PCB :: Fabrication Process

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Video from productronica 2017: Electra Polymers Updates on the Latest Developments in DI Soldermask

From the show floor at productronica 2017, Electra Polymers' sales manager Ashley Steers discusses the state of the art in soldermask for direct imaging. Sales and marketing director Shaun Tibbals comments on developments in ink-jet soldermask, and opportunities in wafer-level packaging.

Video from productronica 2017: Taiyo America Highlights Ink-Jettable Solder Mask

After a long-term program of cooperative development, evaluation and qualification, Taiyo America’s solvent-free ink-jet solder mask formulation is working successfully in a technically demanding production environment. Don Monn recounts his experiences from the show floor at productronica 2017.

The PCB Norsemen: Industry 4.0, AI and CircuitData

As automation works its way onto the shop floors, it still struggles to replace humans in the supporting roles, such as designers, purchasers, brokers, and back-office staff. Where automation on the shop floor replaces humans in doing repetitive manual tasks, the supporting roles (at least some of them) require intelligence to understand and utilise information.

Groundbreaking Developments at liloTree

I was introduced to liloTree and Chief Scientist Kunal Shah by Joe Fjelstad. It seems this small company (with Intel as part of its pedigree) has developed a novel ENIG process that just may shake up the regular chemistry suppliers. This new process is described as cost-effective and ecofriendly while completely eliminating black pad and brittle solder joints.

AltiumLive Summit—Munich, Germany, Part 1

Altium held a very successful AltiumLive PCB Design Summit in San Diego, California at the beginning of October for the benefit of their North American design community, and followed it three weeks later with a counterpart European event in Munich. And what an eye-opener it proved to be—literally hundreds of delegates, a superbly organised and managed programme, billed as a completely immersive two-day interactive design experience on a theme of learning, connecting and getting inspired.

Leveraging Industry Shows to Create a Presence

At the recent SMTA International show in Rosemont, Illinois, I had an opportunity to meet with Mark Osborn, president and owner of Colonial Circuits, based in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Colonial Circuits is a supplier of PCBs, mainly for the defense industry.

New I-Connect007 Team Members Tour American Standard Circuits

Recently, Anaya Vardya, CEO of American Standard Circuits, invited two of I-Connect007’s newest team members, IT coordinator Jonathan Zinski and Editor Kiersten Rohde, to tour his facility in West Chicago, Illinois. Happy Holden, resident PCB expert, also joined the newbies on their field trip to ASC. In the following articles, Jonathan and Kiersten describe their experience touring ASC. Special thanks to Anaya for hosting the I-Connect007 team.

Planning a PCB: Signal Integrity and Controlled Impedance Considerations

Knowledge and experience are the two key elements when planning a PCB. Today’s PCB designers must have far more knowledge and understanding of the PCB production process than in the past. This is especially important when they plan and how they plan the stackup, via span, routing and power distribution.

Final Finishes: Taking Gold Thickness into Account

Martin Bunce was one of several people from MacDermid Enthone who presented at SMTA International this year. He sat down with me for a chat about his paper on final finishes, particularly with regard to controlling gold thickness.

HDI’s Beneficial Influence on High-Frequency Signal Integrity

The increasingly widespread use of finepitch ball-grid array (BGA), chip scale packaging (CSP), and other evolving technology form-factors means that new fabrication techniques must be used to create printed circuit boards (PCBs).


PCB Signal Integrity Optimization Using X-ray Metrology

It happens again. A new backbone router/switch build or a line card upgrade is approaching completion when something goes wrong. The system won’t operate at the targeted data rate. Deadlines are looming and the root cause of the problem is buried somewhere in a big rack of electronic components.

Strategies for Developing Copper Plating Systems

I-Connect007's Patty Goldman met with Dr. Albert Angstenberger, global technology manager for metallization with MacDermid Enthone Electronics Solutions, while at SMTA International. He presented a most interesting paper on copper pillar plating systems that we hope to publish in The PCB Magazine sometime in the future.

