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Meet our Columnists
RF Power Capabilities of High-Frequency PCBs
Lightning Speed Laminates By: John Coonrod
I often hear this question: “How much RF power can be applied to a high-frequency PCB?” My answer sometimes surprises engineers. I tell them that they can put as much RF power into the PCB as they want, with the assumption that the PCB does not exceed its maximum operating temperature (MOT). MOT refers to the maximum temperature to which a circuit can be exposed without degradation of critical properties.
Karl's Tech Talk By: Karl Dietz
Lucent looked at the development of optical backplanes in the early 2000s, but financial problems interfered. But there remained continued interest and work on optical backplanes. In this column, Karl Dietz talks about the technical issues in integrating optoelectronics in backplanes, and the continued work in the segment.
The Shaughnessy Report: Mistakes Were Made
The Shaughnessy Report By: Andy Shaughnessy
We started planning the August issue with a survey sarcastically titled, “Whose fault is that bad board?” We asked a variety of questions regarding how the cause or causes of failure were determined, and what companies do to keep from making the same mistake again. We asked the question “If a board fails in the field, whose fault is it, typically?” Check out some of the answers.
Best Practices 101, Part 5: Process Capability
The Right Approach By: Steve Williams
Not every process is a good candidate for statistical control, and that in these instances, alternate process control methods may be required. Steven Williams talks about continuous improvement when it comes to process capability.
Getting Connected with Social Media: Can You 'Game' the LinkedIn Publishing Algorithm?
Getting Connected with Social Media By: Bruce Johnston
Dear readers, this is my last column. After five years, 256 columns and 150,000 words on sales and social media, I am hanging up the keyboard. Why? Well, when I first started this column, I had a lot of relationships in the PCB industry, and this figured to be where work would come from for me. And it did—for a while.
Effects of DC Bias on Ceramic Capacitors
QuietPower By: Istvan Novak
The density of multilayer ceramic capacitors has increased tremendously over the years. While 15 years ago a state-of-the-art X5R 10V 0402 (EIA) size capacitor might have had a maximum capacitance of 0.1 uF, today the same size capacitor may be available with 10 uF capacitance. This huge increase in density unfortunately comes with a very ugly downside. Istvan Novak has more.
Software Bytes By: Abby Monaco
True MCAD-ECAD Architecture: A Common-Sense Approach
The Town Crier By: Dan Smith
Despite a lot progress, a true MCAD-ECAD collaborative integrated design process tool environment has never materialized. In the simplest Dr. Phil terminology, EDA vendors still don’t get it. The goal of the following roadmap is to create a complete bi-directional, fully integrated tool within the next five years. By 2020, a true cost-affordable MCAD-ECAD tool needs to be available to every project engineering team.
Challenges of Electrical Test
Testing Todd By: Todd Kolmodin
In our arena today, we can solve pitch and density with flying probe machines, and volume with our grid testers, but the catalyst that is in the mix is that pesky soldermask! Here's why I bring up that necessary process as a problem for electrical test.
CES 2015: A Retrospective
Fein-Lines By: Dan Feinberg
Columnist Dan Feinberg believes that this was the most interesting CES in many years, perhaps ever. "Yes, there were the expected hundreds of smartphone cases and battery chargers and cables galore. But there were also strong indications of formerly embryonic trends becoming actual mainstream technology."
3D Printing in Electronics - A Perspective
Flexible Thinking By: Joe Fjelstad
Knowing the value of a product or technology is key to making the right decision. Appreciating the value of an element of business is evermore important as the rate of change surrounding an industry accelerates. This brings us to one of the current buzz subjects in our industry: 3D printing. Understanding what it is and what its value is to a company and that company's ability to improve its place in the industry is vital.
A Summary of Counterfeit Avoidance: Development & Impact
Kramer on Counterfeits By: Todd Kramer
Although counterfeit components and substandard products get plenty of attention in military, aerospace and medical fields due to their costly impact in human life, it’s important to point out the severe impact substandard parts and assemblies play in everyone’s life. Safeguards are in place to filter counterfeit products, but there remains a great deal of work to fully mitigate this threat.
Indium and Gallium: Playing Important Roles in LED Lighting and the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics
From One Engineer to Another By: Indium Bloggers
An important element of US energy independence is the reduction of energy use for lighting. While, in its day, the incandescent light was one of the greatest inventions of all time, it is extremely energy inefficient.
