Article Highlights
A Conversation with Gene Weiner
03/30/2017 | Barry Matties and Patty Goldman, I-Connect007
RTW IPC APEX EXPO: New Dimensions in Fine-Pitch Probe Testing from Microcraft
03/30/2017 | Real Time with...IPC
RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Updates on Formulations for Direct Imaging and Inkjet Technologies
03/29/2017 | Real Time with...IPC
Capitol Connection: Drumroll, Please…Announcing the IPC Government IMPACT Awardees
03/28/2017 | John Hasselmann, IPC
EIPC Workshop on PCB BioMEMS
03/28/2017 | Alun Morgan, European Institute of Printed Circuits

Latest Articles

DuPont, Taconic and PFC Team Up For High-Speed Flex

At DesignCon, I sat down with three flex circuit specialists: Glenn Oliver of DuPont, Tom McCarthy of Taconic, and Steve Kelly of PFC Flexible Circuits. Our discussion covered a lot of territory, most notably the findings they described in the paper they were about to present later that day at DesignCon, and the future of flex, as they see it.

Copper Via-Fill Technology in Development

The use of via-in-pad technology is increasing rapidly in today’s PCB designs. The need for miniaturization, combined with the rapidly decreasing pitch of component footprints, drives printed circuit board designers here. Via-in-pad requires the vias to be filled, planarized and then over-plated with copper.

It's Only Common Sense: Make a Cool Million

It's Only Common Sense: Make a Cool Million What if your new boss offered you $1 million if you could triple your sales in 12 months? That’s right. What if your boss told you that on top of your normal salary and commissions, you could earn a cool million dollars to increase your sales three-fold? What would you do that you're not doing now?

New Material and Process Solutions for the Electronic Interconnection Industry

The manufacture of electronics has, for the last several decades, followed a production script that has changed little over time. The vast majority of printed circuits are still being manufactured and assembled using materials and processes that the pioneers of the early printed circuit industry would easily recognize.

The Quiet Mainstreaming of HDI Manufacturing

Advances in technology continue to push the envelope of what’s possible. And nowhere has the impact of those advances been felt more profoundly than in the evolution of the current class of mobile devices. Although design engineers have driven this evolution, primarily through addressing market demand for new form factor innovation, the push to meet the associated manufacturing challenges has been responsible for a revolution in PCB manufacturing.

Book Review: Meetings That Get Results

In this short but amazing book, Brian Tracy covers all types of meetings, from the large training sessions to the one-on-ones. He even describes how you should be sitting when having a one-on-one meeting (each of you at a corner of the table), how to get your point across, and how to listen.

Happy’s Essential Skills: Problem Solving

Related to TQC and a very important role of an engineer is solving problems. Using a problem solving methodology is a job that all engineers will use sooner or later, but if you are in product or process engineering in manufacturing, it will be sooner! This was the situation that introduced me to printed circuit manufacturing.

Punching Out: How to Sell Your PCB/Assembly Shop

You are thinking of selling your PCB or assembly shop. Perhaps you are contemplating retirement, you have no successors, and the thought of going to the office on Monday is driving you crazy. This column is designed to help your planning efforts. Future columns will go deeper into each subject.

Flex: Just What the Doctor Ordered for Medical Devices

Medical devices represent one of the fastest growing electronic markets in the United States. The drive for reduced space and weight, added functionality, and reduced cost has driven the adoption of a wide array of custom flexible circuits. The design freedom offered by this three-dimensional interconnect supports the packaging design requirements for a myriad of diverse applications within the medical electronic market.

Japan’s MicroCraft on the Japanese Market, Technology, and More

Soichiro Fujita of MicroCraft sat for an interview recently, in which we discussed what the current PCB market looks like in Japan, from a Japanese supplier’s perspective. Fujita also shared the company’s strategies for combating copycat machines, and even copies of the copycats, which includes a healthy dose of acceptance. He also shared what technology trends he sees moving forward.


25 Essential Skills for Engineers

The 25 engineering skills are just my opinion; they are what I have observed to be the essential tools that engineers, including myself, needed to complete a project, develop a product, meet a schedule, or solve a problem. These were the important skills that got me the promotion, or the opportunity for a challenging job.

