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PCB :: Business

Latest Articles

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.

Book Review: Make it Matter

Look, it’s pretty straightforward isn’t it? People work harder and are much more passionate when they know that what they are doing has a purpose and a meaning and what they are doing is important.

Cycling Around

This month in The PCB Magazine we are paying attention to cycle time and the many ways to reduce it in your process—whatever you consider your process to be. Beginning with the story of Whelen’s new fully automated facility in New Hampshire and continuing through discussions on Lean Six Sigma, Kanban, Value Stream Mapping and other cycle time reduction strategies, our contributors have it covered.

New Leadership at MuTracx

I-Connect007's Barry Matties speaks with Arnoud De Geus, managing director of the Sioux Group, who discusses the recent integration of MuTracx into the Sioux Group, and how Whelen Engineering, who has installed the MuTracx Lunaris primary imaging equipment and happens to be the United States’ first captive PCB manufacturing facility in many years, will impact U.S. manufacturing.

Book Review: No Sweat

People don’t do things they don’t want to do, especially in our industry, and they sure as shooting don’t do things they hate doing. Instead, they do things they like to do, and that is what this book is all about. This book is about fitness. It’s a book about staying motivated to stay fit.

Semico Impact Conference 2015: The Coming of Age of Hardware Technologies

For most of us who are deeply involved in the electronics hardware market, we are used to talking about new products and technologies, the future of things to come, and probably most importantly, the challenges or issues that we, as an industry, are facing.

Book Review: The Hidden Leader

The true leader is one who is customer purposed, not just customer service but purpose which means a much deeper understanding of the customers. Wanting to learn everything possible about a customers in order to serve them better than they have ever been served before. A true leader makes it her purpose to develop her company’s products and services in such a way that they will make her customers successful and hence unable to live without them.

Computer on Wheels

You could say that today's automobile is a "computer on wheels," but from a point of accuracy it would be more like 35 computers on wheels. With printed circuit boards being the backbone of our electronic products, this is major market segment for our industry. In this article, Steve Williams writes about the evolution of automotive electronics, and the future of the industry.

Book Review: Learning to Succeed

It’s time we took learning seriously. For many years things in business were static enough or at least much more static that they are today so that you could go to college, get your MBA and then be set for life.


Becoming an Automotive Supplier—Proceed with Caution

Possibly further fueling a growing desire in our industry towards participating in the automotive electronics sector have been further technology advancements in automobiles, as well as a tear in Tesla's stock price and headlines. But before you make that plunge to becoming an automotive supplier, we need to talk about liabilities.

The Reindustrialisation of Europe

With an inquisitive mind and a head for challenges, besides the ability to think outside the box and the courage to dare to be different and strive to be first, Spirit Circuits MD Steve Driver can be relied upon to grab the attention of an audience of PCB professionals. As keynote speaker at the Institute of Circuit Technology Hayling Island Seminar, he lived up to his reputation with a motivational presentation, the two themes of which exemplified his latest entrepreneurial venture.

How to Handle Short Development Cycles

By focusing on developing relationships, delegation and avoidance of mistakes, you can make your next project a success and improve the current one. Be open-minded and analyze your situation without bias. Simple changes that are implemented as culture will ensure your success in the environment we operate in today.

It's Only Common Sense: Leaders Instill Greatness in Their People

It’s very simple. As a leader, it is your job to do everything you can to encourage your people to greatness. And a company filled with great people is a great company, every time.

Automotive Technology: The Next Driving Force in Electronic Manufacturing

The devices we have come to expect in luxury and high-end vehicles are now becoming available and even common in lower priced ones. While that significantly increases automotive electronic device manufacture volume, the next wave, will dwarf what we have experienced to date. Soon, we will be considering the self-driving, fully connected and self-learning vehicle that is part of a network that teaches and learns from its peers.

Car Talk

The automotive electronics segment has exploded. Early cars didn’t have much in the way of electronics. Even in 1950, electronics made up only 1% of a car’s cost. But that figure is expected to hit 35% in 2020, and 50% in 2030--and that means a whole lot of PCBs. This issue of The PCB Design Magazine features the impact of increasing electronics content in cars on the PCB design and manufacturing industry.

Big Strategies for Success

I-Connect007’s Barry Matties speaks with Pratish Patel of Electronic Interconnect about the new strategies and capabilities the company is building. The conversation also covers Electronic Interconnect’s move into the automotive industry and how strategies for buyers could help to lower cost and improve quality.

