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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.

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

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

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

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

2016 Asian Consumer Electronics Show Highlights

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

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

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

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

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


PE on 3D objects

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

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

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

Happy’s Essential Skills: Project/Product Life Cycle

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

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

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

All About Flex: Flexible Circuits and Kaizen Events

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

A Conversation with Walt Custer: Market Report

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

Long-Term Thermal Reliability of PCB Materials

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

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

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

A Process Engineer's Guide to Effectively Troubleshooting PWB Defects

The printed wiring board fabrication process is an intricate maze of interrelated steps, both chemical and mechanical. A thorough understanding of each of the process steps is critical in minimizing or eliminating non-conforming defects—the ones that cost the fabricator money and can lead to lost customers.

Jason Chung Offers the Asian Perspective and Explains Ventec’s Aim to Differentiate

I spent a few minutes with Ventec’s Jason Chung whilst attending CPCA recently, where I had the opportunity to absorb his views on the current China market, the importance of setting yourself apart in a tight economy, and the value of bringing stability to customers.


Punching Out! The Additive Process: Tips on How to Buy a Board Shop or Assembly House

One of the quickest ways to grow a business is to acquire another business. At the same time, acquiring a business can be risky, and a really bad deal may put your original business in jeopardy. Here are some tips on how to make acquisitions.

The Future of Computer-Integrated Manufacturing in the PCB Industry

Computer-integrated manufacturing is already a proven reality in the PCB industry for those prepared to make the investment, and results in improved quality and reduced costs. The biggest barrier to its general adoption is the reluctance of some equipment manufacturers to communicate in a uniform data format.

IMPACT Washington, D.C. 2016: Industry Leaders Advocate for a Pro-Manufacturing Policy Agenda

IPC places a high priority on educating government officials about key policy issues of importance to the electronics industry. That’s why top executives from leading electronics companies gathered in Washington, D.C. recently for “IMPACT Washington, D.C. 2016.”

Getting a Handle on Handling Errors

When gathering info for this month’s topic on handling strategies, I knew there was much happening in the automation end of things and all that it can do for handling. But I also knew it was not something that is easy for the “little guy” to do—automation is expensive, in general, and it is not always conducive to the high mix of small lot sizes typical of the many prototypeplus facilities in North America and Europe.

Stepping up to Laser Processing for Flex, Part 3: Readiness and Site Preparation

With so many processes to keep track of in a flex manufacturing line, it can be easy to get lost in the details and begin to rely on your suppliers to address any issues that might crop up. However, given that laser processing equipment and flex materials are both impacted by your facilities, your attention to and investment in clean, stable, and robust facilities and support equipment will quickly pay off in less downtime, higher yield, and—perhaps most importantly—fewer headaches!

Happy’s Essential Skills: Technical Writing

Technical writing is one of those topics that they don’t really talk about in college—at least not where I went. Writing and English has never been a strong like of mine compared to science and math. So I did my required time in English and wrote my lab reports the best I knew how.

Beyond FR-4: High-Performance Materials for Advanced Designs, Part 1

In the past 40-plus years of PCB manufacturing, the primary material of choice has overwhelmingly been e-glass supported FR-4 resin laminates. This is due to the excellent dimensional stability and reasonably acceptable thermal performance (based on glass transition temperature [Tg] and decomposition temperature [Td]). In general, these materials exhibit impressive performance and excellent cost for a wide range of applications.

Weiner’s World

3D printing, China’s SMT equipment and robotics markets, IPC’s mandate, counterfeiters, and Taiwan PCB makers’ shift to automotive electronics—Gene Weiner talks about these things and more in this new article.

Orbotech’s Latest Technology at IPC APEX EXPO

Orbotech presented their latest new technologies at IPC APEX EXPO 2016. The Nuvogo 1000 is a higher power version of their multi wavelength direct imaging machine, as well as their new automated optical shaping technology which can add copper deposition to an otherwise defective PCB. I met with Orbotech’s Micha Perlman in their booth on the show floor, to learn more.

Book Review: The World’s your Stage: How Performing Artists Can Make a Living Still Doing What They Love

The arts are not that different than any other business. Cash is the fuel on which a ballet company runs just like any other business. Some institutions are well run and others have problems. This book gives real-life examples of how some of the more successful arts companies have made it, while others have floundered.


'Can Do' in CAM Outsourcing: A Case for Outsourcing CAM Engineering

In the West, outsourcing is sometimes considered taboo and many believe it is one of the causes for shifting our manufacturing base to the East—specifically China and other lower cost Asian countries. In this series of columns, I will make a case in support of CAM outsourcing—especially for North American and Western European printed circuit board manufacturers.

All About Flex: Imaging Methods for Etch Resist, Part 1

Imaging is a major process step in creating a copper circuit or flexible PCB. In single-sided circuit fabrication, the imaging process creates the resist pattern that protects the copper from the etchant. It is critical that this pattern precisely define the circuit traces, as issues with imaging will transfer to the subsequent processes.

Koen Hollevoet Explains Rogers' New PEEK-based Material for Extreme Temps

Rogers has been developing a new material called XT/duroid laminate, which is based on polyether ether ketone (PEEK) material and can withstand some of the harshest temperatures and environments. I met with Koen Hollevoet, Business Development Manager at Rogers Corporation, at IPC APEX EXPO 2016 to further discuss this material and learn how it might benefit the PCB market.

Made in Brazil: Focusing on What Matters Most!

Every company claims to be constantly improving their business or process, but not as many grasp the core idea of continuous improvement and live it daily. This is evident when one analyzes companies competing on the same market, providing quite the same products, yet having totally different results. Improvement is often misunderstood as doing things differently, which is a huge mistake.

IEC: Celebrating 50 Years in Business

I caught up with Shawn Stone of IEC recently, to discuss plating, laminates, printed electronics and IEC’s many strategic alliances, including their most recent agreement with ITEQ to distribute their copper-clad laminate line throughout North America. This alliance will give IEC, a company his father started more than 50 years ago, its first North American footprint.
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