Striving for One-Stop Solutions, Manz Eyes U.S. Market

I recently spoke with Frank Baron of Manz AG about their transition from Asia into the European and North America marketplace, and how their recent acquisition of KLEO Halbleitertechnik and their LDI technology has helped turn Manz into a real one-stop solution.

The Pinless Registration System, Explained by DIS’ Bernd Gennat

I sat down at productronica recently with Bernd Gennat, VP sales Asia and Europe for Duetto Integrated Systems (DIS Inc), for an overview of the industry, including his company’s technology. Our discussion touched on trends in multilayer registration, market requirements in Europe compared with those in China, and the benefits of pinless over hard-tooled registration systems for current and future rigid, flex and flex-rigid constructions.

High-Performance Laminates

High-performance laminates are characterized as base materials that in one or more aspects exceed the performance of FR-4, CEM, or paper/phenolic laminates. In this article, Karl Dietz talks about the different types of laminates, their dielectric requirements, and how they are being manufactured.

What a Difference a Year Makes: Voxel8 and the 3D Printing Pioneering Spirit

At CES in Las Vegas in January, Dan Feinberg and I met with Michael Bell, co-founder of 3D printing company Voxel8, to get an update on their developments of the past year, where he sees the company going in the future and whether rapid prototyping might be a valid application for their machines.

Orbotech’s New Products and Equipment Offerings Highlighted at HKPCA

At the recent HKPCA show, members of the media and some of the leading figures at Orbotech joined together for a Q&A session to learn more about some of the company’s new product rollouts, how their vast equipment offering has set them up to take on Industry 4.0, and their best estimate on when we’ll see 3D printed circuit boards reach mass production levels.

ECI on the Many Benefits of Automated Process Lines

In this recent interview, I spoke with Peter Bratin, PhD, of ECI Technology about how PCB shops can benefit from upgrading the control and analysis of plating line solutions to 4.0 and how the data collected by these systems can help prevent future issues from occurring.

Catching up with…Tom Kastner

When is the right time to sell your board house? Who is going to buy it? What is a buyer looking for in a PCB fabrication business? These are questions I hear all the time particularly in the past few months as many owners are reaching an age when they are thinking about retirement.

Mr. Laminate Tells All: CEM-3 Reinvents Itself (Again)—or, Atari Game Boards on eBay?

CEM-3 was unusual as the reinforcement was a combination of woven fiber-glass fabric and fiber-glass paper. The resin system was a dicy-cured epoxy resin yielding a Tg the same as FR-4 at the time, of 110–120°C range. Because it was all epoxy and all fiberglass, the properties were electrically identical to those of FR-4.

What a Long, Strange Trip it’s Been—and It’s a Long Way from Being Over

Harvey Miller has been in the PCB industry for more than 40 years, and he’s probably seen it all. I recently sat down with Harvey at a wine bar in Palo Alto to learn more about his history in the industry and where he sees it going forward. Harvey arrived wearing jogging shorts and running shoes. No surprise after what his doctor recently shared with him.


New CEO Jeff Waters Outlines his Roadmap for Isola

Jeff Waters, Isola’s newly appointed CEO and president, comes to the laminate supplier after more than 25 years in the semiconductor industry, working for companies like Texas Instruments and National Semiconductor. Only a few days into his new job, I met with Jeff to discuss the transition and what we can expect from Isola under his leadership.

New Year, New Outlook for the Electronics Manufacturing Industry

As an advocate for the electronics manufacturing industry, my job is to educate and encourage policymakers to create a favorable legislative and regulatory environment for advanced manufacturing to grow and succeed. From that perspective, I think we should be proud of the significant progress we made in several areas in 2015.

All About Flex: Flexible Circuit Antennas

In our world of fabricating custom electronics, a circuit can generally be defined as “a path between two or more points along which an electrical current is carried.” The printed circuit board industry designs and fabricates an incredibly diverse set of rigid and flexible circuits. But it is also true this industry produces many parts that do not carry current between discreet points.

In Their Words: The China Printed Circuit Association (CPCA)

I-Connect007 recently asked a number of printed circuit associations around the world to tell us about their organizations via a questionnaire. Here are the responses from CPCA Secretary General Miss Jin Zhang.

