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

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.

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….

How the Chips Have Fallen

The history of consolidation in the semiconductor industry, in one slide:

Source: Fortune

The Foxconn Model

Here’s a good recap and summary of the state of Foxconn today, including some thoughts on its future. The sense that Foxconn does not believe in competing with customers is outdated, given its foray into phones, among other devices.

The Monster in Munich

Productronica was, as usual, slightly surreal. The enormity of it cannot be overstated. Attendance at the Munich-based event was up 20% from two years ago to 44,000, per exhibition officials, although it’s not clear how many of those visitors were for SemiCon Europa, which colocated  with the biennial show for the first time. Still, for those in the market for new equipment, or just perusing to see the trends, there was more than enough to keep them busy the four full days. For a full report, click here.



Basic Layout — Aligning Components

Not long ago, I designed an Arduino compatible clock board. The board has 12 NeoPixel (digital addressed RGB LEDs) arranged around the board to act as hour hands. The minutes and seconds are represented by an external ring of 60 NeoPixels.











How did I go about positioning the 12 NeoPixels, and what does it matter? For aesthetic reasons, I do want each NeoPixel in the proper place. If any are off a bit, I’ll notice every time I look at the clock.

I created a triangle, with all of the correct distances, and drew in in my CAD software’s Document layer. The Document layer looks just like a silk screen layer, when visible, but it won’t be printed on the board. You can use this layer to put in extra information for yourself, or for the manufacturer.











You’ll notice that I also wrote in the document layer “No tabs here.” That’s an instruction to the board fabricator to not put a panel tab where the micro USB connector goes. If it did, the board wouldn’t be buildable when panelized.

Some create a fabrication document layer and an assembly document layer. An example might pertain to reference designators. If the board is too compact for reference designators, of if, for aesthetic reasons, you want to leave them off the finished board, You can put the reference designators in an Assembly Documentation layer. Then be sure to let your assembler know what you’ve done.

The other things I did here is to keep all the LEDs aligned with the baseline of the PCB. In theory, you can place a component at any rotation angle you want. But, like any system, manufacturing works better when there are fewer variables.

You reduce the probability of error if you keep components aligned at factors of 90 degrees. It also helps to keep polarities oriented the same way, as much as possible. For example, if you can, have all the diode polarities facing the same direction.

Duane Benson
Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana

Productronica Recap, Day 1

From the floors of the Messe International Fairgrounds in Munich, home to the Productronica, Mike Buetow reports on the biennial trade show and the latest equipment inspecting electronics assemblies. And it is everywhere: There are more than 40 companies offering surface inspection, 28 showing AOI, and another 20 with x-ray machines.