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Prototron Receives MIL-31032 and AS9100 Certifications

Kim O’Neil, general manager of Prototron Circuits in Tucson, Arizona, discusses the company’s recent MIL-31032 certification and how this experience prepared them for the AS9100 certification. He also explained why auditing is a good thing for any company’s processes and highlighted some of the areas that the auditors inspected.

Why Designers Need to Be at the SMTA Additive Electronics Conference

In a recent interview, Kelly Dack and Tara Dunn (Omni PCB president and conference co-chair) discussed why designers need to attend the SMTA Additive Electronics Conference. Tara will also be attending and moderating a panel discussion at the conference.

Communication, Part 3: Why Do Board Shops Ask So Many Questions?

In Part 3, Bob Chandler from CA Design and Mark Thompson from Prototron Circuits speak with Steve Williams about the importance of preparing, sending, and receiving comprehensive (and ideally, perfectly complete) design data packages. If you’ve ever wondered why the CAM department asks you so many questions, read on.

Happy Holden Previews His AltiumLive Frankfurt Keynote

I recently sat down for an interview with Happy Holden, who is slated to give a keynote speech at this year’s AltiumLive event in Frankfurt, Germany. Happy gives a preview of his presentation, which is focused on smart factories and automation, and why artificial intelligence might improve PCB design and fabrication in the future.

Additive Electronics Conference Set for October 2019 Debut

Kelly Dack and Tara Dunn talk about the upcoming conference "Additive Electronics: PCB Scale to IC Scale" on October 24, 2019, hosted by SMTA in San Jose, California, and why it's an important event for people to attend—especially those involved in the design process.

SMTA Additive Electronics Conference: Industry Trends

Mainstream PCB manufacturing is often limited to 50-75 microns (mm) line and space. But the electronics industry is evolving quickly. Propelled by the demand for more sophisticated electronics, PCB design is being tasked with finer lines, thinner materials, and smaller via sizes.

New High-speed 3D Surface Imaging Technology in Electronics Manufacturing Applications

Line confocal sensors—and scanners based on them—are used in the imaging of surfaces, transparent materials, and multi-layered structures in various metrology and inspection applications on discrete parts, assemblies, webs, and other continuous products. Line confocal sensors operate at high speed and can be used to scan fast-moving surfaces in real-time as well as stationary product samples in the laboratory.

Standards: Why We Have Them and Live by Them

Have you ever designed a board but received feedback that it couldn’t be manufactured unless changes were made? Or maybe you’ve designed a complex board and sent it to the factory only to find out that the manufacturer didn’t build the board to your expectations? PCBs are becoming more complex, factory options are growing, and expectations for product life cycles are becoming longer.

Bob Martin Brings Maker Attitude to AltiumLive Keynote

Bob Martin is a self-proclaimed “Wizard of Make” and senior staff engineer with Microchip Technology. Next week, this leader of the maker community will be one of the keynote speakers at AltiumLive in San Diego, California. I caught up with Bob and asked him to give us a preview of his presentation.

Communication, Part 1: How to Qualify a Board Shop

In Part 1 of this six-part series for "Fab Fridays," Mark Thompson, CID+, engineering support at Prototron, and CA Design CTO Bob Chandler discuss ways that PCB fabricators and designers can better communicate, starting with how to qualify a board shop.


The Institute of Circuit Technology Autumn Seminar

Meriden has been established as a popular Midlands venue for Institute of Circuit Technology (ICT) meetings. On September 19, a multitude of Fellows, Members, and Associates gathered for the Institute’s autumn seminar, which was organised and hosted by ICT Technical Director Bill Wilkie. The agenda included five informative technical presentations, describing current research and development on significant topics relevant to the industry.

Insertion Loss Performance Differences Due to Plated Finish and Circuit Structure

Data will be presented for loss versus frequency for six different plated finishes commonly used in the PCB industry, and opinions will be offered as to why the loss behavior differs for the different plated finishes and for the different circuit configurations. Because the insertion loss of high-frequency circuits also depends on substrate thickness, circuits fabricated on substrates with different thicknesses will be evaluated to analyze the effects of substrate thickness on insertion loss.