How North American Fabricators Benefit from Attending HKPCA

Two New Englanders in Shenzhen. It sounds like the title of a play, doesn’t it? Headlining the bill is Peter Bigelow of IMI, who explains to me why even small American manufacturers benefit from attending large Chinese shows like the HKPCA. He’s joined by fellow New Englander Alex Stepinski of Whelen Engineering, who discusses drill concepts and the transition to zero discharge.

In Their Words: Hong Kong Printed Circuit Association (HKPCA)

Recently, we sent a questionnaire to a number of printed circuit associations around the world, asking them to tell us a little about their organizations. With the annual HKPCA & IPC show having just ended, this information provided by HKPCA is especially interesting.

Happy’s Essential Skills: The Need for Total Quality Control (Six Sigma and Statistical Tools), Part 2

The statistical representation of Six Sigma describes quantitatively how a process is performing. To achieve Six Sigma, a process must not produce more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. A Six Sigma defect is defined as anything outside of customer specifications. A Six Sigma opportunity is then the total quantity of chances for a defect.

The Fascinating Possibilities of Medical Electronics

I see the medical electronics industry today as overlapping several of the traditional market divisions—computer (from the doctor’s office to you to the hospital to caregivers), communications (think of it as “telehealth”), consumer (it’s for us, right?), industrial equipment and of course medical. And who knows when it will also encompass automotive and milaero? But let’s not forget security, since equipment and wearables are definitely part of the Internet of Things.

In Their Words: The IPCA–India Printed Circuit Association

To better understand the many associations serving the global electronics industry, I-Connect007 conducted many interviews for this month’s issue, as well as distributed several questionnaires, one of which was to IPCA (India Printed Circuit Association). The IPCA is not part of IPC, though the two associations do collaborate. Secretary K. S. Babu responded on behalf of IPCA President Viral Bhulani.

Is IPC the Past or the Future of our Industry?

In the electronics industry, there seems to be an infinite number of trade organizations, each with their own special niche and purpose. It can be challenging from the outside to understand why they each exist and how they fit together.


Facing Incredible Times: Robin Taylor's Vision of the Future

The highlight of the “Speakers’ Corner” at the 2015 productronica trade fair in Munich was the presentation by Robin Taylor of Atotech entitled, “Facing Incredible Times Where the Only constant is Change,” in which Taylor took a step back from his everyday marketing and technical sales management responsibilities to contemplate what might happen in the substrate business over the coming decade, in light of current trends and developments and drivers for the longer term.

Are Local Industry Events the New Social Media?

I love social media marketing. I discovered, quite by accident, that I am actually pretty good at it, too. It all started about five years ago, when marketing was unexpectedly thrust upon me in order to support my sales efforts, while working for a small PCB manufacturer in Southern California. Until then, I had no experience with social media platforms apart from posting the occasional family photo on Facebook.

Robots, Wearables and Implanted Devices in the Age of Bionic Health

If you are an electronics manufacturer and you ask your business bankers where their market research suggests growth will come from, they will almost certainly identify medical electronics as a key growth area. For the past five years, the segment has enjoyed something close to 6% CAAGR with acceleration predicted in the short term and remains one of the few areas where the U.S. is a net exporter of products.

Book Review: The Inventor’s Dilemma: The Remarkable Life of H. Joseph Gerber

Everyone in the PCB industry should read this book. All of us who have used “Gerbers” for our entire career should take a moment and thank the man, H. Joseph Gerber, who changed our industry for the better. This masterfully written extensive biography by his son, David Gerber, is a must-read for anyone who is interested in an inventor who escaped the Nazis and put a proverbial dent in the universe.

Catching up with David Gerber

Speaking with David Gerber, the son of noted inventor and PCB industry innovator Joseph Gerber, about his new book, "The Inventor’s Dilemma: The Remarkable Life of H. Joseph Gerber," was one of the highlights of my career.

First EIE and CCI Eurolam on Direct Imaging, Printers and Partnership

In this interview, Gregory Stoeckli, CEO of First EIE, shares the realities of direct imaging requirements, while Lawson Lightfoot of CCI Eurolam discusses the success of the new distribution partnership the two companies have formed. Something we all agreed upon: A somewhat slower machine that is both highly flexible and affordable is a great fit for high-mix, low-volume producers.

