Alun Morgan on the EIPC Summer Conference 2016


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Each year, the EIPC puts on two conferences for their members. I recently attended their summer conference in Edinburgh and had a chance to speak with EIPC President Alun Morgan about the topics covered at the conference and the connectedness and networking that is always present at EIPC events.

Barry Matties: Alun, we’re here at the EIPC Summer Conference in Scotland, and it’s raining.

Alun Morgan: It's hard to tell when summer is in Scotland. Maybe it just rains a bit less.

Matties: First, let's just talk a little bit about the EIPC. What's your mission, goal, and charter?

Morgan: Our job here basically is to support the electronic spaces in Europe. That's our primary function. We deal largely with the PCB sector, but also their suppliers and designers now more and more, and also assemblers. We believe there is a unique value in Europe, especially from a design point of view. We understand that volume manufacturing for our sector is now not so much in Europe, but we think there are unique areas that we can work on.

Our job really is to help people survive in that climate and support the members that we have in the industry, and we have a couple companies where there are members that have different needs. Some are small, some are large, some are OEMs, some are PCB manufacturers, but all of them operate in Europe, and all of us have a duty to try to help each other in Europe to make what we have better and stronger.

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Matties: You're talking a lot about Europe and this is my first time attending your conference. It's truly a global event when you look at the regions that are being represented here.

Morgan: Yes, I say Europe, but of course we have a lot of North American visitors coming over here. We have a North American board shop here. We have a Japanese manufacturer with their American representatives over here as well. We have Canadian visitors.

Matties: I think you have some Russians.

Morgan: Yes, we have some Russians. We have some Greeks further south in Europe. We have the Germans here, Dutch, Belgians, and French. We have the whole range. We are European, and we see it that way, but actually it doesn't limit us to be just in Europe. The last time we had a conference we had also some Asian visitors as well. Because I think one thing that we certainly see is when guys do electronics in Europe, they do the design preps here, they may make small volumes, prototypes and that scale, and they get the product approved, but when the volumes come, we don't have the infrastructure anymore to produce or deliver the volume.

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There's always a linking required somewhere, and the linking can be typically to Asian countries, and I think it's important that this can be facilitated. We of course represent it around the world as well. We are part of the World Electronic Circuits Council. We have links across the world. We go to all the major exhibitions in the world, and we do actually help people find partners.

I think this linking and this kind of interface between different technologies and even different volume scales is something that we can facilitate, and we have done it with quite a few. There is one member we have who actually said if he hadn't done this, he would not have survived in the business. He would have had no chance. But because he had found a partner in Asia, they worked together, and now he can deal with the needs of his customer from the prototyping, design, through to the full production scale. That way, he keeps the customer and everybody is satisfied.

I think knowing the positioning is crucial for people in Europe, and I think possibly all around the world everyone needs to know what they do and do what they do well, and what they don't do, find someone else to do it for them.

Matties: You really get that sense of connectedness here for sure. The program itself has a nice range of topics, from Walt's market report to back drilling.

walt_at_eipc.pngMorgan: Yes, and that's also crucial for us. We try to have at least as two threads. One of these is the economic and markets side, so the commercial side, and then one which is technology-driven, and we always do that. Walt is a long-term and fantastic contributor to the EIPC. He's on our board as well. Walt always gives us a really great view of the market. He focuses of course on Europe when he comes to see us, but he does give us the world view as well. We know where we sit in the world dynamic. That's very, very important for us. On the technology side, we have a diverse range of papers as well.

You will have noticed there were some universities presenting some really academic research, and I'm very grateful to Martin Goosey for bringing that aspect into the EIPC.

Matties: Yeah, I think you had three or four from universities here.

Morgan: We did. There are quite a few students as well, and we asked students to come to the conference for free. We invite them, and then they can come and join in. We're really keen to involve the younger people and those with the new ideas. You saw the work on the deep eutectic solvents for use in PCB surface finishing and electronics assembly. That was fascinating. This is innovative, and it really is something that can make a difference. In the past we may have focused more on process optimizations, but now we're looking at trying to always have something in there that's brand new and may lead to other developments as well, along with press optimization and things like back drilling. Back drilling is new or newish, but that was a paper on existing technology.

Other ones you've heard today were on technology that doesn't exist yet or that’s just coming to fruition, like the stuff on biosensors and the micro-fluid management, where there’s actually a lab on the chip or a lab on the board. It’s fascinating work. That was very interesting, because after the paper somebody came up to the speaker and said, "I know somebody is working on that as well, actually in Germany. We've got a colleague there." And someone else added that they knew somebody else, too. So actually we've decided now, based on that, to do a seminar and a workshop and bring together academia and industrial partners to see whether we can move this on to the next stage. That was a really great result. I was delighted with that.

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