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

Latest Articles

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.

Weiner’s World

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.

Speak Up!

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.

A Day with Pete (Starkey)

Usually the one conducting the interviews, I-Connect007’s own Pete Starkey recently found himself on the other side of the microphone when I spent time with him in his hometown of Market Bosworth, England. There, between hiking and gardening, we found time to discuss Pete’s rich history in the PCB industry and the many changes and surprises he’s seen in the manufacturing process over the years.


The Gerber Guide, Chapters 15 and 16

Before sending your Gerber files off to your fabricator, you are often advised to check them using a reputable Gerber viewer such as GC-Prevue. This is excellent advice. Note that this involves more than just verifying that the viewer displays your intended image: It is important that you check too that the file is valid.

Shane Whiteside and Summit Interconnect: Aspiring to New Heights

A few weeks ago I was privileged to meet with Shane Whiteside in Anaheim, California, at KCA Electronics. Whiteside, former COO of TTM, has helped launch a new company—Summit Interconnect— which encompasses the recent acquisition of KCA Electronics and Marcel Electronics International. Once again assuming an executive role, this time as CEO and president, Whiteside shared his story, strategy and vision for this new chapter.

All About Flex: Considerations for Impedance Control in Flexible Circuits

Impedance can be thought of as a system’s opposition to alternating or pulsing electronic current. The unit of measurement is ohms, the same unit of measurement in a direct current system. However, the components for calculating impedance are much more complex than DC resistance.

Happy’s Essential Skills: Benchmarking

Benchmarking is a process that measures how a company is performing against those industry leaders. It is used to better understand how outstanding companies perform, and then helps your company develop plans to improve or adapt specific best practices.

Mentor Video: Impact of Power Integrity on Temperature

One of the most common outputs from a DC Drop simulation is a current density plot. But how much is too much current density? The answer depends on temperature rise, and requires a PI-thermal co-simulation to properly characterize.

Designing for Profitability: Don’t Over-Materialize

John Bushie, applications engineering manager at American Standard Circuits, spoke with Barry Matties recently about how designers can avoid over-materializing. He also outlined the benefits of designing for profitability.

Weiner’s World

This month's column has a higher percentage of IC coverage than normal for several reasons. The end of Moore's Law regarding transistor scaling will be dead by 2021 as will be replaced by 3D integration according to the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS).

All About Flex: Creating Via Holes in Flexible Laminates

Almost all double-sided and multilayer flexible circuits require through-holes or vias to enable an electrical connection between conductive layers. Creating a reliable plated via requires several critical steps. The first one is creating the through-hole.

Inside Spirit Circuits

I was recently treated to a factory tour with Spirit Circuits’ Managing Director Martin Randall, to learn more about their process line and how it has evolved over time. In the discussion following, I learned about Spirit’s involvement in the China market and how they’ve structured their business to handle quick turn prototypes locally and high volume abroad.

High-Throw Electroless Copper– New Opportunities for IC Substrates and HDI Manufacturing

The one constant in electronics manufacturing is change. Moore’s Law, which successfully predicted a rate of change at which transistor counts doubled on integrated circuits (ICs) at lower cost for decades, is ceding to be an appropriate prediction tool.


Happy’s Essential Skills: Project/Program Management

No matter what your job, you may have to manage, or play an active role in, a project at some point during your career. It takes a great deal of skill to do this well, but the time you invest in building good project management skills can pay off enormously.

Using the Type 1 Gauge Study to Assess Measurement Capability

Measurement capability is a critical aspect of ensuring product quality, therefore a measurement system must be assessed before being used on products. Understanding how to assess measurement capability becomes critical. The Type 1 Gauge study is typically the first step in a measurement system analysis program. Type 1 Gauge parameters are explained, and a worked example using electroless nickel immersion gold (ENIG) is provided.

A Thermal Conductivity Measurement Method, Adapted to Composite Materials Used in the PCB Industry

Most of today’s printed circuit board base materials are anisotropic and it is not possible to use a simple method to measure thermal conductivity along the different axes, especially when a good accuracy is expected. Few base material suppliers’ datasheets show X, Y and Z thermal conductivities. In most cases, a single value is given, moreover determined with a generic methodology, and not necessarily adapted to the reality of glass-reinforced composites with a strong anisotropy.

Book Review: Pinterest Power

Let’s be honest: Pinterest is hot right now. It’s so hot there are shelves full of books about what Pinterest is, what you do with it, and how you can increase your business by using it.

Round Robin of High-Frequency Test Methods by IPC-D24C Task Group (Part 1)

Currently there is no industry standard test method for measuring dielectric properties of circuit board materials at frequencies greater than about 10 GHz. Various materials vendors and test labs take different approaches to determine these properties. It is common for these different approaches to yield varying values of key properties like permittivity and loss tangent.

John Tusant on Geek-A-Palooza

John Tusant of American Standard Circuits is a repeat attendee of Geek-A-Palooza events. Recently, at the first-ever West Coast Geek-A-Palooza event, he talked briefly with me about the benefits of attending.

Made in Brazil: The Evolution and Revolution of Impedance Control in PCB Production

The PCB industry in Brazil has gone through several changes over the last decade. Our customers have been demanding better quality and higher-reliability products more than ever before, but few things have changed as much as impedance control. PCBs with impedance control requirements have become the engine of the market, and finding solutions to fit the customer’s needs is extremely challenging.

Viking Test Services: Much More than Test

Recently, 007 Technical Editor Pete Starkey and I toured Viking Test’s facility in Hants, UK where we met Managing Director Jake Kelly to learn about the history of the company, their recent involvement in the Indian PCB market, and what he thought of the EIPC Summer Conference.

