Article Highlights
I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week
09/23/2022 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
IPC: Companies Are Intentional About Tracking Environmental and Social Risks
09/22/2022 | Suhani Chitalia and Kelly Scanlon, IPC
EIPC Technical Snapshot: Novel Laser-based Manufacturing Processes in Automotive Electronics
09/22/2022 | Pete Starkey, I-Connect007
The Brave New World of the CTO
09/21/2022 | I-Connect007 Editorial Team
Pricing Strategies With Michael Carano
09/13/2022 | I-Connect007 Editorial Team
PCB :: Business

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The Sum of All Parts: The Cost of Quality

Throughout the decades, irrespective of industry or sector, markets have thrived on competition. They have, however, also relied upon some semblance of unity within their respective competitors. Industries rely upon their individual member companies’ ability to work together for the greater good.

Solder Mask for LED Applications: Formulation 101

In 2007, the United States passed legislation to phase out the manufacture and trade of incandescent light bulbs, the EU following passed similar legislation in 2009. The rest of the world has been following suit creating a huge opening in the lighting market for a technology to fill the gap.

Printing PCBs…In Your Office!

The days of producing a PCB prototype with a 3D printer may not be as distant as you think. I spoke with Simon Fried of Nano Dimension about how 3D printing is becoming a reality, and how this disruptive technology will change the way designers produce rapid prototypes.

Happy’s Essential Skills: Problem Solving

Related to TQC and a very important role of an engineer is solving problems. Using a problem solving methodology is a job that all engineers will use sooner or later, but if you are in product or process engineering in manufacturing, it will be sooner! This was the situation that introduced me to printed circuit manufacturing.

Punching Out: How to Sell Your PCB/Assembly Shop

You are thinking of selling your PCB or assembly shop. Perhaps you are contemplating retirement, you have no successors, and the thought of going to the office on Monday is driving you crazy. This column is designed to help your planning efforts. Future columns will go deeper into each subject.

Japan’s MicroCraft on the Japanese Market, Technology, and More

Soichiro Fujita of MicroCraft sat for an interview recently, in which we discussed what the current PCB market looks like in Japan, from a Japanese supplier’s perspective. Fujita also shared the company’s strategies for combating copycat machines, and even copies of the copycats, which includes a healthy dose of acceptance. He also shared what technology trends he sees moving forward.

25 Essential Skills for Engineers

The 25 engineering skills are just my opinion; they are what I have observed to be the essential tools that engineers, including myself, needed to complete a project, develop a product, meet a schedule, or solve a problem. These were the important skills that got me the promotion, or the opportunity for a challenging job.

The Pinless Registration System, Explained by DIS’ Bernd Gennat

I sat down at productronica recently with Bernd Gennat, VP sales Asia and Europe for Duetto Integrated Systems (DIS Inc), for an overview of the industry, including his company’s technology. Our discussion touched on trends in multilayer registration, market requirements in Europe compared with those in China, and the benefits of pinless over hard-tooled registration systems for current and future rigid, flex and flex-rigid constructions.

What a Difference a Year Makes: Voxel8 and the 3D Printing Pioneering Spirit

At CES in Las Vegas in January, Dan Feinberg and I met with Michael Bell, co-founder of 3D printing company Voxel8, to get an update on their developments of the past year, where he sees the company going in the future and whether rapid prototyping might be a valid application for their machines.

Catching up with…Tom Kastner

When is the right time to sell your board house? Who is going to buy it? What is a buyer looking for in a PCB fabrication business? These are questions I hear all the time particularly in the past few months as many owners are reaching an age when they are thinking about retirement.


What a Long, Strange Trip it’s Been—and It’s a Long Way from Being Over

Harvey Miller has been in the PCB industry for more than 40 years, and he’s probably seen it all. I recently sat down with Harvey at a wine bar in Palo Alto to learn more about his history in the industry and where he sees it going forward. Harvey arrived wearing jogging shorts and running shoes. No surprise after what his doctor recently shared with him.

New CEO Jeff Waters Outlines his Roadmap for Isola

Jeff Waters, Isola’s newly appointed CEO and president, comes to the laminate supplier after more than 25 years in the semiconductor industry, working for companies like Texas Instruments and National Semiconductor. Only a few days into his new job, I met with Jeff to discuss the transition and what we can expect from Isola under his leadership.

