Latest Articles

Martin Cotton Explains Ventec’s Plan for Growth

I always enjoy talking to Martin Cotton, global director of OEM technology and marketing for Ventec and a longtime PCB designer. I ran into Martin at DesignCon and asked him to discuss Ventec’s plans for the future and how he figured into the equation.

Book Review: Mark Goulston’s “Talking to Crazy”

We call know crazy. We all know people who are somewhat irrational or even completely bonkers! But we don’t know how to deal with them, right? Well, put that in the past tense. We did not know how to deal with them until this new book came along.

IPC President John Mitchell on the Past, Present, and Future, Pt. 2

In Part 2 of our on-the-show-floor interview with John Mitchell, conducted at IPC APEX EXPO 2016, John continues describing IPC’s key measures, and then invites industry folks who are reading this to participate in a unique challenge—some might say experiment. The question is, will there be any takers?

The Importance of Choosing Equipment Suppliers Carefully and Investing in the Future

Burkle Process Technologies, a long-time PCB equipment supplier to high-end manufacturers in the world, is seeing their business continuing to grow despite the perceived slowdown in the industry in China. They ensure this by working closely with customers, making premium products to understand future technology needs, and offering the highest quality in laminating machines and technical support.

IPC President John Mitchell on the Past, Present, and Future, Part 1

We conducted this interview with IPC President John Mitchell on the show floor at IPC APEX EXPO to discuss the event, the changes on the IPC board, and the key metrics that IPC uses to measure their own performance and effectiveness. John also invites the industry to a unique challenge.

PCB Shops in Brazil: Are you Kidding Me?

Let´s face facts: Who would ever think of listening to an opinion about the PCB industry coming from someone in Brazil?

Happy’s Essential Skills: Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA)

Failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) is a systematic process to evaluate failure modes and causes associated with the design and manufacturing processes of a new product. It is somewhat similar to the potential problem analysis (PPA) phase of the Kepner-Tregoe program.

Catching up with…PNC: Open House Planned for May

I’m a great believer in open houses. Any time customers and vendors get together to learn and talk about what they can do for each other it’s a good thing. That’s why, when I heard that PNC, in Nutley, New Jersey, planned to hold an open house on May 20, I wanted to learn more about it. So I called my friend Sam Sangani, the company’s owner, to learn more about it.

Karl's Tech Talk: Green Legislation and the Impact on Electronic Materials and Processes

In general, “green” and “environmentally friendly” refer to manufacturing that involves the replacement of toxic substances with less toxic materials, the elimination of materials or processing steps, less consumption of chemicals (i.e., more efficient or higher yield processing), reduction of water use, reduction of energy use, less space requirement (i.e., smaller equipment footprint), recycling, and on-site recovery of materials.

Williams and Beaulieu: Board Shops and CMs Must Communicate Better

Two well-known consultants in the PCB industry, Dan Beaulieu and Steve Williams, have joined forces to try to help close the divide between CMs and board shops. I recently sat down with them at IPC APEX EXPO 2016 to better learn about their strategy for bringing the two sides together.


ESI: Drawing on a Deep History to Create a Vision for the Future

I had an opportunity to sit down for a chat with ESI’s Vice President and General Manager Michael Darwin at the recent HKPCA show. Darwin shared some of the challenges that come with managing the culture of a 70-year-old company, and a little about where they plan to focus their efforts going forward.

Weiner’s World: March 2016

Sellers of equipment at the Shanghai CPCA event complained of continued poor business. This was especially evident amongst those selling to firms building boards for phones and other portables devices as indicated below. However, not all reports were bad. Major fabricators such as Wu's in China, not dependent upon HDI or flexible products, stated that they were "satisfied" with their current business levels.

IPC APEX EXPO: Discussing the MacDermid-Enthone-OMG Integration

Guest Editor Dick Crowe talks with Strategic Account Manager Tom Bell about their newly formed company, MacDermid Enthone Electronic Solutions and what customers can expect to see, including a larger team in the field for service.

Catching up with…Fastrak Manufacturing’s Phil Guzman

Fastrak Manufacturing is one of those companies that focus on solving problems, tough problems, problems that other companies cannot solve. Technically a contract manufacturer, Fastrak is much more than that, working with companies who have an engineering/manufacturing problem to solve, or with inventors trying to get a new product developed, manufactured and out to the market in a limited amount of time.

Francis Tsoi on the Future: What's in Store for Technology, Automation in China's PCB Industry?

I caught up with Francis Tsoi, CEO of World Wide Group whilst at CPCA in Shanghai recently, where we enjoyed a lively discussion on a number of critical topics surrounding China’s PCB industry: namely, what is on the horizon with regard to technology and automation?

