Raising the Capability Ceiling: SMTA Upper Midwest Chapter Expo

An energetic and engaged crowd filled last week's SMTA Upper Midwest Chapter Expo. The event, held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, hosted 57 exhibiting companies and had over 100 pre-registered attendees. Attendees were invited to three technical presentations, a fabulous lunch, and had the opportunity to interact with exhibitors to learn about new programs and technologies. The underlying theme for the technical presentations was “Raising the Capability Ceiling!”

The event kicked off with a presentation by Bill Cardoso from Creative Electron who discussed iPhones and the technological advances displayed by Apple’s latest model. In his presentation, Bill showcased a live teardown of the iPhone X. The teardown included detailed coverage of the technical details of critical parts of the device and was accompanied by X-ray and CT images of the iPhone X. The audience gained unprecedented insights on what makes this iPhone tick, and the assembly process utilized to put the iPhone X together. Bill reviewed both current technology and the projected trajectory for the next generation of smartphones.

Ray Rattey of TEXMAC/Takaya gave the second presentation, “Flying Probe Test as Part of the Total Test Strategy.” First, he played a video of a flying probe to show everyone the equipment in action. Ray then began his talk by giving a history of flying probes. In the 1990s, test pads were 12 mils. In the 2000s they shrank to 8 mils. Today they are less than 4 mils. Laser technology is starting to be built into flying probes because it allows mapping out measurement of the height of the board. Typically, there are 4, 6, or 8 probes used on a flying probe machine that can measure resistance, capacitance, and diodes. An optical inspection camera on a flying probe can be used to measure the presence or absence of components as well as barcodes. Flying probe testing is part of a total test strategy. When considering a flying probe tester, one should consider the ease of programming, test times, test coverage, accuracy, repeatability, and LED test capability.

Will Slade, 3D-MID, Laboratories of Multiple Dimensions, marked the final speaker of the day. 3D-molded interconnect device (3D-MID) technology is an emerging market that allows manufacturers to insert circuitry directly onto injection-molded plastic parts. In some cases, it is replacing traditional circuit boards altogether. The process consists of applying a special laser direct structuring additive to injection-molded parts, and then a specially tuned laser ablates the circuit trace/pad geometry onto the plastic surface. The laser ablation vaporizes all non-copper material in the LDS additive, which leaves behind trace amounts of copper on the ablated plastic surfaces. Next, the plastic molded parts are plated with electroless copper to create the circuitry and a surface finish is added to complete the process. These parts can then be further processed with electronic assembly, such as soldered SMT components.

This technology is a revolutionary way to combine circuitry with interconnect devices when component space, assembly complexity, and the need for miniaturization solutions in final designs is a must. It is already used in many markets, from medical and automotive, to industrial and consumer electronics. One of the biggest growing markets for 3D-MID is in an anti-tampering application for point-of-sale devices, or credit card readers. Applying the circuitry directly to the casings creates a virtually tamper-free security measure to protect card information from would-be thieves—much more secure than older methodologies.

With all these exciting new technologies and applications for PCB and PCA manufacturing, it is easy to see that our industry will continue to become more challenging as time goes on.

In addition to the technical presentations, exhibitors from all areas of the industry discussed new technologies, product offerings, and capabilities. There were plenty of opportunities for networking and catching up with colleagues throughout the day. Attendees ranged from those new to the industry, some interning to learn more about the electronics industry, to our industry veterans. A new addition to the fun of the raffle prizes was the bingo game. Attendees had the opportunity to visit with exhibitors and complete bingo cards for a chance to win raffle prizes. With over 20 raffle prizes donated by exhibitors, there were many happy winners!

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2018

Raising the Capability Ceiling: SMTA Upper Midwest Chapter Expo

06-25-2018

An energetic and engaged crowd filled the recent SMTA Upper Midwest Expo & Tech Forum. The event, held in June 14 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, hosted 57 exhibiting companies and had over 100 pre-registered attendees. The underlying theme for the technical presentations was "Raising the Capability Ceiling!" Here's a wrap-up of the event.

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Flex Talk: E-Textiles—the Wild Frontier

05-23-2018

How many hours is your car sitting idle outside in your driveway or a parking lot? What if your car was used for solar harvesting—converting heat to energy? What about biometric sensors in automotives: skin sensors for preventing DUI, posture identification to monitor driver fatigue, monitoring exposure to hazardous materials in a load for truck drivers.

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Flex Talk: Something New for Everyone

05-02-2018

Whether you are new to single- and double-sided flex, moving into rigid-flex construction, thinking of using bookbinder technology, or investigating an additive process, working with new technology can be both exciting and challenging.

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Flex Talk: Invited Guests to the Party

04-16-2018

Hanging on the wall in my office is this quote from Jeff Bezos: “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

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2017

FlexFactor: Faith in the Future

11-27-2017

Take just a minute and read through this list of new product ideas. Can you identify the common thread? Yes, they are all enabled by advanced technology, but would you believe that these products were all pitched in the last year by high school students?

