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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.”

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.

Steinberger Talks PAM4, the Next Generation of Modulation

I recently interviewed our old friend Michael Steinberger, SiSoft’s lead architect for serial channel products. Steinberger is always a great interview; he breaks down complex signal integrity simulation technology in ways that are simple and often humorous. Steinberger sat down and discussed a paper he presented at DesignCon, and some of the challenges his customers are facing.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

iNEMI: Leading the Way to Successful Electronics Manufacturing

iNEMI CEO Bill Bader talks about the consortium’s goals and mission, its collaborative projects, as well as its roadmap for the electronics manufacturing industry. Bader also highlights iNEMI’s milestones in line with the major trends that have happened in the electronics industry, including the transition to lead-free, addressing tin whisker growth, and the move towards HFR-free PCB materials.

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.

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.


Honeywell Paper Investigates Avionics Vibration Durability

Dr. Joseph Juarez, principal mechanical engineer at Honeywell International, discusses with I-Connect007's Andy Shaughnessy his SMTA paper, which addresses avionics vibration durability between tin-lead and lead-free solder, the years of testing he conducted, the importance of doing a good soldering job, and some of the surprising findings of his research.

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.

productronica 2015: Isola Supports Developments in Automotive Electronics

Helmut Kroener gives a perspective on Isola’s European market, whose major segments are industrial and automotive electronics. Driver assistance systems are a huge growth market and demand cost-effective low-dielectric-constant materials capable of 100 gigahertz operation.

Specialist Coatings for Specialist Applications

Taiyo America’s Josh Goldberg agreed to spend a few minutes with I-Connect007's Pete Starkey at productronica recently, where he indeed climbed out of the box and explored the broader market for high-performance polymer coatings in the electronics industry.

productronica 2015: Ventec's Latest Developments in the UK

Ventec continue to invest in the pursuit of ultra-cleanliness in pre-preg fabrication and packaging in their UK distribution operation, and announce a range of complementary consumable materials - foils, drill boards and release films - as proven in their Ventec-Option laminating and drilling service, leveraging their purchasing power and sharing the cost benefits with their laminate customers.

All About Flex: Embracing the Mess

Marketing in the world of printed circuits is an important discipline, but I have learned it is better to be prepared with a nimble reaction than to expect the marketing department to consistently be successful in predicting the future. The path to the goal is often achieved much more quickly by making an early decision followed by a course correction rather than waiting for all the information.

Navigating the Global Materials Supply Chain: A Roundtable Discussion

At SMTAI recently, I-Connect007's Andy Shaughnessy sat down for a roundtable discussion with some key players from the materials side of the supply chain. Participants included two executives from Ventec: Mark Goodwin, COO USA and Europe for Ventec International Group; and Jack Pattie, president of Ventec USA. Also participating in the roundtable were Schoeller Electronics CEO Michael Keuthen and Bob Willis, from the National Physics Laboratory (NPL).

On Scene: ICT Darlington Seminar, 24 November 2015

Darlington, in the north-east of England, has become an established venue for the Institute of Circuit Technology’s annual Northern Seminar, a not-to-be-missed opportunity for the UK’s PCB technologists to keep abreast with current developments and to network and exchange ideas and experiences with their peers. Coordinated by ICT technical director Bill Wilkie, and generously supported by Merlin PCB Group, the programme consisted of papers on funded projects and project funding, and updates on chemical process technology.

productronica 2015: MATU\AWP: Understanding Market Needs for Process Efficiency

The engineers in MATU/AWP represent hundreds of years of industry experience in developing the right machines for the right applications for the right customers! Design technology of the highest calibre - an in-depth understanding of achieving process efficiency, process economy and environmental friendliness in wet-processing and closed-loop copper recycling equipment.

All About Flex: Flexible PCB: What’s in a Name?

Flexible PCB is a common term that is synonymous with flexible circuits. While the term “PCB” is generally used to describe rigid printed circuitry, “flexible PCB” is a little contradictory because “boards” aren’t really flexible. Some companies, like All Flex, design and manufactures flexible PCBs, but not rigid PCBs.


productronica 2015: Rogers Scales Up Production and Integrates Arlon's Product Range

John Hendricks gives a perspective on the European market for special-purpose laminates, and comments upon Rogers’ acquisition of Arlon and the integration of their complementary product range into the Rogers portfolio.

Designs on Flex: Underwriters Laboratory and Flexible Printed Circuits

Underwriters Laboratory is a worldwide safety consulting and certification company headquartered in Northbrook, Illinois. UL certifies, validates, tests, inspects, audits, and advises on safety of electrical and electronic products.

