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In the electronics industry, there seems to be an infinite number of trade organizations, each with their own special niche and purpose. It can be challenging from the outside to understand why they each exist and how they fit together. First there is the alphabet soup of trade shows including IPC APEX EXPO, CPCA, HKPCA, JPCA, TPCA, DesignCon, productronica, IEEE Microwave, IMAPS, NEPCON, Meptec, Flex, Semicon West, CES, CEDIA, OE-A, MD&M, IDTechX and SMTA, to name a few. Then behind these trade shows there are the trade organizations that are the representatives of their respective technology niches such as IPC, CEA, NAMM, SMTA and IEEE. From a bare board fabricator and assembly perspective, the primary trade organization has historically been IPC. We look to IPC to take a lead in fostering our market, developing economically viable methods of standardization, and helping to bring suppliers and customers together.
For those of us manufacturing PCBs, assembling electronics or supplying the bare board industry, IPC is the steward of our industry and interests. For those of us who have been around for long enough, there is a good chance you have at some point experienced frustration with IPC and its mission or effectiveness at supporting our industry. Over the past decade and a half, North American fabricators have watched significant volumes of work transition from the U.S. to China. At the same time, operating costs have increased, EPA controls have tightened, and fabricators have been saddled with costly compliance requirements like Dodd Frank Section 1502 around conflict minerals, all of which add cost to U.S. operations, while the protection from overseas competition continues to be eroded.
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Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of The PCB Magazine.