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All About Flex: Plated Through-holes in Flexible Circuits

There is probably no more important feature than the plated through-hole (also called via or via hole) with regard to the reliability and integrity of a flexible circuit. The through-hole provides electrical connection between insulated layers and enables electrical functionality on double-sided and multilayer flexible circuits.

Flex Circuit Shielding Design Options

Shielding may not be your company’s number one design concern when thinking about your interconnect designs. But if you have to shield circuits for EMI, then you will need to depend on your supplier to assist you with their favorite shielding technique and experience.

Interim CEO Jeff McCreary Discusses Recent Changes at Isola

Isola’s Interim President and CEO Jeff McCreary explains to Barry Matties the impetus for the personnel reduction taking place at Isola, the closing of their northern California facility, and why there’s no need to panic. He also shares his view of what the industry may expect from Isola going forward and what the company is looking for in a new CEO, the name of which McCreary expects to announce in the next few months.

Testing Flexible Circuits, Part 3: The Completed Flex Circuit

Most flex houses perform a variety of tests on completed flexible circuits. The type, frequency, and complexity of these tests vary with customer and application. Test requirements are generally defined by the customer, but input is often solicited from the supplier during the quote process.

Stepping Up To Laser Processing for Flex, Part 1: Opportunities and Implications

Market demand for smaller, faster, wearable, lighter and more powerful devices continues to keep PCB manufacturers scrambling to keep up as they evolve and adapt their manufacturing capabilities to meet changing customer needs. But keeping up with the dizzying pace of change in the world of PCB manufacturing need not be a daunting task.

Testing Flexible Circuits, Part 2: Raw Materials and Components

Even though the raw materials may individually meet certain specifications, it is important to determine if the final product configuration meets those specs. So testing done at the finished circuit level is also needed. Tests specific to the finished circuit will be the topic of our next column on testing.

The Reindustrialisation of Europe

With an inquisitive mind and a head for challenges, besides the ability to think outside the box and the courage to dare to be different and strive to be first, Spirit Circuits MD Steve Driver can be relied upon to grab the attention of an audience of PCB professionals. As keynote speaker at the Institute of Circuit Technology Hayling Island Seminar, he lived up to his reputation with a motivational presentation, the two themes of which exemplified his latest entrepreneurial venture.

Final Surface Finishes for Automotive: No One-Size-Fits-All Solution

Regardless of whether your application is automotive, medical or military, there are many factors to consider when selecting a final surface finish. Cost, lead or lead-free requirements, end environment, shelf life, fine-pitch components, RF applications, probe-ability, thermal resistance and shock and drop resistance, to name a few. There is not a one-size-fits-all finish. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each surface finish allows the designer to select the finish that best fits each particular application.

Testing Flexible Circuits, Part I: Requirements and Procedures

In this first of a three-part series regarding tests for flexible circuits, I will examine overall requirements and procedures; the second installment will focus on raw materials, and the third and final part will focus on testing for bare flexible circuit and circuit assemblies.

HDI Technology - Flex Circuits

The flex circuit industry in North America is moving rather quickly. The packaging densities are moving to smaller and the electrical requirements much faster. In order to keep pace with the industry requirements of HDI, North American flex vendors need to invest in equipment, resources and R&D.


Catching Up to Yesterday

Recently, KPMG, an international consultancy that operates as a network of member firms offering audit, tax and advisory services, came out with their 6th annual survey of manufacturing executives focusing on global manufacturing trends.

Flex Market Evolution

Flex circuits are designed to solve electronic packaging and assembly problems, solve interconnection issues, assist in miniaturization, and provide a dynamic electro-mechanical solution. They are configured with repeatable conductors that foolproof assembly errors. Flex is used in designs where standard printed circuit boards, connectors and cable assemblies just don’t provide the right electrical or mechanical solution.

Why are PCBs Green?

