Article Highlights
I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week
05/20/2022 | Andy Shaughnessy, I-Connect007
Technica Heats Up ROI Discussion
05/17/2022 | I-Connect007 Editorial Team
PCB Technologies’ InPack to Focus on Miniaturization, Packaging
05/16/2022 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
EIPC Technical Snapshot: Supporting Autonomous Driving
05/12/2022 | Pete Starkey, I-Connect007
FIRST: Endorsed by Teachers and Students Alike
05/11/2022 | Barry Matties, I-Connect007

Latest Articles

What’s the SCOOP: Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year really is an amazing celebration with millions of workers returning to their families for the celebrations. But with the shutdown and mass migration come stress on infrastructure, supply chain and the whole manufacturing and fulfillment ecosystem. I asked a few Industry experts what they thought the key issues are and what advice they’d offer.

Ledia 6 Direct Imaging System Offers Enhanced Speed and Precision

Technical Editor Pete Starkey recently met with Ucamco’s Michel Van den heuvel, imaging product group director, to discuss the benefits of the Ledia 6 direct imaging system, which was introduced earlier this summer and features scan-alignment and improvements in registration and positioning accuracy.

How to Become a Certified IPC Trainer

The Blackfox Certified IPC Trainer (CIT) programs are best suited for experienced and skilled electronics technicians, engineers, and supervisors who have the will and passion to teach and train colleagues about the quality standards of IPC. They also provide successful candidates with a credential that confirms their knowledge and understanding of IPC quality systems.

Top 10 Most-Read Design Articles of 2019

As we move into 2020, we took a look back at the most popular Design007 articles of the past year. Here for your enjoyment are the Top 10 most-read Design007 articles of 2019.

Top 10 Most-Read Design Columns of 2019

As we move into 2020, we took a look back at the most popular Design007 columns of the past year. Here for your enjoyment are the Top 10 most-read Design007 columns of 2019.

Clean vs. No-clean: A Generational Difference

Tom Forsythe, executive VP of KYZEN, discusses what readers should know about cleaning as reliability expectations continue to increase. He also explains what is driving the new interest in cleaning and why engineers from the no-clean generation may not even realize they need to learn more about cleaning.

MacroFab: Manufacturing Digitized

MacroFab CEO Misha Govshteyn explains how a digital manufacturing platform connected to a network of vetted partner factories can help eliminate a lot of variability from the fabrication process.

Wi-Fi 6: Wired vs. Wireless

We all know that it makes no sense to get the latest device just because they come out with a new one every year. Sure, post-millennials tend to want a new phone every year, but most of us are well past that. However, as the competitive nature of the consumer tech industry continues to increase, the rate of change is also accelerating, as is the peer pressure to upgrade. Non-techies get new phones every year, techies get new CPU and GPUs every two years, average consumers get bigger and higher-res TVs every three years, and on it goes.

UV-curable Materials and Conformal Coatings

Pete Starkey and Phil Kinner, global business and technical director, coatings division, Electrolube, discuss the characteristics and benefits of the company’s new UV-cured conformal coatings. Phil also describes the development of coatings for critical avionics applications and Electrolube’s collaboration with the U.K. National Physical Laboratory to establish a new condensation test.

Insulectro Works to Bridge the Fabricator/Designer Gap

Barry Matties sat down with Insulectro’s Megan Teta and Mike Creeden to discuss trends they see in the materials market and how they’re working to bridge the gap between fabrication and design, including helping designers understand what they can do to make a board more manufacturable.


Book Summary: The Printed Circuit Assembler’s Guide to…Process Validation

The latest book in I-Connect007’s "The Printed Circuit Assembler’s Guide to…" series is authored by Gen3’s Graham Naisbitt. With his deep background in process validation and standards work, Naisbitt is uniquely qualified to explore achieving acceptable electrochemical reliability using both CAF and SIR testing. This eBook is a perfect present for the holidays.

Utilizing AI in CAD Library Development

Nolan Johnson speaks with Chico Wu of Footprintku, a company using artificial intelligence (AI) to help fill gaps in CAD library development by partnering with design teams on things like addressing resource shortages and automating custom design rulesets while also eliminating other manual steps in the process.

BTU Discusses its Next-generation Flux Management System

At productronica 2019, Nolan Johnson spoke with Peter Franklin, managing director of BTU Europe, about BTU’s next-generation solder reflow flux management system—Aqua Scrub. A winner of the show’s Global Technology Award for Soldering, Peter breaks down the specifics of what makes Aqua Scrub such an intriguing technology.

