Talking Government Relations with IPC

In my latest podcast, I speak with John Mitchell, president and CEO of IPC, and Chris Mitchell, IPC vice president of global government relations. They discuss the trade organization’s key government programs and initiatives, its annual member lobbying event coming up in May, and the importance of lobbying by member companies. Listen in at

Use an SMT Pre-Test Before Presenting a Soldering Workshop


Let’s see how Patty is doing, it’s been a very, very long time …

Even though Patty and her husband Rob both worked at Ivy University, they seldom drove in together. It was just too difficult to organize their schedules so that it would work out. So, as Patty was driving in to Ivy U, she was listening to the last chapter of Ron Chernow’s biography of U. S. Grant. Her timing was excellent, since she, Rob, Pete, and the Professor were having their monthly book club meeting. Rob, Pete, and the Professor were always recommending books about World War II or the Civil War. Because of this trait, she groaned every time it was the three “boys” turn to suggest the next book. But, she had to admit that she always enjoyed the books much more than she thought she would. She especially liked a book Rob discovered, called A Simple Solder. Patty found this true story, about a young boy in the German army in World War II and how he survived to tell the tale, fascinating. She would never tell Rob, but she read it three times.

When it was Patty’s turn she made sure to avoid those military topics. Recently, she proposed another one of Chernow’s biographies on John D. Rockefeller. She also suggested  iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us by Jean M. Twenge. This book convinced her and Rob to dramatically limit “screen time” for their 9-year-old twin boys.

As she approached her parking spot, the audio book on Grant finished. She was a bit sad, as she had enjoyed this book as much as any. Patty had the impression, from her high school history classes, that Grant led the Union to victory over Robert E. Lee only because he had superior forces, weapons, and supplies. Chernow’s book clearly dispelled that notion. Grant was a great general. In addition, he was an effective and honorable president, if a little too naïve and trusting to avoid numerous scandals among his subordinates.

In a few moments, they met in The Professor’s large office. After they finished their book club chat about Grant’s biography. Patty had a favor to ask.

“Mike Madigan asked me to give a three-day workshop on SMT 101 at one of ACME’s recently acquired facilities. He said he felt the technicians and engineers weren’t very knowledgeable. I’m having trouble deciding at what level to aim the workshop,” Patty began.

“You mean like for beginners, intermediate, or expert?” Pete asked.

“Yes,” Patty responded.

“Well, you should develop it in a logical sense, starting with what soldering is, discuss flux and solder paste, then stencil printing, component placement, reflow, test, etc,” Rob added.

“I agree with Rob’s outline, but you need to find out the current knowledge level of the students,” The Professor suggested.

“I once gave an eight-hour seminar on SMT Defect Modes and How to Fix Them. The workshop was advertised as for SMT engineers and technicians with intermediate experience. At the end of the workshop a person raised his hand and asked an unsettling question,” The Professor continued.

“And the question was?” Pete teased.

“Professor, you have used the word ‘SAC’ many times, what does ‘SAC’ stand for?” The Professor responded.

In unison, Patty, Rob and Pete groaned.

“That’s my concern! At which level do I aim the workshop? If I shoot too low, it might insult people. If I shoot to high it might go over their heads,” Patty responded.

“OK! So, how do I structure the workshop, not knowing the skill level of the students?” Patty asked a little frustrated.

“How about a pre-test?” The Professor suggested.

“OK! But how many questions?” Rob asked.

“It needs to be short, yet comprehensive,” The Professor suggested.

“Seems like a contradiction,” Pete grumbled.

“I think The Professor is right. Look at it this way, let’s say you want to assess if your 14 year old nephew knows much about The Civil War. Ask him three or at most five questions and you can determine if he does,” Patty suggested.

“How about some examples?” Pete asked a bit dubious.

“I’m getting it. How about when was the war fought, who was Robert E. Lee, what is the significance of Appomattox Court House?” Rob chimed in.

“OK, I see you point. If you know two or all three, you probably know a lot, one or less and you don’t know much,” Pete responded.

Patty then suggested, “OK let’s develop a list of ten SMT Pre-Test questions.”

After about 20 minutes of back and forth, our team of four converged on these 10 questions.

SMT Pre-Test

  1. What does the letter “S” in SAC stand for?
  2. How much silver is in SAC 305?
  3. PWBs are coming off of the final component placement machine at a rate of one every 20 seconds. The PWBs are 20cm long and should be placed with at least 4cm of space between them. What must the reflow oven belt speed be to accommodate this cycle time?
  4. The starting temperature is 25°C. It needs to be 145°C in one minute. What heating rate is needed, in °C/s, to achieve this temperature?
  5. About how much does silver cost per troy oz.? (+/- 30%)
  6. Which is a closest to typical stencil thickness?
    • 5 microns
    • 20 mils
    • 5 mils
    • 20 microns
  7. Which is closest to a typical lead spacing for a plastic quad flat pack (PQFP?)
    • 0.1mm
    • 0.1 mil
    • 0.4mm
    • 0.4 mils
  8. Which has finer solder particles, a Type 3 or 4 solder paste?
  9. What does OSP stand for?
  10. Place an arrow at the eutectic point of the tin-lead phase diagram below.

