Submit an Abstract to SMTA Pan Pac

Folks,

This coming February will be my third SMTA Pan Pac. Pan Pac is a very enjoyable and rewarding conference. It is small enough that you can get to know all of the speakers, yet large enough that there is a full venue. For those of us in the northern part of the US, it is also a nice break from the winter weather. The first time I went I was surprised that it wasn’t very expensive. For this coming conference, air tickets from Boston are as low as $600 and the hotel is about $200 per night.

The conference will be held on the “Big island” of Hawaii. If you come early or stay late there are many interesting attractions, including the active volcanoes and the Mauna Kea Observatories. So for sure come to the conference, but why not submit an abstract to be a speaker? If interested in submitting an abstract go to this site.

Cheers,

Dr. Ron

A view of part of the Big Island.

Industry 4.0: The Great Equalizer?

Gen Consutling Co. (GCC) has issued the Radiant Insights report “Global HDI Printed Circuit Board Market Forecast and Analysis 2016-2021.” The report provides a detailed analysis of worldwide markets for HDI Printed Circuit Board from 2011-2016, and provides market forecasts for 2016-2021 by region/country and subsectors. It covers the key technological and market trends in the HDI Printed Circuit Board market and further lays out an analysis of the factors influencing the supply/demand for HDI Printed Circuit Board, and the opportunities/challenges faced by industry participants. GCC states that the major players in the global HDI market are Unimicron, COMPEQ, AT&S, TTM, Zhen Ding, Ibiden, Tripod and Unitech.

Multek, a wholly owned subsidiary of FLEX, launched its new Zhuhai automotive division on May26 to support its rapidly growing automotive business. The company also announced completion of ISO/TS16949:2009 quality accreditation for its high layer count factory, and now delivers TS16949-grade automotive offerings at all of its manufacturing facilities globally.

Industry 4.0 is advancing rapidly in the Kunshan, China, electronics manufacturing hub. Will Industry 4.0 be enough by itself to make other areas of the world more competitively suitable for  sourcing?

Kunshan in Jiangsu Province near Shanghai attracts much of its investment from Taiwan. It is now accelerating growth by replacing workers with robots. Thirty-five of the 4,800 Taiwan companies in this area, including Foxconn, spent $610 million on artificial intelligence last year. Foxconn reduced  its labor force there from 110,000 to 50,000 by the introduction of robots. AS many as 600 more Taiwanese companies in  Kunshan are reported to have similar  plans.

Reality 4.0 – Are you missing the boat?

Some of our North American smaller fabricators facing difficult times and decisions sit back on their haunches and vociferously state that the IPC does nothing for them. They are missing the boat. The IPC provides the structure and support that allows virtually any group to band together, and work collaboratively to overcome obstacles and handicaps, and succeed in a rapidly changing and challenging environment. The IPC Ambassadors are creating an Executive Forum just for them and their supply chain. It will explore new technologies and trends, support opportunities,  and provide answers to many of the questions posed by these smaller enterprises of which there are more than 100 in the US. Additionally, the IPC will provide a new membership opportunity that will be difficult to refuse. Remember, there is strength in numbers! Stay tuned!

The IPC’s 3rd Reliability Forum held in Dusseldorf this month was a resounding success. The 2-1/2 day event started with a presentation on building in reliability by IPC director and ambassador Mike Carano, vice president of RBP Chemical Technology. Other prominent presenters included DuPont, Fraunhofer Institute, Atotech, and Park Electrochemical. The first full day focused designing for reliability, while the second addressed process. A half day on government relations activities was also included.

The Boston Chapter of the SMTA held its May meeting at Cirtronics, which graciously opened its doors (and factory for a tour) to host the event. Though held in New Hampshire, it attracted IPC and SMTA members from Massachusetts and the Western part of Connecticut. Cirtronics is an employee-owned contract manufacturer founded by its CEO Gerardine Ferlins. The busy facility was up-to-date and spotless. The profitable 176 employee company has progressed to the point where 70% of its business includes box-build. It has just acquired several new screen printers and is evaluating several new 3D AOI systems for purchase.

The meeting program featured Leo Lambert, vice president and technical director of EPTAC Corp. He covered key changes in and amendments to the IPC-A-600, IPC-A610, and J-STD-001 standards and how they affect our industry and the latest training and certification programs. Somehow the live presentation provided a far different result than the typical webinar. Humor was used to highlight specific points, problems, difficulties and the current situation. The result was very effective – at least to me. For example, amendments have been made that are different or in direct opposition to the original document. Yet the certification programs and manuals still contain and teach the unmodified or corrected items. Lambert well presented the need for peer review of training – if not standards – documentation so when the users receive it, they are not confused by any inconsistency.

