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5G is Coming With Quantum-Level Advances and Features

I am sure that, by now, all of you have heard about 5G (the fifth-generation of mobile phone and data communication standards). I am also relatively sure that many of you think that this means neat, new cellphone features, and perhaps more texting and selfie abilities. While that may be true, getting a new cellphone for those reasons would be like getting a new car because you want a different color.

Book Review: The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to…Executing Complex PCBs

If you are serious about designing complex PCBs (most designs today are far from elementary) and even more serious about doing it right the first time, then this is the book for you. Loaded with guidelines for designing cutting-edge PCBs, this book is filled with real-world examples and tips, tricks, and techniques by some of Freedom CAD’s most experienced designers.

Vertical Conductive Structures, Part 4: Tuning Your Signal Performance

The objective of this article is to demonstrate the possibility of using a stitching element as an alternative to the point-to-point connections that are used with traditional via technology. Point-to-point connections have the best performance in terms of signal integrity (one via less in the connection that distorts the signal). A via is mainly a capacitive element that causes signal loss/ dispersion.

Words of Advice: 5G Reliability

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: Do you think 5G will improve the reliability of communication? Here are a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.

Multilayer Press Technology Using Magnetism to Produce Lamination Heat

A revolutionary concept in multilayer press technology has been developed that uses electromagnetic energy to heat the existing stainless-steel separator plates with a never-before dreamed-of accuracy and precision. The heating and cooling systems—embedded within a robust hydraulic press inside a vacuum chamber design—are controlled using a temperature feedback loop that guarantees perfect fidelity between the press recipe and the press result.

Communication, Part 6: The Importance of Technology Fit

In the final installment of this series on how PCB fabricators and designers can better communicate, Bob Chandler from CA Design and Mark Thompson from Prototron Circuits discuss the importance of “technology fit” and how this concept impacts the synergy of the two parties involved.

Solder Mask Tack Dry

As a general rule, the tack-dry temperature should be as low as possible; in other words, it should only be as high as necessary. If the temperature is too low, the evaporation rate for the solvent will be to slow, and the solder mask will not dry in a reasonable amount of time. If the temperature is too high, however, the dry time certainly will be excellent, but it could create a solder mask lock-in with repercussions by the developing time.

Words of Advice: The OEM Systems Designer

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What advice would you give an OEM systems designer? Here are a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.

Why Does the PCB Industry Still Use Gerber?

Every so often, I hear technologists ask why so many PCB designers still use Gerber. That is a fair question. Ucamco has over 35 years of experience in developing and supporting cutting-edge software and hardware solutions for the global PCB industry. Our customers—small, medium, and large PCB fabricators—include the electronics industry’s leading companies, and many of them have been with us for over 30 years. We are dedicated to our industry and excellence in everything we do, which includes our custodianship of the Gerber format.

Catching up With Greg Papandrew

It’s always great to catch up with old friends, and last week, I met with Greg Papandrew, a well-known industry entrepreneur, who I worked with on his first company (Bare Board Group). Greg discusses his new business, Better Board Buying (B3).


Communication, Part 5: Internet Impedance Calculators for Modeling

Bob Chandler of CA Design and Mark Thompson of Prototron Circuits address how new engineers use internet impedance calculators for modeling (e.g., formulas versus recipes) in Part 5 of this series. Do you use impedance calculators that you found on the internet? Read on!

Meet Ray Prasad, SMT007 Columnist

Meet Ray Prasad, one of our SMT007 columnists! Prasad’s columns explore DFM, manufacturing processes, yield improvement, quality control, IPC standards, and much more.

Design For Excellence: Karen McConnell on Standards

During the IPC Summer Meetings, I spoke with Karen McConnell, senior staff CAD CAM engineer with Northrop Grumman Mission Systems. Karen is a veteran PCB designer as well as an IPC committee chair and mentor. She offered an update on some of the IPC committees she chairs, the need for more mentor programs in this industry, and why you can call something a ham sandwich if you define it correctly in the standard.