Experts Discussion: Signal Integrity and Impedance Control

When the content gathering for an issue on signal integrity and controlled impedance was officially underway, our I-Connect007 editorial team’s first stop was an “experts discussion” with industry experts: Mike Steinberger of SiSoft, Mark Thompson of Prototron Circuits, and Yogen and Sunny Patel of Candor Industries. This teleconference call was a whirlwind at times, but we captured valuable information that we have distilled here, for our readers.

Process Engineering & Defect Prevention

Defects may “manifest” or be detected in or after a specific operation within the printed circuit board manufacturing process, but the underlying root cause may have occurred earlier (perhaps much earlier) in the process.

3D Printed Electronics for Printed Circuit Structures

Printed electronics is a familiar term that is taking on more meaning as the technology matures. Flexible electronics is sometimes referred to as a subset of this and the printing approach is one of the enabling factors for roll-to-roll processes.

Institute of Circuit Technology Hayling Island Seminar 2017

This year’s event had a well-chosen and varied programme featuring presentations on process chemistry and R&D consortia, a discussion of controversial standards proposals and a review of the experiences of commissioning new technology in a start-up factory.

The State-of-the-Art in PCB Pre-production Engineering

If there’s one benefit of old age, it’s being able to remember the introduction to our industry of technologies that may be taken for granted by the present generation, but were revolutionary at the time. I can recall the history of Ucamco as far back as the late 1980s when, as one of the very early adopters of the DISC laser plotter and its associated electronic PCB front-end tooling system, our company gained entry to a spectacular new world of pre-production engineering capability.

Ventec Shares Their Insights on the Laminate Market, Part II

The discussion on laminates and markets with Ventec’s Mark Goodwin continues as he talks about the importance of service, where Ventec is headed, and offers some advice on partnering with your supplier.

'Can Do' in CAM Outsourcing

Time-to-market has been the mantra for every successful technology company. The best among them have strong and integrated supply chains that march to the drum of the OEMs and EMS providers that bring that technology to market. A big part of that success, especially in North America and Europe, is the ability for PCB manufacturers to turn around complex PCBs very quickly. The hallmark of PCB production in these higher-tech, higher-cost regions is flexibility and responsiveness.

High-Throw DC Acid Copper Formulation for Vertical Continuous Electroplating Processes

The electronics industry has grown immensely over the last few decades owing to the rapid growth of consumer electronics in the modern world. New formulations are essential to fit the needs of manufacturing printed circuit boards and semiconductors.


Hamed El-Abd: A New Beginning, Part 2

In Part 2 of this interview with Hamed El-Abd, Barry Matties continues the conversation as Hamed recalls witnessing the growth of China through the past 30 years. We also learn what Hamed plans to do in his retirement and it doesn't involve being static!

Hamed El-Abd: A New Beginning, Part 1

While in China recently, Barry Matties joined longtime I-Connect007 friend and contributor Hamed El-Abd of WKK to congratulate him on his upcoming retirement. They reflected on his time spent in the industry, specifically in China, how far it’s come, and where it might be headed next.

Laser Patterning & Metallization to Reduce Process Steps for PCB Manufacturing

This paper details a new methodology for the plating of conductive features onto glass dielectrics. A laser is used to ablate material from a glass substrate in the desired pattern, and copper is “seeded” into these features using laser-induced forward transfer of a copper foil.

Cycle Time Reduction Through W.O.R.C.

Lean, theory of constraints (ToC), quick response manufacturing (QRM), cross-training, and staticstical process control (SPC) are powerful, tried and true methodologies for process improvement. However, these tools are rooted in high-volume manufacturing environments and don’t always play nice in a high-mix, low volume (HMLV) operation. The new W.O.R.C. manufacturing strategy was specifically developed to overcome these shortcomings while capitalizing on their strengths.

Patty's Perspective: How do You Define Process Step Elimination and Automation?

This month, we can call our theme PSE&A—a fancy acronym for process step elimination and automation. Sounds straightforward, but what exactly do we mean by “process step elimination?” Does it refer to shortening the numerous steps involved in making a printed circuit board? There sure are a lot of them, but they all must be necessary—or why would we have them?