Why are PCBs Green?

Why are PCBs green? This is one of the questions I get asked when people ask of me what do I do for a living, especially after I explain that my company supplies the little green things that one will find in pretty much anything and everything you purchase today that you cannot eat or drink.

Integrating with Gardien Group's Roland Valentini

Gardien Group is one of those companies that are always looking out for their customers. The company is, without a doubt, the last word when it comes to bare board quality assurance, focused on helping customers deliver the most electrically sound boards in the business. Gardien’s technologists are experts at testing and other quality assurance disciplines. For more than 30 years, Gardien has been in the business, originally as the equipment manufacturer Mania.

Designing Flex Circuits for Domestic Prototyping

Designing a flex circuit to be prototyped domestically? No problem. Designing a rigid-flex circuit for production offshore? Got it. Designing a part that will be prototyped domestically with a seamless transition to offshore production? That can be a little more challenging.


Fighting the War on Failure with Supplier Analytics: An Interview with Fane Friberg

Steve Williams sat down with operations and supply chain expert Fane Friberg to talk about how a company can only be as good as its supply base, and how driving supplier improvement directly impacts product improvement.

Is Wearable Technology Just a Fad?

Wearable technology is in its infancy. The industry needs to mature and go back to basic marketing—finding a need and filling it. Flexible circuits have been around since the mid-1960s and have been successfully filling needs. Flexible circuits are ideal for wearable technology because they are thin and lightweight. As the marketing matures, the applications will come and flexible circuits will be there to fill the technical needs.

The War on Process Failure

Who out there thought of it as a war? Is it? Well, we think it is—and a never-ending one at that. In fact, we thought it significant enough to devote all three of our August issues to the subject, because no matter how good you are or how great things are running, Murphy’s Law is right there, ready to take you down a peg or two—or worse.

The War on Process Failure Continues in August Issue of The PCB Magazine

The August issue of The PCB Magazine is focused on the war on process failure. This subject of process failure turns out to be quite broad and affects essentially everyone in our industry, from the raw material suppliers to the circuit designer to the PCB processor to the assembly folks and on to the OEM. We all have a hand in it, both causing and solving problems and benefiting from solutions. You will find several appropos and useful articles in this issue.

Book Review: We Are Market Basket

How many times does a business book read like a novel? Dan Beaulieu says this book is not just a great story, but also a parable of sorts filled with great examples of the way to run and grow a successful business… and how not to.

The Keys to Success for Supply Chain Management

This article describes the key components and issues regarding achieving supply chain management success, offers some suggestions and action items mostly for customers to store in their memory banks. It also explains key partner relationships and how they must work to gain each other's confidence. When it comes to results, the most important requirement is the product. When a distributor is awarded a tier one product from a tier one supplier, 50% of the goal has been accomplished.

Supply Chain in the 21st Century

The shift away from vertical integration has pushed the topic of supply chain management to the forefront of strategic planning for many manufacturers. This wide-ranging article talks about supply chain management, a brief history of supply chain innovation, managing supply chain risk, as well as presents the "7 Rights" of supply chain management.

Innovative Technologies Drive PCB Industry Growth

PCB growth has slowed in recent years, though last year the growth rate was slightly higher than the 2% of the last three years. Estimates by IEK of Industrial Technology Research Institute of Taiwan show that the PCB industry will continue to grow in 2015 at a rate of 3-5% with an annual output of RMB 576 billion (USD 93.8 billion).

“Supply Chain Management”: Overused, Underused or Just Misunderstood?

In a world of buzz words, "supply chain" and "supply chain management" have certainly been right up there in our industry. Everyone sort of knows what the terms mean, or at least what they want them to mean. Everyone has assigned their own level of importance and interest to the idea of supply chain management, so it made perfectly good sense for us to highlight that subject in our July issues.

Book Review: Brian Tracy’s “Business Strategy”

If you’re serious about your company’s strategic planning, this book is for you. And if you’re not serious, then you won’t be around much longer anyway. Pick up this little volume, the latest from The Brian Tracy Success Library.


Catching Up with Vector Fabrication’s Quang Luong: Here Comes Vietnam!

I have known Quang Luong, the owner of Vector Fabrication, for many years now, and I have always been interested in his business and how it operates, especially since he is the only PCB shop owner I know of who has a company in the U.S. and in Vietnam.

