A Conversation (and Day) with Joe Fjelstad, Part 1


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Joe_in_SG.jpgSo presently, if you want to build military product, you choose a component that you want with the knowledge that it's going to come with a lead-free termination. Using a BGA as an example to track what happens to that component thermally, you find that it goes through one high-temp thermal excursion to put the balls on the BGA and another high-temp thermal excursion to remove them; then there is yet another thermal excursion to replace the lead-free balls with tin lead solder balls, a fourth thermal excursion when you mount the device to the printed circuit, a fifth excursion if the board requires two-sided assembly and potentially a sixth excursion if rework or repair is required on the device.

So you have multiple excursions at high temperature, and as the reliability experts continue to tell us, there's an inverse relationship between long-term reliability and thermal excursions. This is insane and yet we as an industry are saddled with this problem, all because of what? Perhaps, if one follows the money and looks for the greatest beneficiary, the tin industry looks extremely prominent. It is my understanding that the tin industry advised or perhaps lobbied the EU Parliament suggesting that there were lead-free solutions that were drop-in replacements ready to go. ‘Got the perfect solution for you; all you have to do is buy it.’ Sadly, it appears it was largely about money, politics and business as usual.

vietnam-era-copter.jpgWhile they often nod at each other from across the street, politics and morality are not necessarily bedfellows. More often they don't line up with each other. In that regard, it's another sad fact that war is incredibly profitable. As a Vietnam veteran, when I listen to the arguments relative to matters of defense that are ongoing in the media on a regular basis, I find myself very disheartened. The present Congress doesn't want to stop spending on defense but they're more than willing to stop spending on education, infrastructure and other things that matter very much to the future of the nation. I find that unbelievably mind-numbing. I'm not going to live forever, but I worry for those of future generations who will have to deal with the legacy of this one.

One nice thing about getting older is summed up in a quote from the Swedish film director, Ingmar Bergman: "Growing old is a lot like climbing a mountain. The higher on the mountain you get, the more tired and breathless you become. But the views, the perspective, become much more extensive." To which I would add, and well worth the effort. You have a much better comprehension of what you see happening when you get to look back through the prism of time. I'm looking at these younger players now like Ted Cruz, and I sense this guy hasn't got a clue. I'm not saying he's not smart or that he hasn't read and doesn't understand the U.S. Constitution, even though he might be a bit off in his interpretation, in my opinion. What he lacks is the perspective of age and it seems a good deal of common sense—although, intelligence and common sense are not necessarily lined up, either. In fact, somebody said, “Common sense isn't all that common.” Fortunately, I don't think he'll make the cut. His personality is just too abrasive and his ego much too great.

Matties: That remains to be seen of course, but I definitely think you are on to something.

Next: Part 2—The Future of Electronics, the Role of Software and (gasp) Liberalism vs. Conservatism!

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