Latest Articles

Designing Flex Circuits for Domestic Prototyping

Designing a flex circuit to be prototyped domestically? No problem. Designing a rigid-flex circuit for production offshore? Got it. Designing a part that will be prototyped domestically with a seamless transition to offshore production? That can be a little more challenging.

Plating and Quality are Close Partners

A good plating manager is a seasoned veteran with many years of hands-on experience and probably an engineering degree. Bob Tarzwell sees firsthand how PCB manufacturers, without the proper plating shop set-up operations, knowledge and experience, adapt and accept poor practices as normal while they continue with poor quality processes—even after attempted corrective input from vendors and consultants.

Fighting the War on Failure with Supplier Analytics: An Interview with Fane Friberg

Steve Williams sat down with operations and supply chain expert Fane Friberg to talk about how a company can only be as good as its supply base, and how driving supplier improvement directly impacts product improvement.

Is Wearable Technology Just a Fad?

Wearable technology is in its infancy. The industry needs to mature and go back to basic marketing—finding a need and filling it. Flexible circuits have been around since the mid-1960s and have been successfully filling needs. Flexible circuits are ideal for wearable technology because they are thin and lightweight. As the marketing matures, the applications will come and flexible circuits will be there to fill the technical needs.

The War on Process Failure

Who out there thought of it as a war? Is it? Well, we think it is—and a never-ending one at that. In fact, we thought it significant enough to devote all three of our August issues to the subject, because no matter how good you are or how great things are running, Murphy’s Law is right there, ready to take you down a peg or two—or worse.

Latent Short Circuit Failure in High-Rel PCBs due to Cleanliness of PCB Processes and Base Materials

Latent short circuit failure of power PCBs has been associated with fiber contamination of the dielectric material. Tests and inspections have shown various sources of contamination in laminate, prepreg and on etched innerlayers. It has been demonstrated by IR tests that contamination can cause breach of insulation due to electromigration.

The War on Process Failure Continues in August Issue of The PCB Magazine

The August issue of The PCB Magazine is focused on the war on process failure. This subject of process failure turns out to be quite broad and affects essentially everyone in our industry, from the raw material suppliers to the circuit designer to the PCB processor to the assembly folks and on to the OEM. We all have a hand in it, both causing and solving problems and benefiting from solutions. You will find several appropos and useful articles in this issue.

Book Review: We Are Market Basket

How many times does a business book read like a novel? Dan Beaulieu says this book is not just a great story, but also a parable of sorts filled with great examples of the way to run and grow a successful business… and how not to.

Dry Film Photoresist Thickness Selection Criteria

Dry film photoresist suppliers typically indicate for which process a certain resist type is suitable; however the fabricator still has to select the resist thickness that matches his needs best. The most important thickness selection criteria that come to mind are price, resolution, and yield. This article talks about the advantages and disadvantages of choosing films that are too thin for the application.

The Drive for Transparent Circuits

DKN Research develops many types of unique electronic circuits. Some products in our portfolio include ultra-thin conductor circuits as small as 0.2 microns, metal-free circuits, and some circuits up to 20 meters long. Our staff fields many inquiries for packaging of new electronic devices. Lately, there is a lot of interest in transparent flexible circuits. The increase in interest is driven by the recent market expansion of display and optical devices.


The Keys to Success for Supply Chain Management

This article describes the key components and issues regarding achieving supply chain management success, offers some suggestions and action items mostly for customers to store in their memory banks. It also explains key partner relationships and how they must work to gain each other's confidence. When it comes to results, the most important requirement is the product. When a distributor is awarded a tier one product from a tier one supplier, 50% of the goal has been accomplished.

Accomplish Change Together (ACT)

Shifting strategies for selling PCBs and the materials to build them is the impetus for ACT. Insulectro's Ken Parent and Jason Marsh spoke to I-Connect007 Publisher Barry Matties about the ACT approach—and how it is helping their PCB fabricator customers increase sales and OEMs to get better products.

