IPC: Driving Our Industry for 64 Years

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I have participated in many areas of IPC for several years, particularly the Government Relations Committee and the Suppliers Council.

Now, there are many IPC committees, and most of them are focused on standards. Many IPC members take part in the committees—after all, electronic design and manufacturing standards is one of the key reasons IPC was founded. The results of the committees’ efforts represent a significant part of the value the IPC has contributed to the industry since it was founded in 1957.

PCB Suppliers Council

Back in the day, only PCB fabrication companies could be full members of IPC. After all, the Institute for Printed Circuits (its original name) was initially organized by PCB fabrication companies in the United States who, at that time, dominated the global industry. There was a need for common standards, especially as the industry had begun to move from single-sided print-and-etch boards to double-sided, and had started to move from side-to-side wired interconnects (accomplished by inserting an eyelet into every hole) to plated-through interconnects. In other words, moving to double-sided PTH with solder or gold overplating to simple multilayers, and from silk screening to photo-defined geometries. This required significant advancements in process and materials technology. Everyone was doing it differently and there were no commonly used standards for either the process or the result. Hence the founding of IPC. However, because fabricators founded IPC, only the fabricators could be full members. As the leading suppliers became involved—since they had to invent and improve the raw materials as well as many of the processes that were used to employ them—they were allowed to join as associate members. As things progressed through the 1960s, many suppliers felt like second-class citizens, which, in my humble opinion, they/we were.

At that time, I had evolved from being a process engineering manager at Trans/Circuits to president of Thiokol/Dynachem. By then, IPC had decided to allow suppliers to become full members and that a “suppliers council” should be formed. I was asked to help form and head that council; in 1993, we formed a committee under the council to define it and set goals. The suppliers strongly felt they needed to form a trade show that would be supported by the industry. I recall naming the goal, “Getting the Most Bang for Our Trade Show Buck.” The suppliers had been spending a fortune at the commercial shows and the industry was not getting much of a bang. I was head of the new PCB Suppliers Council and Jerry Siegmund (MacDermid) chaired a subcommittee that was formed to set up the show. That original committee, which included the presidents or founders of companies such as Shipley, Dupont, MacDermid, Excellon, Chemcut, Dynachem, and others, decided to propose this idea of a trade show to the IPC. This was a new path for IPC and the discussion was…interesting, as IPC had primarily been a standards organization. The result, however, was the founding of IPC EXPO, the first totally PCB industry-run trade show. Over the years, EXPO grew: a second show was added to cover assembly and the result is the present IPC APEX/EXPO combo of trade show, technical presentations, and multiple committee meetings event.

Government Relations Committee

This second non-standards committee I was asked to join had already been formed the previous year. The following year, I became chair of this committee and, as I was already also involved with the California Circuits Association, we partnered to help lobby the state government. Over the next few years, representing the IPC, or in partnership with other technology associations, we sponsored and took part in several lobbying meetings with members of congress to build relationships with our government representatives and to push an agenda that was helpful to our industry. We found that many of them were attentive and able to help; some of them were (and still are) totally, let’s just say, not helpful.

One of the more productive meetings we had was with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact, he was so accommodating and encouraging that, as a thank you, we framed his image on a gold-plated circuit board. This was presented to him in 1994 at a special Sacramento Day event. I believe he is the only politician that has ever had his image included in a high technology circuit.

There are many volunteers doing so much great work on so many committees and not all of them are writing or updating standards. As important as it is to focus on standards, there is so much more being done that is “good for the industry.”

This article originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of SMT007 Magazine.


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