Building Boards for the Intel Edison

I’ve recently spent some time getting familiar with the Intel Edison. The Edison has a dual-core 500MHZ Intel Atom processor, with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It comes with 1GB of RAM, 4GB of eMMC internal storage, and a USB 2.0 OTG controller. It doesn’t bring any of the connectors (power or signal) out in a usable form. Rather, it’s designed to be plugged onto another board through a 70-pin high density connector from Hirose.

I designed a small board with I2C (both 5V and 3V connectors) and a micro-SD card slot. My board still doesn’t have the power or console connectors. For that, I’m using a base board from Sparkfun.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Step one of the assembly process, is, of course, to design and layout the board. Using the Sparkfun open source designs as a jumping off point, I ended up with the nice, compact layout (1.2″ x 1.75″) shown below in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Figure 2

After getting the files ready and placing a turnkey order on our website, I followed the board through with my camera. Here it is after offline setup, with the parts ready for robot pick-and-place:

Figure 3

Figure 3

In one of our Mydata My500 solder paste printers:

Figure 4

Figure 4

On the pick-and-place machine, with solder paste, but before any components are placed:

Figure 5

Figure 5

The parts plate in the machine:

Figure 6

Figure 6

 

With most of the components placed:

Figure 7

Figure 7

Through the reflow oven, prior to final inspection:

Figure 8

Figure 8

The final product, top view:

Figure 9

Figure 9

I abbreviated the process a bit, but those are the major process steps along the way.

Duane Benson
Happy birthday (month) Nikola Tesla

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Microbial Nanowires

Biologists at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst have genetically modified bacteria to produce tiny conductive wires that may one day be used in electronics.

biowire2

Courtesy UMass Amherst

If we extrapolate this, does it mean that job-seekers won’t just have China and robots to compete with, but bugs, too?

 

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Where to Put Panel Tabs

Many small quantity PCBs are ordered individually cut. They come to us as a set of unconnected boards. For small quantities of reasonable size boards, it makes the most sense to order them this way. However, for really small boards, and larger quantities (50 or more), purchasing boards in a panel (also called an array) is more appropriate. It reduces errors and assembly time.

There are a few additional factors to consider with panelized boards.

  • First, don’t try to create a panel in your CAD software. Just lay it out as a single board and have the fabricator put it in a panel. You’ll get the most efficient use of PCB space that way, and the fabricator will create the files in the format that the assembly shop (Screaming Circuits) needs.
  • Avoid family panels. A family panel is when several different boards are put onto the same panel. The boards in family panels often repeat reference designators, which causes problems at assembly. See this blog article on how to properly assign reference designators on a family panel.
  • If you have overhanging parts, like the increasingly common micro USB connector, make sure that the panel tabs aren’t placed near the overhanging them.

This blog article gives some background on the connectors.

Some components, such as the connector in the link above, have protrusions that will keep them from laying flat on a panel tab. In all cases, even without the protrusions, the operation of separating the panels with a component on the tab can weaken the component solder joints, or even pop it off the board completely.

How not to do it:

Figure 1

Figure 1

Instead, make sure that the tabs don’t end up under your overhanging component. Have the tab moved like this:

Figure 2

Figure 2

You can put this instruction in the document layer of your CAD file, or in a separate document covering fab instructions. In the CAD image below, the overhanging component has a keepout area. The document layer has instructions to keep panel tabs out of the area.

Figure 3

Figure 3

If in doubt, don’t hesitate to contact us or Sunstone Circuits directly to ensure that your instructions are clearly communicated.

Duane Benson
Wood paneling as a wall covering is really out of style

http://blog.screamingcircuits.com/

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Mel Breaks Loose

A fond farewell to Mel Parrish, who retired this week from STI Electronics.

I’ve known Mel (below, right) for more than 20 years, back to my days at IPC and his at the EMPF in Indianapolis. Through his stints at the Air Force, US Navy (China Lake), and finally STI, Mel has been a constant at the solder and training standards and certification programs. He’s also been one of those rare preternaturally even-keeled fellows you could rely on for technical advice, or a good story, or just some thoughtful wisdom.

Mel_Parrish

STI president and CEO Dave Raby (above, left) said that while he’s happy for Mel, he has been “a vital part of our organization for many years and will be missed.”

I think the industry would agree in spades.