Joe Grand Brings a Hacker Outlook to PCB Design

From designing his own mischievous gadgets to testifying on Capitol Hill and starring in his own Discovery TV show “Prototype This!” Joe Grand has lived a hacker’s life. I spoke with Joe about his upcoming keynote at AltiumLive in San Diego, “When Hacking and Engineering Collide,” which will focus on the lighter side of engineering and the benefits of thinking like a hacker. Can Joe convince PCB designers to adopt a hacker’s outlook?

The Use of Insoluble Anodes in Acid Copper Plating

Soluble anodes have been the staple of the industry for decades, but they require extensive maintenance and generate waste in both copper metal and electrolyte. As plated copper thickness uniformity requirements become more stringent, more and more time will be needed for anode maintenance to ensure the uniformity of the anodic setup.

Robert Feranec: A Lifetime of PCB Design

Robert Feranec, a popular YouTuber and founder of the FEDEVEL Academy, discusses with Andy Shaughnessy the upcoming keynote he’ll be giving at AltiumLive in San Diego, California, and how he's helping people around the world understand and optimize their PCB design processes.

EIPC Summer Conference 2019, Day 2

In this article, EIPC Chairman Alun Morgan provides the highlights of the second day of the EIPC 2019 Summer Conference, which was held in the beautiful city of Leoben in central Austria. He also talks about key points of the numerous technical presentation at the conference.

EIPC Summer Conference 2019, Day 1

The beautiful city of Leoben in central Austria provided the setting for the EIPC 2019 Summer Conference. In this article, EIPC Chairman Alun Morgan provides the highlights of the first day of the event, including a recap of the technical presentations.

Chemcut: Wet Processing Equipment for the Long Haul

Chemcut CEO and General Manager Rick Lies speaks about the growth he has seen in the marketplace over his 18 years in the industry, and how Chemcut has been able to remain competitive in the PCB and photochemical milling spaces. Jerry Reitz, Chemcut’s HES manager, also addresses the current shift towards zero-discharge facilities.

Putting Green Into a Brownfield Facility

George Milad, national accounts manager for technology at Uyemura, talks about what is driving change in the wet process marketplace and how chemistries must fit into next-generation product design while also meeting new environmental requirements.

The Advantages of Non-sludge Acid Copper Products

Mike Wood, technical director with Cerambus Asia Pacific, discusses the acid copper product from Cerambus Technology Inc. that doesn't generate sludge during the plating process and operates at higher production output by using higher current density. He talks about why this is important for the state of the vertical continuous plating (VCP) market in Asia, and the trends he’s seeing in that space.


Pollution Prevention Techniques: Rinse Water Reduction

There are five general categories of common techniques for pollution prevention in a PCB fabrication facility: new processes to replace sources of pollution; extend the bath’s life; rinse water reduction; dragout reduction; and ventilation reduction. While this list is not all-inclusive, it provides an overview of the types of technologies used around the world that are important to consider. This article, examines rinse water reduction.

SAP Utilizing Very Uniform Ultrathin Copper

The demand for miniaturization and higher density electronic products has continued steadily for years, and this trend is expected to continue, according to various semiconductor technology and applications roadmaps. The semiconductor miniaturization brings significant economic and technical benefits and the semiconductor scale factor becomes the master for the associated package and PCB design.

Innovative Electroplating Processes for IC Substrates

The decreasing chip scales and smaller line/spacing distances have created unique challenges for both the PCB industry and the semiconductor industry. This paper discusses innovative additive packages for direct-current copper electroplating specifically for IC substrates, which offer better trace profile and deliver via fill and through-hole plating. It also describes two electrolytic copper plating processes, the selection of which could be based on the via size and the dimple requirements of the application.

Vertical Conductive Structures, Part 3: Design Tool Techniques

New vertical conductive structure (VeCS) technology can reduce layer count and improve signal integrity without the need for sequential technologies. VeCS is different than traditional through-hole vias, microvias, and ELIC designs, which are more expensive and require a high number of laminations, drilling, and plating cycles to build up a reasonable number of layers.

Nano Dimension Details New DragonFly LDM

Dan Feinberg talks with Nano Dimension CEO Amit Dror about the new DragonFly LDM 3D printer technology announced by the Israeli company on July 24, 2019, aimed at increasing machine uptime and moving forward from prototyping to higher production volumes.

