Latest Articles

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.

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.

Behind the Scenes with IPC Technical Conference Coordinator Toya Richardson

I have known and worked with IPC Technical Conference Coordinator Toya Richardson for quite a few years, but we have never had an in-depth chat about her job at IPC. In this interview, she talks about her work at IPC, their preparations for the upcoming IPC APEX EXPO 2016, and some of the latest developments at IPC.

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.


For Pioneer MuTracx, the Future Looks Bright

In this interview conducted at productronica recently, I-Connect007 Tech Editor Pete Starkey and Publisher Barry Matties speak with Arnoud de Geus, Executive Board member at technology company Sioux. They discuss the success of MuTracx’s (owned by Sioux) first installation of the Lunaris machine in the Whelen factory in New Hampshire, and what this has meant towards proving it can operate in a full-time production process. Arnoud forecasts what’s next for MuTracx and what they must do in order to capitalize on the positive exposure.

For Pioneer MuTracx, the Future Looks Bright

In this interview conducted at productronica recently, I-Connect007 Tech Editor Pete Starkey and Publisher Barry Matties speak with Arnoud de Geus, Executive Board member at technology company Sioux, about the success of MuTracx’ (owned by Sioux) first installation of the Lunaris machine in the Whelen factory in New Hampshire, and what this has meant towards proving it can operate in a full-time production process. Arnoud forecasts what’s next for MuTracx and what they must do in order to capitalize on the positive exposure.

The Opportunities for Plasma Processing

Pete Starkey interviewed Andre Bodegom, managing director of Netherlands-based Adeon Technologies B.V., about their long relationship with Nordson MARCH, typical applications for plasma equipment, and what the most challenging materials are from the point of view of plasma processing in the PCB industry.

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).

HKPCA & IPC Show 2015 Kicks Off in Shenzhen China

Barry Matties talks with Daniel Chan, executive director of the HKPCA, about the organization’s expanded global outreach. They discuss what attendees can expect from this South China trade show that has become one of the biggest and most important shows in the PCB industry.

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: Gardien's Quality Management in a Global Quality Assurance Organisation

Rick Meraw, group vice president, quality, for Gardien Services, discusses with I-Connect007's Pete Starkey the responsibilities of quality management in a global quality assurance service company, ensuring consistency of standards and technology across all geographical locations, cross-pollination of knowledge and skills, and making best use of data for real-time feedback and process improvement.

Data Analytics through Statistical Techniques

Many companies get caught in data traps. They focus so heavily on cost and survival that they end up using data as merely a marketing and sales tool. In doing so, they fail to realize the true power of data: It can transform every aspect of a business.

productronica 2015: Taiyo's Exciting Inkjet Solder Mask Options are on the Horizon

Donald Monn, European Sales Manager, Taiyo America, discusses with I-Connect007's Pete Starkey about the latest developments in ink-jetting solder masks.


productronica 2015: Electra's LDI Soldermasks for LED and Future Ink-jet Developments

Ashley Steers of Electra Polymers Ltd discusses with I-Connect007's Pete Starkey about the continuing developments in LDI soldermasks, and how the challenges associated with highly reflective white soldermasks for LED applications are progressively being overcome.

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.

productronica 2015: MicroCraft's EMMA Probe-tester Automated

Jesse Ziomek, sales manager at Microcraft, discusses with I-Connect007's Pete Starkey their automated version of the EMMA probe-tester, which is capable of lights-out operation on multiple designs and panel sizes, at 6000 test-points per minute.

HKPCA Executive Director Daniel Chan on the Upcoming Show and More

Daniel Chan discusses the latest developments to expect at this year's HKPCA and IPC show, and the new features that the show will offer delegates and attendees. He also speaks about the trends to expect in the PCB manufacturing industry, and the major drivers of innovation.

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.

productronica 2015: Schmid's InfinityLine Opens New Era in Etching Machine Technology

Schmid has combined the best attributes of their long-established CombiLine and PremiumLine in the development of their new InfinityLine family of modular etching machines, which offer an attractive cost structure without compromising performance, quality or durability.

productronica 2015: Ucamco's Integr8tor Incorporates Polar Stack-up Functionality

Big extensions to the capabilities of the Integr8tor client-server work-flow system, way beyond the established CAM functions, now include full product definition covering all production stages of PCB manufacture, including flex and flex-rigid technologies. Integr8tor now incorporates all of the functionality of Polar Instruments’ stack-up design package, instantly accessible.

Flex Talk: Thoughts on the IPC Flexible Circuits–HDI Forum

As an attendee at the IPC Flexible Circuits–HDI Conference held October 28–30, I found myself in a room full of people, all eager for technical information, with the opportunity to reconnect with industry friends and to make new connections. The audience was diverse with young people, new to our industry, sitting alongside industry veterans willingly sharing their knowledge and passion for HDI design and flexible circuit technology.

productronica 2015: Orbotech's Nuvogo 1000 Brings High Speed to Solder Mask LDI

28 watts of laser power enables the Nuvogo 1000 dual wavelength direct imaging system to achieve production throughput for solder mask up to 40 double-sided panels per hour, while retaining the versatility to image inner layer and outer layer features as fine as 24 microns.


Catching Up with Circuit Connect

When I met with Circuit Connect President Bob Lazzara and Director of Operations Paul LaLiberte, I was first struck by the passion they both have for their customers, as well as for their customers’ businesses, using the innovation they have today, as well as what they can develop together with their customers. They don’t just invite, but urge their customers to come and visit them in their very well-equipped facility in Nashua, N.H.

Walt Custer's 2016 Business Outlook

What’s going to be the next boom in the electronics industry? Is it self-driving cars, the Internet of Things, drones, or something else that’s still completely off the radar? At productronica, the I-Connect007 team caught up with Walt Custer of Custer Consulting Group, who offered his forecast for 2016.

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. There are many similarities between the two, but also significant differences.

productronica 2015: atg Shows Off the Latest in Automated Inspection Equipment

Peter Brandt, sales manager with atg Luther & Maelzer, tells I-Connect007’s Pete Starkey all about their automated inspection equipment that is well-suited for both small and large batch operaions. Watch this video from the floor of productronica to see the equipment in action while Brandt discusses the embedded technology market that is taking off.

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.
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