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Hacked Off

It’s been just over three years since the US government indicted a former hacker at a major defense contractor for, ironically, spilling reams of classified information for all the world to see.

In doing so Edward Snowden irreversibly opened the eyes of the public to both the capacity of the US to plumb the world’s communication channels and the sheer volume of information it was collecting (or may still be collecting) on a routine basis.

But it also begged the question of why aren’t government networks more secure. Certainly there are hacks and attacks taking place at a near-constant frequency. Why are these channels still hooked up to the world at large? Would not the world’s respective defense departments be better served if they operated on secure, private networks that weren’t, for example, routed on common platforms? Put another way, isn’t the cost of being digitally pick-pocketed far greater than the nuisance of having to work on multiple systems?

Setting up systems as such wouldn’t prevent a rogue operator like Snowden from successfully spilling the beans, but it would create a far superior barrier from the reach of foreign hands than is currently in place.

In light of all the IP and security concerns so prevalent today, one would think we’d be wise to no only close the barn doors before the horse is pilfered, but also move the barn away from the farm once and for all.

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PCs, Tablets, and Mobile Phones are not Dying (and Will Continue to Present Voiding Challenges)

Folks,

Looks like Patty and Rob are on another adventure.  Let’s look in ….

Patty had been driving the same 2001 Saab station wagon since college. It had been a great car, but, with almost 200,000 miles on it and its outdated safety features, perhaps it was time for a change. Both her and Rob’s parents had been bugging them about getting a new, safer vehicle for a while. Finally, for her birthday, both sets of parents chipped in to give her a significant down payment on a new car.  They even suggested which specific car she should get. It was a car with one of the best safety records, not an insignificant concern for doting grandparents.  The manufacturer has a goal of no deaths in its automobiles by 2020.

As Patty and Rob went shopping, they were overwhelmed by the features that 2016 autos have. Detections of cars in the “blind spot,” warnings when the car leaves the lane, warnings and prevention from backing in to something, reading the speed limit signs, pairing to smartphones, the internet, and on and on.

“Patty, these aren’t cars; they are computers that you can drive,” Rob commented.

“Actually this car has 13 computers,” the salesperson chuckled.

“What is the soonest we can take the car home?” Rob asked, expecting it to be 3 or 4 days.

“You can take it home in an hour,” the salesperson affirmed.

In an hour, Patty and Rob were driving home in their new car, amazed at its capabilities as a “computer on wheels.”

“Rob, look at this. As we pass the speed limit sign, the speed limit is shown on the speedometer,” Patty exclaimed in amazement.

They stopped in their driveway and played with the car’s features for 30 minutes, streaming music from their smartphones, connecting to the internet, and changing many modes on the dashboard display.  It was more fun than their first time playing with a tablet.

lasky1

Figure 1.  Patty and Rob’s new car has 13 computers

Two days later, it was Monday and Patty, Rob, and Pete had been asked to see the Professor for a brainstorming session.  Recently, as Patty’s career had skyrocketed, she had been working with the Professor less and less.  The trio agreed to meet in Patty’s office so they could head over to the Professor’s office together.

“Hey, this is just like old times!” Pete exclaimed.

“I agree,” added Patty, “I miss some of the adventures we used to have.”

The professor welcomed them in.

“I hope all of you had a chance to review the material on the many links that I sent you,” the Professor began.

They all murmured that they had.

They reason I asked you to come is that I am going to be interviewed on national television, The topic is, ‘The Death of PC, Tablets, and Smartphones.’ I thought you all might be able to help me prepare.

They all though in unison, “Us help the Professor prepare?!”

“What are your thoughts on the ‘Death of the PC,’” the Professor asked his humble mentees.

“One of the links you sent has shows PC sales declining,” Rob said.

Lasky2Figure 2. PC sales peaked around 2011 and have been declining since then.

“But, do you think it portends the end of PCs?” the Professor asked.

“This is something I have thought about ever since you sent us the links.  I think the ‘death of the PC’ people are missing some key points,” Pete replied.

“Such as?” the Professor encouraged.

“When I was a teenage we got an IBM PC XT. It had a 10MB hard drive. We replaced it in three years,” Pete began.

“Why did you replace it?” Patty asked.

“It didn’t have enough memory or processor speed for the new games.  The new PC had a 200MB hard drive. We kept that one for about 3 more years and the cycle repeated,” Pete answered.