All About Flex: Flexible Circuit Antennas

In our world of fabricating custom electronics, a circuit can generally be defined as “a path between two or more points along which an electrical current is carried.” The printed circuit board industry designs and fabricates an incredibly diverse set of rigid and flexible circuits. But it is also true this industry produces many parts that do not carry current between discreet points.

Happy’s Essential Skills: The Need for Total Quality Control (Six Sigma and Statistical Tools), Part 2

The statistical representation of Six Sigma describes quantitatively how a process is performing. To achieve Six Sigma, a process must not produce more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. A Six Sigma defect is defined as anything outside of customer specifications. A Six Sigma opportunity is then the total quantity of chances for a defect.

The Fascinating Possibilities of Medical Electronics

I see the medical electronics industry today as overlapping several of the traditional market divisions—computer (from the doctor’s office to you to the hospital to caregivers), communications (think of it as “telehealth”), consumer (it’s for us, right?), industrial equipment and of course medical. And who knows when it will also encompass automotive and milaero? But let’s not forget security, since equipment and wearables are definitely part of the Internet of Things.

Weiner's World: A Challenge: Looking Forward to 2016 and Beyond

Are you ready for rapid changes in global manufacturing shifts? Are you prepared to seize opportunities arising from new innovations? Are you part of the current mega-merger trend running through the entire interconnect supply chain? Are larger customers and prospects by-passing you because they are uncertain of your future and sustainability?

Is IPC the Past or the Future of our Industry?

In the electronics industry, there seems to be an infinite number of trade organizations, each with their own special niche and purpose. It can be challenging from the outside to understand why they each exist and how they fit together.

Facing Incredible Times: Robin Taylor's Vision of the Future

The highlight of the “Speakers’ Corner” at the 2015 productronica trade fair in Munich was the presentation by Robin Taylor of Atotech entitled, “Facing Incredible Times Where the Only constant is Change,” in which Taylor took a step back from his everyday marketing and technical sales management responsibilities to contemplate what might happen in the substrate business over the coming decade, in light of current trends and developments and drivers for the longer term.

Are Local Industry Events the New Social Media?

I love social media marketing. I discovered, quite by accident, that I am actually pretty good at it, too. It all started about five years ago, when marketing was unexpectedly thrust upon me in order to support my sales efforts, while working for a small PCB manufacturer in Southern California. Until then, I had no experience with social media platforms apart from posting the occasional family photo on Facebook.

Robots, Wearables and Implanted Devices in the Age of Bionic Health

If you are an electronics manufacturer and you ask your business bankers where their market research suggests growth will come from, they will almost certainly identify medical electronics as a key growth area. For the past five years, the segment has enjoyed something close to 6% CAAGR with acceleration predicted in the short term and remains one of the few areas where the U.S. is a net exporter of products.


Book Review: The Inventor’s Dilemma: The Remarkable Life of H. Joseph Gerber

Everyone in the PCB industry should read this book. All of us who have used “Gerbers” for our entire career should take a moment and thank the man, H. Joseph Gerber, who changed our industry for the better. This masterfully written extensive biography by his son, David Gerber, is a must-read for anyone who is interested in an inventor who escaped the Nazis and put a proverbial dent in the universe.

Catching up with David Gerber

Speaking with David Gerber, the son of noted inventor and PCB industry innovator Joseph Gerber, about his new book, "The Inventor’s Dilemma: The Remarkable Life of H. Joseph Gerber," was one of the highlights of my career.

First EIE and CCI Eurolam on Direct Imaging, Printers and Partnership

In this interview, Gregory Stoeckli, CEO of First EIE, shares the realities of direct imaging requirements, while Lawson Lightfoot of CCI Eurolam discusses the success of the new distribution partnership the two companies have formed. Something we all agreed upon: A somewhat slower machine that is both highly flexible and affordable is a great fit for high-mix, low-volume producers.

Working for the Industry: Renee Michalkiewicz, NTS

I spent some time with my friend and former colleague Renee Michalkiewicz, vice president and general manager at NTS Baltimore, formerly Trace Laboratories. I was interested in Renee’s views on IPC and the Technical Activities Executive Council, of which she is currently the chairman, a position I held some years ago.