Would you like to try the pre-test? The answers have to be what you know without looking anything up. Send me your answers at The first person to get 100% will get an item of memorabilia signed by Patty, Rob, Pete, and The Professor.


Dr. Ron

Latest Podcasts Look at AS9100D, EMS Innovation

A couple new podcasts to call your attention to.

In one, I speak with my longtime friend Randall Sherman, the EMS/ODM analyst and founder of New Venture Research, on recent developments in the market and how EMS companies are leading innovation by building intelligence into production systems.

In the second, I discuss the ongoing issues faced by the supply chain, and especially fabricators, in the wake of AS9100D.

The podcasts can be found at


The Bourse Identity

Foxconn’s prospectus to issue a public offering to raise money for its nascent foray in to cloud computing is less revealing for what it proposes than where the offering will take place.

Rather than leverage its newfound admiration in the US (or at least, in a couple pf offices in Washington) by accessing the Nasdaq or NYSE, instead Foxconn is opting for a far less prominent bourse: the Shanghai Exchange.

The reasons are obvious: The Shanghai bourse lacks the capital controls and oversight of the world’s dominant financial exchanges. A company, even one as large as Foxconn, can get away with a lot more, since reporting requirements and level of scrutiny are so less rigorous than in New York or Munich or London. Foxconn’s financial picture is opaque: even reporting on its revenues and profits remains an uncertain undertaking. Staying offshore makes that possible.

Finally, Shanghai is a Chinese exchange and Foxconn is a Chinese company. (Yes, I know it’s based in Taiwan. But look where the bulk of its facilities, workers, investment and attention is. And keep in mind that for many Taiwanese, China is still the motherland.) This latest move underscores that fact.

Research Grants Offer Glimpse of Future of Electronics

The sums aren’t huge, and the research decidedly blue sky, but the US Department of Energy is following through on an Obama-era initiative to fund early-stage research projects aimed at innovative technologies and solutions in advanced manufacturing.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) today announced $35 million in awards to universities, national laboratories, and for-profit and nonprofit partners to a host of universities, national laboratories, and other entities

Among those with specific implications for electronics design and manufacturing:

  • The University of Maryland nabbed almost $2.1 million to improve the balance of electrical-mechanical-thermal properties in materials for electrical wiring, contributing to a future reduction in material usage and energy waste in the nation’s transmission-line networks and in microchips. These new materials could be used to make conductors for power lines with higher strength and higher current carrying capacity and interconnects with longer lifetime in microelectronics.
  • The Dana Farber Cancer Institute received a $1.2 million grant to design and build billions of first-of-their-kind molecular 2D printers, that are atomically precise, and which could produce trillions of atomically precise products to advance atomically precise manufacturing.
  • Zyvex Labs received more than $2.45 million to create and test atomically precise materials in two dimensions using a scanning tunneling microscope that can pull individual hydrogen atoms out of a surface and a coating procedure to substitute other atoms in their place. This project will significantly advance atomically precise manufacturing for applications such as quantum computing and nanoelectronic computing devices.

Many of the other grant recipients are working on concepts similar in nature to the Dana Farber and Zyvex projects whereby atoms would be pushed around and connected. While those projects are targeting clean energy and other applications, it is possible the technology would have applications in electronics as well.

On the Road at SMTA Pan Pac


I am giving a paper, chairing a session and hosting a panel at SMTA Pan Pacific on Feb. 6 at the Hapuna Beach Prince Resort in Hawaii.









The paper is “Using Cpk and Cpk Confidence Intervals to Evaluate Stencil Printing,” with my coauthor Chris Nash of Indium Corporation. In this paper I will discuss how to calculate confidence intervals when using Cpk to evaluate the quality of stencil printing.

By comparing the confidence intervals of Cpks one can determine whether or not there is a statistically significant difference between different samples of stencil printing data.

The session I am chairing is on “Advanced Materials.” The papers in the session are:

  • “Oxygen Vacancy Migration in MLCCs” by Dock Brown, CRE, DfR Solutions
    “Update on Cu-Ni/Sn Alloy Composite Solder Paste for Harsh Environments” by Stephanie Choquette, Ph.D., Iowa State University, and Iver Anderson, Ames Laboratory (USDOE)
  • “Resistivity Stain Analysis of Graphene Coated Frabric for Wearable Electronics” by Martine Simard-Normandine, Ph.D., S. Ferguson, MuAnalysis, and K. Manga, Q.-B. Ho Grafoid.
  • The panel topic is “Solders for Harsh Environments.” Brief presentations will be given by some of the panelists with a question and answer period to follow. The panelists are Dwight Howard of Delphi Automotive, Iver Anderson of Ames Lab, John Evans of Auburn University, and Prabjit Singh of IBM.