CIMS Galaxy: More Than an Inspection System

Editor Pete Starkey and Vladi discuss the newest CIMS AOI platform, Galaxy, which is more compact and more versatile than the previous Phoenix model. The Galaxy is scalable and can be equipped with more functions and connected to a variety of Industry 4.0 databases. Vladi explains that the Galaxy can be used for everything from inner layer inspection to final inspection, detecting defects down to 1 pixel. The system is available with multiple metrology options as well.

Decreasing Bend Radius and Improving Reliability- Part III

Application: Design guidelines to improve the flexibility and reliability of flexible circuits. Most issues that arise with flex circuits can be eliminated in the early stages of the design phase, and special planning must occur when the circuit is required to bend. Many novices will design a circuit that calls for bending the flex in too tight of a bend radius, which can cause damage to the circuit and lower the reliability of the end product.

The Viability of a Cyanide-free Immersion Gold Bath

The Tianjin chemical blast in August 2015 sensitized the Chinese authorities to the use of cyanide in production. As a consequence, the authorities have introduced licensing with regard to the use of cyanide. In turn, this has motivated Chinese PCB manufacturers to ask suppliers for a competent cyanide-free immersion gold solution (CNF Au).

A Walking Tour of Viking Test With Jake Kelly

In this video walking tour of the Viking Test booth at productronica 2019, Managing Director Jake Kelly walks us down the line of Viking's universal film stripper.

Practical Verification of Void Reduction Method for BTC Using Exposed Via-in-pad

The method explored in this article regards the use of exposed via-in-pad. A dedicated test vehicle was designed for two types of QFN components. The main variables accounted for were the component size, number of exposed vias in the thermal pad, via pitch, via size, and solder paste coverage. The responses sought in this experiment include a thermal pad void level and solder wicking down the via barrel with resulting solder protrusion on the opposite side of the PCB.

The ICT 2019 Christmas Seminar

Since 2016, the Institute of Circuit Technology (ICT) has held its northern area Christmas seminar at the Majestic Hotel in Harrogate—the elegant and historic English spa town in North Yorkshire. Pete Starkey provides an overview of this popular ICT event.

The Future of the World Is Truly in the Hands of Our Youth

At I-Connect007, we are proud to once again sponsor the STEM Outreach Program at the upcoming IPC APEX EXPO 2020. Another way we support our youth is by sharing the stories of young people who are doing amazing things. Dylan Nguyen is a great student, musician, and creative thinker. Recently, he shared with me the details of his school science fair project, “Kite: Powering the Future,” which solved a problem that he faced. Dylan is a leader with a bright future, and the world is lucky to have kids like him.


Designing for Complex PCBs

The I-Connect007 editorial team sat down with Freedom CAD’s Scott Miller to talk about the industry’s demand for more increasingly complex PCBs, and the challenges this presents. They also discuss Freedom CAD’s in-house training programs, the company’s recent book authored by Scott, and why communication is such an important tool in a PCB designer’s toolbox.

AltiumLive Frankfurt 2019: Happy Holden Keynote

Nobody left early! Altium had wisely kept Happy Holden’s keynote presentation on “PCB Trends that Will Impact Your Future” until the end of the final day of the AltiumLive 2019 European PCB Design Summit in Frankfurt, Germany. Pete Starkey presents the highlights of Happy's presentation.

Electra Polymers: Inkjet Soldermask is Ready, Reliable and Green

Editor Pete Starkey and Tibbals discuss Electra Polymers’ move into the inkjet soldermask market, and some of the challenges and benefits of this technology. Tibbals explains how inkjet soldermask can enable end-users to improve reliability of the final product, for instance, because this additive process allows manufacturers to control the thickness of soldermask around vias and BGAs and eliminating trapped chemistry in undercut areas.

The CPCA and China’s Electronic Circuit Industry: Past and Future

Wang Longji is the honorary secretary-general of the China Printed Circuit Association. He is a senior engineer and an industry leader and used to be the production manager of the first imported PCB manufacturing line in China. Mr. Wang is also a well-known child actor and a “national treasure;” one of his most famous characters was San Mao in “The Winter of Three Hairs.”

Pluritec Takes Industry 4.0 to the Next Level

Pete Starkey and Pluritec’s Nicola Doria, president and CEO, discuss how the structure of Pluritec has developed over the past few years, now including many respected brand names that are long familiar in the PCB fabrication segment. Doria also explains how the company is continuing its implementation of Industry 4.0 processes.

Indium Discusses New Materials and Plans for 2020

Editor Nolan Johnson sits down with Nash and Mackie to discuss Indium’s focus on creating innovative products for the 5G, automotive, semiconductor, and high-reliability segments. Mackie offers a preview of Indium’s plans for 2020 and beyond, including lead-free drop-in sintering materials that can be dispensed and printed more quickly than ever before.