The first Innovations Forum Hungary: Automation in Electronics Production “– building a competitive advantage in the region” will be held on the 16th of June, 2016 at the prestigious Academy of Sciences in Budapest.

The International Federation of Robotics (IFR), which represents robot manufacturers and research institutes, says China has surpassed Japan to become the world’s biggest market for industrial robots.

There is increasing concern about the secure availability of advanced printed circuits for America’s defense industry. These are needed to provide the platforms for high tech electronics. R&D for new systems seem to be progressing well. However, the US base of smaller fabricators that produce more than half of military boards is hard-pressed to fund the new equipment needed to build these circuits. Costs are often more than 20% of annual turnover. Some fabs in the Northeast as well as in California continue to report difficulty in acquiring the skilled workers needed for production. Others cannot modernize or add capacity due to local (state) “environmental” laws and restrictions. Congress is slow to act and too busy with the election to do much of anything this next year. It has funded some major items but do not consider printed circuits a big item. PWBs’ importance is still not yet well-enough understood. Do you have a comment, recommendation, or solution?

When will 3-D printing for prototyping be at your favorite circuit shop?

Sooner than you think — at least for prototyping. One system utilizing an ink containing nano silver particles for fine line printing will be made available commercially by the end of this year. It will be demonstrated at the CES show in Las Vegas January 2017. The deposited circuit traces may be photonically cured (sintered). HP announced a 3-D new system that is 10 times faster than its predecessors. The insulating substrate may be UV cured epoxy. One such system for epoxy has already been demonstrated in the UK. Get your 3-D circuit printing update at the IPC Ambassador Council Executive Forum for fabricators and their supply chain at IPC Apex Expo in San Diego on Feb. 13, 2017.

Financial news from Taiwan

Chin-Poon Industrial, with more than 70% of its revenues coming from the automotive industry, announced consolidated revenues for April 2016 increased 5.4% over April 2015 to $58.7 million. The company’s cumulative 2016 sales through April increased 9.3% from a year earlier. Consolidated revenues at Tripod Technology’s sales were up 1.1% from a year ago to $107 million in April 2015 Compeq Manufacturing had consolidated revenues of $93.9 million in April 2016, down 0.1% from April 2015 PCB producer Apex International’s April 2016 revenues were $21.4 million a 9.4% increase over last year.

Board maker Zhen Ding Technology Holding’s net profits declined 88% on quarter and 77% on year to $9.52 million in the first quarter of 2016.

The UK’s HK Wentworth, parent company of Electrolube, which supplies sprays and coatings to protect, clean and lubricate electronic circuit boards, switches and sensors, is spending £500,000 to build a new factory to make protective coatings in Bangalore, India.

It’s a new era and all about “the Car”

SEMI and Georgia Tech, in partnership with iNEMI, IMAPS, and IEEE, will launch a new workshop called FUTURECAR: New Era of Automotive Electronics Nov. 9-10, 2016, in Atlanta, GA. The new era of automotive electronics is the most complex electronics technology to date. It includes not only computing and communications electronics, autonomous driving electronics, sensing electronics but also high-power and high-temperature electronics. It is expected to account for a third of the value of “the car”, creating a market of approximately $1 trillion within a decade. The challenges to address this market include: 1) research and development of key technologies, and 2) technology ecosystem stewardship to enable swift and cost-efficient commercialization. The basis of this workshop is the synergy between Georgia Tech in R&D in partnership with its 50 supply-chain companies and SEMI in technology stewardship. This is complemented by the strength of co-sponsors such as iNEMI in roadmaps, and IEEE-CPMT and IMAPS as global electronics societies.

The European Institute of Printed Circuits (EIPC) meeting on “Strategies to maintain profitability in the European PCB Industry” will be held June 9-10 in Glasgow, Scotland.

The European Commission said growth in the euro zone and the wider European Union will be slightly weaker this year than previously forecast, as it warned that the economic slowdown in China and other emerging markets, geopolitical tensions and uncertainty ahead of the U.K. referendum on EU membership could weigh on the economy. Economic growth in Gulf States is forecast to slow to 1.8% this year as the oil dependent region cuts spending to battle fiscal deficits reaching 11.6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

A new China target?