Solder Mask Curing: UV Bump Overview

Ultraviolet (UV) bump, also called UV cure, is a processing step in which the solder mask pattern is irradiated with ultraviolet and infrared light. This step is performed with special equipment that is built as a continuous flow system, which consists of a conveyor belt and tubular UV lamps mounted above and below the belt. Read on to find out more about this process.

Interconnect Reliability Correlation With System Design and Transportation Stress

Interconnect reliability is very critical to ensure product performance at predefined shipping conditions and user environments. Plating thickness of the compliant pin and the damping mechanism of electronic system design are key success factors for this purpose. This paper discusses design variables—such as pin hard gold plating thickness, motherboard locking mechanism, and damping structure design—to ensure interconnect reliability.

There’s An Art to Plating

There's definitely an art to plating. Start with a generally planar substrate, then alternately put stuff on and take things off. Continue this in subtle variations until what you have is the stuff you want, where you want.

Development of Flexible Hybrid Electronics

This article will present a hybrid manufacturing process to manufacture FHE systems with a two-layer interconnect structure utilizing screen printing of silver conductive ink, filled microvias to connect ink traces at the different layers, and use of the traditional reflow process to attach the semiconductor chips to the printed substrates.

The Impact of Inductance on Impedance of Decoupling Capacitors

This article discusses the impact of interconnection inductance on the impedance of the decoupling capacitor, which influences the power integrity of the PCB. The investigation is performed with 3DEM simulation by varying the trace length and height of stitching vias that connect the decoupling capacitor across the power rail and ground.


Altium Designer 19.0 Features Printed Electronics Design Functions

The newest version of Altium Designer—revision 19.0—includes functionality for designing printed electronic circuits. We wanted to get the scoop on Altium’s PEC tools, so we asked Nikolay Ponomarenko, Altium’s director of product management, to give us a tour of the new functions.

IPC High-reliability Forum and Microvia Summit Review, Part II

The Microvia Summit on May 16 was a special feature of the 2019 event in Baltimore, since microvia challenges and reliability issues have become of great concern to the PCB manufacturing industry. It provided updates on the work of members of the IPC V-TSL-MVIA Weak Interface Microvia Failures Technology Solutions Subcommittee and opportunities to learn about latest developments in methods to reveal and explain the presence of latent defects, identify causes and cures, and be able to consistently and confidently supply reliable products.

How to Feed Test Data Back to Engineering for Process Improvement

Some people think of the PCB manufacturing process as a black box: design data goes to the manufacturer (fabrication house), and magically, the finished PCB is produced. While it may have been like that in the past, in actuality, fabricating PCBs today is quite a ballet of processes.

A Guide to High-reliability PCBs from Design to Specification

Creating reliable PCBs is an outcome of considering all aspects that can affect reliability as early as possible in the design process. The further down the design process, the more expensive and risky it can be to fix. As they say, everything starts with the design. Because a good board design improves the reliability of the end product and lessens the risk of failure.

How Changing Cleaning Technologies Affect Reliability

At the recent IPC High-Reliability Forum and Microvia Summit, Andy Shaughnessy spoke with Michael Konrad, founder and president of Aqueous Technologies and a speaker and panelist at the event in Baltimore, Maryland. They discussed Konrad’s presentation and the recent proliferation of cleaning, from solely high-reliability products to Class 1 consumer products.

Microvias: Links of Faith are Not Created Equally

Microvias connect adjacent copper layers to complete electrical paths. There are copper-filled microvias, which can be stacked to form connections beyond adjacent copper layers, and staggered microvias, which stitch adjacent copper layers with paths that meander on the layers between the microvias. This article discusses the various laser-drilled microvias and presents SEM photographs to begin the search for the root cause of weak copper interface.

Reliability... It All Comes Down to the Landing

Our industry is embarking on a new age of technical development to achieve much higher levels of overall reliability that will be required of the devices we fabricate. Whether in medical devices, autonomous vehicles, or in IoT, reliability will be crucial to both our success and safety.

Dissecting the IPC Regional Survey on PCB Technology Trends

Sharon Starr, Denny Fritz, and Mike Carano talk about the global 2018 IPC Technology Trends Report released early this year—the size of the survey, how it was conducted, the general findings, and regional differences. They also shared their takeaways and regional insights, and the industry outlook over the next five to 10 years.