Industry Set for Shift to True 3D Printing and Photonics

Nolan Johnson sits down with Zach Peterson, owner of Northwest Engineering Solutions, who predicts two things that would challenge the current status quo for the PCB manufacturing industry: true 3D printing and additive, including discretes as well as the substrates and traces, and a completely different approach with photonics.

LA/Orange County SMTA Expo and Tech Forum Review

Dan Feinberg recently attended the LA/Orange County SMTA Expo and Tech Forum, which was held in Long Beach, California. He provides an overview of the activities, from the show floor to the presentations.

AltiumLive Frankfurt 2019: Carl Schattke Keynote

“How many here can remember manually taped artworks?” No more than three hands were raised in an audience of over 230 at the AltiumLive 2019 European PCB Design Summit in Frankfurt, Germany, as IPC Advanced Certified Interconnect Designer Carl Schattke introduced his keynote, entitled “Making and Breaking the Rules.” Schattke had learned PCB layout as his father’s apprentice, hand-taping several hundred PCB designs in the 1970s.

Nolan’s Notes: Clarity of Vision

In this issue, we update your prescription, clarify your vision of the industry, and bring your own perspective into view. With each interview, try on another outlook and look at the industry from another point of view.


Day 1 Coverage of International Electronics Circuit Exhibition in Shenzhen

The newly named International Electronics Circuit Exhibition, formerly known as the HKPCA Show, kicked off today in Shenzhen, China. This event is now part of a cooperation between the CPCA and HKPCA associations. This is the largest trade show serving the south China region, with 3,537 booths from 621 exhibitors this year.

Conductivity Laminate for High-frequency Applications

Editor Pete Starkey and Vitali Judin discuss how Rogers Corporation has responded to demands for high thermal conductivity combined with low loss in high-power RF applications with the newly launched. The PTFE-based TC350 Plus is capable of handling temperatures above 125°C and draws upon Rogers’ long experience with the TC350 material line-up.

Atotech’s Graphite-based Process and Chemistries Portfolio

Dr. Brüning, global product director, desmear and metallization, and electronics consultant Johan Lundqvist, update Nolan Johnson on the ViaKing graphite-based direct metallization process and explain how it fits in with customer applications. They also discuss Atotech’s portfolio of various chemistries. Johan came to Atotech in August 2019 through the acquisition of J-KEM where he held the position of CEO. Johan stated, “We are pleased J-KEM has joined the Atotech family, as it makes sense for both sides.”

Calumet Electronics and Averatek Team Up on A-SAP

Nolan Johnson talks with Brian Hess of Calumet Electronics and Mike Vinson of Averatek about the new, insertable additive processes that the companies are working on together to help factories running primarily subtractive processes to quickly convert to very high-density interconnect (HDI) features, including trace and space from 2.5-mil line and space to 1-mil line and space and below.

InduBond: Magnetic Induction Lamination

In this video interview, part of the productronica 2019 coverage, we spoke with Víctor Lázaro, R&D manager and technical director at Indubond. Víctor describes Indubond’s innovative methods for heating the boards to effect lamination through magnetic induction. Victor discusses the energy and operational efficiency that an induction method brings to the equipment: thermal profiles.

Future Trends in Flying Probe Testing

Peter Brandt, director of sales for Europe and Japan at atg, sits down with Pete Starkey and Barry Matties, gives his views on market requirements and testing technologies, and explains how flying probe testing is becoming the industry standard at all levels of production—and in many cases, the only practicable solution.

Market Drivers and ESI’s Ongoing Developments

During productronica 2019, the I-Connect007 Editorial Team met with some of the industry's top executives, managers, and engineers.

Words of Advice: What are Your Biggest Design Challenges?

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What are your biggest design challenges? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.

AltiumLive Frankfurt 2019: Jeremy Blum Keynote

Blum was a great advocate of considering the PCB in its holistic context and designing beyond it. Understanding the software needs ought to be of prime importance for the designer, and he believed that writing even the most basic firmware would help to ensure that the resulting electronics would be debuggable and equipped to handle the needs of the software development team.

EIPC Winter Conference—Speakers and Papers

I recently spoke with Kirsten Smit-Westenberg, executive director of EIPC, who is planning the EIPC winter conference set for February 2020 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Kirsten discusses the conference topics, which are based around the needs of the next-generation electronic devices, and changes in fabrication solutions for PCBs, PCBAs, materials, and technologies.