Why are PCBs green? This is one of the questions I get asked when people ask of me what do I do for a living, especially after I explain that my company supplies the little green things that one will find in pretty much anything and everything you purchase today that you cannot eat or drink.

Integrating with Gardien Group's Roland Valentini

Gardien Group is one of those companies that are always looking out for their customers. The company is, without a doubt, the last word when it comes to bare board quality assurance, focused on helping customers deliver the most electrically sound boards in the business. Gardien’s technologists are experts at testing and other quality assurance disciplines. For more than 30 years, Gardien has been in the business, originally as the equipment manufacturer Mania.

Designing Flex Circuits for Domestic Prototyping

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.

Is Wearable Technology Just a Fad?

Wearable technology is in its infancy. The industry needs to mature and go back to basic marketing—finding a need and filling it. Flexible circuits have been around since the mid-1960s and have been successfully filling needs. Flexible circuits are ideal for wearable technology because they are thin and lightweight. As the marketing matures, the applications will come and flexible circuits will be there to fill the technical needs.

The Drive for Transparent Circuits

DKN Research develops many types of unique electronic circuits. Some products in our portfolio include ultra-thin conductor circuits as small as 0.2 microns, metal-free circuits, and some circuits up to 20 meters long. Our staff fields many inquiries for packaging of new electronic devices. Lately, there is a lot of interest in transparent flexible circuits. The increase in interest is driven by the recent market expansion of display and optical devices.

Accomplish Change Together (ACT)

Shifting strategies for selling PCBs and the materials to build them is the impetus for ACT. Insulectro's Ken Parent and Jason Marsh spoke to I-Connect007 Publisher Barry Matties about the ACT approach—and how it is helping their PCB fabricator customers increase sales and OEMs to get better products.

Agricultural Drones and Flexible Circuits

Agricultural drones are expected to have a significant impact on farming over the next few years. In the article mentioned above, the drone’s ease of use and affordability make this a tool that virtually every farmer could employ. One major complementary technology to the drone is the advances in imaging technology and analysis. Specifically, the agricultural drone gives farmers data analysis capability that they have not had before.

Eliminate Connectors with Sculptured Flex

Any time you eliminate a component, hidden costs are eliminated, such as the cost of stocking, tracking and managing the supply chain for that part number. When designing an electronic package, don’t assume that you need a component for every connection point. Sculptured flex will give some options that can make your electronic package, lighter, less costly, more reliable, and take up less space.


Coated Ultra-Thin Copper on Printed Circuit Laminates

Nano copper-based electronic ink and associated processing have been developed to create ultra-thin copper on flexible PCB substrates, allowing for much finer etch resolution and increased circuit density. The process is rapid and sufficiently low-temperature to allow deposition onto temperature-sensitive substrates such as polyimide, plastic and paper.

A Look at the High-Reliability Interconnect Market

In an interview with I-Connect007, Mark Cormier of Miraco Inc. discusses his company's activities and capabilities, the latest trends and drivers in the high-reliability segment, and their strategies when it comes to managing their assembly work as well as their audit processes to find EMS providers.

Innovative Technologies Drive PCB Industry Growth

PCB growth has slowed in recent years, though last year the growth rate was slightly higher than the 2% of the last three years. Estimates by IEK of Industrial Technology Research Institute of Taiwan show that the PCB industry will continue to grow in 2015 at a rate of 3-5% with an annual output of RMB 576 billion (USD 93.8 billion).

Rigid-Flex PCB Right the First Time--Without Paper Dolls

The biggest problem with designing rigid-flex hybrid PCBs is making sure everything will fold in the right way, while maintaining good flex-circuit stability and lifespan. The next big problem to solve is the conveyance of the design to a fabricator who will clearly understand the design intent and therefore produce exactly what the designer/engineer intended.

EIPC Summer Conference: Day 2

Refreshed after an excellent conference dinner, and for most, a good night’s sleep, delegates returned for the second day of the EIPC Summer Conference in Berlin, continuing the theme of improving profitability through technical leadership and innovation to meet future market requirements, with sessions on materials and processes for high performance PCBs and advanced material testing strategies to meet OEM and ODM needs.