IPC-2581 Continues to Flourish

Because standards adoption in this industry tends to be akin to turning around a battleship, what is often seen as new has generally already been in production for 10 years or more. Often, there are outside influences and dependencies that cause this, so most of us tend to take a “wait-and-see” approach—let others shake out the issues. And even then, we only look at adoption if the mandate comes from higher-ups in the organization. It works the way we do it now, so why change?

Meet George Milad, I-Connect007 Columnist

Meet George Milad, one of our newest I-Connect007 columnists! George’s columns will cover PCB plating, IPC specifications, and more. George is the recipient of the 2009 IPC President’s Award, chairs the IPC Plating Committee, and is a permanent member of the IPC Technical Activities Executive Committee.

Chinese Review: The 2018 NTI-100 Top Global PCB Fabricators

Yonglin Gong, senior engineer, deputy secretary-general of the China Printed Circuit Association (CPCA), and editor-in-chief of CPCA Printed Circuit Information Magazine, takes a look at the NTI-100 data and provides his analysis from the Chinese perspective.

So Many Standards Committees, So Little Time

During the IPC Summer Meetings and Panelpalooza in Raleigh, North Carolina, I met with Leo Lambert, vice president and director of technology at EPTAC. We discussed IPC’s recent efforts to revamp the way standards are developed and interpreted as well as changes to training and education committees and a variety of methods for eliminating errors and duplicated comments when revising standards.

Asleep at the Wheel?

The October issue of SMT007 Magazine considers the current, ever-changing landscape of our industry—a landscape being reshaped by “industrious laziness.” We’re automating manual processes with the intent to make our results better. But, like autonomous vehicle enhancements, human awareness and supervision are required.

Communication, Part 4: The Top 5 Causes of Engineering Delays

In Part 4 of this series on how PCB fabricators and designers can better communicate, Bob Chandler from CA Design and Mark Thompson from Prototron Circuits address the top five causes of engineer delays.

Meet Imran Valiani, I-Connect007 Columnist

Imran Valiani has been in the industry and with Rush PCB for over five years as an account manager. During that time, he has developed a keen and unique understanding of the importance of time to market. Imran has worked with a number of key customers, helping them develop systems and programs to ensure that most productive and fastest time to market possible.


Prototron Receives MIL-31032 and AS9100 Certifications

Kim O’Neil, general manager of Prototron Circuits in Tucson, Arizona, discusses the company’s recent MIL-31032 certification and how this experience prepared them for the AS9100 certification. He also explained why auditing is a good thing for any company’s processes and highlighted some of the areas that the auditors inspected.

Why Designers Need to Be at the SMTA Additive Electronics Conference

In a recent interview, Kelly Dack and Tara Dunn (Omni PCB president and conference co-chair) discussed why designers need to attend the SMTA Additive Electronics Conference. Tara will also be attending and moderating a panel discussion at the conference.

Communication, Part 3: Why Do Board Shops Ask So Many Questions?

In Part 3, Bob Chandler from CA Design and Mark Thompson from Prototron Circuits speak with Steve Williams about the importance of preparing, sending, and receiving comprehensive (and ideally, perfectly complete) design data packages. If you’ve ever wondered why the CAM department asks you so many questions, read on.

Happy Holden Previews His AltiumLive Frankfurt Keynote

I recently sat down for an interview with Happy Holden, who is slated to give a keynote speech at this year’s AltiumLive event in Frankfurt, Germany. Happy gives a preview of his presentation, which is focused on smart factories and automation, and why artificial intelligence might improve PCB design and fabrication in the future.

Future of 'Substances and Materials in Products' Data Exchange Formats as Standards

This article provides a simplified, state-of-the-art description of the data exchange formats for standards covering substances and materials reporting in products and processes. It also reviews existing issues and new challenges shared with end users of the standards and companies represented by their trade associations with some solution proposals they could discuss.