Working for the Industry: Renee Michalkiewicz, NTS

I spent some time with my friend and former colleague Renee Michalkiewicz, vice president and general manager at NTS Baltimore, formerly Trace Laboratories. I was interested in Renee’s views on IPC and the Technical Activities Executive Council, of which she is currently the chairman, a position I held some years ago.

All About Flex: High-Temperature Performance Flexible Circuits

Markets requiring thermal exposure at elevated temperatures include down-hole oil drilling, semiconductor processing, medical diagnostics and a multitude of military/aerospace requirements. But a limitation of flexible circuitry has been performance at extremely high temperatures.

Insulated Metal Base Circuits — an Enabling Technology for Power Electronics

The use of structural metal in the manufacture of electronic circuits has been a part of the electronics’ industry technology toolkit for many decades. For example, metal chassis structures were required and used in the early days of the electronics industry to both support the weight and handle the heat generated by the vacuum tube components that were the transistors of their day.

A Conversation with IPC's President John Mitchell

I recently met with IPC President John Mitchell at the HKPCA show in Shenzhen, China to discuss a variety of topics, such as the China market, what’s stopping PCB manufacturing from coming back to America, education, 3D printing and what the association has planned for 2016.


Uyemura USA’s George Milad on Updating Final Finish Specs

George Milad talked about his subcommittee and what they have accomplished in a relatively short period of time. Their modus operandi of conference calls on a biweekly basis may be of interest to other committees and subcommittees that want to improve their turnaround time and get something done quickly.

The Value of IPC’s Validation Services

I recently spent a little time with IPC Director of Validation Services Randy Cherry, learning more about this relatively new program and how it was evolving. I also wanted to make sure that it was something that the industry wanted and felt a need for. Randy is on top of just about everything, it turns out, and provided great detail on the various aspects of this arm of IPC, including the newest program, Standards Gap Analysis.

An Interview with Gene Weiner at HKPCA

Barry Matties and Stephen Las Marias recently met with industry veteran Gene Weiner, president of Weiner International Associates to get his take on the HKPCA show, industry trends and his outlook for 2016.

WKK's Hamed El-Abd on the Current State of China

In the world of real estate, the key term might be “location,” but in manufacturing today, it’s automation, automation, automation. I had the opportunity to interview WKK’s Hamed El-Abd at the recent HKPCA show, who discussed the company’s entry into the direct imaging market and how certain areas of the Chinese market are being flooded by a staggering amount of Chinese equipment manufacturers.

Optima Discusses Advantages of In-line AOI

At the recent HKPCA & IPC APEX South China Fair, I spoke with Gillad Galor, founder and general manager of AOI maker Optima LTD, about the his company's technology, and what's driving product innovation in the AOI space. He also talked about the benefits of in-line AOI systems.

Bürkle Discusses Cycle Time in PCB Lamination Systems

At the recent HKPCA & IPC APEX Show 2015 in Shenzhen, China, I interviewed Stefan Roller, sales manager at Bürkle Process Technologies, about the innovations happening in Bürkle, as well as cycle times in PCB processing equipment. He also talked about the current market landscape and the opportunity for growth in the industry.

IoT, Community and Content at the Centre of CES

Phillip Stoten writes about his observations during the recent CES 2016 Show in Las Vegas, including new trends driving the next generation of consumer electronics technologies such as IoT and content.

Happy’s Essential Skills: The Need for Total Quality Control (Six Sigma and Statistical Tools): Part 1

In this first of many columns covering my "Twenty-Five Essential Skills Every Engineer Needs to Learn," I will expand on each of those skills. To read the introduction to this series, which published in the January issue of The PCB Magazine. As a quick recap, here are the 25 skills that I will be writing about over the next 18 months or so, to publish every three weeks or so in the PCB007 Daily Newsletter.

CES 2016 Wrap-Up, Part 2: The Road Less Traveled

There was plenty to see on the show floor at CES 2016. But we found an entirely new universe of products to learn about and explore. We found such a dimension in the semi-private suites located on the upper floors of the Venetian, the Westgate, Mandalay Bay and other hotels. I'll spend a day in these suites next year!