Agricultural Drones and Flexible Circuits

Agricultural drones are expected to have a significant impact on farming over the next few years. In the article mentioned above, the drone’s ease of use and affordability make this a tool that virtually every farmer could employ. One major complementary technology to the drone is the advances in imaging technology and analysis. Specifically, the agricultural drone gives farmers data analysis capability that they have not had before.

Supply Chain in the 21st Century

The shift away from vertical integration has pushed the topic of supply chain management to the forefront of strategic planning for many manufacturers. This wide-ranging article talks about supply chain management, a brief history of supply chain innovation, managing supply chain risk, as well as presents the "7 Rights" of supply chain management.

Eliminate Connectors with Sculptured Flex

Any time you eliminate a component, hidden costs are eliminated, such as the cost of stocking, tracking and managing the supply chain for that part number. When designing an electronic package, don’t assume that you need a component for every connection point. Sculptured flex will give some options that can make your electronic package, lighter, less costly, more reliable, and take up less space.

A Well-Designed Laminate Supply Chain has to Own It!

Suppliers must use industry knowledge, robust systems, clever software and total visibility to build a supply chain agile enough for any PCB fabricator. Consigned stock, local customization, regional hubs, short manufacturing cycles, controlled processes and highly evolved systems are just a few of the tools needed to develop custom fit solutions that flex and move with the needs of the fabricator and their customers. You can only design the supply chain when you own the supply chain.

Coated Ultra-Thin Copper on Printed Circuit Laminates

Nano copper-based electronic ink and associated processing have been developed to create ultra-thin copper on flexible PCB substrates, allowing for much finer etch resolution and increased circuit density. The process is rapid and sufficiently low-temperature to allow deposition onto temperature-sensitive substrates such as polyimide, plastic and paper.

An Update on the Rogers Material Supply Line

As part of a recent I-Connect007 supply chain survey, we found that RF laminate material can be very difficult to obtain. Rogers Corporation was named specifically in our survey as one supplier with a limited amount of material available. In fact, their delivery time was reported as being as high as 55 days for some materials at one point. In an industry where quick turnaround time is critical, this is one supply line that killed any hope of being quick.

Innovative Technologies Drive PCB Industry Growth

PCB growth has slowed in recent years, though last year the growth rate was slightly higher than the 2% of the last three years. Estimates by IEK of Industrial Technology Research Institute of Taiwan show that the PCB industry will continue to grow in 2015 at a rate of 3-5% with an annual output of RMB 576 billion (USD 93.8 billion).

“Supply Chain Management”: Overused, Underused or Just Misunderstood?

In a world of buzz words, "supply chain" and "supply chain management" have certainly been right up there in our industry. Everyone sort of knows what the terms mean, or at least what they want them to mean. Everyone has assigned their own level of importance and interest to the idea of supply chain management, so it made perfectly good sense for us to highlight that subject in our July issues.


EIPC Summer Conference: Day 2

Refreshed after an excellent conference dinner, and for most, a good night’s sleep, delegates returned for the second day of the EIPC Summer Conference in Berlin, continuing the theme of improving profitability through technical leadership and innovation to meet future market requirements, with sessions on materials and processes for high performance PCBs and advanced material testing strategies to meet OEM and ODM needs.

EIPC Summer Conference, Berlin: Day 1

Berlin, capital of Germany and a world city of culture, politics, media and science, was the venue for the 2015 EIPC Summer Conference, which attracted delegates from sixteen countries, including Russia, Hong Kong, Japan, Israel, USA and Canada, as well as the European Union, to experience a programme of 21 technical presentations over two days. Also included was a visit to the Berlin laboratories of Fraunhofer Institute, Europe’s largest application-oriented research organisation.

Book Review: Brian Tracy’s “Business Strategy”

If you’re serious about your company’s strategic planning, this book is for you. And if you’re not serious, then you won’t be around much longer anyway. Pick up this little volume, the latest from The Brian Tracy Success Library.

Catching Up with Vector Fabrication’s Quang Luong: Here Comes Vietnam!

I have known Quang Luong, the owner of Vector Fabrication, for many years now, and I have always been interested in his business and how it operates, especially since he is the only PCB shop owner I know of who has a company in the U.S. and in Vietnam.