French oil and gas producer Total plans to sell Atotech. “Atotech no longer falls within Total’s strategic vision,” chief executive Patrick Pouyanne was quoted as saying. Total is reported to be seeking a buyer that was “committed to sustaining Atotech’s current strategy.” Berlin-based Atotech, which generates annual sales of about $1 billion, manufactures specialty chemicals and equipment for printed circuit boards and semiconductors. It is Total’s sole remaining specialty chemicals unit.

Apple lost the trademark suit in the Beijing Municipal High People’s Court, which ruled that Xintong Tiandi Technology can continue to use the phrase “IPHONE” on its leather wallets and accessories, according to China-based Legal Daily. Chinese regulators reportedly shut down iTunes Movies and the iBooks Store last month.

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn sold his entire stake in Apple, citing the risk of China’s influence on the stock.

SEMI continues to strengthen and broaden its supply chain reach

SEMI has announced the appointment of Melissa Grupen-Shemansky, Ph.D., as chief technology officer for the FlexTech Group and for SEMI’s Advanced Packaging program. With over 20 years of experience in the semiconductor industry, Grupen-Shemansky will oversee FlexTech’s flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) and Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium (NBMC) R&D programs and technology advisory councils. Grupen-Shemansky will also serve as technical advisor to SEMI’s Advanced Packaging initiative and as technical liaison to NextFlex, the Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

Nepcon China held in Shanghai the last week of April was surprisingly the best in years. Pent up demand for pick-and-place equipment led the surge in active buying interest after a near drought in purchasing the past few years of the economic slowdown there.  The next few weeks will tell just how real the show activity was as stated interest converts to orders.

Firan Technology Group (FTG) is buying the assets of Teledyne Technology’sNew Hampshire’s printed circuit technology business (Teledyne PCT) for $9.3 million in cash. For approximately 50 years, Teledyne PCT has designed and manufactured rigid-flex printed circuit boards and assemblies used in the defense, aerospace and oil and gas industries. For each of the last three years, the unit has generated between $15.0 to $20.0 million of annual revenue. FTG has two operating units: FTG Circuits is a manufacturer of high technology, high reliability printed circuit boards. FTG Aerospace manufactures illuminated cockpit panels, keyboards and subassemblies for original equipment manufacturers of aerospace and defense equipment.

Lead Free 2015

It is hard to believe that in July we will celebrate the 9th anniversary of the advent of RoHS. So the timing seemed right when I was recently asked to speak at the Boston SMTA Chapter on The Status of Lead-Free 2015: A Perspective.

An overview of the entire 75-minute presentation would be a bit long, so I am going to discuss three of the “questions” that I covered.

  1. Q: We are now almost nine years into RoHS’s ban on lead in solder. How has lead-free assembly worked out?

A: Something over $7 trillion of electronics have been produced since RoHS came into force, with no major reliability problems. One senior person, whose company has sold hundreds of millions of lead-free devices since 2001, reports no change in field reliability. The challenge that implementing lead-free assembly placed on the industry should not be minimized, however. Tens of billions of dollars were spent in the conversion. In addition, failure modes have occurred that were not common in tin-lead assembly, such as the head-in-pillow and graping defects. But assemblers have worked hard with their suppliers to make lead-free assembly close to a non-issue. Some people ask how I can say that lead-free assembly is close to a non-issue. My office is across the hall from some folks that purchase millions of dollars of electronics a year for Dartmouth. Several years ago, I asked them how they feel that electronics perform since the switch to lead-free. They answered by saying “What is lead-free?” If people that buy millions of dollars of electronics have not even heard of lead-free it can’t be a big issue.

  1. Q: In light of sourcing difficulties, is there an industry consensus regarding lead-free conversion for military, medical, aerospace etc. assemblers that will continue to be exempt?

A: The main issue is getting components with tin-lead leads, especially BGA balls. Many assemblers are reballing BGAs, which has become a mature technology, although with an added cost. As years go by and there becomes more confidence in medium to long term lead-free reliability, some exemptees may switch to lead-free. However, I think mission critical applications with 40-year reliability requirements must be extremely cautious to make the switch. There may be subtle reliability issues that may show up in 40 years, that are not found in accelerated testing. One concern is aging. Even at room temperature, solders are at over 50% of their melting temperature on the absolute scale (300K/573K = 0.52). So aging can occur at room temperature. Some research suggests that lead-free alloys may be more affected by aging than tin-lead alloys.