Additive Electronics Conference Set for October 2019 Debut

Kelly Dack and Tara Dunn talk about the upcoming conference "Additive Electronics: PCB Scale to IC Scale" on October 24, 2019, hosted by SMTA in San Jose, California, and why it's an important event for people to attend—especially those involved in the design process.

Chuck Bauer: SMTAI 2019 Founder's Award Recipient

At the recent SMTAI conference and exhibition, Chuck Bauer, Ph.D., senior managing director at TechLead Corporation, received the Founder's Award, a prestigious award given to a member who has made exceptional contributions to the industry and provided ongoing support and service to the SMTA.

Decreasing Bend Radius and Improving Reliability—Part I

Many of the issues that arise when using a flex circuit come from a lack of knowledge about how to properly design one, especially when the circuit is required to bend.

Communication, Part 2: Design Data Packages

The first part of this six-part series highlighted ways that PCB fabricators and designers can better communicate, starting with how to qualify a board shop. In Part 2, Bob Chandler and Mark Thompson talk about the importance of preparing, sending, and receiving comprehensive (and ideally, perfectly complete) design data packages.

SMTA Additive Electronics Conference: Industry Trends

Mainstream PCB manufacturing is often limited to 50-75 microns (mm) line and space. But the electronics industry is evolving quickly. Propelled by the demand for more sophisticated electronics, PCB design is being tasked with finer lines, thinner materials, and smaller via sizes.


ODB++: Transforming Ideas Into Products

The ODB format originated with the objective of delivering on this need. The format was originally introduced for use by PCB fabricators, eliminating the need for a collection of CAM files in multiple formats—such as Gerber, Excellon, IPC-356, or even IPC-350, which was an early attempt to simplify this process. The key to the success of ODB was that it obtained industry acceptance.

New High-speed 3D Surface Imaging Technology in Electronics Manufacturing Applications

Line confocal sensors—and scanners based on them—are used in the imaging of surfaces, transparent materials, and multi-layered structures in various metrology and inspection applications on discrete parts, assemblies, webs, and other continuous products. Line confocal sensors operate at high speed and can be used to scan fast-moving surfaces in real-time as well as stationary product samples in the laboratory.

Standards: Why We Have Them and Live by Them

Have you ever designed a board but received feedback that it couldn’t be manufactured unless changes were made? Or maybe you’ve designed a complex board and sent it to the factory only to find out that the manufacturer didn’t build the board to your expectations? PCBs are becoming more complex, factory options are growing, and expectations for product life cycles are becoming longer.

Bob Martin Brings Maker Attitude to AltiumLive Keynote

Bob Martin is a self-proclaimed “Wizard of Make” and senior staff engineer with Microchip Technology. Next week, this leader of the maker community will be one of the keynote speakers at AltiumLive in San Diego, California. I caught up with Bob and asked him to give us a preview of his presentation.

Communication, Part 1: How to Qualify a Board Shop

In Part 1 of this six-part series for "Fab Fridays," Mark Thompson, CID+, engineering support at Prototron, and CA Design CTO Bob Chandler discuss ways that PCB fabricators and designers can better communicate, starting with how to qualify a board shop.

Words of Advice: What Data Format do you Send Your Assembly Provider?

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What PCB data format(s) do you send to your PCB assembly supplier? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.

SMTAI 2019: Happy Holden’s On-the-Scene Report

Last week concluded the 2019 SMTAI conference in Rosemont, Illinois. Overall, I think the show was successful and covered all aspects of SMT processes.

The Institute of Circuit Technology Autumn Seminar

Meriden has been established as a popular Midlands venue for Institute of Circuit Technology (ICT) meetings. On September 19, a multitude of Fellows, Members, and Associates gathered for the Institute’s autumn seminar, which was organised and hosted by ICT Technical Director Bill Wilkie. The agenda included five informative technical presentations, describing current research and development on significant topics relevant to the industry.

