The Top 10 of 2016 — Circuits Assembly

Each year we review the 10 most-viewed features of PCD&F and CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY. This year, we’ll start with CA. Keep in mind that the counts are not adjusted by the date of publication. Therefore, an article published in January has an advantage over one published in December. The month of publication is listed in parentheses.

10. “New Embeddable Technologies,” by Chris Reynolds. (January)

9. “Applying Lean Philosophies to Supply Chain Management in EMS,” by Wally Johnson. (February)

8. “GHS: The Final Countdown,” by Scott Mazur. (Note: This isn’t his only entry in this year’s top 10.) (January)

7. “Field Performance of pH neutral Cleaning Agents,” by Umut Tosun, Jigar Patel, Kalyan Nukala and Fernando Gazcon. (September)

6. “Online Bath Monitoring,” by Rebecca Dettloff. (March)

5. “Via-in-Pad Design Considerations for Bottom Terminated Components on PCB Assemblies,” by Matt Kelly, Mark Jeanson and Mitch Ferrill. (February)

4. “How to Use the Right Flux for Selective Soldering Applications,” by Bruno Tolla, Ph.D., Denis Jean and Xiang Wei, Ph.D. (April)

3. “Blurred Lines,” by Mike Buetow, a review of the Top 50 EMS companies from 2015. (April)

2. “Extreme Long-Term PCB Surface Finish Solderability Assessment,” by Gerard O’Brien and David Hillman. (July)

1. And the most-viewed article on this year (by 35 views) was  “Energy Reduction in the Electronics Facility” by Scott Mazur. (March)

Thanks to everyone to contributed this year, and thanks especially to all our loyal readers!


For the past several years, we have taken a few moments at year-end to look back at the best-read articles of 2015.

The list includes features that were published for the first time in calendar 2015. Rankings are based on web site hits, and do not include — for obvious reasons — the number of reads in the print version of the magazine.

We’ll start today with the top 10 from CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY. Tomorrow we will list the best-read articles from PCD&F.

1. “How Clean is Clean Enough?” by Terry Munson, Paco Solis, Nick Munson, Steve Ring and Evan Briscoe

2. “01005: Size Does Matter,” by Arbel Nissan.

3. “Designing Flex Circuits For Wearable Electronics,” by Mark Finstad.

4. “Depaneling of Circuit Boards,” by Ahne Oosterhof and Thomas Nether.

5. “What You Cannot See Can Be Hand Soldered,” by Paul Wood and Bob Wettermann.

6. “A New SPI Tool for Defect Prevention,” by Chrys Shea.

7. “Zooming in on Digital Microscopes,” by Chrys Shea and Kristoffer Tømmergaard.

8. “China in Charge, by Dr. Hayao Nakahara.

9. “US or Mexico: Which Option Makes Most Sense for Your Project?” by Joe Villanueva.

10. “Cost/Benefit Tradeoffs of Capacitor Part Size vs. Manufacturing Efficiency,” by Chris Reynolds.

As you can see, a mix of technical and business-related pieces made up the top 10 this year. Interest was high in cutting-edge technology (multiple pieces on 01005s, wearable flex circuitry), but tutorial-type pieces on conventional technology held its own as well (cleaning, circuit board depaneling).

As always, we are grateful for our loyal readers and the many authors who contribute their expertise each month.

The December Issue of PCD&F/CA

Our December issue hits the digital streets today and features a cover story from Terry Munson at Foresite, who performed a comparison of analytical techniques using 25 conformal-coated no-clean assemblies after environmental testing for 40°C/90%RH for 168 hr. Terry found FTIR, SEM/EDS and ion chromatography need an assist when determining the true source of contamination.

Another major feature reviews system design methodology for complex PCB designs.

Other highlights include discussion of pad-to-via clearance’s effects on solder joint strength, minimizing bottom termination component voiding, printer tooling, controlling solder paste slump and how to deal with an unhappy OEM.

As always in December, we look back at our industry friends and colleagues who passed away this year.

Finally, is free CAD a good thing? That’s the question I ask in my editorial this month.

The March Issue of PCD&F/CA

… is now out.

The cover story, “Bridging Technology between Conventional 3D and TSV 3D Stacking,” looks at two new multi-die DRAM packages with thin profiles that minimize wirebond length.