CES 2016 Wrap-Up, Part 1

CES 2016 is now history and most of us are home, or at our next port-of-call. I have seen various attendance numbers but it’s somewhere in the range of 175,000; it was busy, crowded and impossible to see everything. Here is my review of some of the most innovative devices and technologies at CES.


Catching Up with HSIO’s James Rathburn

I have interviewed James Rathburn a number of times in the past few years and he always has something new to say. One of the industry’s leading technology inventors, Jim is always finding himself on the cutting edge of our technology. The recent acquisition of the former HEI operation in Tempe, Arizona exemplifies the path his company, HSIO, is taking towards a goal of being the industry’s true technology leader.

CES 2016: Press Day, Showstoppers and LaunchIt Event

Tuesday, January 5, was press day at CES 2016. Some of the largest press conferences are held on press day. Many of them are one- or two-hour advertisements with a number of new product announcements inserted, and some do provide a great deal of market data and trends. The bigger “pressers,” such as the Samsung event, fill multiple auditorium-sized rooms as well as overflow rooms.

Weiner's World

In this article, industry veteran Gene Weiner looks back at some of the industry highlights in 2015, and ponders on the challenges and opportunities to expect this year. He also highlights recent industry events, including the 2015 International Printed Circuit & APEX South China Fair and SEMICON Japan.

CES: Day One

CES Unveiled is the official media event for CES. It is the first official happening of what promises to be a very busy and fascinating week. At this event, members of the press get to preview a number of innovative startups as well as some new products from a few established global brands.

IPC’s Fern Abrams: Keeping up with Regulatory Matters

Recently, I met with IPC’s Director of Regulatory Affairs and Government Relations, Fern Abrams. In the course of our conversation, we delved into everything from what her role entails and recent regulatory matters, to some of the group’s successes and why companies need to get involved (it matters to your representatives in Congress or Parliament).

CES 2016: A Preview and a Prediction for the Future

Here I am getting ready to head to Las Vegas to once again cover CES, and as I look at my predictions and coverage for the last few years it seems that most of what I've written was right on track. Life is not always that kind with regards to meeting our expectations, but for the last few years not only have the predictions for technology’s future been mostly on track, it seems that they have been exceeded and that progress has accelerated.

2015’s Most Read PCB Articles

Every year, we like to take a look back at the most popular PCB news and articles. These are the top 10 most-read PCB articles from the past year. Check them out.

EIPC: Furthering the Reach of Electronics Industries in Europe

The European Institute of Printed Circuits (EIPC) might be based in Europe, but it very much helps its members on a global scale. Chairman Alun Morgan and Executive Director Kirsten Smit-Westenberg sat down with me at productronica recently, and explained how companies around the world have benefited from joining the EIPC. We also discussed current industry trends in Europe and the upcoming EIPC conferences and workshops being designed around them.

A Conversation with IPC President and CEO John Mitchell

I-Connect007's Patty Goldman was able to sit down with John Mitchell, president and CEO of IPC, to discuss the organization and where we are going as an industry. We discussed IPC’s four aspirational goals—standards, education, advocacy and solutions—as well as short-term goals. We also talked a bit about going virtual and becoming paperless.

Pete’s Top Ten PCB Articles for 2015

It's been a long year, hasn't it? It certainly seems like more than 365 days. And every year, our technical editor and industry veteran Pete Starkey picks his choice of the 10 best PCB technical articles for the year. Check them out.


ESI Taking Laser-Based Tooling to New Levels

ESI is a leading supplier of laser-based tools to the Chinese market, and they are trying to make a splash in the HDI realm with their new CO2-based system, nViant. I met with Chris Ryder of ESI at the recent HKPCA show in Shenzhen, China, to learn about the new system and how ESI plans to enter this new market.

All About Flex: Saying Yes

During the Reagan presidency, First Lady Nancy Reagan championed the advertising slogan “Just say no” as part of a “War on Drugs” campaign. The message of the campaign was intended to protect children from the harmful effects of illegal drug use by offering various ways of saying “no.”

What is the Internet of Things and Why Should it Matter to Us?

It is often surprising how closely our science fiction novels and movies model the future. The Internet of Things (IoT) and big data may prove to be an excellent example of this phenomenon. Coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton (the RFID standards pioneer), the IoT is one of the least descriptive monikers of all time for something very important in the history of technology.

