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Highlights on a Rousing Virtual IPC APEX EXPO 2021
04/14/2021 | Pete Starkey, I-Connect007
The Future Is Electric
04/13/2021 | KJ McCann and Brian Zirlin, Aurora Circuits
I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week
04/09/2021 | Andy Shaughnessy, I-Connect007
Technical Conference—Balancing Conventional and Disruptive Technologies
04/08/2021 | Matt Kelly, IPC
Book Review: Important Advice on a Well-Balanced Life
04/06/2021 | Dan Beaulieu, D.B. Management Group
Setting the Standard at American Standard Circuits
With an impressive array of investments on display, both in terms of technology and software, as well as its 120 employees, ASC offers a diversified product mix. Publisher Barry Matties and members of the I-Connect007 team recently took a tour of the American Standard Circuits facility in West Chicago, Illinois. In this interview, Anaya Vardya shares their strategies and the challenges the market faces.
In our now well-known monthly topic survey, we got some very interesting results on leadership. Most of the questions were designed to be open-ended, specifically to encourage original answers—to keep our respondents from just checking off a few boxes. Many of the answers were rather intriguing—and unexpected.
Altium ActiveRoute Debuts at PCB West: Routes Under One Second Per Connection
While at PCB West, Judy Warner had the chance to sit down with Charles Pfeil of Altium and learn more about their exciting new tool, ActiveRoute, that was introduced and demonstrated during PCB West 2016. She also learned a bit of background about Pfeil, who is a living history lesson in PCB design.
The Right Approach: My Leadership Journey
I have been in leadership positions for the majority of my 40-year career, but it has not always been a smooth and natural relationship. With the following three stories, I will attempt to share the lessons learned on my journey as a lifelong student in pursuit of the art of leadership.
GP Ventures: Facilitating ‘Multi-layered’ M&A Deals
One of our newer I-Connect007 columnists is Tom Kastner of GP Ventures, an M&A advisory company. I spent a few minutes with Tom at SMTAI recently, and he filled me in on his background in the electronics industry, which includes specializing in buying, selling or merging businesses; his columns deal with many of the requirements and issues on all sides of those changes.
SnapEDA: Inspiring Millennials in the PCB Design Community
Natasha Baker, founder of SnapEDA, is part of the new breed of entrepreneurs. She manages a group of millennials who are not much younger than she is. Natasha discusses what it means to be a manager vs. a leader, what motivates millennial engineers, and some of the changes in the world of EDA that managers have to contend with to succeed.
Happy's Essential Skills: Lean Manufacturing
Lean doesn’t have to exist in manufacturing alone. Lean is a fairly recent principle that can apply to all of our goods and services. For those of you not familiar with Lean, I recommend the free E-book "Survival Is Not Mandatory: 10 Things Every CEO Should Know about Lean" by Steve Williams, a regular columnist for I-Connect007.
Let's Talk Testing: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel—Find an Expert!
Back in the day when I was an engineer fresh out of college, I quickly learned that experience is the solution to many problems. Now that being said, experience comes in many forms…it could be knowledge learned from a textbook, it could be an observatory comment jotted down in a notebook, it could be a conversation with a co-worker or colleague, or it could be an Internet search that finds a scholarly technical article, etc.
One World, One Industry: Voting—A Civic Duty and Industry Opportunity
On Tuesday, November 8, more than 240 million people in the United States will have the opportunity to go to the polls and vote, make their voices heard in government, and influence the direction of public policy for years to come. Much of the world is closely watching with interest in this major U.S. election.
Sensible Design: The Little Guide to Resins
I would like to start this series of columns by going back to basics, questioning the core rationale for potting and encapsulation with resins, their fundamental chemistries and how each resin type differs one from the other—indeed, how their individual properties can be exploited to maximise performance under a wide range of environmental conditions.
Real Time with... SMTAI: Alex Stepinski is Presented with I-Connect007's First 'Good for the Industry' Award
I-Connect007’s Barry Matties and Patty Goldman present the first “Good for the Industry” award to Alex Stepinski of Whelen Engineering for his unique design approach to a fully automated PCB factory.