Insertion Loss Performance Differences Due to Plated Finish and Circuit Structure

Data will be presented for loss versus frequency for six different plated finishes commonly used in the PCB industry, and opinions will be offered as to why the loss behavior differs for the different plated finishes and for the different circuit configurations. Because the insertion loss of high-frequency circuits also depends on substrate thickness, circuits fabricated on substrates with different thicknesses will be evaluated to analyze the effects of substrate thickness on insertion loss.

Real Time with… SMTAI 2019 Slideshow

The SMTA International 2019 Conference and Exhibition closed last week on a high note. For those who were not able to attend the event, held at Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois, the slideshow contains a selection of photos from the exhibition show floor as well as the conference.


Is It Time to Shake Up Materials Standards?

COO Mark Goodwin and Technology Ambassador Alun Morgan from Ventec International Group describes how they feel current standards do not sufficiently recognize the needs of end customers today with new processes and materials being shoehorned into old standards based on dated ideas of classifications, and how this makes choosing the right material challenging for designers.

SMTAI 2019: George Milad's SMTAI Paper and the IPC ENIG Specification Revision

George Milad, national accounts manager for technology at Uyemura, discusses his paper on changing processes to eliminate nickel corrosion that he presented at SMTAI. He also tells Nolan Johnson about the IPC ENIG specification revision. George is involved in the Revision B acceptance process and shared information on how to get involved with the specification committee as well.

Carrying the Flag

The September 2019 issue of PCB007 Magazine concludes our month-long look at industry standards. We wrap up by "waving the standard" in celebration. Of course, that phrase immediately piques the interest of us wordsmiths. Why, after all, do English speakers use "standard" as a synonym for a flag?

Leo Lambert on Training the Next Generation of Technologists

I sat down for an interview with Leo Lambert, VP of technical director for EPTAC Corporation, during the IPC Summer Meetings in Raleigh, North Carolina. We discussed the company’s growth, including plans to have training centers across different regions of the country to help cut down on students’ travel times, and why training methods must constantly evolve to remain effective.

Insulectro and DuPont Experts Talk Flex Design

I recently spoke with Insulectro’s Chris Hunrath and DuPont’s Steven Bowles at the DuPont Technology and Innovation Center in Sunnyvale, California. We discussed a variety of topics related to flex design, including the support structure that’s needed in flex design, the everchanging world of flex materials, and the need for working with a flex fabricator as early as possible in the flex design cycle.

Meet Dana Korf, I-Connect007 Columnist

Meet Dana Korf, one of our newest I-Connect007 columnists! Dana’s columns will focus on IPC-2581 as well as PCB front-end tooling, data quality, DFM processes, etc.

Joe Grand Brings a Hacker Outlook to PCB Design

From designing his own mischievous gadgets to testifying on Capitol Hill and starring in his own Discovery TV show “Prototype This!” Joe Grand has lived a hacker’s life. I spoke with Joe about his upcoming keynote at AltiumLive in San Diego, “When Hacking and Engineering Collide,” which will focus on the lighter side of engineering and the benefits of thinking like a hacker. Can Joe convince PCB designers to adopt a hacker’s outlook?

Additive Electronics Conference Set for October 2019

Tara Dunn, president of Omni PCB and I-Connect007 columnist, and Lenora Clark, director of autonomous driving and safety technology at MacDermid Alpha Automotive, discuss what can be expected from the upcoming Additive Electronics Conference in San Jose, California, the impetus and motivation behind the conference, and who can benefit the most from attending.

Weaving Advocacy into E-Textiles

Electronic textiles (e-textiles) – fabrics that have electronics embedded in them to achieve certain functions – are of growing interest in the electronics manufacturing industry, and thus they are of growing interest to the IPC Government Relations team as well.

The Use of Insoluble Anodes in Acid Copper Plating

Soluble anodes have been the staple of the industry for decades, but they require extensive maintenance and generate waste in both copper metal and electrolyte. As plated copper thickness uniformity requirements become more stringent, more and more time will be needed for anode maintenance to ensure the uniformity of the anodic setup.