Sunstone Circuits on Staffing Trends in the Digital Age

Sheri Kuretich, human resources manager, and Nancy Viter, VP of operations, of Sunstone Circuits speak with Nolan Johnson about what they see from the perspective of a prototyping shop, the current state of the hiring market, and how they have used ISO 9000 as an information repository to pass technical knowledge from experienced employees to newer ones.

Decreasing Bend Radius and Improving Reliability- Part II

Many of the issues that arise when using a flex circuit come from a lack of knowledge about how to properly design one, especially when the circuit is required to bend. Many novices will design a circuit that calls for bending the flex in too tight of a bend radius, which can cause damage to the circuit and lower the reliability of the end product. This series of articles will focus on the seven key aspects to consider when designing for maximum durability and maximum “flexibility.”

Industry Wind Vane: Future Development Through the 2019 HKPCA Show

The annual HKPCA Show, which has been renamed the 2019 International Electronics Circuit Exhibition (Shenzhen), will be held from December 4–6 at the Shenzhen Convention and Exhibition Center. This year’s exhibition will be jointly organized by the Hong Kong Printed Circuit Association (HKPCA) and the China Printed Circuit Association (CPCA) and will provide a more efficient business platform for all visitors. The PCB007 China Team interviewed a representative from the HKPCA about the exhibition, the industry’s current situation, and future developments.

Flex Standards Update With Nick Koop

This month, I interviewed Nick Koop—director of flex technology at TTM Technologies, a veteran “flex guy” and instructor, and a leader of several IPC flex standards committees. Nick provides an update for the committees he’s involved with and discusses some of the challenges that he sees as more designers enter the world of flex.

5G is Coming With Quantum-Level Advances and Features

I am sure that, by now, all of you have heard about 5G (the fifth-generation of mobile phone and data communication standards). I am also relatively sure that many of you think that this means neat, new cellphone features, and perhaps more texting and selfie abilities. While that may be true, getting a new cellphone for those reasons would be like getting a new car because you want a different color.

Book Review: The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to…Executing Complex PCBs

If you are serious about designing complex PCBs (most designs today are far from elementary) and even more serious about doing it right the first time, then this is the book for you. Loaded with guidelines for designing cutting-edge PCBs, this book is filled with real-world examples and tips, tricks, and techniques by some of Freedom CAD’s most experienced designers.

Vertical Conductive Structures, Part 4: Tuning Your Signal Performance

The objective of this article is to demonstrate the possibility of using a stitching element as an alternative to the point-to-point connections that are used with traditional via technology. Point-to-point connections have the best performance in terms of signal integrity (one via less in the connection that distorts the signal). A via is mainly a capacitive element that causes signal loss/ dispersion.

Words of Advice: 5G Reliability

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: Do you think 5G will improve the reliability of communication? Here are a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.

Multilayer Press Technology Using Magnetism to Produce Lamination Heat

A revolutionary concept in multilayer press technology has been developed that uses electromagnetic energy to heat the existing stainless-steel separator plates with a never-before dreamed-of accuracy and precision. The heating and cooling systems—embedded within a robust hydraulic press inside a vacuum chamber design—are controlled using a temperature feedback loop that guarantees perfect fidelity between the press recipe and the press result.

Communication, Part 6: The Importance of Technology Fit

In the final installment of this series on how PCB fabricators and designers can better communicate, Bob Chandler from CA Design and Mark Thompson from Prototron Circuits discuss the importance of “technology fit” and how this concept impacts the synergy of the two parties involved.


Solder Mask Tack Dry

As a general rule, the tack-dry temperature should be as low as possible; in other words, it should only be as high as necessary. If the temperature is too low, the evaporation rate for the solvent will be to slow, and the solder mask will not dry in a reasonable amount of time. If the temperature is too high, however, the dry time certainly will be excellent, but it could create a solder mask lock-in with repercussions by the developing time.

Words of Advice: The OEM Systems Designer

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What advice would you give an OEM systems designer? Here are a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.

Why Does the PCB Industry Still Use Gerber?

Every so often, I hear technologists ask why so many PCB designers still use Gerber. That is a fair question. Ucamco has over 35 years of experience in developing and supporting cutting-edge software and hardware solutions for the global PCB industry. Our customers—small, medium, and large PCB fabricators—include the electronics industry’s leading companies, and many of them have been with us for over 30 years. We are dedicated to our industry and excellence in everything we do, which includes our custodianship of the Gerber format.

Catching up With Greg Papandrew

It’s always great to catch up with old friends, and last week, I met with Greg Papandrew, a well-known industry entrepreneur, who I worked with on his first company (Bare Board Group). Greg discusses his new business, Better Board Buying (B3).