Enabling Smart Wearable Technology: Flexible, Stretchable Interconnect

In this article, Joan Vrtis highlights the current and forward-looking interconnect technologies enabling the stream of amazing new smart wearable electronic devices connecting the user to their personalized experience.

Institute of Circuit Technology 41st Annual Symposium

ICT Technical Director Bill Wilkie has always excelled in locating interesting and unusual venues for the Institute of Circuit Technology Annual Symposium, and this year was no exception. For the 2015 event, the 41st, he chose the Black Country Living Museum, an open-air museum of rebuilt historic buildings in Dudley, in the West Midlands of England, home of the original Industrial Revolution.

UK PCB Industry Leader Brian Haken Passes Away

Brian Haken helped steer the UK PCB industry to wider markets, forging close ties with the IPC in the United States and JPCA in Japan.

Flexible and Stretchable Circuit Technologies for Space Applications

This article describes two original technologies developed at imec-CMST--the ultra-thin chip package (UTCP) and stretchable moulded interconnect (SMI)--and how they could be offering new form factors with increased functional density, as well as improved reliability in harsh environments .

Revolutionizing Equipment Repair & Service

Guest Editor Steve Williams sits down with Randy Cook of CalTeks and Yash Sutariya of Alpha Circuits to talk about servicing equipment, especially foreign equipment not previously available in North America. With quality service now readily available, one can take advantage of considerably less expensive equipment being manufactured in China.

How to Make Mass Lam Outsourcing Successful

For PCB manufacturers in the United States and Europe, finding a suitable mass lam-outsourcing partner can be a challenge. In this interview with Option Technologies, a Ventec International Group company, I-Connect007 Technical Editor Pete Starkey and Option Managing Director Steve Law discuss the ins and outs of this specialist market.


Novel High-Performance Substrate for Stretchable Electronics

A cornerstone feature of any viable stretchable material is its ability to return to zero after stretching. This article talks about a new transparent, high-performance thermal setting stretchable material that could open doors to a range of new and innovative products.

Wearable Technology and Flexible Circuits

Flexible circuits are an ideal fit for wearable technology. Wearable electronics need to be light, dense and bendable. While what is currently considered standard flexible circuit technology is more than adequate for many the wearable products, there are requirements that may be pushing the boundaries a bit.

A New Source for Laser Drills

Publisher Barry Matties recently visited the West Coast offices of Nano System Inc. to catch up with Sam Sekine, formerly of Hitachi. Nano System is a new company focused on producing and selling laser drill systems to the PCB industry. In this interview, Mr. Sekine discusses his staff, the company’s technology, and Nano System’s strategy for the future.

A High-Reliability, Stress-free Copper Deposit for FPC, Polyimide and Rigid-Flex

Conventional electroless copper systems often required pretreatments with hazardous chemicals or have a small process window to achieve a uniform coverage without blistering. To overcome the challenge of metallizing smooth surfaces, a new stress-free electroless copper was developed to serve this important sector of the printed circuit industry.

Flexible Circuit Materials for High-Temperature Applications

To meet the increasing needs for flexible circuit materials for high-temperature applications, new test methods will need to be developed. These new methods will assign new ratings that are consistent with actual performance.

New Embedded Component Standard Finalized

Solberg Technical Consulting's Vern Solberg talks to I-Connect007 about the recently launched standard, the IPC-7092, which focuses on embedded component technology. According to Solberg, this new standard took the earlier standards involved with passive devices, and combined it with standards on newer technologies using active devices, to help form components that can be manufactured and placed on layers within the PCB.

HDPUG Demonstrates Benefits of Cooperative R&D

The High Density Packaging User Group (HDPUG) is a member-driven, non-profit, project-oriented industry consortium that addresses the integration of new electronics component packaging and interconnection technologies into the supply chains of its member companies.

eSurface Breaking Down Barriers for Murrietta

Murrietta Circuits is the first facility in North America successfully processing PCBs made with the eSurface technology. Andy Murrietta talks with Guest Editor Judy Warner about the key benefits, including greatly improved line geometry, trace tolerance, and peel strength.

