X-Rayted Files: The Year of 2020 Vision

What else can we say about 2020 that hasn’t been said? We have so much to reflect on, both to mourn and to be thankful for. The global pandemic has made an indelible mark on us all, and we, like everyone else, are changed forever. With the year behind us, and light at the end of the tunnel, we take a moment to look back as well as look forward.

First, to all those who suffered loss, my heart is with you, truly. I too feel the weight of suffering and loss of friends and family members to COVID-19. It is also not lost on me how fortunate we are that our company was only minimally disrupted, while we witnessed so many around us whose businesses (and in many cases, life’s work) were crippled by the ripple effects of the pandemic response.

While the first months of 2021 will remain much like the last year, relief is in sight with broad distribution of the vaccine, and an impending return to our “new normal,” or maybe even “old normal.” I’m not quite sure what “normal” is at this point. Over the last year, I’ve tried to take my own advice, recommitting to some core values in addressing the challenges that 2020 presented. I wrote in my July 2020 column about how I’d been influenced by Jim Collins’s story of the 20-mile march, and endeavored to live it every day. The challenges of the year also reinforced my belief that real leadership demands that we continue to seek opportunities to grow rather than just survive, especially in the face of hardship. While it was a tough call to make, I chose, for example, to take advantage of some of the talent that came available because of the pandemic. We grew our team, a move that I’m confident will serve our organization well through the recovery and beyond. And as I reflect on the lessons of the last 10 months, I can see the outlines of our new normal are already somewhat sketched out.

I’m amazed how effective we have been able to be with flexible workspaces, flexible schedules, and with so many working from home. Video conferencing, once a last resort, has proven to be a far more valuable tool than I’d have imagined, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the intimacy generated by simple things like the cameo appearances of our rug rats and family pets, injecting the kind of welcome comic relief we rarely experience in our conference rooms. While we’ve missed meetings with professional organizations and gathering at trade shows, we found real success and value in gathering remotely through webinars, both those we’ve hosted as well as attended. All these things will help shape the new normal, possibly resulting is smaller investments in physical space and travel, and I certainly find myself scratching my head a bit with respect to when and if I should commit to another trade show.

I’ve long been committed to a strong domestic supply chain and, likewise, committed to vertical integration. I wish I could say that it was because I saw all this coming; nonetheless, these approaches proved invaluable in coping with 2020. Our 600-mile supply chain allowed for remarkable continuity, with little interruption despite broad disruption in global supply chains, transportation, and travel. Vertical integration allowed us to continue both production and service even while we broke our manufacturing into small, off-site cells that provided the necessary distancing to keep our team safe.  

Speaking of teams, we all learned a lot about the makeup of our organizations this year. I’m particularly proud of what I learned about these people that I already respected so much; we are made up of a unique and talented team of makers and doers, and 2020 served to reveal their tenacity and dedication. I am so thankful for the unity of purpose that they demonstrated in supporting our mission. That’s what makes us so bullish about the future and to be able to grow our team in preparation for a bright tomorrow. Thank you, team!

Of course, none of what we accomplish is possible without our customers and partners. I thank them for sticking with us as the challenges of the past year emerged. It was their confidence in us, their commitment in the form of orders as well as patience and trust that allowed us to rethink our manufacturing process, fully utilize our domestic supply chain, and continue to deliver products and services without a hitch. We look forward to being part of their continued success!

We approach 2021 still facing many of the same challenges, but more adept at addressing them. We’ve all learned many lessons that will help us better serve our customers as the recovery takes hold. We will emerge from this pandemic a better and stronger industry.

Here’s to a happy and prosperous new year!

Dr. Bill Cardoso is CEO of Creative Electron.

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2021

X-Rayted Files: The Year of 2020 Vision

01-20-2021

What else can we say about 2020 that hasn’t been said? We have so much to reflect on, both to mourn and to be thankful for. The global pandemic has made an indelible mark on us all, and we, like everyone else, are changed forever. With the year behind us, and light at the end of the tunnel, we take a moment to look back as well as look forward.

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2020

X-Rayted Files: Solving for the Limits of Human Visual Inspection

12-16-2020

Because a key element of quality control in manufacturing is still good old-fashioned visual inspection, it’s important to understand the ability of operators to sustain their focus and what we can do to support their success. And while the fallibility of human inspection presents challenges, Dr. Bill Cardoso details how there are many ways to address shortcomings.