Communication, Part 5: Internet Impedance Calculators for Modeling

Bob Chandler of CA Design and Mark Thompson of Prototron Circuits address how new engineers use internet impedance calculators for modeling (e.g., formulas versus recipes) in Part 5 of this series. Do you use impedance calculators that you found on the internet? Read on!

Meet Ray Prasad, SMT007 Columnist

Meet Ray Prasad, one of our SMT007 columnists! Prasad’s columns explore DFM, manufacturing processes, yield improvement, quality control, IPC standards, and much more.

Design For Excellence: Karen McConnell on Standards

During the IPC Summer Meetings, I spoke with Karen McConnell, senior staff CAD CAM engineer with Northrop Grumman Mission Systems. Karen is a veteran PCB designer as well as an IPC committee chair and mentor. She offered an update on some of the IPC committees she chairs, the need for more mentor programs in this industry, and why you can call something a ham sandwich if you define it correctly in the standard.

IPC-2581 Continues to Flourish

Because standards adoption in this industry tends to be akin to turning around a battleship, what is often seen as new has generally already been in production for 10 years or more. Often, there are outside influences and dependencies that cause this, so most of us tend to take a “wait-and-see” approach—let others shake out the issues. And even then, we only look at adoption if the mandate comes from higher-ups in the organization. It works the way we do it now, so why change?

Meet George Milad, I-Connect007 Columnist

Meet George Milad, one of our newest I-Connect007 columnists! George’s columns will cover PCB plating, IPC specifications, and more. George is the recipient of the 2009 IPC President’s Award, chairs the IPC Plating Committee, and is a permanent member of the IPC Technical Activities Executive Committee.

Chinese Review: The 2018 NTI-100 Top Global PCB Fabricators

Yonglin Gong, senior engineer, deputy secretary-general of the China Printed Circuit Association (CPCA), and editor-in-chief of CPCA Printed Circuit Information Magazine, takes a look at the NTI-100 data and provides his analysis from the Chinese perspective.


So Many Standards Committees, So Little Time

During the IPC Summer Meetings and Panelpalooza in Raleigh, North Carolina, I met with Leo Lambert, vice president and director of technology at EPTAC. We discussed IPC’s recent efforts to revamp the way standards are developed and interpreted as well as changes to training and education committees and a variety of methods for eliminating errors and duplicated comments when revising standards.

Asleep at the Wheel?

The October issue of SMT007 Magazine considers the current, ever-changing landscape of our industry—a landscape being reshaped by “industrious laziness.” We’re automating manual processes with the intent to make our results better. But, like autonomous vehicle enhancements, human awareness and supervision are required.

Communication, Part 4: The Top 5 Causes of Engineering Delays

In Part 4 of this series on how PCB fabricators and designers can better communicate, Bob Chandler from CA Design and Mark Thompson from Prototron Circuits address the top five causes of engineer delays.

Meet Imran Valiani, I-Connect007 Columnist

Imran Valiani has been in the industry and with Rush PCB for over five years as an account manager. During that time, he has developed a keen and unique understanding of the importance of time to market. Imran has worked with a number of key customers, helping them develop systems and programs to ensure that most productive and fastest time to market possible.

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.

Future of 'Substances and Materials in Products' Data Exchange Formats as Standards

This article provides a simplified, state-of-the-art description of the data exchange formats for standards covering substances and materials reporting in products and processes. It also reviews existing issues and new challenges shared with end users of the standards and companies represented by their trade associations with some solution proposals they could discuss.

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.


Chuck Bauer: SMTAI 2019 Founder's Award Recipient

At the recent SMTAI conference and exhibition, Chuck Bauer, Ph.D., senior managing director at TechLead Corporation, received the Founder's Award, a prestigious award given to a member who has made exceptional contributions to the industry and provided ongoing support and service to the SMTA.

Decreasing Bend Radius and Improving Reliability—Part I

Many of the issues that arise when using a flex circuit come from a lack of knowledge about how to properly design one, especially when the circuit is required to bend.

Communication, Part 2: Design Data Packages

The first part of this six-part series highlighted ways that PCB fabricators and designers can better communicate, starting with how to qualify a board shop. In Part 2, Bob Chandler and Mark Thompson talk about the importance of preparing, sending, and receiving comprehensive (and ideally, perfectly complete) design data packages.

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.

ODB++: Transforming Ideas Into Products

The ODB format originated with the objective of delivering on this need. The format was originally introduced for use by PCB fabricators, eliminating the need for a collection of CAM files in multiple formats—such as Gerber, Excellon, IPC-356, or even IPC-350, which was an early attempt to simplify this process. The key to the success of ODB was that it obtained industry acceptance.
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