Insulated Metal Base Circuits — an Enabling Technology for Power Electronics

The use of structural metal in the manufacture of electronic circuits has been a part of the electronics’ industry technology toolkit for many decades. For example, metal chassis structures were required and used in the early days of the electronics industry to both support the weight and handle the heat generated by the vacuum tube components that were the transistors of their day.

WKK's Hamed El-Abd on the Current State of China

In the world of real estate, the key term might be “location,” but in manufacturing today, it’s automation, automation, automation. I had the opportunity to interview WKK’s Hamed El-Abd at the recent HKPCA show, who discussed the company’s entry into the direct imaging market and how certain areas of the Chinese market are being flooded by a staggering amount of Chinese equipment manufacturers.

Optima Discusses Advantages of In-line AOI

At the recent HKPCA & IPC APEX South China Fair, I spoke with Gillad Galor, founder and general manager of AOI maker Optima LTD, about the his company's technology, and what's driving product innovation in the AOI space. He also talked about the benefits of in-line AOI systems.

Bürkle Discusses Cycle Time in PCB Lamination Systems

At the recent HKPCA & IPC APEX Show 2015 in Shenzhen, China, I interviewed Stefan Roller, sales manager at Bürkle Process Technologies, about the innovations happening in Bürkle, as well as cycle times in PCB processing equipment. He also talked about the current market landscape and the opportunity for growth in the industry.

IoT, Community and Content at the Centre of CES

Phillip Stoten writes about his observations during the recent CES 2016 Show in Las Vegas, including new trends driving the next generation of consumer electronics technologies such as IoT and content.

Happy’s Essential Skills: The Need for Total Quality Control (Six Sigma and Statistical Tools): Part 1

In this first of many columns covering my "Twenty-Five Essential Skills Every Engineer Needs to Learn," I will expand on each of those skills. To read the introduction to this series, which published in the January issue of The PCB Magazine. As a quick recap, here are the 25 skills that I will be writing about over the next 18 months or so, to publish every three weeks or so in the PCB007 Daily Newsletter.


CES 2016 Wrap-Up, Part 2: The Road Less Traveled

There was plenty to see on the show floor at CES 2016. But we found an entirely new universe of products to learn about and explore. We found such a dimension in the semi-private suites located on the upper floors of the Venetian, the Westgate, Mandalay Bay and other hotels. I'll spend a day in these suites next year!

CES 2016 Wrap-Up, Part 1

CES 2016 is now history and most of us are home, or at our next port-of-call. I have seen various attendance numbers but it’s somewhere in the range of 175,000; it was busy, crowded and impossible to see everything. Here is my review of some of the most innovative devices and technologies at CES.

Catching Up with HSIO’s James Rathburn

I have interviewed James Rathburn a number of times in the past few years and he always has something new to say. One of the industry’s leading technology inventors, Jim is always finding himself on the cutting edge of our technology. The recent acquisition of the former HEI operation in Tempe, Arizona exemplifies the path his company, HSIO, is taking towards a goal of being the industry’s true technology leader.

CES: Day One

CES Unveiled is the official media event for CES. It is the first official happening of what promises to be a very busy and fascinating week. At this event, members of the press get to preview a number of innovative startups as well as some new products from a few established global brands.

IPC’s Fern Abrams: Keeping up with Regulatory Matters

Recently, I met with IPC’s Director of Regulatory Affairs and Government Relations, Fern Abrams. In the course of our conversation, we delved into everything from what her role entails and recent regulatory matters, to some of the group’s successes and why companies need to get involved (it matters to your representatives in Congress or Parliament).

CES 2016: A Preview and a Prediction for the Future

Here I am getting ready to head to Las Vegas to once again cover CES, and as I look at my predictions and coverage for the last few years it seems that most of what I've written was right on track. Life is not always that kind with regards to meeting our expectations, but for the last few years not only have the predictions for technology’s future been mostly on track, it seems that they have been exceeded and that progress has accelerated.

2015’s Most Read PCB Articles

Every year, we like to take a look back at the most popular PCB news and articles. These are the top 10 most-read PCB articles from the past year. Check them out.