All About Flex: Flexible Circuit Prototypes
Most electronic projects begin with at least one build of prototype parts before moving into volume manufacturing. But the definition of a flex circuit prototype can vary considerably from one project to another. In many cases, a prototype build is only a few parts used to verify form, fit and function, with engineering trying to determine if something actually works.
Beyond Design: How to Handle the Dreaded Danglers, Part 2
In Part 1, I deliberated on how dangling via stubs distort signals passing through an interconnect and also decrease the usable bandwidth of the signal. This is due to the via stub acting as a transmission line antenna, which has a resonant frequency determined by the quarter wavelength of the structure. The conventional solution to this problem is to back-drill (or control depth drill) the vias to bore out the via stub barrels, so that the via stubs are reduced in length if not completely removed. This month I will look into all the possible solutions.
Isola CEO Jeff Waters Shares Insights and Reflections
It’s been eight months since Isola’s Jeff Waters was appointed CEO, marking his transition from the semiconductor space to the PCB industry. At PCB West, Jeff reflected on his first impressions of the PCB industry and how Isola continues to adopt changes in its manufacturing strategy and product development with a plan to become the industry leader with a global, competitive presence.
Disruptive Technologies– VR, AR and Star Trek
This article and subsequent follow-ups will cover various disruptive technologies. During the planning stage for this month’s issue of The PCB Magazine, I was asked to consider a number of potential topics; two of them are areas that I am very interested in—augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), and 3D printing and security.
Geek-A- Palooza: Get Your Geek On in Minnesota!
If you haven’t been to Geek-A-Palooza yet, you may just get a chance, because the social networking event could be coming to your city in the near future. Barry Matties met with founder Tara Dunn following the most recent Boston event, to learn more about Geek-A-Palooza and why the laid-back atmosphere is beneficial for both the sponsors and the attendees.
2016 Election Forecast
Throughout this election cycle, candidates have offered many promises to boost the U.S. and global economy, as well as address other national priorities. As we inch closer to the finish line, it’s worth examining how the presidential and several congressional races could shape the future of policies affecting the manufacturing industry.
Institute of Circuit Technology Hayling Island Seminar 2016
In recent years, the Hayling Island Seminar has become established as the most popular date on the Institute of Circuit Technology calendar and, as expected, the 2016 event attracted a large gathering of industry professionals to the south coast of England to share knowledge and experience and to discuss current developments.
Selling Your Electronics Business: A 6-Step Guide, Part 2
For the individuals involved, the sale of an electronics business is a very significant step and one that often requires much thought, preparation and planning, even prior to appointing key advisors. Timing is another key factor in generating a high level of interest and implementing a successful sale.
Flex Talk: Troubleshooting Flex Circuit Applications for Mil/Aero Projects
I imagine that everyone has been in this position at one time or another: Despite everyone’s best attempt at creating the perfect design, PCB fabrication and assembly, something goes wrong and the troubleshooting begins.
A New Facility in India for PCB Fabricator ACI
I-Connect007's Barry Matties met with Raj Dhanani and Bryan Ricke of Advanced Circuitry International to discuss their growing footprint in India, recent investments in their U.S. facility, and the future of the RF and antenna markets.
Happy's Essential Skills: Metrics and Dimensional Analysis
After 20 of my columns, readers probably realize that I am an analytical person. Thus, I dedicate this column to metrics—the method of measuring something. I mentioned the four levels of metrics in my June column "Producibility and Other Figures of Merit." I also introduced the five stages of metrics in the second part of the column "Design for Manufacturing and Assembly, Part 2." This column completes the discussion with a look at dimensionless quantities.
The Right Approach: FOD and the Aerospace Industry
Unless you are currently building aerospace product to AS9100 you are probably saying, “What the heck is FOD?” What started out as a requirement to prevent damage to aircraft parts such as engines has been flowed down to any component or assembly including PCBs.
