Article Highlights

Latest Articles

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.

Ventec International Group Expands North American Focus

Ventec International Group is looking to expand their U.S. operations, and they’ve begun this process by bringing Chris Alessio on board as VP of sales and operations of Ventec USA. I met with Chris and Ventec USA President Jack Pattie at IPC APEX EXPO 2016 to discuss their approach and possible opportunities for the North American laminate market.

Rex Rozario Brings IPC Board Duties to a Close

At this year’s IPC APEX EXPO, Rex Rozario’s term as an IPC Board member came to an end. At the show, I sat down with Rex, who reflected on his time with IPC and the areas on which he hopes the association will focus more in the future—namely, strengthening the relationship between the UK and the U.S., as well as continuing to encourage smaller PCB manufacturers to join IPC and contribute.

Interview with Dean Kamen, Segway Inventor and Founder of FIRST

One of the keynote speakers at this year’s IPC APEX EXPO 2016 was Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway and hundreds of other innovative devices. But perhaps most importantly, Kamen is the founder of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), which is recognized as the leading not-for-profit STEM engagement program for kids worldwide.

Nano System, Two Years On

Established in July 2014, Nano System Inc. focuses on the design and manufacture of laser drill systems for the PCB industry. I-Connect007's Stephen Las Marias caught up with Nano System President Sam Sekine last month at IPC APEX EXPO to discuss the latest product and business developments at his company.


Rogers: 'To PIM-test Our Material, You Have to Build a Circuit'

Passive intermodulation (PIM) is a circuit anomaly that has been occurring in cellular base station antennas, causing tremendous frustration and cost to antenna OEMs. As the supplier of the materials being used by these OEMs, Rogers Corp., and more specifically, Product Manager Tony Mattingly, must come up with a solution.

All About Flex: 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).

Catching up with KT Technical Sales: Looking at Things from the Rep's Point of View

Over the years, I have spent a great deal of time working with reps. I like to think of myself as an advocate for reps since I have spent so much time trying to get the PCB shops to play nice with them.

Happy’s Essential Skills: Using Web Resources

The World Wide Web is a real boon to information retrieval. The key is getting to relevant information and not being overwhelmed by the sheer number of references. When confronted with a process problem, the urgency of a solution requires that you know how to use Web resources expeditiously.

The Four New Agreements to Explode Profitability

We have been brainwashed to focus on a relatively small number of metrics such as revenue and profits as the driving force behind critical outputs of our organizations. The actual driver of these critical metrics is the mostly informal systems in which the company operates. Because in excess of 90% of the profitability of a company is systems-based, a sustainable increase in profitability requires changes (optimization or re-creation) in existing systems.

Flex Talk: PCB Sourcing? One Size Does Not Fit All

When analyzing a set of PCBs to improve yields and maximize profits, the first place to start is with a critical review of each PCB design. Are there any attributes that are pushing your manufacturer’s standard design rules? If so, is this necessary to the design or is there another approach that could improve the manufacturer’s yields, reduce cost, and ultimately increase profit?

Orbotech’s Gaby Waisman: 'The Future is Digital'

I sat down with Orbotech President Gaby Waisman at CPCA in Shanghai recently, and he offered a comprehensive explanation of why digitalization is truly the future, especially with regard to increasing throughputs. We also discussed Orbotech’s company vision and products, as well as its role in “helping to drive the industry into fully digitalized imaging technology.”

Sun Chemical Expands Range and Market Share in China

At CPCA in Shanghai recently, I had the opportunity to sit down for a one-on-one with Tony Searle, business manager for Sun Chemical. The focus of our discussion was Sun Chemical’s recent expansion of its range of offerings and manufacturing capabilities in China, and what the future of the PCB market is in China, from his point of view.

IPC’s Phil Carmichael on Asia, New Standards, and the Future

At the very busy IPC APEX EXPO in Las Vegas recently, IPC’s head of operations for Asia, Phil Carmichael, spent a few minutes in the I-Connect007 booth with me and Stephen Las Marias, managing editor of SMT Magazine, discussing all things Chinese. Among the topics we covered were the association’s current role in Asia, and the new corporate social responsibility standard currently being developed, something IPC is very excited about.

LPKF Launches New Laser Drilling System for Flex Printed Circuits

At Laser World of Photonics Exhibition in Shanghai recently, I had a chance to speak with Florian Roick, strategic product manager with LPKF. The company is celebrating a big anniversary this year with the launch of a laser drilling machine to support the specific requirements of the flexible circuit industry.


A Salute to Process Engineers

It seems very appropriate, coming on the heels of IPC APEX EXPO 2016, that the focus of our April issue is process engineering. I believe process engineers (and process engineer types) are the worker bees of IPC (and obviously of the companies they work for).

Stepping Up to Laser Processing for Flex, Part 2: Calculating and Optimizing Production

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the advantages of adding flex laser processing to gain a competitive advantage. In Part 2 we will build on that discussion, looking at the ways you can optimize your flexible circuit laser processing to get the efficiencies that drive lower cost of ownership.

All About Flex: Why Copper is Ideal for Flexible Circuitry

Copper is the second-most conductive metal (in pure form). The copper used on flexible circuits can be formed by a number of methods such as electro-deposition (ED), rolling/annealing, or a combination of the two. The conductivity of copper by volume on a flexible circuit is not exactly the same as pure copper, but it is quite close.

The ESI Solution: High-Throughput Roll-to-Roll UV Laser Drilling of Thin, Flex Materials

ESI’s Flex Product Manager, Patrick Riechel, speaks with I-Connect007's Pete Starkey at the recent CPCA event last month in Shanghai. Among the topics covered: How ESI addresses issues associated with machining roll-to-roll flex circuits, laser technology, and more.

Punching Out! Your Baby’s Ugly, Now Get Over it (How to Work with Buyers)

Here’s a scenario: An owner has gone to market and is starting to get feedback from buyers, and shockingly, not everyone appreciates the hard work and achievements that went into the business. Buyers may not understand the business, or they may be trying to position things for a low offer. In any case, it is important to know how to work with buyers.

Morgan and Starkey on CPCA 2016, Automation, and the Upcoming ECWC14

On the last day of CPCA in Shanghai recently, I was delighted to catch up with my friend and industry colleague, EIPC Chairman Alun Morgan, for a discussion on the show we were both currently attending, as well as the upcoming 14th Electronics Circuits World Convention (ECWC14), to be held in April 2017, in Korea.

Book Review: Shawn Murphy’s ‘The Optimistic Workplace’

Happy workers are great workers. Workers with a purpose, a true reason for being at work and finding importance in that work, are all part of a successful workplace in a successful company.

The Sum of All Parts: Total Concept—Growing for the Future

Last month, we discussed the importance of the PCB industry’s need to focus on a “made in USA” philosophy. This month, we will go over how to methodically do this amid different company cultures and different logistical challenges.

A Conversation with Joe O’Neil, the New Chairman of the IPC Board of Directors

Joe O’Neil, formerly of Hunter Technology, recently stepped into the position of chairman of the IPC Board of Directors. I met with Joe at IPC APEX EXPO 2016 to discuss his new position, the industry, and the arc of his 20-year involvement with IPC.

IPC APEX EXPO: IPC Government Relations—Your Advocate in Washington

IPC's VP of Government Relations, John Hasselman, explains IPC's "meet the policy makers" initiative (site visits by congressmen) to help build and broaden relationships with these decision makers.


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?
PREVIOUSNEXT
Copyright © 2017 I-Connect007. All rights reserved.