Victory Giant Technology: The Qualified Forerunner of PCB Smart Factories

The topic of the July issue of PCB007’s China Online Magazine is “Automatic PCB Factories,” focusing on the pressures of cost, delivery time and process, and the irreversible trend toward automated PCB factories. Centering on this theme, we interviewed Andy Zhou, COO of Victory Giant Technology (HuiZhou) Co. Ltd., the first domestic PCB manufacturer who carries out large-scale implementation of intellectualization throughout the factory.

Mr. Laminate Tells All: PTFE is About to be Banned by IEC TC111

There, I said it. Technical Committee 111 of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is preparing to effectively ban PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) materials from electronics. As history goes, the electronics industry has focused on only two of the four halogens (bromine and chlorine) to be limited in order to be called “halogen-free” or more accurately “low-halogen.” But now, fluorine is being dragged down too, just because of its location in the periodic table.

I-Connect Survey on Process Step Elimination: What is More Important for Productivity?

Is utilizing the best technology out there the most important factor in improving productivity? Or is it automating certain, if not all, processes in your production? What about employee morale, what is its impact on the overall productivity of your line?

A Deep Look Into Embedded Technology

In preparation for this month’s magazine, we set up a conference call with the goal of uncovering the challenges and opportunities related to embedded technology. Invited were a handful of the industry’s heavy hitters in the embedded world: Retired technologist and I-Connect007 Contributing Editor Happy Holden, and Ohmega’s Technical Director Daniel Brandler and Design & Test Engineer Manuel Herrera.

Megasonic Acoustic Surface Treatment Process for Enhanced Copper Electrodeposition in Via Interconnects

A printed circuit board is populated with a multitude of electro-mechanical components plus various active and passive devices such as transistors, capacitors, inductors and resistors, which enable the functionality and assembly of the PCB. Increasing the density of the components on the surface of a board enables greater functionality and use.


I-Connect Survey on Process Step Elimination: Cycle Time Spent on Final Inspection

In our recent survey on process step elimination for the upcoming issue of The PCB Magazine, one of the questions asked was the percentage of total cycle time spent on final inspection. Around half of the respondents answered they only spend generally between 1% and 5% of their total cycle time doing final inspection of their products.

Designing with Ultra-Thin Flexible Printed Circuit Boards

Designing with flexible PCBs is not much different from doing the same with rigid boards, except that the designer must account for the mechanical complexity associated with flex circuits. For instance, a flexible PCB can tear if flexed beyond its capability during installation. Therefore, it is very important to create a mechanical model of the PCB and test it for a proper fit, before taking up the electrical design.

Weiner’s World – June 2017

On the way back from Hong Kong last week I had the good fortune of meeting an officer of Allegro Microsystems and enjoyed a wide ranging discussion with him. One of the "take home" items was concern about an expanding shortage of rare earth metals used to make ICs for the burgeoning automotive sensor market. The second was how important the roles of partnering and consortia are in the rapidly advancing autonomous automotive electronic field.

Embedding Components, Part 1

The printed circuit has traditionally served as the platform for mounting and interconnecting active and passive components on the outer surfaces. Companies attempting to improve functionality and minimize space are now considering embedding a broad range of these components within the circuit structure.

The Significance of the PCB in the Value Chain of the European EMS Industry

At SMT Nuremberg, Pete Starkey meets with Dieter Weiss, who comments upon the significance of the PCB in the value chain of the European EMS industry, and looks to a future where we embrace an open-minded attitude and a willingness to work together.

A Brief Tutorial on Embedded Capacitors

Compunetics has been operating in the embedded components market for more than 20 years. Initially driven by their parent company’s need for high layer-count, high-density embedded capacitance cards for their OEM product offerings, technology and processes were developed which are mature and reliable.

A Twist on Printed Electronics: Printing on 3D Shapes

Barry Matties speaks with Optomec’s Pascal Pierra about their LENS printer systems and Aerosol Jet technology, which allows manufacturers to print applications like sensors and antennas on 3D objects. The process is significantly faster and greener than competing technologies.

Better Together: How HDP User Group Showcases the Industry’s Best Side

HDPUG is a non-profit trade organization comprised of members from top companies in the electronics industry, from materials suppliers and manufacturers, to OEMs and end users. Key activities include collaborating on issues facing multiple industries and bringing people together on projects who might not have met otherwise. Barry Matties met HDPUG’s European representative and project facilitator Alun Morgan at the recent EIPC Summer Conference to learn more about the group and current projects.