We expect to learn a lot. I hope to see you there!

Dr. Ron


Taking the ‘Pulse’ of Productivity

On PCB Chat this week we talk with Mark Hepburn, the new director of product management at Cadence. Some industry veterans may remember Mark from a few years back — he was with Viewlogic, Innoveda and Mentor in the late 1990s and mid 2000s. He spent the past eight years with Perception Software, a developer of collaboration software.

Fittingly, he joined Cadence just in time for its launch of Allegro Pulse, a new web-based platform for collaboration and productivity measurement and analysis.

Take a listen here.

Is Industry 4.0 around the Corner?


I attended a technical session on Industry 4.0 at SMTAI in Rosemont, IL, in September. I admit to not knowing much about it, so I found the topic fascinating. Industry 4.0 begs the question as to what were Industry 1.0 to 3.0 are (were?) The image below explains the progression, Industry 1.0 was mechanization with water and steam power, Industry 2.0 is mass production with the assembly line using electricity. Industry 3.0 adds computers and automation. Whereas Industry 4.0 is the age of cyber physical systems, the internet of things, cloud computing, and cognitive computing.

Industries 1.0 to 4.0. Source:

One could imagine an Industry 4.0 (I4.0) workplace something like the following in an electronic assembly factory. A customer places an order in the cloud. It is received by the factory and after some analysis performed by a “Watson”-type AI, the order is accepted. The I4.0 system then goes to work scheduling the job and ordering the correct components, PWBs and hardware. It designs the stencil from a Gerber file and so on and so on. There is little human interaction and the factory runs at about a 95% uptime and is profoundly efficient and profitable.

As with self-driving cars, I am a bit of a skeptic of I4.0. To be sure there may be a few factories that exhibit some of the Industry 4.0 technology, but I don’t see this major technological shift becoming mainstream for a generation or so.

One of the reasons is that I don’t think most factories today are even at Industry 3.0 (I3.0), they are more like Industry 2.5 (or less?). Many colleagues that I chat with about these types of things, and I have toured more than 100 factories world-wide and still marvel at how inefficient they are. I was once asked to give an executive, new to our industry, a tour of an electronics assembly facility. The facility that graciously offered to let us tour had six assembly lines. In the 90 minutes we were there, not one line was running. The reasons were typical: for line 1 the team could not find the right stencil, line 2 needed a reel of components that no one could locate, line 3 had an equipment malfunction, etc., etc. These types of experiences are discussed in The Adventures of Patty and the Professor.

Another example of electronics assembly being a bit short of I3.0 was demonstrated by a student project that was recently commissioned to measure uptime on a simple assembly line. The line consisted of a stencil printer, component placement machines, and a reflow oven. The engineers that worked for the company that sold the assembly line were confident that the students would have no difficulty measuring uptime by sampling signals from the computers controlling each piece of equipment. After hundreds of hours of work by the engineers and the students, it was concluded that it was not possible to measure line uptime without adding some type of sensors on the assembly line to detect the flow of the PWBs. Industry 3.0 indeed!

At SMTAI I was asked to participate on a two-person panel on the topic, Will Virtual Reality Soon be Used in Electronic Assembly? Readers will likely guess that I was the skeptic. Watch the video and see what you think.

As with self-driving autos, I think Industry 4.0 is a great idea and encourage the many people working on it, but I believe it will be quite a while before it arrives in any meaningful way to typical factories. In the meantime, let’s all work to ensure that the factories we currently operate approach Industry 3.0 are run efficiently with high uptimes.


Dr. Ron


EDA, All the Way

The market for electronics design software continues to outpace gains in overall electronics demand, with sales up 8% year-over-year in the September quarter. PCB/MCM tools rose even faster — up 13.4% for the period.

Wally Rhines, president and CEO of Mentor and spokesman for the ESD Alliance of EDA companies, spoke with me about the results for the latest PCB Chat podcast.


Malingerers, or Just Millennials?

Peter Bigelow pens a timely and salient column on the current crop of new employees and the differences in culture with the veteran workforce. (Sample comment: “Collaboration cannot exist if everyone shows up to work at a different time.”)

As usual, Peter makes some fascinating observations. I’ll add my own 2 cents.

Smartphones, video games, etc. have a demonstrable affect on users (of any age, actually, but particularly youth). The constant stimulation of the digital world is addicting, and physically changes your brain structures. I’ve had to institute rules for my kids (ages 12 and 14) about screen use for even the simplest of activities. (They actually reached the point where, when they would see me pulling up to pick them up, they would then get on their latest mobile game while walking to the car).

It’s no surprise, then, that this behavior carries over to the workplace. Young people are hooked.

Ironically, I’m the one in our house constantly fighting to get the kids away from their screens. My wife, who knows more about the brain than almost anyone, seems almost blasé about it. Grrrrr….