  1. Q: It has been said that you claim that lead-free assembly has some advantages. Can this be true?

A: Guilty as charged. Lead-free solder does not flow and spread as well as tin-lead solder. This property can result in poor hole fill in wave soldering and some other assembly challenges. However, this poor wetting and spreading means that pads can be spaced closer on a PWB without the concern of shorting as seen in the image below. Your mobile phone would likely be bigger if assembled with tin-lead solder.

image001

Lead-free solder does not flow as well as tin-lead solder. Hence, closer pad spacings are possible.

 

Cheers,

Dr. Ron

Photo courtesy of Vahid Goudarzi.

 

SMTAI-IPC Midwest Pact a Long Time Coming

John Mitchell is putting his money where his mouth is.

As the new IPC president, installed just this spring, had made clear in multiple conversations we’ve had, he takes adding value for customers seriously, and he looks for ways various associations can coalesce.

That vision became reality yesterday when Mitchell took to the dais at the SMTA International trade show to announce the two groups would colocate their respective fall shows starting in 2013.

Under terms of the agreement, which remains to be signed, IPC will hold its semiannual standards committee meetings at the SMTAI show in Ft. Worth, TX, next October. IPC will retain its IPC Midwest brand, but the decision effectively tables, for now at least, the Chicago area trade show IPC has sponsored for the past several years.

It’s a welcome change from the past decade, during which something of a Cold War formed between the two dominant North American industry electronics trade groups as each competed for the minds (and bodies) of assembly engineers.

While acknowledging that some wrinkles could still remain, most of the folks we spoke with in Orlando this week are supportive of the move. Many IPC committee members are also regular presenters at the much-lauded SMTAI technical conference, and this allows them to reduce their fall travel. Moreover, it will cut costs for some exhibitors that have tried to pull double duty in the past.

It says here SMTA, which has been burned by colocation arrangements in the past, deserves a mountain of credit for putting aside any bad feelings for the good of its members. And IPC, in particular Mitchell, should be lauded for recognizing that success is not a zero-sum game, and that win-win relationships are possible even among trade associations.

Chatting It Up

Fresh off the success of our premiere PCB Chat, we have quite a few more planned.

Tomorrow (Feb. 7), SMT process consultant Phil Zarrow will take your questions. Designers may remember Phil from some of the past PCB West and PCB East conferences, where he spoke on DfM/DfA.

Next week we will host the IPC-2581 Consortium, taking questions on the new data transfer standard.

On March 2, yours truly will discuss the IPC Apex Expo trade show.

We begin accepting questions for the chats a few days early, so don’t worry if you can’t make the live event. Transcripts are available in real-time and after, too.

Making the Rounds

We will be at several events over the next six weeks.

On Thursday, senior editor Chelsey Drysdale will attend IMAPS’ annual symposium in Long Beach, CA. There’s a number of EMS companies focused on medical electronics exhibiting and it will be interesting to hear what the latest trends are.

The following week, I will be at SMTA International, covering it for the magazine and cochairing (with CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY columnist Sue Mucha) the session “Global Strategies for Lowering EMS Costs” on Oct. 18 from 10:30-1 pm. CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY also is taking part as an exhibitor (booth 528).

On Nov. 8, I am honored to be speaking at Zuken’s US ZDAC users group meeting. We also will be out in force in mid November at Productronica, the biennial trade show to end all trade shows.

Looking forward to seeing you … somewhere.

PCB West is Back!

Registration is open for PCB West, our annual conference for printed circuit board design, fabrication and assembly.

We have more than 50 presentations at this year’s show, which takes place Sept. 27-29 at the Santa Clara, CA, Convention Center. As with last year, several sessions on the exhibition day, Sept. 28, are free.

A big shout out to the SMTA Silicon Valley chapter, which put together the assembly tracks. Some of the proceeds will benefit the chapter.

Mark your calendars — and don’t forget to register!

PCB West: Back for More!

Registration is open for PCB West, our annual conference for printed circuit board design, fabrication and assembly.

We have more than 50 presentations at this year’s show, which takes place Sept. 27-29 at the Santa Clara, CA, Convention Center. As with last year, several sessions on the exhibition day, Sept. 28, are free.

A big shout out to the SMTA Silicon Valley chapter, which put together the assembly tracks.

Mark your calendars — and don’t forget to register!