Walt Custer Elaborates on his Annual IPC APEX EXPO Forecast Presentation

IPC APEX EXPO 2016 has come and gone, and this year, Walt Custer’s annual presentation forecasting the upcoming year for the industry was much anticipated, as always. I met up with Walt at the show to learn about his presentation and dig deeper into his findings.

Cost Saving Tips for PCB Fabrication

Money is the most common problem in any type of business, and many American companies are looking for ways to cut costs, but still make sure they turn a profit. They also want to ensure the quality of what they produce remains the same, or exceeds present quality, and in the electronics sector this is essential for staying in business.

IPC APEX EXPO: Insulectro's Newest Hire Discusses his Plans for Chemistry Group

Chris Hrusovsky joined Insulectro two days before this interview, but many technologists know him from his 30 years in the PCB industry. Hrusovsky discusses his career and the issues he plans to tackle as the new VP of sales for chemistry at Insulectro.

The Supplier View: An Interview with Hamed El Abd

I sat down with WKK’s Hamed el Abd at CPCA, where we discussed the show, the growing trend toward automation, as well as a few other topics, namely world politics and economics and how they relate to the PCB industry.

Dan Beaulieu's 'It’s Only Common Sense' Celebrates 500th Column

“We’d like to congratulate Dan on his 500th column,” said Publisher Barry Matties. “Dan is a strong advocate for smart business. We thank Dan and look forward to 500 more columns, and you can be sure that Dan will keep stirring the pot.”


Gene Weiner: Congrats to Dan Beaulieu on Column 500

Congratulations on achieving this milestone, Dan. Column 500 contains enough fodder for many months of discussion, investigation and recommendations.

PhiChem Open House a Success!

Delighted to be invited to an exclusive preview of the new PhiChem global headquarters and R&D centre in Shanghai’s Baoshan suburb, I joined the VIP group assembled at the PhiChem booth at the CPCA show, made welcome by PhiChem President Dr. Jin Zhang.

IPC APEX EXPO: How Entelechy Is Changing the Industry

Mehul Dave, CEO of Entelechy Global Inc., talks about the need for speed in front-end engineering as PCB fabricators are overwhelmed with overload from supporting the high-mix, low volume and QTA markets.

Lean Manufacturing and NPIP for Flexible Circuits

Many companies are familiar with lean manufacturing concepts and have successfully used these techniques to improve manufacturing processes. Lean techniques, while most often used in printed circuit fabrication and assembly operations, can also be applied to nonmanufacturing processes. One such process is new part number introduction (NPIP).

IPC APEX EXPO: Gardien Discusses Providing Test Solutions with an Integrated Partnership

Gardien's VP of Quality, Todd Kolmodin, tells Guest Editor Dan Beaulieu about their customer partnership program, helping to provide solutions to their customers' test and quality issues.

IPC APEX EXPO: Design Through Box-Build Strategy Works for PNC Inc.

Guest Editor Dan Beaulieu talks with PNC's production manager, Bhavesh Sangani, about PNC's "design through box-build" strategy along with their significant capital equipment purchases over the past few years for both PCB fabrication and assembly.

IPC APEX EXPO: Innovation in Surface Finishes from Uyemura

Uyemura Senior Strategic Account Manager John Meyers describes the company's innovation in surface finishes, particularly its ENEPIG chemistry. John also briefly discusses their new electroless copper process.

Punching Out! Putting Together the Deal Team

When preparing to sell, remember the old saying, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” While many owners might be tempted to go it alone, in my experience it pays to have a deal team to help prepare a company (and the owner) for a sale.

On Site at the CPCA Show 2016 International PCB Technology and Information Spring Forum

The first session of the CPCA Spring Forum 2016 was dedicated to UL Consumer Technology who took the opportunity to inform the audience around their exciting new services.

Patricia (Patty) Goldman Inducted into IPC Hall of Fame

We at I-Connect007 are thrilled that our own Patty Goldman has been awarded the highest level of volunteer recognition that IPC can give to an individual, the Raymond E. Pritchard Hall of Fame Award. The award is given in recognition of superior achievement, extraordinary contributions and distinguished service to IPC and the advancement of the electronics industry.


Happy’s Essential Skills: Design of Experiments

Design of experiments (DOE) is one of the most powerful and influential engineering tools for product yield improvements, new products or processes development, or for problem solving. As mentioned in my last column, process problems led me to a career in printed circuits, and quickly solving those problems led me to a bonus stock award and a great life. Even though I knew nothing about printed circuit manufacturing processes, I was able to quickly find the root causes of all the problems and fix them. My secret? Total quality control (TQC), statistics, and DOE.