This month, I was a guest at the High Density Packaging Users Group (HDPUG) meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. The consortium, composed of more than 50 companies (small and large) in the electronics packaging supply chain, conducts projects to solve real world problems or develop data for product parameters, package/component life, and production processing.
EIPC Reliability Workshop, Tamworth, UK, September 22, 2016
EIPC’s reliability workshop, presented in cooperation with Amphenol Invotec, attracted a capacity audience from eight countries—some delegates having travelled from as far away as Russia—to take the opportunity to learn first-hand how to meet OEM, ODM and EMS product quality and safety requirements, and to understand how interconnection stress testing techniques could be applied to determine the reliability of multilayer PCBs.
All About Flex: Flex Circuit Specifications for Commercial and Military Applications
Applications across the various markets for printed circuit boards can have significantly different specifications and performance requirements. Circuits for toys and games logically have lower performance requirements than those used in medical devices. IPC-6013 is an industry-driven specification that defines the performance requirements and acceptance features for flexible printed circuit boards.
Real Time with... SMTAI: Electronic Interconnect Talks Expansion and Investments
Pratish Patel, president and CEO of Electronic Interconnect, speaks with I-Connect007’s Andy Shaughnessy about the company’s expansion plans as well as their increasing capabilities.
Happy’s Essential Skills: Recruiting and Interviewing
Hopefully, your career has progressed to the point that you are empowered to recruit your own team or a key person for your team. There are always technical people looking for better jobs, but many times, the most talented are busy doing their work and not looking for a new opportunity.
Prototron Adding a Variety of Services and Certifications
Editor Judy Warner and Prototron Sales Manager Russ Adams discuss Prototron's new capabilities and certifications. The company recently added via fill and limited flex services, and is ready to pull the trigger on AS9100 once the new rev is finalized.
Launch Letters: Take Social Media Seriously
This September will mark the 10th anniversary of “the Zuck” (aka Mark Zuckerberg) and his band of college buddies unleashing Facebook membership from the scholarly confines of Harvard to anyone 13 years and older with a valid email address.
Selling Your Electronics Business: A 6-Step Guide, Part 1
Whether dealing with the sale of an entire electronics company or a corporate division, achieving the best possible terms and net present proceeds should be your primary concern.
Karl’s Tech Talk: EPOXY—Supply Chain and Use in Electronics
From a PCB fabricator’s perspective, epoxy resin supply chain issues are of indirect concern as they become a subset of laminate quality, supply, and cost considerations.
John Cardone on Designing Flex for Spacecraft
If you watched footage of the Mars rover driving all over the red planet, you’re familiar with some of John Cardone’s handiwork. He’s been designing rigid, flex, and rigid-flex circuitry for spacecraft since he joined JPL in the early ‘80s, and he’s worked on some of the more ground-breaking flex circuits along the way. Now John runs his own design service bureau, JMC Design Services, and he continues to design circuitry for things that blast off. I caught up with John recently and asked him to give us the straight scoop on designing boards for spacecraft.
IPC-1782 Standard for Traceability Supporting Counterfeit Components
Traceability has grown from being a specialized need for certain safety critical segments of the industry, to now being a recognized value-add tool for the industry as a whole. This article discusses the IPC-1782 project, which aims to create a single flexible data structure that can be adopted for all levels of traceability that are required across the industry.
All About Flex: Lead-Free Soldering Flexible Circuits
Ever since the European community adopted the RoHS directive in 2006, the U.S. electronics industry has been steadily increasing its use of lead-free solder. Medical was the first U.S. industry to go totally lead-free. Today, a significant percentage of electronics soldering is done with lead-free solder.
Sensible Design: Conformal Coatings - Beware the Boards that ‘Bare’ All!
This month, Phil Kinner departs from his usual format of providing five essential facts about conformal coatings. Instead, he provides an account of a customer’s problem—no company names mentioned, of course—that brought into question the adhesion performance of a coating that they had been using successfully for some time.
Happy’s Essential Skills: Computer-Aided Manufacturing, Part 2 - Automation Examples
Semiconductor fabs like to avoid writing custom software to fit all of the idiosyncrasies of individual processing systems. So HP developed PC-10 to handle IC process equipment by separating it into general classes. SECS II was a mandatory prerequisite of the equipment before an interface to PC-10 could be developed.
