The Materials Connection

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Recently, Eddie Mok, product innovation development AVP at WUS, talked with us at length about the state of the materials market from the perspective of a fabricator. In this excerpt from the conversation, Eddie details some example interactions between what materials, design, and manufacturing bring to the ultimate goal of meeting your design specifications and manufacturing costs. It is clear from this conversation that materials and technology are increasingly interconnected. 

Nolan Johnson: Eddie, what’s your background?

Eddie Mok: I’ve been with WUS for 16 years, and before that I was at Nelco for 15 years. I’m still working with materials, but I’m applying it now. While materials are changing, there’s room for more. And, because of emerging advanced technology, such as VeCS and others in development, that’s where we realize that we still need all the material manufacturers to offer our customers innovative PCB solutions, plus we need different versions of the material to support the new fabrication methods. And yet, material alone is not enough.

Johnson: VeCS is a great example of innovative developments in fab. Besides additive technologies, of course. Happy Holden has been saying, “This is the next thing. This is the thing that’s going to replace HDI. This gives a lot of capability to designers.”

Mok: I’ve been saying something similar to customers, “Imagine when HDI came along 25 years ago and people said, “What is that? It’s too expensive. It doesn’t work.” Over time and refinement, HDI established itself as a key technology. Now, hopefully, VeCS is another type of interconnect solution that causes the next paradigm shift. We seem to be getting a lot of traction. 

There’s another approach called a 3DMD stackup risk analysis tool, which is also a good example. These are standard/routine solutions at WUS. Signal integrity, rougher or smoother copper, better material— that’s pretty routine, as you say, with respect to material selection—but what we want to offer is crosstalk mitigation, improved shielding, and so on by innovative interconnect solutions. The advanced capability, value engineering cost, material performance, and stackup risk—it’s all there and of interest to today’s designers and fabricators. 

I get to talk a lot about material, but because of the advanced capabilities requirements, those conversations lead us in many different directions. For example, when you exhaust standard plated through-hole (PTH) back drill technology, you have to go to HDI build-up with multiple lamination designs, or change your design to more costly structures like buried or blind via structures. 

Johnson: Eddie, this is a symbiotic situation, isn’t it? You have advanced techniques driving materials and materials driving advanced techniques.

Mok: Yes, so many things are happening. These are where most of our activities are. We’re constantly looking at different class 8 material (ultra-super low loss grade), for example.

Johnson: This is for your long-tail legacy work?

Mok: Yes. But that’s also where we can’t separate material with technology. You can’t buy a Ferrari and equip it with budget tires. Customers today will share that they plan to rely on the material to minimize insertion loss. But I make sure to ask them, “What about your shielding? What about your crosstalk? That can’t be done by material alone; the interconnect structure needs to help with this.” 

To read this entire conversation, which appeared in the March 2022 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.


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