engineering, and their setup was so different I can’t even compare the two. I rather expected to smell chemicals when I got there, since many are involved in PCB manufacturing, so I was really surprised when I walked in and smelled no odors at all. Each area was a controlled environment, with the most controlled being a walk-in refrigerator full of prepreg and other materials.

When we entered the wet processing area, I felt I had found the heart of the PCB shop. It looked like something out of a movie. Steaming vats of chemicals, large mechanical racks dunking boards, and areas in the room that punched you in the nostrils all made for a slightly overwhelming scene, but I loved every second of it. Out of all the areas we saw, this one was by far the most interesting to me, probably because I’m a huge fan of chemistry.

ASC_Plating.jpgFurther, it surprised me how much a board travels around a shop. With all the steps involved, I imagined there would be a good chance for error. I was really surprised at ASC's good yields, which I was told were in the high 90s. They even had some processes that other shops don’t offer, such as equipment to produce metal-backed PCBs. One machine was for sputtering copper—imagine, a gaseous form of copper inside it! Yet another piece of equipment was full of molten, lead-free solder that would dunk boards and blast them with hot air on the way out—the hot air leveler.

When I saw all the equipment, I couldn’t imagine how long this industry has been developing. It’s made me realize that we are shaping the future. ASC_03.jpgMost of my generation never considers what’s behind the screen of their smartphone, much less how it’s made. I wish my generation had more exposure to this industry, but I am trying to find ways to help.

Overall, this trip has made me more excited to be in this industry. I know that when I attend trade shows in the future, I will now understand how some of the machines function. We didn’t explore what goes on in design or assembly, but I know those are separate beasts. The trip was a lot to take in, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn; I look forward to many more.

 

 



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