Mr. Laminate Tells All: Where in the Holy Halogens did 900, 900, 1500 Come From?

The 900, 900, 1500 is not a combination to an enormous safe that contains the remains of Jimmy Hoffa, nor is it the weight of three elephants at the San Diego Zoo in kilograms. The 900, 900, 1500 is the maximum parts per million (ppm) of bromine and chlorine and the total bromine and chlorine in a material that can be defined as “halogen-free” in the electronics industry today. But where did these requirements come from? Clearly, 900 ppm of bromine or chlorine is obviously not halogen-free. Some would argue that it is not even low-halogen at all.

Catching up with Cosmotronic’s Gary Abel

Cosmotronic’s history spans a number of decades, from the hot-as-hell boom days of the '60s and early '70s when Southern California was leading the world in electronics, from weaponry to avionics to apace exploration. Today, as innovation has become more focused on personal electronics, Cosmotronic has been there, leading the way and serving a customer base that is uniquely similar to the one they had back in the day.

Recruiting for Growth - An Interview with Jack Pattie, President & CEO of Ventec USA

Ventec USA is growing its successful US team, whilst others seem to be suffering from closures, stock downgrades and market challenges. I caught up with Ventec USA President Jack Pattie to find out why they are busy bucking trends.

American Standard Circuits Taking Business to New Heights

PCB007 Managing Editor Patty Goldman sat down with American Standard Circuits President Anaya Vardya at the recent SMTAI show and conference in Rosemont, IL. Anaya wanted to share all the great new things going on at his company. Among the topics they discussed: new equipment, new processes, new people, and what it all means for ASC’s growth.

All About Flex: Plated Through-holes in Flexible Circuits

There is probably no more important feature than the plated through-hole (also called via or via hole) with regard to the reliability and integrity of a flexible circuit. The through-hole provides electrical connection between insulated layers and enables electrical functionality on double-sided and multilayer flexible circuits.

The Economics of Reducing Cycle Time in PCB Fabrication

As circuit board fabricators are constantly pressured for cost reductions, speed is definitely one thing worth paying for in 2015. This article highlights examples of industry practices that successful fabricators in the quick-turn market embrace that can help those companies who want to reduce cycle times in their operations.

Flex Circuit Shielding Design Options

Shielding may not be your company’s number one design concern when thinking about your interconnect designs. But if you have to shield circuits for EMI, then you will need to depend on your supplier to assist you with their favorite shielding technique and experience.

Interim CEO Jeff McCreary Discusses Recent Changes at Isola

Isola’s Interim President and CEO Jeff McCreary explains to Barry Matties the impetus for the personnel reduction taking place at Isola, the closing of their northern California facility, and why there’s no need to panic. He also shares his view of what the industry may expect from Isola going forward and what the company is looking for in a new CEO, the name of which McCreary expects to announce in the next few months.


Catching up with Nujay Technologies: A Conversation with Urvi and Nesh Dholakia

I have been following value added vendor Nujay Technologies for a number of years now because I like their story and their positive and helpful attitude. Their mission, if you will, is to provide their customers with whatever they need. They are also willing to talk to their customers and prospective customers to find out what their biggest challenges are when it comes to finding and purchasing PCBs. Thus, they embody the classic definition of a business, which is to find a need and fill it.

The Application of Advanced Ultrasonics in Metal Plating Processes

Most surface modification chemical treatments by their very nature contain hazardous and oxidising chemicals; there is a major concern that these chemicals are used maliciously with the intent to manufacture explosives or formulate poisons to harm the public. Cyanide-based plating solutions and high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide used in current techniques are a significant use of these materials in industry.

Semico Impact Conference 2015: The Coming of Age of Hardware Technologies

For most of us who are deeply involved in the electronics hardware market, we are used to talking about new products and technologies, the future of things to come, and probably most importantly, the challenges or issues that we, as an industry, are facing.

Testing Flexible Circuits, Part 2: Raw Materials and Components

Even though the raw materials may individually meet certain specifications, it is important to determine if the final product configuration meets those specs. So testing done at the finished circuit level is also needed. Tests specific to the finished circuit will be the topic of our next column on testing.

The Reindustrialisation of Europe

With an inquisitive mind and a head for challenges, besides the ability to think outside the box and the courage to dare to be different and strive to be first, Spirit Circuits MD Steve Driver can be relied upon to grab the attention of an audience of PCB professionals. As keynote speaker at the Institute of Circuit Technology Hayling Island Seminar, he lived up to his reputation with a motivational presentation, the two themes of which exemplified his latest entrepreneurial venture.
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