Article Highlights
Just Ask John Mitchell: Blurring the Lines of Technology
09/30/2020 | I-Connect007 Editorial Team
Just Ask John Mitchell: Plans For Knowledge Transfer?
09/29/2020 | I-Connect007 Editorial Team
Just Ask John Mitchell: Global Book-to-Bill Number
09/28/2020 | I-Connect007 Editorial Team
Real Time with…SMTAI 2020: ASC Makes Lemonade Out of Lemons
09/25/2020 | Real Time with...SMTAI
I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week
09/25/2020 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine

Latest Articles

The Importance of Design for Profit (DFP)

In this interview, Interconnect Design Solutions’ Mike Brown and I took a few minutes during the recent Geek-A-Palooza event to discuss the importance of material selection and designing for profitability, how automation affects the design process, and the future of the design community.

Next-Generation PCB Drilling

During the recent NEPCON China event in Shanghai, I spoke with Andreas Schneider, sales director for cutting and structuring laser at LPKF Laser & Electronics, about the latest developments in laser drilling, how customers can justify investments in laser drilling machines, and their outlook for the industry in Asia.

The 21st Century PCB Factory– Designed to Eliminate Offshore Cost Advantages

Over 15 years have passed since North America and Europe ceased being the center of worldwide PCB fabrication and were supplanted by a Chinese market with low-cost labor, lax environmental requirements, and strong government support. In just a few short years, the superior offshore cost advantages of this new dynamic put volume PCB production in the West out of business, aside from the military and specialty technology applications contained in the few shops that continue to exist today.

Laser Pointers: Special Edition—Those Five Words I Didn’t Expect to Hear

I’m going to hijack the column this month for kind of a public service announcement regarding a topic that hit very close to home for me, and it may well hit home for others. On February 18, 2016, I heard the words, “Mike, you have bladder cancer.”

Happy’s Essential Skills: Design for Manufacturing and Assembly, Part 2

Advances in interconnection technologies have occurred in response to the evolution of component packages, electronic technology and increasing complex functions. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that various forms of printed wiring remains the most popular and cost effective method of interconnections.

Happy’s Essential Skills: Design for Manufacturing and Assembly, Part 1

Advances in interconnection technologies have occurred in response to the evolution of component packages, electronic technology and increasing complex functions. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that various forms of printed wiring remain the most popular and cost-effective method of interconnections.

RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Microcraft Discusses Eliminating Process Steps and Minimizing Set-Up Times

Zachary Cliff, outside sales account manager at MicroCraft, speaks with I-Connect007 guest editor Steve Williams about how their inkjet printers are helping customers minimize setups, eliminate process steps, and thereby save a lot of time and labor fees.

Sensible Design: Coatings—Five Essentials for Designers

In an ideal world, PCB designs would not have an inherent weak point for corrosion; unfortunately, in the real world, they do. When a weak point is revealed, you are better equipped to deal with it. Often the spacing of components, board finish and distance to ground planes can be optimised for corrosion resistance.

Beyond Design: The Case for Artificial Intelligence in EDA Tools

There has been a lot of activity in the field of artificial intelligence recently, with such developments as voice recognition, unmanned autonomous vehicles and data mining to list a few. But how could AI possibly influence the PCB design process? This month, Barry Olney will take a look at the endless possibilities.

RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Shengyi Technology to Increase Push in NA PCB Market

Jack Dong, executive vice president of Shengyi Technology Group, one of the biggest PCB laminate producers worldwide, speaks with I-Connect007 guest editor Dan Beaulieu about a variety of issues, including the company’s activities in the United States, their R&D capabilities, and their receiving the IPC Peter Sarmanian Corporate Recognition Award.


All About Flex: Imaging Methods for Etch Resist, Part 3: LDI

When LDI technology was first introduced around 20 years ago, throughput was an issue. LDI was often restricted to low volume or prototype runs. Subsequent advances in equipment as well as faster acting photoresist have made it practical for high volume circuit fabrication.

RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Panasonic Discusses Trends Driving Innovations in Copper

Tony Senese, business development manager for Panasonic Electronic Materials Center, talks with I-Connect007 guest editor Steve Williams about the laminate and circuit board business, and how developments in the raw materials side could make a big difference as designers push further and further to higher and higher frequencies.

Against the Density Wall: Landless Vias Might be the Answer

I saw my first landless via multilayer while visiting NEC in Japan in 1985. You may not know much about landless vias. This has been a well-kept secret for the last 30 years, possibly because it is not permitted on military boards, and therefore, discouraged in all IPC standards. So when a company showed us their landless via boards, we said, "You can't do that!"

RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Matrix Supply Partners Talk Advances in PCB Drill, Copper Foil Technologies

I-Connect007 guest editor Dick Crowe speaks with Hans Vandervelde, product manager of carbide tools at Perfect Point, and Shane Stewart, product manager at Advanced Copper Foils about advancements in drill technology and in copper foils.

All About Flex: Common Flex Circuit Surface Finish Requirements

Copper is a unique metal and has been proven with the test of time in an incredible array of printed circuit and electrical wiring applications. It is highly conductive, has good flexibility properties, can withstand high temperatures and has good chemical resistance. Copper is also is in abundant supply and is fairly inexpensive.

Catching up with Frank Bevans—the PCB Industry’s Premier Photographer

I can tell you from first-hand experience that working with Frank Bevans has always been a pure delight. Ask anyone who Frank has worked with and they will agree. Frank is also nothing short of a magician when it comes to making even the most basic (and even a little messy) PCB facility look like a multimillion-dollar high-tech center through his photographs and videos.

Graphic PLC…Are the Rumors True?

During a visit to Europe recently, I-Connect007's Barry Matties met with Rex Rozario to get to the bottom of the rumors and speculation regarding the sale of his company, Graphic PLC.

RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Taiyo America Talks Inkjet Solder Masks and 3D Printing

Josh Goldberg of Taiyo America speaks with I-Connect007 guest editor Steve Williams about some of the latest innovations happening in his company, including inkjet solder masks, and how they lend to small runs and rapid prototyping type of development work, especially with the idea of doing an additive manufacturing process.

EIPC Summer Conference 2016, Day 2: Strategies to Maintain Profitability in the European PCB Industry

Delegates awoke to a gloomy Scottish morning on the second day of the EIPC Summer Conference 2016. One or two who maybe overindulged in the whisky on the previous evening had some difficulty in finding time for breakfast before the conference proceedings, but the atmosphere in the meeting room was brighter than the weather outside, as Professor Martin Goosey introduced the day’s programme.

RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Bob Neves Talks Trends Driving Test Services in China

Bob Neves, chairman and CTO of Microtek Laboratories China, talks with I-Connect007 guest editor Dick Crowe about a variety of issues, including the growing automotive electronics and military/aerospace industries, and how companies in the US that are buying boards and assemblers buying their materials in China can benefit from his company's test services locally.


Rogers’ John Coonrod on Insertion Loss

John Coonrod of Rogers Corporation gave a keynote presentation at the recent Geek-A-Palooza trade show, concentrating on printed circuit board fabrication’s influences on insertion loss. I sat down with John to learn more about his presentation and what OEMs and designers need to be aware of to avoid insertion loss.

The Sum of All Parts: The Fabricator-Assembler Connection

After discussing the relationship between PCB fabricators and those who design the boards (see my previous column ), it is imperative to do the same for the relationship between assemblers and fabricators. This brings about a whole new set of potential complications.

IPC President John Mitchell Discusses IPC's Footprint in China

At the Capital Club in Beijing, IPC’s president John Mitchell met with I-Connect007’s Edy Yu to discuss the current activites of IPC China. Some of the topics covered included the growing China membership, training, trade shows and IPC China’s standards development effort.

Ken Moffat of American Standard Circuits Talks Aerospace Accreditation, DfM, and More

At the recent SMTA West Penn Expo & Tech Forum, I had the opportunity to speak with Ken Moffat, of American Standard Circuits, based in Chicago. Among the topics we discussed was the importance of attending local chapter shows like this one, and ASC’s value-added services such as DfM, especially in the metal-backed and RF arenas.