Romania’s PCB Design Students Compete at TIE 2017

During the last week in April, the 26th Interconnection Techniques in Electronics (TIE) show was held at the Gheorghe Asachi Technical University in Iasi, Romaina, a wonderful hill town not unlike Rome. The event, a convention for the Romanian electronic packaging community, included a series of actions designed to draw smart young students to the electronics industry, which is clearly growing. Participants had only four hours to create this PCB design, which was generated by a team of professionals from Continental Automotive Romania Timisoara.

Mitch Altman Discusses Bringing Youth into the PCB industry

Publisher Barry Matties is joined by Mitch Altman, creator of TV-B-Gone, a device that can turn off TVs in public, and co-founder of Noisebridge, an educational hackerspace based in San Francisco. In this interview, they discuss the importance of bringing youth into the PCB industry and how Noisebridge has inspired people of all ages to get started creating their own electronics.


Global Impact on European PCB Fabrication: EIPC Summer Conference 2017, Day 2

The second day saw the conference room full once more, the late networking session in the bar having resulted in no significant casualties, and I was pleased to accept the invitation to moderate the first session, on processes and materials for flexible PCBs.

Global Impact on European PCB Fabrication: EIPC Summer Conference 2017, Day 1

Electronics industry professionals from 13 countries, mainly from Europe and Scandinavia, others from the USA, but some from as far away as India and Japan, gathered in Meriden, the centre of England, for the EIPC Summer Conference.

A Conversation with an Industry Twenty-Something

At a recent SMTA Expo, I met with Matt Hammesfahr, a salesperson with Amitron. Matt is young, by our industry standards—in his midtwenties. Just a few years out of college, Matt holds a business degree and is already a top salesman with the company. Here’s one of those twenty-somethings we keep saying we want to attract to our industry. How did this happen? I had to get the story.

HDP User Group 2017 European Meeting Highlights Technology Progress

The conference facility at the offices of Oracle, in the royal burgh of Linlithgow in West Lothian, Scotland, was the venue for the 2017 European meeting of the High Density Packaging User Group. I was delighted and privileged to be invited once again to sit in on the open session, an intense programme of technical presentations and discussions, project reviews, status updates and new project proposals.

Innovator Bob Tarzwell Retires From PCB Industry to Focus on New Career in Art

I have known Bob Tarzwell for more than 18 years, since he first called me looking for some help with his company. His first words to me were, “Hi, my name is Bob Tarzwell and I own a shop in Carleton Place, Ontario. I need your help."

Ladle on Manufacturing: Testing Times Ahead

Bare board electrical test: For the most part, it does what it says on the tin. Current CAM software and test hardware means that in theory, it is a pretty simple exercise to make sure that a printed circuit matches the intended design. But are you getting the test you think you are?

Help Wanted With IMI’s Peter Bigelow

In preparation for this month’s topic, especially what companies in our industry are currently experiencing when it comes to finding and hiring the right people, I sought out Peter Bigelow, president and CEO of circuit board fabricator IMI Inc. We spoke in February at IPC APEX EXPO.

Deep Into Technology at Compunetics

There aren’t many printed circuit companies in my neck of the woods. There is one, however, that has always fascinated me, and that is Compunetics, in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Having worked with them on the electrophoretic photoresist, a PPG product, many years ago, it was great to stop by and catch up with CTO Tim Schmitt and Technical Applications Manager Jesse Ward, along with General Manager Burhan Capar, a relative newbie to the company.

Ding Cheng of BYD Electronic: Embracing the FPC Factory Model of the Future

The topic of the third issue of PCB007 China Magazine is "The Wide World of Flex." Around this theme, we asked one of the leaders of China's FPC industry, Ding Cheng, general manager of the FPC Division of Shenzhen BYD Electronic Parts Company, to share his perspective about trends in flex, and where he thinks that market is headed in the future.