Dave Bergman: IPC’s Technology & International Reach

I met with the IPC’s VP of Standards and Technology, Dave Bergman, while in Chicago recently. I’ve known Dave for almost 30 years, so we had quite a chat, covering a lot of ground, from the efforts of IPC China and IPC India, to the standards activities that are certainly the core activity of IPC.

ESI Taking Laser-Based Tooling to New Levels

ESI is a leading supplier of laser-based tools to the Chinese market, and they are trying to make a splash in the HDI realm with their new CO2-based system, nViant. I met with Chris Ryder of ESI at the recent HKPCA show in Shenzhen, China, to learn about the new system and how ESI plans to enter this new market.

All About Flex: Saying Yes

During the Reagan presidency, First Lady Nancy Reagan championed the advertising slogan “Just say no” as part of a “War on Drugs” campaign. The message of the campaign was intended to protect children from the harmful effects of illegal drug use by offering various ways of saying “no.”


What is the Internet of Things and Why Should it Matter to Us?

It is often surprising how closely our science fiction novels and movies model the future. The Internet of Things (IoT) and big data may prove to be an excellent example of this phenomenon. Coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton (the RFID standards pioneer), the IoT is one of the least descriptive monikers of all time for something very important in the history of technology.

Can Technology be Too Disruptive?

Technology represents new ways of doing things, and, once mastered, creates lasting change, which businesses and cultures do not unlearn. Adopted technology becomes embodied in capital, whether physical or human, and it allows economies to create more value with less input. At the same time, technology often disrupts, supplanting older ways of doing things and rendering old skills and organizational approaches irrelevant.

An Examination of the China Market with Laminate Supplier Shengyi

Chief Executive Director Jack Dong explains to Pete Starkey how Shengyi Technology, the world’s second largest laminate manufacturer, plans to continue to develop its European market and to comprehensively meet the diverse requirements of the automotive, industrial controls and medical sectors. He also comments on how the Chinese government recognises the Industry 4.0 revolution in automation, data exchange and manufacturing technologies, and is steering its industrial development strategy in a similar direction.

Catching up with Gardien’s Rick Meraw

There are companies out there who are truly changing the world—companies who are making a dent in the universe, to quote the late Steve Jobs. Gardien is one of those companies. So much so that I like to catch up with them on a regular basis because they’re always adding something to their repertoire and it’s typically something that helps improve the way we handle quality assurance in our industry.

All About Flex: Process Controls for Flexible Circuit Fabrication

Manufacturers of flexible circuits use several chemical processes for fabrication. These processes are generally located in a common area of the plant because of facility requirements and environmental considerations. These chemical operations are referred to as wet processes.

The Power of Data: The Most Important Questions Any Leader Must Ask

In the recently completed I-Connect007 survey of readers titled, “The Data Factor(y): The Power of Data,” I had difficulty segmenting the results into useful categories. In other words, what were the issues that most concerned readers and customers?

Data, Data and More Data!

We did a survey on our topic this month--as we do every month--and we asked an open-ended question about the "largest issues" with data. The answers seemed to revolve around the accuracy of data collected (and whether it is the right data); lack of time; collecting in real-time; and then how to organize and analyze what has been collected.

For Pioneer MuTracx, the Future Looks Bright

In this interview conducted at productronica recently, I-Connect007 Tech Editor Pete Starkey and Publisher Barry Matties speak with Arnoud de Geus, Executive Board member at technology company Sioux, about the success of MuTracx’ (owned by Sioux) first installation of the Lunaris machine in the Whelen factory in New Hampshire, and what this has meant towards proving it can operate in a full-time production process. Arnoud forecasts what’s next for MuTracx and what they must do in order to capitalize on the positive exposure.

The Opportunities for Plasma Processing

Pete Starkey interviewed Andre Bodegom, managing director of Netherlands-based Adeon Technologies B.V., about their long relationship with Nordson MARCH, typical applications for plasma equipment, and what the most challenging materials are from the point of view of plasma processing in the PCB industry.