Like it or Not, You're a Role Model
Tim's Takeaways By: Tim Haag
"During the years that I built my skills as a circuit board designer, many people helped shape my character. Some were impulsively brilliant at laying out a board, while others were steady and consistent in their approach to work, dotting every 'i' and crossing every 't.' But they were all patient with me, answering my questions, showing me the ropes, and setting good examples for me to follow," says Columnist Tim Haag.
Solving a True DAM Problem
Solving DAM Problems By: Gray McQuarrie
It's one thing to be a consultant where you don't have to really do anything, but quite another to be accountable to solve a truly difficult problem. Anybody who has been on the firing line of a tough problem knows the feeling of vulnerability that results. Will I fail? And if I do fail, will I survive or be crushed?
Conversations with...Integrated Micro-Electronics Inc.
From the Archives By: Various Authors
I-Connect007 editor Richard Ayes recently interviewed Rafael Nestor Mantaring, vice president for design and development at Philippines-based EMS firm Integrated Micro-Electronics Inc. (IMI), who discusses the benefits and impact of printed electronics for the electronics manufacturing industry and the current challenges the technology faces.
The Key to Increasing Quality - Bribe Your Employees
Bob and Me By: Dan Beaulieu and Bob Tarzwell
Back in the 1990s when Bob owned a board shop in Canada, the company was going through a bad stretch, as board shops sometimes will. Yields were way down and they were losing a lot of boards for stupid reasons, many having to do with carelessness and apathy. Bob tried yelling and screaming, but, not being a naturally gifted yeller and screamer, Bob proved ineffective at this method. So he knew he had to try something new.
Up, Up, and Away - Reasons for Renewed Optimism in the Mil/Aero PCB Market
Mil/Aero Markets By: John Vaughan
As anyone in the military circuit board business in the last few decades will attest, it has been both extremely challenging (due to the many obstacles) and wonderfully rewarding (because our collective work supports our country and our war fighters). But Columnist John Vaughan says the tide has now turned as PCBs designed specifically for defense systems must now be manufactured in the U.S. and are under full ITAR and USML controls.
Electromagnetic Fields, Part 2: How They Impact Propagation Speed
Brooks' Bits By: Douglas Brooks, PhD.
In Part 1, Doug Brooks suggested that thinking in terms of what the electromagnetic field looks like around our traces might offer significant insight into how circuits might be performing. In this column, he makes similar observations about signal propagation speed.
Stop the SMT Conspiracy, Pt. I
The Essential Pioneer's Survival Guide By: Michael Ford
Pointing out a line of machines, we are told that these are the very latest technology, the fastest, most accurate, and reliable models available, a significant investment intended to enable the company to satisfy the most demanding of customer needs.
Accelerating the SI Learning Curve - Bogatin's SI Academy
Bert's Practical Design Notes By: Bert Simonovich
Columnist Bert Simonovich writes, "Last year, Dr. Eric Bogatin, the 'Signal Integrity Evangelist,' announced the end of his famous signal integrity classes. At the time I remember thinking to myself, 'What's next for Eric?' If you know Eric, like I do, you realize that the end of one phase of his career usually means the start of the next one. And now we know what that is."
LED the Sunshine In
SMT Trends & Technologies By: Sjef van Gastel
After a relatively slow start, LED lamps are now becoming affordable, and domestic LED lighting is about to take off. It is expected that by 2020, more than 65 to 70% of all lighting will use LED lamps or LED modules. The manufacturing process for LED lamps is based on SMT, and this month's column explains some of manufacturing's special requirements.
What is Your Real Output?
SMT Trends & Technologies By: Eric Klaver
Columnist Eric Klaver asks, "How should you define your output? Highest area productivity, lab speed, actual speed, optimum speed, IPC speed, or maximum speed? And is it speed or throughput we should be looking at? Neither is clearly defined, and we all have our rules of thumb."
The Sales Cycle: Social Media - It's Nothing New...or Is It?
The Sales Cycle By: Barry Matties
It's not whether or not social media is good, bad, or here to stay; it's about focusing on your community and delivering your message. Social media is nothing new; it's been around for thousands of years. The difference now is that new outlets allow any person to have an immediate voice and be relevant.
PCBs are MSDs
More Than Just Dry Air By: Richard Heimsch
There were no published standards for storage and moisture protection for printed boards until 2010, and their proper handling is still often overlooked. But with the correct storage control and the use of suitable drying methods, considerable manufacturing advantages can be gained; PCBs will remain solderable for a much longer time and damage during reflow due to moisture can be eliminated.