Among the other features:

  • My recap of the Apex Expo trade show in February.
  • Some key areas of the Benchmark Electronics’ Robotics manufacturing process, from a prototype or new-build stage to steady-state production.
  • The new IPC-2221B design standard.
  • Designing high-speed, small area boards.
  • Determining whether a process generate an electrostatic charge, and if so, how much.
  • We answer the question, Can a flex circuit be made with platinum or gold conductors rather than copper?
  • Selective soldering dwell times.
  • And the latest in a yearlong PCD&F series highlighting promising new enterprises in printed circuit board design looks at startup CircuitHub’s user-driven parts library.

Check it out.


On Jerry Murray’s Passing

We at UP Media are, of course, very sad and distressed to hear the news of of our former colleague Jerry Murray’s passing.

Jerry worked for UPMG and its predecessors for more than 20 years. I came late to that party, but I worked with Jerry for five years and think of him every day. As a matter of fact, just before I received the news that he had died, at age 82, I was making plans for coming to San Diego for the IPC Apex show, and I was thinking about where to meet him.

I think of Jerry almost every day, and I am so sorry that he’s gone. He was one of a kind, in the best of ways. Who else had a life like his? He lived in the hottest places on earth and the coldest places on earth. He wrote and wrote and wrote some more: technical, pulp fiction, you name it. He married the love of his life, Suzie, one of the kindest persons I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. He was funny and warm and cranky and quirky, sometimes all at once. He knew so much about so many things and was always happy to share it. He had a great life. I’m glad I came along in time to share a little piece of it.

I will be sad, and will cry and mourn my friend. But today I’m just glad he got to live the life most of us dream of.

RIP, my friend.


If there was a lot of tweeting going on, I think I’d call it “flutter.” I could call it “a bunch of Twitter tweets,” but that’s too long and awkward, so I’m good with flutter. Probably because it’s short and rhymes with clutter. If there’s really a lot, then we could call it flutter clutter.

Regardless, I’m still in my quest to determine if Twitter really does have a use that matches up with something I might need or find useful. I’ll just take a few examples. What I’m finding is, in addition to the “I ate a Cheeto” noise, there seems to be useful information. I regularly pass through a fair number of websites, but there are more that I would like to keep up on.

If the website owner does a good job, I can keep posted on their doings and I can know when I need to pop over for more detail. Adafruit is a good example of that. I’m not currently in the market for anything they sell, but they are one of the most influential members of the open source hardware community. By following them on Twitter, I can just glance at their announcements quickly and quickly jump over if I want more detail. That works pretty good for keeping up with the OSHW folks. I have a number others that I follow for similar purposes..

I also like to keep up with the mood and mindset of the engineering community. I read the trade magazines (or their websites) but there is more to it than that. I don’t follow many periodicals because the volume of tweets tends to be too high. I have few (SilconFarmer, Chris Gammel, Mighty Ohm and freaklabs) that I follow specifically for that purpose. That’s useful.

MaxMaxfield (AKA Max the Magnificent) always has interesting things to say. Some just his own thoughts and some teasers for interesting articles he’s written over on the eeTimes website. And he posts just about the right amount. Enough to be worth following but not so much as to become noise. Mike Buetow over at Circuits Assembly magazine does a very good job of keeping me informed about what’s going on in the EMS industry. Very valuable.

Okay, so that’s not everyone I follow, but it’s three different types of Twitter streams that I follow and find useful. I think that means that whether I like it or not, I do seem to be finding use in all of the flutter clutter. I won’t call myself completely sold yet, or even a Twitter fan, but I may be getting there. I still do my best to avoid the “Cheerios are good” crowd.

That’s three uses. Any other good uses for it in the technical community that I’ve missed?

Duane Benson

Fire Away

We at long last have added a comments section to the Circuits Assembly website. Specifically, readers may now add their two cents to all articles, op-ed pieces and news items.

We are using the Disqus platform for comments, a popular and robust tool for comment boards. Disqus is used by many, many newspapers around the country, and any readers with a Disqus profile may begin adding comments immediately. Those without one will need to register: it takes about 15 seconds and a valid email address.

For now, I’m not moderating comments before they are published. Hopefully, we never will need to.