All About Flex: Embracing the Mess

Marketing in the world of printed circuits is an important discipline, but I have learned it is better to be prepared with a nimble reaction than to expect the marketing department to consistently be successful in predicting the future. The path to the goal is often achieved much more quickly by making an early decision followed by a course correction rather than waiting for all the information.


productronica 2015: Gardien's Quality Management in a Global Quality Assurance Organisation

Rick Meraw, group vice president, quality, for Gardien Services, discusses with I-Connect007's Pete Starkey the responsibilities of quality management in a global quality assurance service company, ensuring consistency of standards and technology across all geographical locations, cross-pollination of knowledge and skills, and making best use of data for real-time feedback and process improvement.

Data Analytics through Statistical Techniques

Many companies get caught in data traps. They focus so heavily on cost and survival that they end up using data as merely a marketing and sales tool. In doing so, they fail to realize the true power of data: It can transform every aspect of a business.

productronica 2015: Electra's LDI Soldermasks for LED and Future Ink-jet Developments

Ashley Steers of Electra Polymers Ltd discusses with I-Connect007's Pete Starkey about the continuing developments in LDI soldermasks, and how the challenges associated with highly reflective white soldermasks for LED applications are progressively being overcome.

productronica 2015: MATU\AWP: Understanding Market Needs for Process Efficiency

The engineers in MATU/AWP represent hundreds of years of industry experience in developing the right machines for the right applications for the right customers! Design technology of the highest calibre - an in-depth understanding of achieving process efficiency, process economy and environmental friendliness in wet-processing and closed-loop copper recycling equipment.

productronica 2015: MicroCraft's EMMA Probe-tester Automated

Jesse Ziomek, sales manager at Microcraft, discusses with I-Connect007's Pete Starkey their automated version of the EMMA probe-tester, which is capable of lights-out operation on multiple designs and panel sizes, at 6000 test-points per minute.

All About Flex: Flexible PCB: What’s in a Name?

Flexible PCB is a common term that is synonymous with flexible circuits. While the term “PCB” is generally used to describe rigid printed circuitry, “flexible PCB” is a little contradictory because “boards” aren’t really flexible. Some companies, like All Flex, design and manufactures flexible PCBs, but not rigid PCBs.

productronica 2015: Schmid's InfinityLine Opens New Era in Etching Machine Technology

Schmid has combined the best attributes of their long-established CombiLine and PremiumLine in the development of their new InfinityLine family of modular etching machines, which offer an attractive cost structure without compromising performance, quality or durability.

Catching Up with Circuit Connect

When I met with Circuit Connect President Bob Lazzara and Director of Operations Paul LaLiberte, I was first struck by the passion they both have for their customers, as well as for their customers’ businesses, using the innovation they have today, as well as what they can develop together with their customers. They don’t just invite, but urge their customers to come and visit them in their very well-equipped facility in Nashua, N.H.

Walt Custer's 2016 Business Outlook

What’s going to be the next boom in the electronics industry? Is it self-driving cars, the Internet of Things, drones, or something else that’s still completely off the radar? At productronica, the I-Connect007 team caught up with Walt Custer of Custer Consulting Group, who offered his forecast for 2016.

productronica 2015: Isola Supports Developments in Automotive Electronics

Helmut Kroener gives a perspective on Isola’s European market, whose major segments are industrial and automotive electronics. Driver assistance systems are a huge growth market and demand cost-effective low-dielectric-constant materials capable of 100 gigahertz operation.


Data, Data and More Data!

What does IoT really mean and how does it affect us? Personally, I haven't felt a great need to wear an armband or have my front door lock automatically, or have my washing machine start up at some odd time. I have timers on lamps, and I use a few auto sensors for other things. Isn't that enough? Apparently, not anymore!

All About Flex: Flexible PCB: What’s in a Name?

Flexible PCB is a common term that is synonymous with flexible circuits. While the term “PCB” is generally used to describe rigid printed circuitry, “flexible PCB” is a little contradictory because “boards” aren’t really flexible. Some companies, like All Flex, design and manufactures flexible PCBs, but not rigid PCBs. There are many similarities between the two, but also significant differences.

Designs on Flex: Underwriters Laboratory and Flexible Printed Circuits

Underwriters Laboratory is a worldwide safety consulting and certification company headquartered in Northbrook, Illinois. UL certifies, validates, tests, inspects, audits, and advises on safety of electrical and electronic products.

