Flex Talk: Thoughts on the IPC Flexible Circuits–HDI Forum
As an attendee at the IPC Flexible Circuits–HDI Conference held October 28–30, I found myself in a room full 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. The conference kicked off with intermediate level, half day tutorials on both flexible circuit design and HDI. The second and third days provided advanced level speaker presentations in 45-minute segments allowing time to digest the information, speak further with the presenters and network with industry peers.
Two comments made early in the technical conference solidified an event message in my mind. Event Chair Mike Carano, with RBP Chemical Technology, commented in his opening remarks that networking is one the greatest opportunities available with IPC. Brad Bourne of FTG gave the keynote presentation, “Organizational Commitment to High Reliability.” He presented the message that PCB reliability goes way beyond the manufacturing of the printed circuit board. Everyone in the industry impacts reliability: circuit board designers, raw material suppliers, fabricators, contract manufacturers and end users of the product.
Following the opening keynote, we were treated to a presentation by Andrew Schimmoeller and Jeffrey Friend of the Battelle NeuroLife Project. Their riveting presentation explained the use of flexible circuits in the design of a neurological stimulation system that re-animated a paralyzed hand, controlled by patient thoughts. I have re-watched the short video on this topic several times since the event. This is an inspiring example of the things our industry can accomplish by working together.
Throughout the conference, there were several presentations addressing flex and rigid-flex, including: design rules for flex performance, high-reliability flex and rigid flex, flex vs. flexibility and new developments in HDI technology. Beyond fabrication and design related information, we also learned of unique challenges with flex and rigid-flex in terms of stack up and impedance, reducing fabrication challenges with new materials, metallization for HDI and flex circuit technology. The amount of relevant technical knowledge disseminated in a short time period was staggering. I was continually reminded of the power of the combined knowledge of our speakers.
While many of the presentations detailed proven technology, reliability data and design criteria, we also learned of exciting emerging technologies including the latest developments in thin film metallization and via filling and a novel new approach for applying metallization to ultra-thin substrates. It will be interesting to follow these new technologies and see how they develop over the next few years.
The presentations on breakthrough technologies for high reliability and technical organizational innovations were both intriguing and thought-provoking. It is always inspiring to listen to examples of people being able to step outside of the box and apply existing technology in new and creative ways.
In addition to the remarkable level of technical knowledge presented, there were numerous opportunities each day for networking. I personally had the privilege of meeting several new people and was able spend time with others that I haven’t seen in a while.
Attendees consistently remarked on the value gained from attending this year’s event. Todd MacFadden, component reliability engineer at Bose, said, “I am thrilled by the information and insights I gained from this forum on flex and HDI. The event was well-organized and the content was highly relevant to me. The timing of the event couldn’t have been better for me. I came with only the basic understanding of flex, just as we are starting to ramp up our need for this technology, and I am coming away with many tools and a long list of contacts to help my teams design for success. I am grateful to IPC for assembling such a broad and diverse expertise into a concise and useful conference, and for providing plenty of opportunities to network. Great job!”
Keith Holman, Sr., buyer for electronics with Orbital ATK—Defense Systems Group, added, “The IPC Forum was a great educational experience as well as an exceptional networking opportunity. The level of discussion around the current issues and successes with HDI and flex/rigid-flex, coupled with the new technology, made for great discussions. Each of the presenters was very knowledgeable about their topics and also made themselves available for further conversations. I would recommend the IPC forum to any technical or non-technical people involved with IPC.”
Ernie Kreiner, PWB designer III, C.I.D.+ with L-3 Fusing and Ordnance Systems, commented, “Attending the IPC conferences has always been an excellent experience. Networking with peers and seeing what technologies are out there and what is on the horizon, is always informative.”
I couldn’t agree more with these three gentlemen. I personally learned something from each speaker. The electronics industry is changing at a rapid pace and both flex and HDI designs are a fast growing segment of the industry. As valuable as the technical information is all on its own, the networking component gave the time to chat with OEMs and flex users to learn their challenges and also talk with flex fabricators and materials suppliers to learn of new programs and technologies. The conference gave me the opportunity to meet new people and expand my industry resources. In this complex industry, there is so much value in the ability to reach out to others in different areas of the industry to help solve new challenges.
Anne Marie Mulvihill and IPC put together a cohesive and well-run technical conference. Thank you to IPC for their work and dedication to educating the industry while at the same time providing networking opportunities to tie us all together.
Tara Dunn is the president of Omni PCB. To contact the author, click here.