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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.

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 Recommendation: 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.

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.

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 remains 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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 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.

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.

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.

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.
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