Revolutionizing Equipment Repair & Service

Guest Editor Steve Williams sits down with Randy Cook of CalTeks and Yash Sutariya of Alpha Circuits to talk about servicing equipment, especially foreign equipment not previously available in North America. With quality service now readily available, one can take advantage of considerably less expensive equipment being manufactured in China.

Wearable Technology and Flexible Circuits

Flexible circuits are an ideal fit for wearable technology. Wearable electronics need to be light, dense and bendable. While what is currently considered standard flexible circuit technology is more than adequate for many the wearable products, there are requirements that may be pushing the boundaries a bit.

HDPUG Demonstrates Benefits of Cooperative R&D

The High Density Packaging User Group (HDPUG) is a member-driven, non-profit, project-oriented industry consortium that addresses the integration of new electronics component packaging and interconnection technologies into the supply chains of its member companies.

eSurface Breaking Down Barriers for Murrietta

Murrietta Circuits is the first facility in North America successfully processing PCBs made with the eSurface technology. Andy Murrietta talks with Guest Editor Judy Warner about the key benefits, including greatly improved line geometry, trace tolerance, and peel strength.

HDPUG and High-Frequency Test Methodologies

CEO Brian Butler talks with Guest Editor Bob Neves about the HDP User Group, an industry consortium that is developing test methodologies and programs. Brian decribes three of the current subcommittees: Material Characterization; Back Drill, having to do with defect detection and reliability; and Copper Surface Roughness.

Flexible, Stretchable, and Wearable: If You Can Dream it, You Can Create it!

We originally intended the June issue of The PCB Magazine to be centered on flexible circuits, but it quickly became apparent that we needed to broaden the scope and include all (well, at least some) of the new and exciting things going on these days in the world of flexible everything. As such, we have garnered a trove of authors, with much information to impart on the above mentioned.

Precision Back-drilling High-Speed PCBs? No Problem!

Grant Christiansen of Schmoll Maschinen discusses the latest developments for high-speed back-drilling, particularly for the North American market. He stresses the importance of both software and machine capability, along with working closely with the customer.

NEPCON China 2015 a Resounding Success in Shanghai

The three-day event was a complete success, bringing together nearly 22,000 trade visitors and high-quality buyers, as well as 450 leading brand names from 22 countries and regions worldwide. NEPCON China keeps up with market trends and gathers resources from all stakeholders to present a comprehensive event that covers SMT, new electronics materials, soldering, dispensing, electronics automation, measurement and other innovative technologies and products across the world.

The Importance of Harmonized Standards that Benefit All

I-Connect007 Technical Editor Pete Starkey caught up with Amphenol applications engineer Sean Keating at IPC APEX EXPO. Keating explains his company’s commitment to proactive participation in the establishment of standards, his personal experience working on standards committees, and his view on the importance of harmonised global standards.


IMPACT 2015: An In-Depth Look

IPC understands that presenting a unified voice for the electronics industry is essential for advancing policies that affect the industry’s long-term future and strengthens the U.S. and global economy. That is why 22 IPC member-company executives descended on the nation’s capital for IMPACT 2015: IPC on Capitol Hill, IPC’s annual advocacy event.

The Growing Role of the Added-Value PCB Distributor

Dan Beaulieu talks with Nesh Dholakia, president of Nujay. Value-add is not just for low-technology sourcing, but increasingly for high-technology multilayer as well as difficult-to-source technologies in low-cost areas domestically.

High-Density Interconnects: Enabling the Intelligence of Things

HDI layers and sub-composites with laser-drilled vias combined with stacked, copper-filled vias up to 16 layers have become the state-of-the-art in circuit design for the newest generation of mobile phones, wearable electronics, and IoT modules.

Design Considerations: Flexible Circuit vs. Traditional PCB

The tactics for flexible circuit design don’t differ much from that of traditional PCBs. All of the typical specifications still apply and we add a few more things that require special attention. Cover layers require bigger openings than traditional solder mask, trace directions matter in the flex areas and miters should be round instead of angular.

Benefits of Buying Certified Rebuilt Equipment Over New

ETI's Eric Winkler tells Guest Editor Steve Williams about ETI's expansion to four locations worldwide. ETI not only rebuilds PCB equipment but also tests, guarantees, and installs it for their customers, some of whom provide wish lists.
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