Rex Rozario, Part 4: A 10,000-ft. view of his Business Ventures, the Industry, and Life

In our final installment, Rex describes the common thread woven through all of his successful business ventures and varied interests: confidence and the fortitude to follow his dreams until they are realized. Rex also takes a look back at the evolution of the global PCB industry, and explains his approach to profitability, which includes building (and rewarding) a successful team.

Rex Rozario, Part 3: The Future Beckons

In Part 3 of our multi-part interview with industry veteran Rex Rozario, we begin with the future. Having achieved success in China, could Rex and the Graphic team have their sights trained on the U.S.? Also in this installment, Rex weighs in on China’s future, and we discuss the value of automation. Is it for everyone?

Rex Rozario, Part 2: The Beat Goes on: New Developments at Exeter, the Music Scene, and China

In Part 2 of I-Connect007’s multi-part interview with PCB industry icon Rex Rozario, we continue to discover more about what has made Graphic PLC the company it is today. Rex explains the work they’re doing with Exeter University, Graphic’s success in China, and his own personal experience in the UK music scene.

Rex Rozario: The PCB Industry’s True Renaissance Man

In this exclusive multi-part interview that was conducted recently, I-Connect007's Barry Matties will introduce you to all of the people that Rex Rozario is, and where he, his team, and Graphic PLC are headed to next.

World Wide PCB on the “Purification” of the China Market, Industry Changes and More

Francis Tsoi of World Wide PCB Equipment tells Barry Matties that although growth in the China PCB market may be slowing, the government has used this time to transition the industry towards automation, better environmental regulations and the ability to make high-end PCBs in large volumes.

All About Flex: Three Emerging Trends That You Can Bet On

Flexible circuits are light weight, require minimal space, can be bent into “origami” shapes for adoption to a wide range of applications. These utilitarian features give electronic designers endless options for the new and exciting products that will soon become part of our everyday life.

Manufacturing Institutes Can Boost the Nation

In his most recent State of the Union address, President Obama highlighted a remarkable trend of recent years: the turnaround in many corners of America’s manufacturing sector. Nearly 900,000 new jobs have been created by U.S. manufacturers in the last six years.

The Sum of All Parts: The Cost of Quality

Throughout the decades, irrespective of industry or sector, markets have thrived on competition. They have, however, also relied upon some semblance of unity within their respective competitors. Industries rely upon their individual member companies’ ability to work together for the greater good.

The Institute of Circuit Technology Tewkesbury Seminar, 1st March 2016

The Annual General Meeting of the Institute of Circuit Technology (ICT) was held at Puckrup Hall, near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, England, on 1st March 2016, and was followed by a well-attended evening seminar with presentations on a novel laser-induced deposition process, an analysis of the market for PCBs, and a review of three development projects in which the Institute had participated. The programme was introduced and moderated by ICT Technical Director Bill Wilkie.


It’s Only Common Sense: Your Ads Need a Call to Action!

Do you advertise? Do you spend your hard-earned dollars trying to get your name out there, only to feel that you are just throwing your money down a rabbit hole? I bet your ads don’t promote anything that will get your customers to take action. Your ads should include a call to action.

Solder Mask for LED Applications: Formulation 101

In 2007, the United States passed legislation to phase out the manufacture and trade of incandescent light bulbs, the EU following passed similar legislation in 2009. The rest of the world has been following suit creating a huge opening in the lighting market for a technology to fill the gap.

Printing PCBs…In Your Office!

The days of producing a PCB prototype with a 3D printer may not be as distant as you think. I spoke with Simon Fried of Nano Dimension about how 3D printing is becoming a reality, and how this disruptive technology will change the way designers produce rapid prototypes.

Camtek Takes Inkjet Technology into the Future

I recently spoke with Amir Tzhori, vice president of the PCB (AOI) division of Camtek in China, about the current and future status of their solder mask and legend inkjet technology, Gryphon. Also, with automation so instrumental, we discussed a new automated robotic arm that can be attached to their AOI systems.

Weiner’s World

Gene Weiner discusses PhiChem's upcoming open house event at its global HQ and R&D center in Shanghai during SEMICON China 2016, CPCA 2016 and productronica China 2016. He also focuses on the IPC Ambassador Council's plans to produce an executive forum in conjunction with IPC APEX EXPO 2017, IPC's association with NextFlex, SEMI's launch of the ESiPAT SIG, and much more.

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.
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