Alun Morgan on the EIPC Summer Conference 2016

Each year, the EIPC puts on two conferences for their members. I recently attended their summer conference in Edinburgh and had a chance to speak with EIPC President Alun Morgan about the topics covered at the conference and the connectedness and networking that is always present at EIPC events.

All About Flex: Plating Process Options for Flexible Circuits

Plating copper through-holes or vias is a requirement for double-sided and multilayer circuits. In a previous column we discussed the plating process; specifically copper seed coating using electroless copper and Shadow plating, which is then followed with an electroplating process.

Tim’s Takeaways: The Basics of Hybrid Design, Part 3

The world of hybrid design is growing, and we have lots of hybrid-specific functionality built into our software that helps designers meet and conquer the unique hybrid design requirements that they are faced with. And yet many designers out there (and I used to be one of them) have no idea what is meant when people start talking about hybrid design.

EIPC Summer Conference 2016, Day 1: Strategies to Maintain Profitability in the European PCB Industry

Resplendent in the kilt, EIPC chairman Alun Morgan welcomed a large and enthusiastic gathering of printed circuit professionals from all over Europe and as far afield as the USA, Canada and Russia, to the EIPC Summer Conference 2016 in Edinburgh, Scotland's cosmopolitan capital city.

Romanian Electronics Industry Celebrates 25th Anniversary of TIE

The high point of the Romanian TIE event was a competition among the students to design and layout a circuit for a specific product meeting to the maximum extent possible a long list of design and product requirements. The students had four hours to deliver a design which was then evaluated by a team comprised of a university instructor and a seasoned industry engineer.

Launch Letters: Exceptional Service—Extra Toppings without Sacrifice

Exceptional service is often recognized by not being recognized. Exceptional—not good— service is demonstrated by actions that are assumed and relied upon by the customer to be the norm. Exceptional service is providing the extraordinary and value-added without being asked. For companies that break this trust, being “recognized” may very well result in disenfranchised customers and lost business.


Happy’s Essential Skills: Producibility and Other Figures of Merit

Metrics are data and statistically backed measures. It is always expedient to base decisions on data and metrics, for example, in PCB design. These measures can be density, first-pass yield connectivity or in this context, producibility. These measures are the basis for predicting and planning a printed circuit design. But what if a metric doesn’t exist? Then you can create the next best measure, the Figure of Merit.

Book Review: Beating the Workplace Bully

There’s the woman who conned her co-worker into buying her coffee on the first day and then made it a daily event. Or the boss who was always threatening to fire his staff and telling them, “There’s blood in the water.” Or the supervisor who told her new employee on the first day that it was not her choice to hire her, because she had only worked in a small firm and “did not have the sophistication this corporate position needs. You don’t even dress properly.” This great book is full of such terrible people.

RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Matrix Highlights How Dry Film Laminator Addresses Fine Line Challenges

Fred Long, business development manager at Matrix USA, talks to I-Connect007 guest editor Dan Feinberg about how a new pressure system in the Hakuto Dry Film Laminator provides even heat and pressure along the entire length of the pressing cycle system to address the challenges of circuits with finer lines.

Institute of Circuit Technology Annual Symposium

On June 1, Technical Director Bill Wilkie introduced the 42nd Annual Symposium of the Institute of Circuit Technology, at the Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham, UK, commenting upon the success of the recent Foundation Course and acknowledging the sterling efforts of his course tutors, although recognising that some of his longest-standing experts were now retiring.

Trouble in Your Tank: Primary Imaging for Pattern Plating, Part 2—Development

The proper development of the primary photoresist is critical to the overall success of the imaging process and in turn the processes that follow—either etching to form innerlayers or the electroplating processes on outer layers. In this step, the unexposed photoresist (after resist lamination and exposure) is washed away via the developing process.

What You Probably Don't Know About NASA

While at Maker Faire 2016 in San Mateo recently, I met with George Gorospe of NASA’s Ames Research Center to discuss his group’s recent findings and projects, NASA’s CubeSats and microsatellites, and what the commercialization of space travel means for the near future.