HDPUG and High-Frequency Test Methodologies

CEO Brian Butler talks with Guest Editor Bob Neves about the HDP User Group, an industry consortium that is developing test methodologies and programs. Brian decribes three of the current subcommittees: Material Characterization; Back Drill, having to do with defect detection and reliability; and Copper Surface Roughness.

The Flex-to-Fit Approach

The flex-to-fit concept reminds us that creativity and engineering go hand-in-hand. When there is not ample space for a conventional approach, this process, which is the convergence of the mechanical world and the electronics world, results in the ability to design a flexible circuit along the contour of an existing, irregularly shaped structure.


Electroplating Through-Holes with Different Geometry: A Novel and High-Productivity Process

Microfill through-hole fill electrolytic copper is a new process designed to offer outstanding through-hole fill, particularly for substrates intended for use as core layers in build–up applications, producing planar, solid copper plugs in high-volume production plating equipment. This article describes a novel copper through-hole fill electroplating process designed for use with insoluble anodes and direct current (DC) rectification.

Flexible, Stretchable, and Wearable: If You Can Dream it, You Can Create it!

We originally intended the June issue of The PCB Magazine to be centered on flexible circuits, but it quickly became apparent that we needed to broaden the scope and include all (well, at least some) of the new and exciting things going on these days in the world of flexible everything. As such, we have garnered a trove of authors, with much information to impart on the above mentioned.

Optimization of Acid Copper Electrodeposition Processes for High-Throwing Power DC Plating

One of the three most fundamental aspects of printed circuit fabrication is the metallization and electroplating of throughhole vias and blind via interconnections. In this article, Michael Carano writes about the strategies in optimizing acid copper electrodeposition processes for high-throwing power DC plating.

ENEPIG: The Plating Process

In this article, George Milad talks about the complexity of the ENEPIG process, how it works, its requirements and the critical parameters that must be maintained in the ENEPIG line. He writes that shops that have good engineering and documentation of the manufacturing process, coupled with a dedicated, experienced ENEPIG operator that is backed by a capable analytical laboratory, run defect-free ENEPIG day in and day out.

Precision Back-drilling High-Speed PCBs? No Problem!

Grant Christiansen of Schmoll Maschinen discusses the latest developments for high-speed back-drilling, particularly for the North American market. He stresses the importance of both software and machine capability, along with working closely with the customer.

NEPCON China 2015 a Resounding Success in Shanghai

The three-day event was a complete success, bringing together nearly 22,000 trade visitors and high-quality buyers, as well as 450 leading brand names from 22 countries and regions worldwide. NEPCON China keeps up with market trends and gathers resources from all stakeholders to present a comprehensive event that covers SMT, new electronics materials, soldering, dispensing, electronics automation, measurement and other innovative technologies and products across the world.

Flexible Circuits and UAV Applications

The utility offered by flexible circuits in UAVs mimics the advantages that make it popular in other portable electronic applications: lightweight, thin, highly reliable, flexible during use, and an ability to electrically connect across multiple layers as part of a complete packaging interconnect solution.

The Importance of Harmonized Standards that Benefit All

I-Connect007 Technical Editor Pete Starkey caught up with Amphenol applications engineer Sean Keating at IPC APEX EXPO. Keating explains his company’s commitment to proactive participation in the establishment of standards, his personal experience working on standards committees, and his view on the importance of harmonised global standards.

An Interview with Gardien Group’s Jason Fraser

Gardien Group CEO Jason Fraser talks to Dan Beaulieu about some of the latest developments at the company, some of the technology trends driving the company's strategies, as well as provides his outlook as to where the PCB industry is headed.

Being Flexible in a Rigid World

With double-digit growth in the foreseeable future, flexible printed circuits (FPC), have found a tremendous niche as an enabler for various electronic applications. This trend is expected to drive the need to increase productivity while improving performance and reducing costs. Of course, in order to sell flex, one must tackle the unenviable task of metalizing these often difficult-to-plate materials.


