Flex Workshop Update With Joe Fjelstad and Anaya Vardya

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Fjelstad: Certainly. As I've found myself saying in a lot of my seminars, a lot of inventions are born in the forage of war. The military-type product tends to lead. The DoD funds the NextFlex activity. The DoD and DARPA have been the underwriters of a lot of innovation, beginning with early semiconductor technology. They seem to have once more tried to bring attention to this flexible circuit technology, which is, again, ubiquitous. Flexible circuit technology is no longer in a corner. It's burst out.

Vardya: I would say that cellphones are probably one of the big drivers.

Fjelstad: Absolutely. Phones wouldn't be as small as they are without flexible circuit technology. They serve a boatload of functions in terms of their roles. It's a fun time to be involved in flexible circuits as it's really starting to hit its stride. The hope for this seminar and American Standard is to help to fulfill some of the ideas and dreams that people are going to come up with for this technology, and all the advantages that it brings with it.

Shaughnessy: What would you like the readers to know about this workshop? What really stands out?

Fjelstad: I've had the great pleasure and good fortune of knowing Clyde Coombs the originator and editor of The Printed Circuit Handbook. In that regard, I recall seeing a bootleg Russian language edition in the printed circuit lab where I worked there when I was there in the early 1990s. The book was first published in 1967 is now into its fifth decade and its seventh edition. That aside, in talking with Clyde one time about his handbook, he observed that most of the time, about 80% of the information of the previous editions was still useful, even though there were several years or more between editions. Thus, the seminar content still holds valuable information. What I’m attempting to do is to provide a sort of an annex for each of the sections, which are 20–25 minutes long. In each annex, we're going to add some new information about some of the changes that have taken place since the last workshop to provide an update.

I often say that when I started in the printed circuit industry in 1971, if someone had teleported me to a circuit board shop of today, I would recognize almost everything, but I would be really fascinated with the technological advances in terms of the tools and processes. The fundamentals haven’t changed, but the technologies have improved substantially. As I say, we're on the cusp of being able to take the equivalent of an Escher drawing and turn it into a 3D representation with flexible circuits, and that makes it a lot of fun.

Vardya: Joe has done a really good job of articulating a lot of the nuances in the flex and rigid-flex world. The important takeaway at the end of the day is that this is a neat technology. It has a lot of different uses. It is really important, and I want to keep emphasizing that a designer work with a PCB fabricator who is good at manufacturing flex and rigid-flex and has some level of expertise right from the design phase to make sure that you ultimately adopt the right solution because there are a lot of things that can impact costs. The design of every circuit is ultimately the key determining factor in the cost structure associated with the product. Partnering with somebody who can turn your concept and your ideas into reality will help ensure long-term success.

Fjelstad: I'd like to echo Anaya on that. I wrote one of my “Flexible Thinking” columns not too long ago about the importance of designing with manufacturing, not designing for manufacturing. It’s the notion of creating a relationship with your vendors so that you have the ability to intimately understand the manufacturing processes; then, you can step around having to iterate because you missed something here or there or some of the call-outs were just not going to be usable.

The other thing that I would like to come back and emphasize one more time is that, as a part of this online series, you should take the opportunity to ask questions of Anaya and his team or me. He has a solid crew that can help people steer around the pitfalls and away from the cliffs that are going to take them over the edge or misalign your wheels. This is a cooperative effort. Nobody sets out to try to design something that's going to fail. Everything that you can do on the front end to avoid that is going to save time, energy, and money.

Shaughnessy: Very good. Is there anything that we haven't covered that either of you would like to mention?

Vardya: It's an exciting opportunity, and it will be great to see how many people actually end up watching it and taking advantage. It's a great workshop.

Fjelstad: That's the hope out of all of this. Again, the other training opportunities have essentially dried up. I gave live seminars for years, but I just thought there must be a better way. When Barry brought this idea to me, who knew that it was going to be so prescient, and it was going to be the way that things would be done in the future?

Shaughnessy: Thank you both for doing this.

Fjelstad: Sure. And thanks so much, Anaya, for stepping in on this one. This is really great.

Vardya: You're welcome. It was a pleasure, Joe. And thank you, Andy.

Click here to view the workshop sponsored by American Standard Circuits, a proud supporter of online education.




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