“And what about today?” the Professor asked.

“My parents have a six-year-old computer. They recently complained they needed to upgrade it because the audio plug is worn out, some keys on the keyboard are intermittent, and it doesn’t have enough USB ports. No problem with the memory; it has 6GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive,” Pete answered.

“So, it did not run out of memory or computer speed?” the Professor asked.

Patty interrupted, “I remember the Professor and I talking about ‘the constancy of memory metrics’. The argument was that a photo is about 1MB, a song 5MB and a movie about 5,000MB.  These metrics are approximately constant. Initially, the size of these metrics overwhelmed early computers, but now these memory metrics are small compared to the capability of current technology. The impact was that early computers had to be changed often, because people wanted to store more photos, songs, etc., but now, with computers having 1TB of memory, getting a new computer for this reason is not so compelling.”

“Maybe with the exception of some new video games, but admittedly this is a small part of the market,” Rob added.

“Well, is the PC market dying then?” the Professor prompted.

“No way!” Pete jumped in. All of us use our PCs for hours each day.  Am I the only one longing for my PC when I answer an email from my smartphone?” Pete asked.

They all chuckled.

“So, it seems that we are concluding that, today, the performance requirements for PCs, mostly laptops, have leveled off and upgrades are needed less frequently. These upgrades are often driven by mechanical failures such as connectors and keyboards, not necessarily the need for more memory or faster processor speed.  It is natural then to expect sales of PCs to level off and even go down some as, in addition to these points, the market has reached saturation.  Everyone who needs a PC has one,” the Professor summed up.

“Yeah, and the 238.5 million sold last year is not really small potatoes,” Rob added.

“What about tablets? Are they going away?” the Professor asked with a mischievous smile.

“Again, the data show a downward trend, but I’m not a believer that they are going away either,” Pete commented.

Lasky3

Figure 3.  Tablet sales are declining.

“I think a similar thing is happening here,” Patty mused. “Tablets are so powerful that there just isn’t an incentive to purchase one frequently. We have an iPad II that we bought in 2011 that we still use, although it doesn’t run some of the newer games.”

“And they sure are popular with our boys. We have to limit the time they spend on them,” Rob added.

“What about people using large smartphones instead of tablets?” Patty asked.

“That has definitely cut into tablet sales. Some of the new smartphones are so big that they are almost comical.  They are as big as some of the mini tablets,” Pete opined.

“Professor, I thought one of the links you sent was fascinating: 4.6 billion mobile phone users in a world of 7.3 billion people!” Rob exclaimed.

“I have a friend who works in humanitarian engineering in third world countries. He tells me that people in some places he visits, will go without food to have a cellphone. In the past, communicating with relatives 60 miles away was a one week commitment of time, because of the primitive transportation. Now, they can do it instantly,” the Professor shared.

“What about the fact that there are as many mobile phones as people on the earth,” Pete exclaimed.

“I guess some people have more than one,” Rob suggested.

“So are mobile phones dying?” the Professor asked.

“I think it is the same argument. When I was starting out at ACME, I had a mobile phone that could take photos, but the quality was really poor. By 2010 the photo quality was good, today it is excellent. I hardly ever take a camera with me, my smartphone photos are excellent,” Patty said.

“So, I’m guessing you don’t need to get a new smartphone as often because the technology has now stabilized, and improvements are only incremental?” the Professor asked.

“Precisely,” Patty responded.

“I think we agree; PCs, tablets, and mobile phones are here to stay, but their sales will be flat or slightly down due to market saturation and technology maturity.”

“Here, here,” Pete chuckled.

“Where do you see electronics growing?” the Professor asked.

Patty and Rob then shared their exciting experience in buying a new car and all of the electronics it has.

Pete then chimed in, “Don’t forget the internet of things (IoT).  I think this is the future of electronics growth, but it is not one device.  The number of devices is innumerable – and growing! And I think it will help electronics grow even faster than in the past.”

They discussed IoT for quite a while and then Rob had a thought.

“Bottom terminated components and especially QFNs will be with us for a long time as they are in all of these devices.  So the work we did for Mike Madigan on voiding should have a lasting impact,” Rob posited.

“Patty, you need to do something about Rob. He’s becoming too serious,” Pete teased.

Everyone laughed at that and got up to leave after what they all felt was a fruitful meeting.