IMPACT 2015: An In-Depth Look

IPC understands that presenting a unified voice for the electronics industry is essential for advancing policies that affect the industry’s long-term future and strengthens the U.S. and global economy. That is why 22 IPC member-company executives descended on the nation’s capital for IMPACT 2015: IPC on Capitol Hill, IPC’s annual advocacy event.

The Growing Role of the Added-Value PCB Distributor

Dan Beaulieu talks with Nesh Dholakia, president of Nujay. Value-add is not just for low-technology sourcing, but increasingly for high-technology multilayer as well as difficult-to-source technologies in low-cost areas domestically.

Splitting Hairs: The Manufacture of HDI and Substrate Test Fixtures

The HDI and substrate fixture technology is truly an art form. Long gone are the luxuries of just using a plated drill file on an old drill machine and automatically dropping pins. Even the multi-plate fixtures that are used today have no comparison to the critical manufacturing requirements of the HDI and substrate fixtures.

High-Density Interconnects: Enabling the Intelligence of Things

HDI layers and sub-composites with laser-drilled vias combined with stacked, copper-filled vias up to 16 layers have become the state-of-the-art in circuit design for the newest generation of mobile phones, wearable electronics, and IoT modules.

IPC Validation Services 2014

Guest Editor Judy Warner talks with IPC's Director of Validation Services, Randy Cherry. Randy has been busy since launching IPC's Validation Services a year ago, with 16 QML audits completed and rapidly growing interest shown at this year's show. Randy also discusses future plans for auditing to IPC intellectual property standards 1071A and 1072, as well as to PCB standard 6012.

Next-Generation Ultra-Thin HDI PCB Manufacturing Challenges

This article describes the recent challenges and developments in manufacturing ALV HDI technology to meet the needs for high volume, robust, reliable, and cost competitive solutions for electronic packaging.

A Conversation (and Day) with Joe Fjelstad, Part 5

Our five-part interview series with Verdant Electronics Founder Joe Fjelstad wraps up with a look back at the point when Fjelstad’s career began focusing on circuit board technology, and he details his patented Occam process, and why this game-changing, disruptive technology has yet to become standard practice in the industry. Also explained: Why Fjelstad has been referred to as an “iconoclastic polemicist,” and how a Native American story he heard long ago has resonated throughout his career and life.

Design Considerations: Flexible Circuit vs. Traditional PCB

The tactics for flexible circuit design don’t differ much from that of traditional PCBs. All of the typical specifications still apply and we add a few more things that require special attention. Cover layers require bigger openings than traditional solder mask, trace directions matter in the flex areas and miters should be round instead of angular.

A Conversation (and Day) with Joe Fjelstad Part 4

We continue the conversation as it turns to the more technically focused area of disruptive technology. The method Joe has been demonstrating for years now is one which is poised to offer dramatic increases in electronic reliability while decreasing overall cost through the elimination of solder--a cornerstone concept of what has been coined as Occam technology.

A Conversation (and Day) with Joe Fjelstad Part 3

In Part 3 of this interview series, Fjelstad divulges his interesting entry into the electronics manufacturing industry, including a brief diversion as a restaurateur. In this portion of the interview, the pair was touring the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum (home of the Spruce Goose) where Fjelstad spoke frankly about his experience in Vietnam and how it has shaped his view about war, which he shares. Finally, the importance of education was discussed, as well as India, and why the rest of the manufacturing world should be paying attention to them.


A Conversation (and Day) with Joe Fjelstad, Part 2

In Part 2 of this multi-part interview series, Verdant Electronics Founder and CEO Joe Fjelstad, and I-Connect007 Publisher Barry Matties discuss the future of what’s to come for the electronics industry, which, according to Fjelstad, has a lot to do with where we’ve just been in our quest for lead-free manufacturing. He also offers his view on the natural order of the evolution of personal political persuasions.