Conventional Exposing: Direct Imaging Solder Mask

When you compare direct imaging of solder mask with contact exposure of solder mask, the positive aspects and the advantages are clear. Without a doubt, direct imaging shortens the throughput time and eliminates artwork production. It also eliminates the costly measurement of the panels and manufacturing of artwork with different scaling factors.

Design Is a Pivotal Piece of the Puzzle

As a field applications engineer at TTM Technologies, which has fabrication and manufacturing locations around the world, Julie Ellis sees a wide variety of customer design requirements. In this interview with the I-Connect007 Editorial Team, Julie explains how PCB designers can influence the development of the PCB. She shares a variety of tips and tricks that designers can implement early in the design process to help optimize fabrication and assembly later on and keep small issues from becoming big problems downstream.


Kelvin Characterization to Accurately Predict Copper Thickness

A few years ago at Integrated Test Corporation, we found that the reaction plan for void fallout at electrical test was ineffective and not standardized. Like many PCB manufacturing facilities (including a Sanmina shop that I used to work at), the reaction plan consisted of cross section analysis to determine the void type.

Technically Appropriate Material Choices Are Key to Success

Materials are no longer a passive part of the design; they play an active role in the manufacturability, reliability, and speed of a PCB. Editor Nolan Johnson and Mike Creeden, founder of San Diego PCB Design, discuss several key characteristics that designers should consider in their material selection process.

Insulectro’s OEM Program: Time to ACT!

Ken Parent, Insulectro VP of sales and product management, discusses the current dynamics in the materials marketplace and how Insulectro is developing educational resources to help design teams and fabricators better understand the capabilities and features for the emerging laminate materials.

Digital Twin Drives Design in the Smart Factory

New product realization and design for manufacturing and assembly has now started to become more visible as a program that can improve a company’s time to market and lower product costs. This is one of the main focuses of Industry 4.0 for the smart factory. Many programs are underway by numerous companies, and what is now needed is a framework to coordinate the application of these programs.

Photonics Systems Looks to Expand Its PCB Capabilities

Pulsed-laser equipment manufacturer Photonics Systems looks to expand its capabilities to the PCB industry. Barry Matties sat down with Antonio Schmidt and Kurt Weber to talk about the company’s transition and the challenges they’ve faced thus far as they continue to build and extend their brand into a new market segment.

Quality by Design

The design team’s files and the accompanying documentation is the real-world implementation plan to turn the OEM’s concepts and marketing research into a viable, physical, competitive product. Unless manufacturing defies the build instructions from the designers, the product will only be as manufacturable as the design files themselves.

ICT 45th Annual Symposium Review

The Institute of Circuit Technology (ICT) held its 45th annual symposium on June 4, 2019 in Dudley at the Black Country Museum—a symbol of the spirit of innovation in engineering technology and the entrepreneurial and manufacturing skills that had established that region’s supremacy in leading the original Industrial Revolution. Here's a recap of the events and presentations at the symposium.

IPC’s PCB Tech Trends Study Highlights Issues Impacting Fabricators

The 2018 survey results indicated the need for speed and low loss as critical functions of the materials chosen. This is the digital age, and with the Internet of Things, virtual and augmented reality, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, etc., the need for low-loss and ultra-low-loss materials continues to grow as a percentage of circuit boards fabricated.

Creating Stability in Materials Chaos

Nolan Johnson and Tony Senese—manager, business development group, Panasonic EMBD—discuss the evolution of the materials marketplace over the years from a time when the market aligned for the rise of Panasonic’s MEGTRON 6 to the ever-changing materials industry of today. With the ramp-up to 5G and everyone pushing product development, Tony describes a chaotic materials market flooded with new companies and materials.

PCB Fabricators’ Tech Capabilities Exceed OEMs’ Needs in Many Areas

Some interesting differences showed up in the board property data reported by the OEMs and PCB fabricators that participated in IPC’s PCB Technology Trends 2018 study.