EIPC Summer Conference, Berlin: Day 1

Berlin, capital of Germany and a world city of culture, politics, media and science, was the venue for the 2015 EIPC Summer Conference, which attracted delegates from sixteen countries, including Russia, Hong Kong, Japan, Israel, USA and Canada, as well as the European Union, to experience a programme of 21 technical presentations over two days. Also included was a visit to the Berlin laboratories of Fraunhofer Institute, Europe’s largest application-oriented research organisation.

Enabling Smart Wearable Technology: Flexible, Stretchable Interconnect

In this article, Joan Vrtis highlights the current and forward-looking interconnect technologies enabling the stream of amazing new smart wearable electronic devices connecting the user to their personalized experience.

Flexible and Stretchable Circuit Technologies for Space Applications

This article describes two original technologies developed at imec-CMST--the ultra-thin chip package (UTCP) and stretchable moulded interconnect (SMI)--and how they could be offering new form factors with increased functional density, as well as improved reliability in harsh environments .

Novel High-Performance Substrate for Stretchable Electronics

A cornerstone feature of any viable stretchable material is its ability to return to zero after stretching. This article talks about a new transparent, high-performance thermal setting stretchable material that could open doors to a range of new and innovative products.

Wearable Technology and Flexible Circuits

Flexible circuits are an ideal fit for wearable technology. Wearable electronics need to be light, dense and bendable. While what is currently considered standard flexible circuit technology is more than adequate for many the wearable products, there are requirements that may be pushing the boundaries a bit.


A High-Reliability, Stress-free Copper Deposit for FPC, Polyimide and Rigid-Flex

Conventional electroless copper systems often required pretreatments with hazardous chemicals or have a small process window to achieve a uniform coverage without blistering. To overcome the challenge of metallizing smooth surfaces, a new stress-free electroless copper was developed to serve this important sector of the printed circuit industry.

Flexible Circuit Materials for High-Temperature Applications

To meet the increasing needs for flexible circuit materials for high-temperature applications, new test methods will need to be developed. These new methods will assign new ratings that are consistent with actual performance.

HDPUG Demonstrates Benefits of Cooperative R&D

The High Density Packaging User Group (HDPUG) is a member-driven, non-profit, project-oriented industry consortium that addresses the integration of new electronics component packaging and interconnection technologies into the supply chains of its member companies.

The Flex-to-Fit Approach

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.

Flexible, Stretchable, and Wearable: If You Can Dream it, You Can Create it!

We originally intended the June issue of The PCB Magazine to be centered on flexible circuits, but it quickly became apparent that we needed to broaden the scope and include all (well, at least some) of the new and exciting things going on these days in the world of flexible everything. As such, we have garnered a trove of authors, with much information to impart on the above mentioned.

NEPCON China 2015 a Resounding Success in Shanghai

The three-day event was a complete success, bringing together nearly 22,000 trade visitors and high-quality buyers, as well as 450 leading brand names from 22 countries and regions worldwide. NEPCON China keeps up with market trends and gathers resources from all stakeholders to present a comprehensive event that covers SMT, new electronics materials, soldering, dispensing, electronics automation, measurement and other innovative technologies and products across the world.

Flexible Circuits and UAV Applications

The utility offered by flexible circuits in UAVs mimics the advantages that make it popular in other portable electronic applications: lightweight, thin, highly reliable, flexible during use, and an ability to electrically connect across multiple layers as part of a complete packaging interconnect solution.

iNEMI Managing Director: New, Disruptive Technology on the Horizon

Dr. Haley Fu, managing director of Asia Pacific for iNEMI, and Publisher Barry Matties spoke recently. Fu gave her overview of the last eight years with iNEMI along with her opinion of what the most significant changes have been, globally and for the Asia market in particular. She predicts that in the future, the PCB will probably adopt optical architectures instead of copper, because using copper for the trace means that the land space and the property will not satisfy the future high-speed data transport rate.