A Conversation (and Day) with Joe Fjelstad, Part 1

I-Connect007 Publisher Barry Matties and industry veteran Joe Fjelstad, CEO and founder of Verdant Electronics, met recently to spend a day together enjoying the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum (home of the Spruce Goose), located in the Oregon community of McMinnville. Their conversation ebbed and flowed between a wide variety of topics, from the electronics industry, to political shenanigans and the “war against failure.” In Part 1 of this multi-part series, Fjelstad introduces his “war against failure” idea, and what went terribly wrong in the advent of lead-free manufacturing.

Insulectro Alliance with Freedom CAD

Ken Parent, Vice President of Sales at Insulectro, recently sat down with I-Connect007 Publisher Barry Matties for a quick chat about the strategic alliance that Insulectro is pursuing with Freedom CAD. Parent explains how this new strategic effort is working, and what it means for customers--and OEMs.

Benefits of Buying Certified Rebuilt Equipment Over New

ETI's Eric Winkler tells Guest Editor Steve Williams about ETI's expansion to four locations worldwide. ETI not only rebuilds PCB equipment but also tests, guarantees, and installs it for their customers, some of whom provide wish lists.

Building a Better Solder Mask & Legend - Layer by Layer

Camtek's VP of Functional Inkjet Technologies Dr. Boaz Nitzan talks with Guest Editor Kelly Dack about inkjet printing solder mask and legend. The technology uses the actual image of the board being processed, which means misregistration is eliminated.

Drill & Routing Process Experts

Ofer Ton, president of FASTechnologies talks with Guest Editor Steve Williams about drill room automation and the associated cost savings and productivity improvements.

Thermal Management for LED Lighting Applications

PCB substrates designed for thermal management have been around for a number of years, traditionally servicing power-related applications; however, there are now many more suppliers and substrates emerging to meet the growing demand from LED lighting products.

Growing Their Portfolio: Camtek’s One-Stop-Shop in Functional Inkjet Technology

I-Connect007 Publisher Barry Matties caught up with Dr. Boaz Nitzan, VP of Functional Inkjet Technologies at Camtek recently, and the two discussed the company’s expanding portfolio into inkjet printing system for PCB solder mask & legend. The new system is designed to replace conventional coating, drying, exposure and development processes currently used in PCB manufacturing.

An Optical Update with TTM

Barry Matties recently met with Marika Immonen, manager of R&D optical interconnects at TTM Technologies. They last spoke one year ago. This time, they discussed the optical project that she’s been leading, as well as the future of optical technology in the PCB industry.

Nine New Exciting Products Introduced

Insulectro's VP of Sales, Ken Parent, discusses new products including high-speed laminate, high-temp flex materials, LDI dry film, conformal back-up material for flex-rigid,and printed electronics materials that will enable new technology in the PCB world. He also talks about their "Accomplish Change Together" program.


Call to Action: Participation in Industry Specifications Development

Jim Monarchio,TTM's director of quality, encourages participation in IPC standards development, especially from those manufacturing PCBs. With technology changing so rapidly, involvement at all levels of the supply chain can help ensure specifications remain realistic.

Checking in with Fast Growing Bay Area Circuits

Stephen talks with Guest Editor Dan Beaulieu about what's new at BAC, including their new 3-D soldermask machine that cures as it prints. With over 60% of their business in quick turn prototypes, process speed is top priority.

ATG’s Swen Fleischer on China: the Market, the Future and CPCA

ATG Luther & Maelzer’s Swen Fleischer, vice president and GM of sales, Greater Taiwan/China, sat down with I-Connect007 Publisher Barry Matties at CPCA 2015. Among the several topics discussed are automation in China, the Chinese market in general and areas of future growth, and the effect of three major shows a year on the turnout at CPCA.

Fire Retardancy: What, Why, and How

This article takes a critical look at all aspects of fire retardancy, starting with the need for fire safety, the function of a flame retardant, the reactive and additive flame retardant classes, major flame retardant compounds, toxicology and environmental impact of retardants--most especially Tetrabromobisphenol-A, which is the most widely used flame retardant in PCB materials--as well as European legislative directives.

Material Witness: Low-Flow Prepregs – Taming the Process

In this installment of Material Witness, Chet Guiles continues his discussion around Low-Flow Prepregs giving good advice about how to actually use these materials.
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