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X-Rayted Files: iPhone Transparency—A Window Into SMT

11-17-2020

Though we don’t do them just for fun, teardowns are fun, but they have also taught us more than we could have imagined. Modern teardowns provide critical insights into the nature and construction of these devices. As an example, Dr. Bill Cardoso details the history of the iPhone as told through X-ray.

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X-Rayted Files: A Century of X-Rays in the Automotive Industry, Part 2

10-28-2020

As one of the main users of X-ray inspection, the automotive industry has been one of the main drivers for the development of higher power and higher resolution X-ray imaging systems. Dr. Bill Cardoso continues with Part 2 of this column series.

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X-Rayted Files: A Century of X-Rays in the Automotive Industry, Part 1

09-29-2020

If you have read any of Bill Cardoso's previous columns, you know that he is passionate about X-rays, cars, and electronics. In this column series, he talks about some of his idols, including Curie, Roentgen, Marconi, Galvin, and Ford.

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X-Rayted Files: Is Quality Really Priceless?

08-19-2020

In a day and age when we can learn virtually anything online, manufacturers still manage to be opaque about pricing, especially when it comes to specialty equipment. Some may say, “Quality is priceless,” but Bill Cardoso explains how it isn't.

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X-Rayted Files: Marching Toward 2021, 20 Miles at a Time

07-29-2020

We’re only at the halfway mark, and 2020 has been a real challenge. Our best-laid plans have been cast in doubt by the COVID-19 pandemic. During this transformational time, Dr. Bill Cardoso looks back a century for a bit of inspiration from Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.

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X-Rayted Files: E-Commerce Boom Fraught With Risk—X-Rays to the Rescue

06-17-2020

It’s not news that online sales are increasing dramatically during this global pandemic. However, with increased sales comes the increased risk of return fraud and abuse. Dr. Bill Cardoso explains how X-ray can help detect dummy and counterfeit merchandise.

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X-Rayted Files: Why Do We Break Stuff? Intelligence From Teardowns

05-20-2020

The impulse to break a new gadget to "see what's inside" and to “learn how it works” is often the first sign someone will become an engineer. We’ve learned a lot in over a decade of teardowns, which have helped us to understand how the SMT industry has changed over these years. Bill Cardoso investigates.

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X-Rayted Inspection: Manufacturing in the Eye of a Pandemic

04-08-2020

Dr. Bill Cardoso usually writes about X-ray inspection, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and how it all connects to Industry 4.0. This month, however, he shifts gears and shares some of the things Creative Electron has been doing during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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X-rayted Files: X-ray and AI—A Match Made In Heaven, Part 2

03-18-2020

In Part 1, Dr. Bill Cardoso covered the basics of the relationship between X-ray inspection and artificial intelligence (AI). In Part 2, Cardoso takes a step forward to cover some of the practical ways we use AI to improve the efficiency of our X-ray inspections.

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2019

X-Rayted Files: Will Radiation Damage My Electronic Component?

12-17-2019

Before I start talking about radiation damage on electronic components, let me warn you: if you are looking for a simple “yes” or “no” answer to the question, "Will radiation damage my electronic component?" stop reading now. Things will get complicated. You may feel like I did not answer the question at all, and you would be correct. There are whole conferences dedicated to this question (check IEEE’s Nuclear and Space Radiation Effects Conference), so the goal of this column is to give you some background to guide you to the right answer for your specific situation. Ultimately, the best way is to ask an expert.

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X-Rayted Files: The Currency of Technology

11-11-2019

In the ever-moving tide of technology, the need to innovate requires a constant shift in vision, and this need has never been more evident than in PCB manufacturing. In fact, innovation has become so valuable that PCBs are quickly becoming the currency of technology. Dr. Bill Cardoso explains.

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X-Rayted Files: The Risk of Installing Counterfeit Parts

10-02-2019

In high-tech manufacturing, the use of sub-standard components can be catastrophic. There is no greater need for quality control than in PCBs, as they are only as good as the components installed on them; therein lies the problem. Some components shipped to manufacturers are counterfeit!

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X-Rayted Files: Just Because You Can't See the Problem Doesn't Mean It's Not There!

08-20-2019

In this new column, Dr. Bill Cardoso will cover everything related to X-rays from cool historical facts to the latest in technological advancements, starting with the discovery of X-rays in 1895.

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