Mil/Aero Markets: F-35 Declared Combat-Ready
Electronic subsystems are an integral part of all modern military fighter jets, with a substantial portion of the electronics supporting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) systems, electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR), avionics, munitions and radar related subassemblies. This equates to a very high content of PCBs and SMT assembly requirements.
The Story Behind the News: Ventec’s IMS Manufacturing Capabilities in China Doubled
In this interview conducted at Ventec Europe’s headquarters in Leamington Spa, UK, Ventec Europe & USA COO Mark Goodwin sat down with I-Connect007 Technical Editor Pete Starkey to share the details of Ventec International Group’s $2 million equipment investment. With this injection of new equipment, Ventec doubles its IMS material manufacturing capacity in China.
Transline Technology is Bullish on Design Engineers
At the International Microwave Symposium, I met with Chris Savalia, vice president and co-owner of Transline Technology. We discussed the California-based fabricator’s philosophy, the challenges of the RF and microwave markets, and the need to engage with young design engineers now.
Punching Out! War Stories from the Front Lines of Deal-Making
Here are some war stories from my experience in working on M&A deals in the PCB, EMS, and electronics fields. The names and details have been changed to protect the innocent.
Field Notes: Summit Interconnect—Who Says PCB Manufacturing Can’t be a Picnic?
A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a company-wide celebration of the “marriage” of Summit Interconnect’s two subsidiaries, KCA Electronics and Marcel Electronics Inc. The festivities kicked off at noon, when all of the MEI employees arrived in charter buses.
Happy’s Essential Skills: Computer-Aided-Manufacturing, Part 1—Automation Protocols
I have addressed automation planning previously in this series, so I hope by now you realize the difference between ‘automation’ and ‘mechanization.’ In printed circuit fabrication and assembly, most of what is advertised is mechanization. But when you get to assembly test, then you begin to see true automated solutions.
Testing Todd: Testing Military/Aerospace— Houston, We Have a Solution
This month we will dive into the testing of aerospace and military product. These designs require special processing in many cases above and beyond the IPC standards. The main specifications used when testing military product are MIL-PRF-55110, MIL-PRF-50884 and MILPRF-31032.
Let's Talk Testing: Does your Product have a Military Application?
Just like any other industry segment within the circuit board world, the military sector has its own share of documents…and likely many more than most! These documents have been developed over the years to guide, shape, and test anything and everything that might go into a jet fighter, a radar system, a warship, a weapons system, etc.
Patty's Perspective: Are We Flying Yet?
Walt Custer is on a photo safari in Africa and suggested I take a look at some of his slides regarding the military/aerospace market and then give a little report on it. Well, I am no Walt Custer, so while I can tell you a bit about where things are, far be it from me to make predictions.
Peter Lymn of Cemco: Adapting to the Market
Recently, I went on a tour of Cemco’s facility in Waterlooville, UK, where I met with longtime industry leader Peter Lymn to discuss Cemco’s roots in hot air solder leveling and the transitions Cemco has made in order to stay competitive.
Laser Pointers: Laser Processing and Telecentricity
Since Mike and I often receive questions on topics that are relevant to a broader audience, we’ve decided to start using this column to share those questions and answers with our readers. We’ll periodically devote the space in this column to address questions that we receive that are especially timely or topical, or address a topic that affects a wider range of readers.
Happy’s Essential Skills: CIM and Automation Planning, Part 2—Six Principles of Automation
In Part 1 of this column, I discussed the foundation of CIM and the principles of automation planning. In Part 2, we will assume that all the necessary preparations in strategy and tactics have been completed. How does it all fit together for successful implementation? This problem affects large, wealthy companies as well as the smallest job shop.
Factors Affecting the Adhesion of Thin Film Copper on Polyimide
The use of copper foils laminated to polyimide (PI) as flexible printed circuit board precursor is a standard practice in the PCB industry. We have previously described an approach to very thin copper laminates of coating uniform layers of nano copper inks and converting them into conductive foils via photonic sintering with a multi-bulb conveyor system, which is consistent with roll-to-roll manufacturing.