Robert Feranec: A Lifetime of PCB Design

Robert Feranec, a popular YouTuber and founder of the FEDEVEL Academy, discusses with Andy Shaughnessy the upcoming keynote he’ll be giving at AltiumLive in San Diego, California, and how he's helping people around the world understand and optimize their PCB design processes.

Robert Feranec: A Lifetime of PCB Design

I recently spoke with Robert Feranec about the upcoming keynote he’ll be giving at AltiumLive in San Diego, California. Robert is a YouTube star and founder of the FEDEVEL Academy. In our interview, he discusses his keynote presentation as well as how he’s helping designers and engineers around the world understand and optimize their PCB design processes.

EIPC Summer Conference 2019, Day 2

In this article, EIPC Chairman Alun Morgan provides the highlights of the second day of the EIPC 2019 Summer Conference, which was held in the beautiful city of Leoben in central Austria. He also talks about key points of the numerous technical presentation at the conference.

EIPC Summer Conference 2019, Day 1

The beautiful city of Leoben in central Austria provided the setting for the EIPC 2019 Summer Conference. In this article, EIPC Chairman Alun Morgan provides the highlights of the first day of the event, including a recap of the technical presentations.

NCAB 2019 Market Report: Competition Is Heating Up

Chris Nuttall, chief operations officer and VP of technology of NCAB Group, talks about the company's most recently released market report. Nolan Johnson and Nuttall discuss some of the market drivers and conditions the industry can expect to close out in 2019 as well as what to prepare for in 2020.

Selecting the Proper Flex Coverlayer Material

Coverlayers are polymer materials used to cover and protect the copper traces of the flex circuit product. There are a number of different options available for protecting the circuits, and they serve different design requirements in terms of cost, performance, and flexural endurance optimization. When specifying the choice, it is critical to call out not just the type of coverlayer material but also the thickness requirement. This can be very important in certain types of constructions, especially when a flex circuit will experience dynamic flexing during use.

Chemcut: Wet Processing Equipment for the Long Haul

Chemcut CEO and General Manager Rick Lies speaks about the growth he has seen in the marketplace over his 18 years in the industry, and how Chemcut has been able to remain competitive in the PCB and photochemical milling spaces. Jerry Reitz, Chemcut’s HES manager, also addresses the current shift towards zero-discharge facilities.

PCB Design Training: More Critical Than Ever

I interviewed Gary Ferrari of FTG at the IPC High-Reliability Forum and Microvia Summit in Baltimore. Gary is a co-founder of the IPC Designers Council and a longtime advocate for PCB design and PCB designers. We discussed the crucial role that PCB designers play in the entire electronics development process, and how IPC and the Designers Council are helping to educate and inform the next generation of designers.

Putting Green Into a Brownfield Facility

George Milad, national accounts manager for technology at Uyemura, talks about what is driving change in the wet process marketplace and how chemistries must fit into next-generation product design while also meeting new environmental requirements.

The Advantages of Non-sludge Acid Copper Products

Mike Wood, technical director with Cerambus Asia Pacific, discusses the acid copper product from Cerambus Technology Inc. that doesn't generate sludge during the plating process and operates at higher production output by using higher current density. He talks about why this is important for the state of the vertical continuous plating (VCP) market in Asia, and the trends he’s seeing in that space.


The State of Plating

Increasingly, PCB design technology utilises buried and blind via holes and plated via fill is also becoming more and more common. The buried and blind holes mean that the loading on the plating equipment is multiplied by the number of different inner layer connections. The same technology means that equipment needs to deal with thinner and thinner materials.

Meet Mike Hill, I-Connect007 Columnist

Mike Hill has been in the PWB fabrication industry for over 40 years. Throughout his career, he has been a member of IPC and participated in specification writing for both IPC and the military. Within IPC, he has received the President's Award, General Chairmanship, Committee Chairmanship, and many other recognitions. In his columns, Mike will help you better understand the requirements and how-to's for MIL-PRF-31032 certification for PWB fabrication.