It's Only Common Sense: Marketing Your Contract Manufacturing Company
It's Only Common Sense By: Dan Beaulieu
We often focus on North America’s shrinking PCB fabricator landscape, which is are now down to less than 200 shops. But there are well over 1,000 contract electronics manufacturers in existence, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Everyone knows about the big guys like Celestica, Flextronics, Sanmina and Plexus.
Beyond Design: When Legacy Products No Longer Perform
Beyond Design By: Barry Olney
As IC die sizes continue to compact due to demand for smaller and faster technology, and as switching speeds continue to improve, rise and fall times are creeping down into the sub-nanosecond realm, a territory previously reserved for microwave engineers. It is a common quandary that established products that have worked flawlessly for years suddenly stop performing reliably, due to a new batch of ICs that is used in the latest production run.
Vias, Modeling, and Signal Integrity
The Pulse By: Martyn Gaudion
Remember that good modeling can’t fix a bad design. The model can tell you where a design is weak, but if you have committed your design to product, the model can only tell you how it behaves. Some less experienced designers seem to think a better model will fix something that doesn’t work; it won’t. It will only reassure you that the design was bad in the first place.
Ladle on Manufacturing: Back to Basics
Ladle on Manufacturing By: Marc Ladle
Many companies in the printed circuit industry are based in a single factory. When everything is going well, this can really help to get the best out of people and machinery. The main drawback is that seeing the same issues day after day, it can be easy to accept your manufacturing problems as being normal.
EPTE Newsletter: Can Toshiba Survive?
EPTE Newsletter By: Dominique Numakura
Toshiba was the leader in the electronics industry, and developed and marketed many types of electronic equipment and devices that included word processors, printers, VCR cameras, tape recorders, hard disc drives, transceivers, laptop computers, facsimiles, cellular phones, and more. Toshiba was also a leader in designing medical equipment. Toshiba was always one of the best electronics companies in the world.
PTFE is About to be Banned by IEC TC111
Mr. Laminate Tells All By: Doug Sober
There, I said it. Technical Committee 111 of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is preparing to effectively ban PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) materials from electronics. As history goes, the electronics industry has focused on only two of the four halogens (bromine and chlorine) to be limited in order to be called “halogen-free” or more accurately “low-halogen.” But now, fluorine is being dragged down too, just because of its location in the periodic table.
The Role of Bismuth (Bi) in Electronics, Part 1
SMT Perspectives and Prospects By: Dr. Jennie Hwang
In this column series about bismuth, Dr. Jennie Hwang starts with its elemental properties: where it is usually mined, its safety data, and application areas—in the chemical world, the metals industry, and electronics. She also writes about how bismuth compounds improve the performance some electronics devices, such as varistors.
All About Flex: Flexible Circuit Failure Analysis
All About Flex By: Dave Becker
Design reviews and early involvement by a circuit board fabrication house can minimize the possibility of field problems, but despite best efforts, there remain occasions when diagnosis of a poorly performing design is required.
CircuitData: A New Open Standard for PCB Fab Data Exchange
The European Angle By: Pete Starkey
An enormous amount of information is needed to precisely and unambiguously define all of the fabrication details for a PCB and ensure that it is manufactured, tested, qualified and delivered exactly as the customer specified. Widely reported recently has been the development of a new open standard for exchanging printed circuit fabrication data by an independent international task group with members from the entire supply chain. Initiated by Norway-based Elmatica, the CircuitData standard is designed to enhance your Gerber, ODB++ and IPC-2581 files, and not replace them.
Flex Talk: The Man Behind the Curtain
Flex Talk By: Tara Dunn
“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” This famous quote from The Wizard of Oz conjures up the image of Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow discovering that the great Wizard of Oz isn’t as grand or as magical as he seems.
The Bare (Board) Truth: Hey, They’re Just Vias—or Are They?
The Bare (Board) Truth By: Mark Thompson
I get this phone call once a week: “Mark, what is the smallest mechanical via that can be done by your company?” I reply, “What will the tolerance for the vias in question be?” If they say, “Oh, your standard +/-.003” tolerances,” I must tell them the min via would be around .0078” with a signal pad of at least .014” and an anti-pad of at least .018”. What if they don't have that kind of room?
Laser Pointers: Stepping Up to Laser Processing for Flex, Part 6 — Proper Care and Feeding of Your Equipment
Laser Pointers By: Mike Jennings and Patrick Riechel
Supplementing your production capabilities with flexible circuit laser processing can pay big dividends. It not only enables you to broaden the set of services you can offer your customers, but it also extends your reach into additional markets you might not otherwise be equipped to serve.