The GraftWorx Fluid Management Patch Story

The GraftWorx vision is to connect patients to clinicians with clinical data that will have a meaningful impact on their care. Its first application is to monitor patients with end-stage renal disease or kidney failure using a wearable device called the SmartPatch that records numerous clinical cardiovascular metrics. This article details how GraftWorx was designed, fabricated, and assembled.

Orbotech Celebrates Success of Orbotech Diamond and Discusses Future Trends

At the recent CPCA Show in Shanghai, Orbotech celebrated having over 100 of their Orbotech Diamond™ direct imaging machines in the marketplace. Barry Matties caught up with Meny Gantz—VP of marketing for Orbotech’s PCB division—to talk about the drivers behind the success of Orbotech Diamond systems before turning the conversation toward the future and Industry 4.0.

Collaboratively Creating Wearable Medical Products

Patty Goldman, Barry Matties, and Happy Holden recently spoke with David Moody and Rich Clemente of Lenthor Engineering along with Anthony Flattery and Amit Rushi—their customers at GraftWorx. They discussed a recent project and how they worked together to solve a difficult problem by designing a rigidized flex circuit for their product.

Electrolytic Plating: Filling Vias and Through-holes

The continuously evolving electronics industry environment is causing the development of various electrolytic copper processes for different applications over the past several decades. This article describes the reasons for development and a roadmap of dimensions for copper-filled through-holes, microvias, and other copper-plated structures on PCBs.

Are Regional Differences in PCB Technology as Great as We Think?

We keep hearing that Asia is all consumer and automotive electronics and North America and Europe are all high reliability/long life. The findings in IPC’s PCB Technology Trends 2018 study show that these regions are not as different as expected, and the differences we do see are interesting.

XNC Format: Gerber Takes Data Into the Future

The problem is that so many NC files are of deplorable quality because the NC format was never designed as a data transfer format. It has always been a machine driver and contains all sorts of information that a drilling machine needs, but that is irrelevant and confusing for data exchange.

Technically Appropriate Material Choices are Key to Design Success

Materials are no longer a passive part of the design; they play an active role in the manufacturability, reliability, and speed of a PCB. I-Connect007’s Nolan Johnson and Mike Creeden, founder of San Diego PCB Design, discuss several key characteristics that designers should consider in their material selection process.

Learning to Be More Flexible: Case Studies on Improving FPC Design

As miniaturization requirements force manufacturers to pack more functionality into ever-smaller packages, it becomes more difficult to conform to IPC construction recommendations. Achieving robust FPCs requires frequent, iterative interaction internally among the mechanical, electrical, and PCB design teams, as well as with the fabricators and assemblers. The sooner in the design cycle you can engage the supplier and assembler, the better.

Vertical Conductive Structures, Part 1: Rethinking Sequential Lamination

Sequential lamination, as it is used today in high density interconnect (HDI) and derivative technologies, is constrained by the fact that one cannot plate a blind hole deeper than the diameter of the hole. A larger hole allows processes to plate deeper. In fact, this manufacturing constraint has made it a challenge even to reliably plate and process blind holes up to a 1:1 aspect ratio.

Averatek on the Future of Additive and Semi-additive Processing

Averatek’s President and COO Mike Vinson talks with Barry Matties about the benefits semi-additive and additive processing can bring to the shop floor as well as some of the current challenges and limitations that continue to leave many manufacturers hesitant to implement the technology.


Alun Morgan on Thermal Management and LEDs in Automotive

Guest Editor Judy Warner met with Alun Morgan, technology ambassador for Ventec International Group, to discuss topics addressed at the Automotive Executive Forum that took place at IPC APEX EXPO 2019. Morgan describes his presentation and findings centered around thermal management in automotive, specifically LEDs, as well as the unique set of growing thermal management challenges Tier 1 suppliers are now facing in the automotive sector.

Stacked Microvia Reliability: Ongoing Work and Upcoming IPC Conference

One year ago, Happy Holden's review of the 2018 IPC High-Reliability Forum reported the presentation of J.R. Strickland and Jerry Magera, who described research at MSI Applied Technology into overcoming the risk of stacked microvia failures escaping standard quality assurance procedures. Their report provided a basis for the IPC white paper IPC-WP-023, which addressed reliability issues associated with stacked microvias and included data collected from several other printed circuit manufacturers.