Pollution Prevention Techniques: Rinse Water Reduction

There are five general categories of common techniques for pollution prevention in a PCB fabrication facility: new processes to replace sources of pollution; extend the bath’s life; rinse water reduction; dragout reduction; and ventilation reduction. While this list is not all-inclusive, it provides an overview of the types of technologies used around the world that are important to consider. This article, examines rinse water reduction.

Words of Advice: Obstacles to Solid Data Hand-off

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What are the biggest obstacles you face in getting your design to the fabricator? Here are a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.

SAP Utilizing Very Uniform Ultrathin Copper

The demand for miniaturization and higher density electronic products has continued steadily for years, and this trend is expected to continue, according to various semiconductor technology and applications roadmaps. The semiconductor miniaturization brings significant economic and technical benefits and the semiconductor scale factor becomes the master for the associated package and PCB design.

Words of Advice: Your Company’s Design Process

In a recent survey, we asked PCB designers to describe their company’s design process: Is it a rigid workflow they follow to the letter, or a process that allows for their individual techniques? Of course, the comments were illustrative.

Innovative Electroplating Processes for IC Substrates

The decreasing chip scales and smaller line/spacing distances have created unique challenges for both the PCB industry and the semiconductor industry. This paper discusses innovative additive packages for direct-current copper electroplating specifically for IC substrates, which offer better trace profile and deliver via fill and through-hole plating. It also describes two electrolytic copper plating processes, the selection of which could be based on the via size and the dimple requirements of the application.

Vertical Conductive Structures, Part 3: Design Tool Techniques

New vertical conductive structure (VeCS) technology can reduce layer count and improve signal integrity without the need for sequential technologies. VeCS is different than traditional through-hole vias, microvias, and ELIC designs, which are more expensive and require a high number of laminations, drilling, and plating cycles to build up a reasonable number of layers.

Nano Dimension Details New DragonFly LDM

Dan Feinberg talks with Nano Dimension CEO Amit Dror about the new DragonFly LDM 3D printer technology announced by the Israeli company on July 24, 2019, aimed at increasing machine uptime and moving forward from prototyping to higher production volumes.

Bill Brooks on Teaching PCB Design at Palomar College

Bill Brooks of Nordson ASYMTEK is a long-time PCB designer and one of the first people to teach PCB design courses in a college setting. He recently spoke with the I-Connect007 editorial team about his history in design and his time as a PCB design instructor, the curriculum he developed and taught, and various techniques that might be enacted today to better educate the designers of tomorrow.


Focusing on Surface Sensitivity for Reliability

At the recent IPC High-Reliability Forum and Microvia Summit, Customer Applications Scientist Elizabeth Kidd and Sales Engineer Alex Bien, both of BTG Labs, discuss with Andy Shaughnessy their presentation on the challenges of working with highly sensitive surfaces, such as the risk of contamination. They also talked about the various surface characterization techniques that BTG Labs uses to identify such contaminants.

Solder Mask Curing: UV Bump Overview

Ultraviolet (UV) bump, also called UV cure, is a processing step in which the solder mask pattern is irradiated with ultraviolet and infrared light. This step is performed with special equipment that is built as a continuous flow system, which consists of a conveyor belt and tubular UV lamps mounted above and below the belt. Read on to find out more about this process.

Interconnect Reliability Correlation With System Design and Transportation Stress

Interconnect reliability is very critical to ensure product performance at predefined shipping conditions and user environments. Plating thickness of the compliant pin and the damping mechanism of electronic system design are key success factors for this purpose. This paper discusses design variables—such as pin hard gold plating thickness, motherboard locking mechanism, and damping structure design—to ensure interconnect reliability.

There’s An Art to Plating

There's definitely an art to plating. Start with a generally planar substrate, then alternately put stuff on and take things off. Continue this in subtle variations until what you have is the stuff you want, where you want.

Words of Advice: Drawbacks to Your PCB Data Format?

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What is the biggest drawback to your current PCB data format? Here are a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.
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