Mr. Laminate Tells All: Where in the Holy Halogens did 900, 900, 1500 Come From?

The 900, 900, 1500 is not a combination to an enormous safe that contains the remains of Jimmy Hoffa, nor is it the weight of three elephants at the San Diego Zoo in kilograms. The 900, 900, 1500 is the maximum parts per million (ppm) of bromine and chlorine and the total bromine and chlorine in a material that can be defined as “halogen-free” in the electronics industry today. But where did these requirements come from? Clearly, 900 ppm of bromine or chlorine is obviously not halogen-free. Some would argue that it is not even low-halogen at all.

Plant Culture: a Direct Contributor to Quality, Output and Predictable Manufacturing

The culture of any organization influences the net output of any product or service it produces. That being said, the manufacturing of products brings complexity with an order of magnitude that can affect the net output at any given point along the build cycle, starting with the sub-component supply chain to final pack.

Catching up with Cosmotronic’s Gary Abel

Cosmotronic’s history spans a number of decades, from the hot-as-hell boom days of the '60s and early '70s when Southern California was leading the world in electronics, from weaponry to avionics to apace exploration. Today, as innovation has become more focused on personal electronics, Cosmotronic has been there, leading the way and serving a customer base that is uniquely similar to the one they had back in the day.

Recruiting for Growth - An Interview with Jack Pattie, President & CEO of Ventec USA

Ventec USA is growing its successful US team, whilst others seem to be suffering from closures, stock downgrades and market challenges. I caught up with Ventec USA President Jack Pattie to find out why they are busy bucking trends.

American Standard Circuits Taking Business to New Heights

PCB007 Managing Editor Patty Goldman sat down with American Standard Circuits President Anaya Vardya at the recent SMTAI show and conference in Rosemont, IL. Anaya wanted to share all the great new things going on at his company. Among the topics they discussed: new equipment, new processes, new people, and what it all means for ASC’s growth.

Cycle Time Reduction in a Flexible Circuit Facility

Managing product flow and cycle time across a wide range of product constructions and volumes in a high-mix flexible circuit fabrication facility can be extremely challenging. What seems to work best is a tailored hybrid system, with concepts adopted from classic just in time manufacturing (JIT), theory of constraints (TOC) and quick response manufacturing (QRM).

Book Review: A Team of Leaders

Many changes have occurred in the workplace in the past 25 years. Great efforts have been made to increase productivity. Companies have been hit with so many financial challenges that their people have been stretched to the limit when it comes to being able to take a breath, coordinate with their follow workers and come together as a team, with common goals.


Flex Circuit Shielding Design Options

Shielding may not be your company’s number one design concern when thinking about your interconnect designs. But if you have to shield circuits for EMI, then you will need to depend on your supplier to assist you with their favorite shielding technique and experience.

Book Review: Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins

Stories sell. Stories are what get your point across. They are the very best way to communicate with your customers, with your employees and just about everyone else you want to communicate with.

Catching up with Nujay Technologies: A Conversation with Urvi and Nesh Dholakia

I have been following value added vendor Nujay Technologies for a number of years now because I like their story and their positive and helpful attitude. Their mission, if you will, is to provide their customers with whatever they need. They are also willing to talk to their customers and prospective customers to find out what their biggest challenges are when it comes to finding and purchasing PCBs. Thus, they embody the classic definition of a business, which is to find a need and fill it.

Testing Flexible Circuits, Part 3: The Completed Flex Circuit

Most flex houses perform a variety of tests on completed flexible circuits. The type, frequency, and complexity of these tests vary with customer and application. Test requirements are generally defined by the customer, but input is often solicited from the supplier during the quote process.

Whelen Engineering Reduces Cycle Time by Building a New Automated PCB Factory

With the Chinese stock market in turmoil and China’s wage scales still rising, one might think this would fuel new hope for U.S. PCB manufacturers trying to gain traction in a marketplace that’s been dominated by their Asian counterparts for the better part of two decades. But despite chatter about reshoring of late, the general consensus in the industry doesn’t seem overly optimistic that substantial change will occur.
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