Executive Agent for PCB and Electronic Interconnect Technology PrCB Trust Accreditation

The DoD mandate for trust in the PrCB supply chain is mirrored in DoDI 5200.44, which states: “Employ protections that manage risk in the supply chain for components or subcomponent products and services (e.g., integrated circuits, FPGAs, PrCBs) when they are identifiable (to the supplier) as having a DoD end-use.” In response to congressional and DoD directives, the PrCB EA proposed pursuing a trust accreditation program for PrCB suppliers.


Weiner’s World—April 2017

China’s economy accelerated for a second straight quarter as investment picked up, retail sales rebounded, and factory output accelerated in March. Gross domestic product increased 6.9% in the first quarter from a year earlier, compared with a 6.8% median estimate in a Bloomberg survey.

Innovating in the Technology of Stretchable PCBs

Express Circuits is a long-established PCB fabricator located in Coleshill, near Birmingham in the Midlands of England, specialising in quick-turn complex prototype and small- to medium-volume microvia multilayer and rigid-flex. With the benefit of associate companies focused on design and assembly, Express is recognised for its exemplary customer service and technical support, as well as for its innovative manufacturing solutions.

Material Choices for High-Speed Flexible Circuits

Materials to make high-speed flexible circuits are now available from many material suppliers. In deciding which materials to test or use, remember the tradeoffs the suppliers made in categories we discussed: electrical properties, mechanical/flex properties, and ease of processing. A choice should only be made after considering these options. Remember with any new materials it is very important to find fabricators that are knowledgeable about processing these new materials.

Patty’s Perspective: Faster, Faster, Faster…or the Need for Speed, More Speed!

I wonder: Do we really need more speed in our connections? When will we hit that proverbial wall everyone worries about? Of course, if we want things like autonomous cars, intelligent robotics, and extended IoT, then we will continue to press forward—or rather you, the PCB manufacturer, designer, and supplier of high-speed materials will keep at it.

PCB Technology Requirements for Millimeter-Wave Interconnect and Antenna

The work done by Optiprint AG in support of MiWaveS substantiates that PCB technology can satisfy the engineering requirements for mmW circuitry providing the manufacturing capabilities can match the positional accuracy, feature tolerance and surface finish requirements.

Crucial Considerations for Building Flexible Heaters

An electronic heater is created by driving electric current through a resistive element. As the current is drawn through the element, some of the energy is expelled as heat. That heat can then be transferred to other surfaces with positive effects.

Mutracx Makes Green Operations Economically Viable

During IPC APEX EXPO, I sat down for an interview with with Jeroen de Groot, CEO of Mutracx. He detailed the company’s plans to install new equipment at a facility in Romania, and he explains why having a green manufacturing operation is not enough—it must also be economically feasible.

MACFEST: Benchmarking a New Solderable PCB Finish

New, innovative manufacturing procedures have been developed by the recently completed project, Manufacturing Advanced Coating for Future Electronics SysTems (MACFEST), which has been funded by several partners and the government’s Innovate UK.

Weiner’s World – March 2017

The CPCA show held at the China International PCB And Assembly Show was moderately busy even though the new venue was not quite ready (no escalators, the "water closets" not fully finished, the heat was only on for a few hours one day). It showcased products for PCB Manufacturing, Electronic Assembly Materials and Manufacturing Services.

Stretching Beyond Flex

Emerging end-use electronic applications are driving dramatic innovations in circuit board and interconnection technology. New form factors, functionality and durability requirements are challenging the status quo for the PCB industry and pushing design, material and process development to the limit.


A Conversation with Gene Weiner

In a discussion following the PCB Executive Forum at IPC APEX EXPO in February, Gene Weiner opened up to Barry Matties and Patty Goldman on the state of the North American electronics industry supply chain and the importance of cooperative efforts up and down that supply chain.

EIPC Workshop on PCB BioMEMS

The Premier Inn conference centre at Heathrow Airport was the venue for the EIPC workshop on PCB BioMEMS. What, I hear you ask, is a PCB BioMEMS? This is an abbreviation for biomedical (or biological) microelectromechanical systems, otherwise known as lab-on-chip.

Inkjet Printing Solder Mask

Known for their film-based products, AgfaGevaert has turned its focus to the difficult task of inkjet printing solder mask by partnering with solder mask expert Electra Polymers. Sitting down with Frank Louwet and Mariana Van Dam of Agfa Specialty Products, Publisher Barry Matties and Technical Editor Pete Starkey learn more about the partnership and where they currently stand in the development of what will be a definite game changer.