Can Technology be Too Disruptive?

Technology represents new ways of doing things, and, once mastered, creates lasting change, which businesses and cultures do not unlearn. Adopted technology becomes embodied in capital, whether physical or human, and it allows economies to create more value with less input. At the same time, technology often disrupts, supplanting older ways of doing things and rendering old skills and organizational approaches irrelevant.

As Vias Shrink, Opportunities for Laser Drilling Expand

While lasers have long been employed for via drilling in PCB fabrication, mechanical drilling still remains the predominant production technology. However, as via diameters shrink to support various advanced packaging techniques, mechanical drilling becomes more expensive, and ultimately technologically unfeasible. A variety of laser technologies are now poised to step in to extend production via drilling down to the micron level.

An Examination of the China Market with Laminate Supplier Shengyi

Chief Executive Director Jack Dong explains to Pete Starkey how Shengyi Technology, the world’s second largest laminate manufacturer, plans to continue to develop its European market and to comprehensively meet the diverse requirements of the automotive, industrial controls and medical sectors. He also comments on how the Chinese government recognises the Industry 4.0 revolution in automation, data exchange and manufacturing technologies, and is steering its industrial development strategy in a similar direction.

Catching up with Gardien’s Rick Meraw

There are companies out there who are truly changing the world—companies who are making a dent in the universe, to quote the late Steve Jobs. Gardien is one of those companies. So much so that I like to catch up with them on a regular basis because they’re always adding something to their repertoire and it’s typically something that helps improve the way we handle quality assurance in our industry.

All About Flex: Process Controls for Flexible Circuit Fabrication

Manufacturers of flexible circuits use several chemical processes for fabrication. These processes are generally located in a common area of the plant because of facility requirements and environmental considerations. These chemical operations are referred to as wet processes.

The Power of Data: The Most Important Questions Any Leader Must Ask

In the recently completed I-Connect007 survey of readers titled, “The Data Factor(y): The Power of Data,” I had difficulty segmenting the results into useful categories. In other words, what were the issues that most concerned readers and customers?

The Associations Issue

Well, it’s the end of the year. How did that happen? It really is true that every year goes by a little faster. You young whippersnappers out there won’t know what I’m talking about, but just you wait and see. We changed it up for our December issues this year. Instead of doing a year-end review, we decided to devote this month to our associations and trade organizations—at least some, because when you start poking around, you will find there are scads of them.


Data, Data and More Data!

We did a survey on our topic this month--as we do every month--and we asked an open-ended question about the "largest issues" with data. The answers seemed to revolve around the accuracy of data collected (and whether it is the right data); lack of time; collecting in real-time; and then how to organize and analyze what has been collected.

MacDermid’s Research Team Talks New Cyanide-free Immersion Gold at SMTAI

While at SMTAI in Chicago recently, I met with two of MacDermid’s research team, Jun Nable, research project manager, who has been with MacDermid since 2007, and Cherry Santos, associate research fellow responsible for formulation work for metal plating solutions. We talked about the posters they were presenting and why they chose SMTAI.

Catching up with Winonics’ Mark Eazell

I have always thought of Winonics as one of the hidden gems of the North American PCB industry. Their well-equipped and well-laid-out facility in Brea, California is one of the more impressive looking PCB facilities in North America today. Winonics is one of three PCB companies owned by JR Controls, the other two being Cosmotronic and Bench2Bench. I had the opportunity to talk with Mark Eazell, the general manager at Winonics, who also oversees the operation of all three JR Controls’ PCB companies.

Conducting Very High Currents through PCB Substrates at High Ambient Temperatures

One of the major challenges of our time is climate change and the associated need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The requirement to reduce CO2 emissions has brought about significant changes in the area of power generation, and also in the area of mobility. Supported by a favorable subsidy policy, the solar boom originated in Germany and quickly spread widely across Europe.

The PCB Magazine's December 2015 Issue 'Associations' Now Available

Our final issue of 2015 is a view into various global associations that help our industry function and thrive. In their own words, top executives from around the world are on hand to provide an insider’s perspective of the who, what, where, when and why of their organizations.
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