Laser Pointers: Automate to Innovate in Flex Processing

The growing market demand for mobile devices, wearables and Internet of Things (IoT) devices continues to create new challenges for suppliers and manufacturers in the electronics value chain. Along with this market demand comes a challenging set of market requirements for the underlying circuits and components that drive such devices.

RTW IPC APEX EXPO: NuJay Technologies a 'Borderless' PCB Company

Nujay Technologies’ President Nesh Dholakia tells Guest Editor Steve Williams what it means to be a “borderless” and “mortarless” PCB supplier serving the global market. By carefully choosing their manufacturing partners, NuJay is able to consistently supply PCBs of any technology, from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world.

The Shaughnessy Report: The Designer Roundtable Roundup

Every year, I attend SMTA Atlanta, just across town. You have to love a local trade show. No airlines, no jet lag, and no hotels. It’s a small show; it would fit in a school gymnasium. But for me, the highpoint of SMTA Atlanta is the Designers Roundtable. This year the roundtable had 15 attendees, up from 12 last year. Two of the new attendees were under 35, which surprised all of us "graybeards."

PADS Paper: 10 Things to Know about Thermal Design

As designs get smaller, power densities at all packaging levels increase dramatically. Removing heat is critical to the operation and long-term reliability of electronics, and component temperatures within specification are the universal criteria used to determine the acceptability of a design. This PADS paper discusses 10 things designers need to know about thermal design.


The Right Approach: Our IoT Lives

In March, at the 2016 IPC APEX EXPO show in Las Vegas, the next big thing everyone was talking about was the Internet of Things (IoT). Equipment manufacturers were standing in line to tout their machines as IoT-capable and just waiting for the industry to catch up. But the IoT has been at play in our personal lives for quite a while…

Ventec's Commitment to FOD Elimination Sets the Trend

The European Space agency has led the drive for ultra-clean laminates and pre-pregs, completely free from foreign object debris. Ventec were one of the first to respond to ESA’s call for the laminate industry to support Appendix A to IPC-4101D, which the committee has agreed will be adopted. Mark Goodwin fills in the background.

Punching Out! What the Heck is Adjusted EBITDA?

If you are looking to sell or buy a business, you will most likely come across the term ‘adjusted EBITDA.’ Other common terms are adjusted cash flow, owner’s discretionary earnings, earnings after add-backs, etc. What do these terms mean, and why are they important?

Impacting the Industry—Literally

Unless you have been living under a rock or in a cave for the past six months or so, you should be aware (and perhaps astounded, astonished, amazed, dumbfounded, aghast…) at the presidential campaign goings-on. Dear heaven! But without going into detail or expressing an opinion, I thought I would share some highlights of my recent visit to our nation’s capital.

Design Automation Tools, Today and in the Future

Kelly Dack has been designing PCBs for over three decades, at OEMs of all kinds. Now a PCB designer with a Washington state contract manufacturer, Kelly enjoys waxing philosophic about PCB design and design automation in general. I asked Kelly about the direction EDA tools are headed, and whether he’d like to see more control, or more automation in his PCB design tools.

Multilayer's Viny Mulani on what it Takes to Survive Offshoring

As the leader of one of the surviving PCB shops in the United States, Multilayer Technology's President Viny Mulani has a unique perspective. He sat down with I-Connect007's Barry Matties recently at IPC APEX EXPO 2016 to discuss what kind of machinery he’s looking to invest in to keep more business from moving offshore.

New Management and Strategies at eSurface

At the recent Geek-A-Palooza, I spoke with Alex Richardson and Rick McCann of eSurface Technologies, to learn about the condition of the company, their new semi-additive approach, and a couple of big announcements.

Global Technology Development: HDP User Group European Meeting 2016

Delighted and honoured to be invited again to attend the open session of the High Density Packaging User Group (HDPUG) European Meeting, I made my way to the picturesque Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, a tiny principality bordered by Belgium, France and Germany, and ranked among the world's top-three nations in both wealth and wine consumption, to learn about the latest in collaborative research and development by member companies engaged in the manufacture of products utilising high-density electronic packages.