The Many Voices Over the Past Year
In line with our "Voices of the Industry" theme this month, we're publishing this handy index of all of the interviews we've conducted over the past year with the movers and shakers, managers, entrepreneurs, and and rank-and-file designers and design engineers. In case you missed them, here's another bite of the apple, alphabetized by interviewee's last name. Enjoy!
All About Flex: FAQs on RoHS for Flex Circuits
In 2003, the European Union (EU) adopted a standard called the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS), which restricts the use of certain materials in electronic products and electronic equipment. The intent is to reduce the environmental impact of known hazardous materials and has driven changes in manufacturing processes and materials used to manufacture a wide array of electronic products.
People in the printed circuit and electronic packaging industries often ask me about re-shoring. My response generally is that re-shoring is a myth. It seems that whenever I try to contact someone by email I get an automated response stating, "I am currently in China and will return to my office on…" Many of the facilities and much of the equipment that would be needed to re-shore have been auctioned off or sent to the scrap heap.
Happy’s Essential Skills: CIM and Automation Planning, Part 1
There is a lot of talk and information about automation, but I find that there is very little available on automation planning. This is one of my specialties. I started by getting a master's in EE in control theory. This went well with my B.S. in chemical engineering as I specialized in process control and IC manufacturing.
The European Space Agency on Reliability
Stan Heltzel is a materials engineer working for the European Space Agency, and he is tasked with the job of procuring and qualifying PCBs that end up in satellites. I met with Stan at EIPC’s Summer Conference to discuss his presentation on qualifying a fabricator, his role at the ESA, and updating of space standards.
Lightning Speed Laminates: Smaller Circuits--Material Properties and Thermal Issues
Coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) is typically considered for PCB reliability, but it can also have an impact on circuit performance for applications exposed to varying temperatures. Due to CTE, a circuit will change physical dimensions when the temperature changes. If the circuit has small features or tightly coupled features, the physical change of the circuit dimensions can cause a shift in electrical performance.
Standard of Excellence: Communication Breeds Success
We all need to talk to one another. You need to work closely with your customers. And we all need to work with the new generation of PCB designers and design engineers, many of whom have never set foot in a board shop. Fortunately, they make up for their lack of DFM knowledge with their hunger for information.
ELTEK Looking for Strong Growth in the USA
At the recent Nadcap meeting in London, I spoke with Eltek USA President Jim Barry about the state of the company, further investment from their new owner, and their focus on the U.S. market.
All About Flex: Soldering Flexible Circuits
The most common methods for component attachment on flexible circuits and rigid printed circuit boards involve soldering. The basic principles for soldering are the same for both flex and hard board, but soldering components to flexible circuits involves certain specific considerations vs. our rigid cousins.
Brooks' Bits: Your Traces Have Hot Spots!
The reasons for the temperature variation at high temperatures are not too hard to understand. There may be minor contamination under the trace or in the copper that accounts for it. Certainly, at higher temperatures (say above about 300°C) the board may begin to delaminate, severely disrupting its cooling characteristics. There may be small variations in trace width or thickness that help account for the delam, and these effects would be randomly distributed along the length of the trace.
Happy’s Essential Skills: Quality Functional Deployment (QFD)
Wikipedia has one of the best definitions of quality function deployment (QFD): “QFD is a method to help transform customer needs (the voice of the customer or VOC) into engineering characteristics (and appropriate test methods) for a product or service. It helps create operational definitions of the requirements, which may be vague when first expressed. It prioritizes each product or service characteristic while simultaneously setting development targets for the product or service.”
Spirit Circuits: Building a New Factory in Romania...
Recently I sat down with Managing Director Steve Driver of Spirit Circuits. We discussed the company’s future, and the interesting decision to build a new facility in Craiova, Romania, and how Whelen’s Alex Stepinski influenced the design.