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Flex Talk: The Man Behind the Curtain

10-03-2017

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” This famous quote from The Wizard of Oz conjures up the image of Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow discovering that the great Wizard of Oz isn’t as grand or as magical as he seems.

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Flex Talk: Knowledge is Power

08-31-2017

“What can I do to help drive cost from my design?” This is a question that I am asked routinely. That question is often followed by, “Can I get these faster?” Both questions are even more predominant when talking about flexible circuits or rigid-flex.

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Flex Talk: Mina—Trouble-Free Soldering to Aluminum

06-22-2017

Thinking about the RFID market and the significant growth projected in this market, I decided to do a little research on RFID tag manufacturing. During this research, I learned of a relatively new offering, Mina, an advanced surface treatment technology that addresses the common constraints of large scale manufacturing of aluminum on polyester (Al-PET) circuits.

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Flex Talk: Squink—Integrating Fabrication and Assembly in one Package

05-01-2017

When walking through trade show expos, I tend to be drawn into product demonstrations on the show floor. Recently, at the IPC APEX EXPO, I stopped in front of a piece of desktop printing equipment that was demonstrating with a flexible circuit.

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Flex Talk: Flex Material Handling—An Inside Peek

04-03-2017

As increasingly more designs move to flexible materials to take advantage of space, weight or packaging benefits, it has been clear that flexible circuits require a different set of rules than their rigid counterparts. We spend substantial time working through the design to ensure that he flex is as robust as possible.

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Flex Talk: Final Surface Finish—How Do You Choose?

01-26-2017

There are so many final surface finish options to choose from today. How do you decide which is best? HASL—both tin-lead and lead-free—immersion tin, immersion silver, ENIG, OSP, and ENIPIG are the primary finishes used in PCB fabrication.

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2016

Flex Talk: A Glimpse into PCB Sales

12-28-2016

Summarizing the feedback from both customers and manufacturers, the most successful PCB salespeople are organized, take a genuine interest in their customers’ needs and business challenges, have a better than average understanding of the PCB industry, fully understand the manufacturer’s strengths and capabilities and advocate for both to find the best solution.

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Flex Talk: Troubleshooting Flex Circuit Applications for Mil/Aero Projects

10-06-2016

I imagine that everyone has been in this position at one time or another: Despite everyone’s best attempt at creating the perfect design, PCB fabrication and assembly, something goes wrong and the troubleshooting begins.

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Flex Talk: Inaugural West Coast Geek-A-Palooza a Fun-filled Success

05-24-2016

Geek-A-Palooza kicked off the 2016 schedule May 12 in Irvine, California. Historically, Geek-A-Palooza has been held in Minneapolis but is expanding this year to include Orange County and Boston as well.

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Flex Talk: PCB Sourcing? One Size Does Not Fit All

04-18-2016

When analyzing a set of PCBs to improve yields and maximize profits, the first place to start is with a critical review of each PCB design. Are there any attributes that are pushing your manufacturer’s standard design rules? If so, is this necessary to the design or is there another approach that could improve the manufacturer’s yields, reduce cost, and ultimately increase profit?

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2015

Flex Talk: Thoughts on the IPC Flexible Circuits–HDI Forum

11-19-2015

As an attendee at the IPC Flexible Circuits–HDI Conference held October 28–30, I found myself in a room of people, all eager for technical information, with the opportunity to reconnect with industry friends and to make new connections. The audience was diverse with young people, new to our industry, sitting alongside industry veterans willingly sharing their knowledge and passion for HDI design and flexible circuit technology.

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Designing Flex Circuits for Domestic Prototyping

08-20-2015

Designing a flex circuit to be prototyped domestically? No problem. Designing a rigid-flex circuit for production offshore? Got it. Designing a part that will be prototyped domestically with a seamless transition to offshore production? That can be a little more challenging.

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Rigid Flex: Total Cost Comparison

07-09-2015

The transition to a rigid-flex design from the traditional approach of using cable assemblies to join two or more PCBs has obvious benefits—space, weight, packaging, reliability and increased currently carrying capabilities. Yet many times the perception that rigid-flex is a high-cost solution causes designers and engineers to hesitate.

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Primary Cost Drivers for Flex Circuit Designs

06-25-2015

Someone once told me that the potential applications for flexible circuits are really only limited by our imaginations. After pondering that a bit, I had to agree. In fact, one of the things I like best about what I do is that moment during a discussion when I can see the light bulb go off in a designer's head.

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The Flex-to-Fit Approach

06-04-2015

The flex-to-fit concept reminds us that creativity and engineering go hand-in-hand. When there is not ample space for a conventional approach, this process, which is the convergence of the mechanical world and the electronics world, results in the ability to design a flexible circuit along the contour of an existing, irregularly shaped structure.

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