Happy’s Essential Skills: Learning Theory/Learning Curves

Learning is not instantaneous! Nor is progress made in a steady manner, but at a rate that is typified by one of two basic patterns. In some cases, plateaus will be seen in learning curves. These are caused by factors such as fatigue, poor motivation, loss of interest, or needing time to absorb all the material before progressing to new. This column will not go into details of how learning is achieved, but will summarize some of these theories.

Weiner’s World

Gen Consulting Company (GCC) has issued the Radiant Insights report “Global HDI Printed Circuit Board Market Forecast and Analysis 2016-2021.” The report provides a detailed analysis of worldwide markets for HDI printed circuit boards from 2011–2016, and provides market forecasts for 2016–2021 by region/country and subsectors.


RTW IPC APEX EXPO: ASC's Vardya Talks Strategies for Growth

American Standard Circuits CEO Anaya Vardya talks with I-Connect007 guest editor Steve Williams about the company’s strategies for continued growth, such as expanding their product mix, and investing in equipment, software and people.

All About Flex: Flexible Circuit Fabrication and Cleanroom Manufacturing

Facility cleanliness is a vital part of process control for flexible circuit fabricators. As higher density requirements continue a relentless drive toward finer traces and spaces, particles and foreign material can cause problems in a number of operations.

MACFEST—Manufacturing Advanced Coatings for Future Electronic Systems

Now in its second year, MACFEST is a collaborative research project involving partners A-Gas Electronic Materials, C-Tech Innovation, MTG Research, the Institute of Circuit Technology, the University of Leicester and Merlin Circuit Technology.

It’s Only Common Sense: Elevate the Conversation to get Closer to your Customers

So we all think we are doing a pretty good job getting to know our customers, right? We think because we know what market they are in and what they build, and have some sort of idea of what they need we are in pretty good shape, right?

Automation is the Talk of the Town at CPCA Show 2016

As Pete Starkey’s interviewees point out, the case for automation is not just about moving things faster, but also reducing handling and handling defects, improving consistency and reliability, and of course, reducing costs.

What’s in a Name? ICAPE Group’s Glenn Colescott Explains

Glenn Colescott, director of ICAPE USA, speaks with I-Connect007's Patty Goldman about his company, their expansion plans, why they attend regional shows like the SMTA West Penn Chapter Expo & Tech Forum, and how they make customers get over the phobia over a trading company.

Case Study: Reducing Defects Caused by Excess Handling and Mishandling

Most folks associate quality improvement initiatives with upfront expenses and ongoing cost increases. Fortunately, when done efficiently and with enough forethought and planning, quality improvement programs can pay for themselves in the form of increased throughput, reduced labor steps, and reduction in materials consumption.

Designers Notebook: Flexible and Rigid-Flex Circuit Design Principles, Part 6

The designer is generally under pressure to release the documentation and get the flexible circuit into production. There is, however, a great deal at risk. Setting up for medium-to-high volume manufacturing requires significant physical and monetary resources. To avoid potential heat from management, the designer must insist on prototyping the product and a thorough design review prior to release.

Cadence Paper: Automating Inter-Layer In-Design Checks in Rigid-Flex PCBs

Flexible PCBs make it possible to create a variety of products that require small, lightweight form factors. As flexible PCB fabrication technology has matured, new design challenges have emerged. This paper discusses some of the key challenges and introduces a new PCB design approach that enhances productivity through in-design inter-layer checks.

Standard of Excellence: LED and Metal-Backed Technology—Today and in the Future

Probably one of the hottest, or should I say coolest, technologies today is LED. I would also venture to say it is one of the fastest growing as well. All you have to do is look around you can see evidence of this everywhere from holiday lights in your home and Jumbotrons at sports arenas, to highway and business signage. The lighting industry is now dominated by LED technology.


Flex Talk: Inaugural West Coast Geek-A-Palooza a Fun-filled Success!

Geek-A-Palooza kicked off the 2016 schedule May 12 in Irvine, California. Historically, Geek-A-Palooza has been held in Minneapolis but is expanding this year to include Orange County and Boston as well.