An Interview with Gardien Group’s Jason Fraser

Gardien Group CEO Jason Fraser talks to Dan Beaulieu about some of the latest developments at the company, some of the technology trends driving the company's strategies, as well as provides his outlook as to where the PCB industry is headed.

Being Flexible in a Rigid World

With double-digit growth in the foreseeable future, flexible printed circuits (FPC), have found a tremendous niche as an enabler for various electronic applications. This trend is expected to drive the need to increase productivity while improving performance and reducing costs. Of course, in order to sell flex, one must tackle the unenviable task of metalizing these often difficult-to-plate materials.


IMPACT 2015: An In-Depth Look

IPC understands that presenting a unified voice for the electronics industry is essential for advancing policies that affect the industry’s long-term future and strengthens the U.S. and global economy. That is why 22 IPC member-company executives descended on the nation’s capital for IMPACT 2015: IPC on Capitol Hill, IPC’s annual advocacy event.

Stretchable Inks: Changing the Wearables Market and the Landscape of Manufacturing

I-Connect007 Publisher Barry Matties and DuPont’s Steven Willoughby and Michael Burrows spoke recently and discussed new material for wearable electronics: stretchable inks. Wearable electronics is a fast growing sector of the electronics industry that is inspiring new and exciting products, as well as changing the requirements for becoming an electronics manufacturer.

High-Density Interconnects: Enabling the Intelligence of Things

HDI layers and sub-composites with laser-drilled vias combined with stacked, copper-filled vias up to 16 layers have become the state-of-the-art in circuit design for the newest generation of mobile phones, wearable electronics, and IoT modules.

Design Considerations: Flexible Circuit vs. Traditional PCB

The tactics for flexible circuit design don’t differ much from that of traditional PCBs. All of the typical specifications still apply and we add a few more things that require special attention. Cover layers require bigger openings than traditional solder mask, trace directions matter in the flex areas and miters should be round instead of angular.

Insulectro Alliance with Freedom CAD

Ken Parent, Vice President of Sales at Insulectro, recently sat down with I-Connect007 Publisher Barry Matties for a quick chat about the strategic alliance that Insulectro is pursuing with Freedom CAD. Parent explains how this new strategic effort is working, and what it means for customers--and OEMs.

An Optical Update with TTM

Barry Matties recently met with Marika Immonen, manager of R&D optical interconnects at TTM Technologies. They last spoke one year ago. This time, they discussed the optical project that she’s been leading, as well as the future of optical technology in the PCB industry.

Nine New Exciting Products Introduced

Insulectro's VP of Sales, Ken Parent, discusses new products including high-speed laminate, high-temp flex materials, LDI dry film, conformal back-up material for flex-rigid,and printed electronics materials that will enable new technology in the PCB world. He also talks about their "Accomplish Change Together" program.

Inkjet-printed Liquid Metal Could Bring Wearable Tech, Soft Robotics

New research shows how inkjet-printing technology can be used to mass-produce electronic circuits made of liquid-metal alloys for "soft robots" and flexible electronics.

Matrix Product Lines: Laminates and Drills

Fred reviews the Panasonic line of laminates, including high speed and flex materials. Hans discusses Jinzhou's new drill design for high aspect ratio drilling, as well as the opening of several high-tech re-pointing centers in North America.

Multek CTO Excited About the Challenges of the Fast-Moving Wearables Market

I-Connect007 Publisher Barry Matties and recently-appointed Multek CTO Dr. Joan Vrtis sat down at IPC APEX EXPO to discuss the rapidly evolving wearables market, especially for medical, and the myriad questions that must be addressed. Other topics include Multek’s contribution to the wearables industry and what it sees as the main challenges to putting their circuits into various applications.