All About Flex: Variability and Quality Costs

Statistics are terms used for measurements that describe groups of numbers. The most common averaging statistics are mean, median and mode. Mean and average are often used interchangeably, a statistic with all numbers added together and then divided by the quantity of numbers.

Making Digital and Analog “Play Nice” at Peavey

Most guitarists have owned a Peavey Electronics amplifier or instrument at some point in their lives. Peavey originally drew accolades for their line-up of high-quality, budget-friendly products. Now the company also develops high-end instruments, amps, and live sound equipment. Peavey was also the last major American musical equipment maker to have product manufactured overseas. I met with Tom Stuckman, an electrical engineer at Peavey, during NAMM and asked him about the technical challenges he faces and what it’s like working at Peavey.


Building Reliability into the PCB, Part 1

Sometimes there is confusion among PCB engineers and quality managers as to what constitutes reliability. Some may say that reliability refers to avoiding PTH failures such as corner cracks or interconnect defects. Then there are those who subscribe to a wider range of failure criteria to determine whether or not the final product is reliable for long-term service.

Let's Talk Testing: Seeing is Believing in Fractographic Analysis

One of the more common types of failure analysis is the investigation of something that has broken. For this column, we will be discussing a broken material, or, more commonly, a fractured or cracked material.

Testing Todd: Test & Measurement—The Case for Validation

Test and measurement (T&M) are terms that can strike fear into the most robust of minds. Many engineers create designs and products of the future with specific results predicted for performance.

Faster, More Accurate AOI is More Important than Ever

Among PCB manufacturers, there is a common perception that AOI has not changed much since it was introduced decades ago. Over the last few years, however, new advanced technologies have made AOI solutions smarter, faster and much more accurate. AOI system data have even been integrated with newly developed automatic 3D shaping tools.

Patty's Perspective: Delving into Test and Inspection

I’ve always been a wet processing person, if not always in a PCB shop, at least at heart. My undergraduate degree is in chemistry and I cut my teeth working on electroless copper processes (just a metaphor, mind you!). Testing, testing and more testing in R&D can be sooo boring and repetitive.

All About Flex: Taguchi Design of Experiments and Flexible Circuits

Reducing variability in a process, or a sequence of processes, can require a significant and structured amount of work and analysis. One must develop an understanding of critical variables and determine methods to control them. Statistically based experiments are often needed for proper analysis.

Happy’s Essential Skills: Understanding the Concept of Managing Management Time

You can get the most value out of monkey management and one-minute management by using these principles together. Who knows? With these techniques, maybe you'll have a chance to take care of your own work instead of everyone else's!

Punching Out! The PCB Sector—What Buyers Look for and Recent Deals

The past few months have seen a rash of PCB deals in North America, for a variety of reasons. Tom Kastner lists some of the deals completed during the past eight months.

Launch Letters: Give Your Literature Some Lovin’

Collateral is such an ugly word. As the late, great Rodney Dangerfield would have put it, brochures, sell sheets, process manuals, and other sales support tools often get no respect in our digital world. Even the convenience of downloading a PDF is scoffed at by today’s millennials who rely on the “Almighty App” and the “All-Knowing Cloud” to view, digest and store information.

Catching up with Sunrise Electronics’ Ashok and Jigar Patel

I had been hearing about Sunrise Electronics for many years, so when Ashok asked me to come and see them for myself, I jumped at the chance. It was one of the most amazing plant tours that I’ve been on in a long time. I wanted to know more, so we sat down and had a chat.


Standard of Excellence: The Future is in Fine lines

The age of much finer lines and spaces is upon us. After years of slowly moving towards this technology our customers are now demanding that all of us provide them with fine lines and spaces. Our new trend in electronics is for denser and denser circuitry on smaller and smaller real estate.

A PCB Manufacturers’ Representative Point of View

I met with long-time PCB manufacturers’ representative David Lanagan of Mandalay Technologies at the recent Geek-A-Palooza event, to discuss the current state of the Southern California market and the challenges of doing business there.

Book Review: Sales Manager Survival Guide—Lessons from Sales’ Front Lines

Sales Manager Survival Guide is a perfect book for a new sales manager. It is also important for those of us who have been in sales for many years, because it contains everything you need to become a great sales manager. Truth be known, it is the most comprehensive book on sales management I have ever read.

Catching up with…Author David A. Brock

By far the best and most useful business book I have read this year is The Sales Manager Survival Guide: Lessons from Sales' Front Lines by David A. Brock. I was so impressed by this book that I’ve since recommended it to just about every sales manager I know.

The Newest Flex Shop in the U.S.

I-Connect007 sales team member Angela Alexander and I recently got a tour of Lenthor’s new Silicon Valley flex board shop and then sat down with President and CEO Mark Lencioni to discuss the new flex facility, the markets, management, and the future.

The State of the Electronic Design Automation Nation

We are the automation nation. We are the high-speed demons, the low-frequency artists, the mixed-signal designers that make up the electronic design automation industry. We spend most of our working lives behind software, delivered to our fingertips with the promise of making things easier, faster, better, and getting us to our deadlines ever faster.

Designers Notebook: Specifying Lead-Free Compatible Surface Finish and Coating for Solderability and Surface Protection

A majority of the components furnished for electronic assembly are designed for solder attachment to metalized land patterns specifically designed for each device type. Providing a solder process-compatible surface finish on these land patterns is vital; however, selection of the surface finish on the circuit structure, whether plated or coated, can be greatly influenced by the components’ terminal metalization and the specific alloy composition used for the assembly process.

Weiner’s World

The way that I see the problem relates to overcapacity for fabricators in the consumer segment of devices with flat panel displays—mobile and otherwise—as well as a decline in notebook PCs, TVs and other household and portable electronic devices. Additional culprits include the improved packaging designs as well as more powerful chips replacing multiple ICs—both requiring less board real estate.

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.
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