BOOK REVIEW: Printed Circuits Handbook, Seventh Edition, 2016 (McGraw-Hill)

The Printed Circuits Handbook has been a classic reference to the industry for many years, and the new edition will assure its place for years to come. The 7th Edition features 71 chapters, four more than the last edition, structured in 12 parts, and authored by 38 contributors—a list of accomplished authors that could double as a who’s who in the world of circuit boards.

The Partnership: Design Engineers and PCB Designers

Randy Faucette is founder, president and director of engineering at Better Boards Inc. in Cary, North Carolina. I asked Randy to talk about some of the occasional tension between PCB designers and design engineers, and what he thinks can be done to help open the lines of communication.

2016 Asian Consumer Electronics Show Highlights

The second annual CES Asia in Shanghai, China concluded on May 13, surpassing last year’s event by all measures and reinforcing the show as the premier platform for launching technology in the Asian marketplace.

All About Flex: Imaging Methods for Etch Resist, Part 2: Photoimaging

This is the second of three columns describing typical methods for creating an etch resist for fabrication of printed circuits. Photoresist can come in the form of a liquid that gets coated on the substrate or as a dry film that is laminated. Liquid and dry film resist can be positive-acting or negative-acting.

The Right Approach: Quick & Easy 6S to Reduce Handling Issues

Handling is often the source of many pain points for PCB fabricators, resulting in rework, scrap and customer returns. Quick & Easy 6S is a fantastic tool to minimize handling risk by reducing product travel and improving shop cleanliness.

PE on 3D objects

I recently sat down with Mike O’Reilly of Optomec to discuss 3D printing onto existing substrates and small polymer-based additive manufacturing pieces and how that impacts PCB manufacturing. Mike also discuss the benefits of printing with conductive epoxies versus the traditional solder process, and where Optomec fits in to the burgeoning 3D market, going forward.

Beyond FR-4: High Performance Materials for Advanced Designs, Part 2

In Part One we covered basic FR-4 and variants that have been used in the commercial and military market for the past few decades, but in this column we will delve into the newer materials that target a specific application and/or market segment.

Happy’s Essential Skills: Project/Product Life Cycle

The product, and or project (process) life cycle (PLC) is fundamental to a corporation intent on developing new products or processes. It sometimes is called the new product introduction (NPI) process but that is only half of the life cycle. There is product support, enhancement and eventually, obsolescence.

The Sum of All Parts: Planning for a First-Time-Right PCB Design

The development of highly integrated and high-speed, chip-based circuit boards brings several functional benefits. But at the same time, these can introduce additional challenges to the actual board itself. Therefore, developing an effective plan for designing, developing, testing and producing the final PCBs is a good business practice.


All About Flex: Flexible Circuits and Kaizen Events

All Flex uses a variety of different tools and techniques in its continuous improvement efforts. A Kaizen event or Blitz is one technique that has resulted in significant improvements in our yields, productivity and customer satisfaction.

Working With Circuit Design Engineers

Until the late 1980s, many PC board designers were converted technicians, mechanical designers, and artists who learned to read a schematic and mastered artwork taping. The EEs would often share their opinions, but you could listen to them or ignore them and the circuit would likely function either way. This era created some tension between designers and their EE counterparts, because they completely ignored each other’s ideas.

A Conversation with Walt Custer: Market Report

In a recent conversation, Walt Custer shared current market data and industry trends, detailing those market segments and regions that are currently seeing growth and those that are in decline. Walt also offered his interpretation of the data, which he uses to forecast the upcoming month.

Long-Term Thermal Reliability of PCB Materials

This paper describes the purpose, methodology, and results to date of thermal endurance testing performed at Amphenol Printed Circuit Board Technology in Nashua, NH. The intent of this thermal aging testing is to establish longterm reliability data for PWB materials for use in applications that require 20+ years (100,000+ hours) of operational life under different thermal conditions.

Flexible Thinking: Process Engineering—PCB Manufacturing’s ‘Delta Force’

Process engineers serve a vital function on the front line of printed circuit manufacturing. They are often, if you will, the “Delta Force” that subdues and controls that which is one of the mortal enemies of manufacturing…process variation.
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