FTG: Focus to Expand
Firan Technology Group (FTG) is a Canadian circuit board and cockpit product manufacturer. With a newly established global footprint, they look now to grow within that footprint, particularly by way of acquisition. I-Connect007’s Judy Warner and Barry Matties met CEO Brad Bourne at FTG’s Chatsworth, California facility to learn more about the acquisitions, their success in China, and the overall challenge of working in the aerospace and defense market.
Multiple Markets Merge for PCBs at H&T Global
While at the SMTA-Ohio expo I met Rob DiGiovanni, VP of sales and marketing with H&T Global, a printed circuit manufacturer based in Florida. I was attracted to the H&T booth by a large photo of an Army jeep. I wanted to learn what this particular photo had to do with PCBs, and Rob had a ready answer.
Flex is Where It’s At
At the recent SMTA-Ohio Expo event, Jack Baculik of Circuits LLC speaks with I-Connect007's Patty Goldman about the latest developments driving demand for flex and rigid-flex circuits.
Punching Out! Timing: When is the Best Time to Sell?
A few of the top questions we receive relate to the timing of the sale of a business. The first is, "Is now a good time?" The second one is, "How are market conditions?" These are the top FAQs.
Happy’s Essential Skills: Roadmapping Essentials
Many industries recognize value and benefits in technical roadmapping. However, misuse leads to abundant dangers and can render a technology roadmap useless, or worse. Good roadmaps embrace uncertainty, exploiting apparent weakness to derive maximum insight and understanding. The Technology Roadmapping Handbook from the University of Leipzig is a useful roadmapping reference.
Trouble in Your Tank: Building Reliability into the PCB, Part 2
In Part 1 of this column on reliability, I presented the common PTH failures encountered when reliability is less than robust. PTH reliability is influenced by several factors including the quality of the PTH after drilling, plating thickness and plating distribution in the PTH. In this column, I will present additional factors, including the Coffin-Manson model in the context of understanding reliability failures.
Catching up with Artnet Pro’s Meir Polack
Interested in all aspects of our industry, I have lately been especially focused on our suppliers, because more and more of my board shop clients are concerned about their vendor support chain as more of them are either reducing their presence in North America or leaving altogether. I am also keenly interested in companies whose mission it is to help the PCB industry survive, especially a company that does not abandon the “little guys,” but rather is focused on helping those smaller companies to compete with the giants whose goal is to run them over.
Let’s Talk Testing: Welcome Your Product to the Real World!
The days, weeks, and (sometimes) years that go into a product’s development usually are incomprehensible to the lay person. Like laws and sausages, no one wants to really understand what has gone on behind the scenes to make your “thing” a reality. They just care that your widget makes their life easier and/or more enjoyable!
Event Review: 7th Electronic Materials and Processes for Space Workshop
This year's Electronic Materials and Processes for Space Workshop discussed a wide range of technology issues and developments when it comes to PCB fabrication and assembly for space applications. From addressing reliability issues to dealing with cracks that may form during thermal cycling, to REACH regulations and their impact on space hardware, and tin whisker growths. Barrie Dunn provides the highlights.
If you have paid any attention at all to our newsletters and other publications, you should have been aware of this month’s topic long before opening this magazine. We tried to reach… everybody, so we could get their thoughts on the industry for this issue.
From Afterschool Robotics Club to FIRST Competitions
Seven years ago, Joel Bruxvoort, a science teacher at Jefferson High School in Daly City, California, started a robotics club as an afterschool program. Now, his club has two teams competing in events for FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an international youth organization developed to advance STEM subjects around the world.
Launch Letters: Embrace Your Brand
Whether it be your company brand or personal brand, you have to fully embrace it and believe in it. It’s the trust, knowledge and confidence you communicate to your customers, the community, and the industry you interact with and react to every nanosecond. In his latest column, Barry Lee Cohen explains why, and provides some pointers on how you can launch—or relaunch—your brand.
Happy’s Essential Skills: Engineering Economics (ROI)
Engineering economics is fundamental in engineering, especially for manufacturing support. For simplicity, I am using the term here as a process engineer for printed circuit equipment and automation of production.
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