No Substitute for Experience: Dan Beaulieu on EXPO, the Industry and I-Connect007

Industry veteran and consultant Dan Beaulieu, owner of DB Management, and I-Connect007 Publisher Barry Matties, sat down at IPC APEX EXPO to reminisce on Beaulieu’s more than four decades in the business, the trend toward a more marketing savvy industry and how strategic consulting often plays out for companies in this industry.

Are There Advantages to Changing Your Registration System?

I-Connect007 Publisher Barry Matties recently had a conversation with DIS's Tony Faraci at IPC APEX EXPO 2015, to learn more about their pinless registration system. What was most interesting to Barry are the potential advantages a pinless system offers and if so, why the process has not been widely adopted.

RF Microwave Boards: What's Driving the Technology?

Dan Beaulieu speaks with John Bushie from American Standard Circuits at IPC APEX EXPO. They discuss RF microwave boards, which are being driven by the need for better impedance control.

Ingredients for Success at All Flex

Dave Becker from All Flex talks with guest editor Kelly Dack about the five Keys for success in PCB manufacturing, It’s not just the technology! You have to spend time on corporate culture. The five key ingredients are…

A Conversation with Andy Michniewicz

Gul Technologies (Gultech) is not your traditional offshore supplier. It is a true industry leader when it comes to technology. A few months ago, I sat down to talk with Mayne-McKenney’s Andy Michniewicz. His company represents Gultech here in North America and they were just starting a project to expand Gultech’s market reach on this side of the globe. I found that interview interesting enough that I wanted to follow up and see how things were going now that a few months have passed.

Opportunities for 3D Printed Structural Electronics

Today's 3D printers have many limitations, but the boundaries are being pushed and exciting developments are continuously being made. One of the most promising recent developments in the world of 3D printing is multimaterial printing, which holds the key to the emergence of 3D printed electronics.

CES 2015: Preview and Predictions

Looking back over the last five years of CES and analyzing predictions and items featured by the large exhibitors, you'd likely assume the 2015 show would feature more advanced 3D TVs, as they were predicted to take over the market...wrong!

Japan PWB Market: 2015

The downturn in business for the Japanese PWB industry can be blamed on a domino effect. The rigid circuit board segment relied heavily on business from domestic electronics companies such as Panasonic, Sony, and Sharp. Unfortunately, these electronics giants continue to lose market share and the downturn in business directly impacts the PWB industry.

A Conversation with Gaby Waisman, Orbotech, Ltd.

During the recent HKPCA and IPC Show, held in Shenzhen, China, I sat down with Gabby Waisman, President, Orbotech Pacific. We discussed the exciting electronics market in Asia, the market for Laser Direct Imaging (LDI), AOI and AOR among other things.

Printed Electronics in Perspective

A significant amount of press coverage has been given to printed electronics over the last several years. What appears to have precipitated the explosion of interest in the middle of the last decade was a report that suggested PE would dominate electronic production by the mid-2020s with an annual market of over $300 billion. Joe Fjelstad takes a closer look.


Basic Principles of Polymer Thick Film Flexible Circuits

Polymer thick film circuits are similar to their rigid and flexible counterparts; however, because of the materials and processes, they have their own very specific design rules. Because most PTF processing is most commonly based on screen printing technology, the limits of design are intrinsically linked to the printed ink's processing considerations and limitations.

Sustainability: What and Why?

Joe Fjelstad writes, "The resources of our planet are limited and thus are diminishing as we continue to unleash and ramp-up a seemingly never-ending flow of products to both serve and amuse us with output of the global electronics industry likely to be nearing the top of the list of 'offenders.' In that regard, we are becoming victims of our own success, to one degree or another."

Ventec USA Prepares for Growth

Technical Editor Pete Starkey writes, "IPC APEX EXPO 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada, gave me the opportunity to catch up with Ventec USA President Jack Pattie and to meet the recently-appointed General Manager of the Ventec Fullerton Southern California facility Ray Young. The pair also gave an update on current developments and future company plans."
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