Latest Articles

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.

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.

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.

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[1] 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.

Weiner’s World

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.


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.

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.
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