The Economics of Reducing Cycle Time in PCB Fabrication
Putting It All Together By: Jason Marsh
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.
Improving Stencil Printing Results
The Short Scoop By: Rachel Miller-Short
A myriad of causes can result in poor print performance. The problem may stem from an inferior or worn-out stencil, but the issue may also be caused by an improper aperture design or stencil thickness. Poor print performance might not be caused by the stencil itself, but rather an improper printer set-up, a non-optimal squeegee blade, or the rheology of the solder paste being used.
Happy’s Essential Skills: Tip of the Month—The NIST/SEMATECH e-Handbook of Statistical Methods
Happy’s Essential Skills By: Happy Holden
In the 1990s, the National Bureau of Standards was distributing a popular statistical document, the Handbook 91, written by Mary Natrella of the NBS Statistical Engineering Laboratory. A request by Patrick Spagon of the Statistical Methods Group of SEMATECH to update the NBS Handbook 91, Experimental Statistics, led to the creation of a project team from NIST and SEMATECH to create a new web-based statistical handbook including statistical software.
Specifying Lead-Free Compatible Surface Finish and Coating for Solderability and Surface Protection
Designers Notebook By: Vern Solberg
A majority of the components furnished for electronic assembly are designed for solder attachment to metalized land patterns specifically designed for each device type. Providing a solder process-compatible surface finish on these land patterns is vital...
Launch Letters: Myths about Millennials—Workplace Safety Matters
Launch Letters By: Barry Lee Cohen
Today, more than one in three American workers are millennials, and they represent the largest share of the American workforce. As baby boomers increasingly enter the ranks of retirement, companies are embracing the differences of this younger generation to foster a safe workplace, while increasing employee productivity and engagement.
Standard of Excellence: Customers are Shooting for the Stars—Are We Coming?
Standard of Excellence By: Team ASC
For years we have been calling them “science projects,” those PCB orders that did not quite fit into our normal process stream and therefore needed special attention, as well as special handling. Often, we have had to use trial and error to come up with just the right process to successfully complete the order.
Tighter Scrutiny Needed for PCB Cleaning Agents
Zulki's PCB Nuggets By: Zulki Khan
PCB cleanliness on the assembly floor is now getting more attention, due to tiny residues and contaminants being left on assemblies after new, advanced assembly processes. Cleaning methodologies, testing, analysis, and special chemistries are being taken to a new level to assure customers of ultraclean boards to avoid costly latent issues.
Millennials in Manufacturing: Hiring, Training and Retaining Millennials
Millennials in Manufacturing By: Davina McDonnell
Shelly Phelps is the human resource manager at Saline Lectronics, where she manages recruitment strategies, disciplinary actions, and employee relations. In this interview, she discusses the greatest challenges when dealing with millennials, and how she thinks management and training should evolve for a more effective onboarding of this new generation of manufacturing workforce.
Trouble in Your Tank: Moving into Microvias—The Interaction of Materials and Processes, Part 1
Trouble in Your Tank By: Michael Carano
In the first part of a series of columns focused on microvias, the importance of adopting HDI technology as a strategic initiative for the PWB fabricator is presented. The major drivers for HDI are listed.
Punching Out! Case Study—Lessons on a Deal
Punching Out! By: Tom Kastner
This is a story of one of our clients, a U.S. contract manufacturer that sold a few years ago. To maintain confidentiality, the names have been changed and the details slightly modified.
Let’s Talk Testing: Professor Plum in the Library with the Candlestick…Right?
Let's Talk Testing By: Keith Sellers
Who knew that a phrase from a decades-old popular board game could have some relevance in today’s ever-changing world? In the game of Clue, simply put, evidence is collected and then used to solve a mystery. In my world, testing is performed to gather data/results (evidence) and then this information is used to determine the root cause of some issue that is under investigation (solving the mystery).
One World, One Industry: The Future of Electronics in the Automotive Industry
One World, One Industry By: John Mitchell
Automotive electronics is not a new topic. While there is a trend for both performance and luxury electronics, many of the recent conversations tend to focus on self-driving/autonomous vehicles. While the technology is exciting, it is just the tip of the iceberg.
Analyzing the Cost of Material in Today’s Global Economy, Part 3
Jumping Off the Bandwagon By: Tom Borkes
Any increase in material cost based solely on an assembly operation's geographic location could, in itself, cause a condition that would not allow a turnkey electronic product assembler to successfully compete on the global landscape—notwithstanding the difference that exists in direct labor rates.
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