Preparing to Enter the Workforce With PCB Design Experience

Nolan Johnson recently spoke with Alex Burt, a computer engineering student at George Fox University, at a well-attended college career fair on the GFU campus in Newberg, Oregon. In the interview, Alex discusses his PCB classwork, challenges of design, and how it has impacted his internship experience as he prepares to enter the workforce upon graduation in the spring semester of 2019.

Advance Your Company Through Automation

At the recent IPC APEX EXPO 2019, Yash Sutariya discusses with Patty Goldman the labor shortage he has experienced in the Detroit area, the impact automation can have in the manufacturing process, and other strategies to advance your company.

Sunstone's Terry Heilman Discusses the Evolving Industry

For the last 14 years, CEO Terry Heilman has been one of the key leaders in driving the expansive growth at Mulino, Oregon-based Sunstone Circuits, growing from a traditional PCB manufacturer to a PCB solutions provider with online ordering and a free PCB design tool. At IPC APEX EXPO 2019, Terry discusses the importance of serving the customer, how customers are shaping companies today, and the impact this will have on companies in the future.

RTW IPC APEX EXPO 2019: MivaTek Discusses Flatbed LED Direct Imaging Systems

Brendan F. Hogan, managing director for MivaTek Global, and Chris Hrusovsky, VP of business development, give Pete Starkey their outlook on the market for flatbed LED direct imaging systems, report spectacular sales success, and describe their new introductions for large-format, dual-tray and microelectronics systems.

Ventec Focuses on High-mix Manufacturing

The I-Connect007 team recently toured Ventec International Group’s Suzhou factory where a modern, flexible manufacturing concept designed for fast delivery is enhancing their established volume manufacturing of specialty, high-reliability epoxy laminates and prepregs. Read on to know more about Ventec's ongoing investment in the facility to offer flexible world-class high-mix manufacturing capabilities for polyimide, thermal management, low-loss, and signal integrity material solutions.

Staying Current on Flex Manufacturing is Smart Business

Brendan Hogan, managing director of smart electronics manufacturer MivaTek Global, discusses how to better design for flex, and ways designers can stay current on manufacturing technology that can impact their flex boards.

EIPC Winter Conference, Day 2

After the papers from the first day of the EIPC Winter Conference in Milan on February 14–15, the delegates were hosted at a reception and plant tour of Elga Europe at their nearby production facility. Here's a recap of the events and highlights of the Day 2 of the conference.

SimplifyDA: Time for a New Autorouter Paradigm?

At DesignCon, I spoke with SimplifyDA CEO Zen Liao and Director of Sales and Marketing Dale Hanzelka. SimplifyDA is putting a new twist on the old autorouter by utilizing topological technology. I asked them to discuss their approach to autorouting, and how they plan to entice more PCB designers to use routers. Is it time for a paradigm shift in autorouting?


Meyer Burger on Inkjet Technology and Digital Printing Benefits

Don Veri, sales and business development manager for Meyer Berger, discusses some of the challenges fabricators face in adopting inkjet technology, the benefits they can expect once it’s deployed in their facility, and the advantages of digital printing in solving problems on the shop floor.

3DEM Modeling: Influence of Metal Plating on PCB Channel Loss and Impedance

This article briefly introduces different types of metal plating commonly used in PCB fabrication. Subsequently, the influence of metal plating on PCB channel loss (i.e., insertion loss or S21) and impedance (i.e., time domain reflectometry or TDR) is studied with 3DEM modeling,

EIPC Winter Conference, Day 1

EIPC Chairman Alun Morgan writes about the highlights of and the technical discussions at the recent EIPC Winter Conference held in Milan last February 14–15.

The Smart Factory IQ Test

Let's see how prepared you are to talk about Industry 4.0. The following 12-question test will measure how much you know about smart factory concepts and philosophies. Since the concept of a smart factory is larger than the electronics manufacturing industry and encompasses the entire supply chain, the terms and concepts here are also more global in nature.

RTW IPC APEX EXPO 2019: Ucamco Discusses Latest Evolution of PCB Software

Ucamco Managing Director Karel Tavernier speaks with Dan Feinberg about their aim of automating the CAM process as much as possible. He also discusses the recent evolution of their PCB software.
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