The Wide World of Flex

In one sense the flexible circuit industry has remained amazingly stable. Polyimide remains the workhorse dielectric film; imaging is done by exposing a pattern on a photosensitive film; copper is subtractively removed from a patterned substrate; and crylic adhesive is commonly used to laminate polyimide coverlay as an insulation. But there have also been some rather dramatic changes...

The Near and Far Future for Orbotech and Inspection

Orbotech’s PCB Division President Arik Gordon and I spoke in detail about the company’s newest developments in automated optical shaping (AOS), Orbotech’s unique culture and commitment to R&D, and what he expects to see in the near future for the inspection industy.

RTW IPC APEX EXPO: HDPUG Discusses the Impact of Copper Bonding Treatment on Signal Integrity

Jim Fuller, vice president of engineering and technology development at Sanmina, gives an insight on how HDPUG, the High Density Packaging User Group, shares the experience and resources of member companies to tackle projects and get results, and reviews the study of the effect of copper bonding treatment on signal integrity.

Stay Flexible!

Now, isn’t that the mantra we all hear today? For me, it’s Tai Chi to maintain physical flexibility. But of course, that is not what we’re here for. We’re talking flexible circuits including all the variations of same, which is why we called this issue “The Wide World of Flex.” Because the world of flex is broad—and it’s rapidly getting wider.

RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Schmoll and Taiyo America Partner to Speed Up Solder Mask Development

How to accelerate the development of specialist direct-imaging solder resists to suit the requirements of the Asian and North American markets? Jesse Session, technical manager at Taiyo America, describes how close collaboration between ink formulator and equipment supplier enables the optimization to be achieved most effectively.

RTW CPCA Show 2017: ESI Discusses Latest Innovations in Laser Drilling

At the recent CPCA Show 2017 in Shanghai, China, Mike Jennings, director of marketing for flex and interconnect products at Electro Scientific Industries Inc. (ESI), highlights their expertise in laser drilling, as well as being the first roll-to-roll capable UV laser drill provider. He also talks about their recently released RedStone PCB laser processing system, a low cost-of-entry solution for FPC manufacturers considering the adoption of laser processing for flex PCB.

RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Taiyo Discusses Option for PCB Heat Dissipation—Thermally Conductive Solder Resist

Conventional solder resists are relatively poor conductors of heat, but dense PCB assemblies generate heat that needs to be dissipated by all means possible. Don Monn, business development and European sales manager for Taiyo America, introduces a ceramic-filled formulation that increases thermal conductivity by a factor of 10 or more.


Industry 4.0–Inkjet Technology is Changing the World of PCB Manufacturing

When the Germans coined the term Industry 4.0 back in 2011, it wasn’t clear to many what it actually stood for. Although the debate about all the nuances of the term’s meaning is still ongoing, one aspect of it is undisputed: The “computerization of manufacturing” is at the heart of it.

RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Orbotech Tackles Next-Gen Interconnection Density

Orbotech West President Sharon Cohen explains the company structure and philosophy—translating ideas into reality - and how, by understanding the issues driving PCB technology, Orbotech is able to provide the imaging and inspection tools to meet the needs of next-generation interconnection density.

Eagle Electronics: Success through 'Building Everything'

During a recent visit to Chicago, Editors Andy Shaughnessy and Patty Goldman stopped by Eagle Electronics just outside of Chicago. Chief Operating Officer Brett McCoy gave them a tour of the facility, and spoke about the company’s plans for the future, and why Eagle is bucking the niche market trend and manufacturing a wide variety of PCBs.

The Power of Three: A Solder Mask Solution for North America

Technology and process developments in mature industries like the printed wiring board industry are not always easy. Many new products are evolutionary enhancements of existing processes. Often, these developments enhance the process and improve overall process control.

Schmoll Talks Technology

Schmoll’s Thomas Kunz and I had a chat recently at the HKPCA show. In our short discussion, we covered several topics, including Schmoll’s approach to the U.S. market, their work in direct imaging, and the nature of their relationship with ink suppliers.
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