Best wishes,

Ron

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Top 5 Things to Know When Moving from Hand Assembly to Robotic Assembly

A lot of factors go into the decision to hand build or outsource circuit boards. I hand build my own sometimes, simply because I enjoy the challenge. Of course most of the projects I design are for my own use, so timeliness isn’t that important. When I do design something that will go out to a customer, like my electronic business card holder, I will send the board through our shop. In those cases, quality is important, as is delivery, and the quantity is often too high to hand build. Machine building also allows me to use smaller and more complex parts. sc1

That same decision — hand build or outsource — takes place in the heads of designers all over the country. When the decision is to outsource, there are a few important things to consider. Some things that work fine when hand soldering may stand in the way of quality, repeatability, and reliability when machine assembling.

Here are five of the most important considerations when changing from hand-built to outsourced at a place like Screaming Circuits

1. Use solder mask and silk screen. A good solder joint needs the right amount of solder in the right place. Solder will tend to flow down bare copper, bleeding outside of the area it belongs, and down exposed copper traces and vias.

The main purpose of solder mask is to keep the solder where it belongs. It also protects the traces, but that’s a longevity issue. Solder bleeding is a manufacturing and reliability issue. This isn’t a problem when hand soldering. In fact, it can even work to your advantage when hand-soldering really small parts. It gives you more room for your soldering iron to hit metal.

Not so with solder paste and machine assembly. Use solder mask.

2. Avoid the pseudo panel. Keeping small boards in a panel is the recommended best practice in the manufacturing industry. We appreciate it and, while not always necessary, it can reduce your costs. We sometimes see what we call a “pseudo panel.” This is a board where multiples of the board are put in the same PCB, like a panel, but unlike a panel, the boards don’t have routing or V-score between them. Sometimes the designer will put a bunch of vias to outline the board, or just ask that we use a band saw to separate them.

That’s a time-consuming, expensive and potentially damaging process. The vibration of the saw can crack solder joints, and, you’re unlikely to get boards that are all the same size. Have small boards panelized by your board house.

3. Family panel (pseudo or not). Similar to the pseudo panel is the family panel. A family panel is a case where a project is made up of several different PCBs, and they are all laid out together, as though they are one design. If the board isn’t routed between the designs, you’ll have the pseudo panel problem described above.

The bigger problem, though, comes with reference designators. We typically see family panels with duplicate reference designators. Each design, for example, will have its own C1, R1, Q1, etc. We use the reference designators as position identifiers: If you have three different parts labeled R5, our machine programmers will have a problem with it. It’s even worse if the values differ; on one design, C1 is a 0.1uf capacitor, while on another design, it’s a 22pf cap.

If you’re making a family panel, give each and every placement a different reference designator. One way would be to us extra digits. For example on one design on the family panel could have C100, C101, C102… The next would be C200, C201, C203, and so on.

And don’t forget the routing or V-score between the designs.

4. QFN — hole  in the middle. A common technique in the hand soldering world, for QFNs and other parts with thermal pads underneath, is to put a big via in the middle of the center pad. By doing so, you can stick a soldering iron and some solder down through the hole and get a good solder connection on the bottom pad.

This doesn’t work with machine assembly. the solder paste will flow down and out the hole in the reflow oven. You’ll end up with a poor connection (or no connection) to the thermal pad, and solder slop on the back side of the board.

5. Parts and the bill of materials (BoM). When I build my hobby projects, I often get a bit carefree with the bill of materials. It’s not good practice, but I do. I’ll put a part in the BoM that I used before, and not check to see it’s still in stock. I’ll put parts in the BoM with just the values and not any part numbers. Things of that sort require tribal sc2knowledge, which only the designer has.

When building, sometimes I’ll just grab a part that’s close. If I need an 0805 1uf, 10V capacitor, I can grab a 16V, 25CV, etc. I can even make an 0603 part work. You as the designer may know that something close will work, but an outside house can’t know. You need to tell them exactly what the part is.

Before sending anything through our shop, I do clean up the BoM. In order for us, or any manufacturer, to build the boards, the BoM needs:

  • A unique reference designator for each part placement.
  • The quantity of each part used on the board.
  • The manufacturer.
  • The manufacturer’s part number.
  • DigiKey part numbers can be used as well.

Here’s our website page explaining the BoM format in more detail.

The transition from hand building to outsourced machine building can be an intimidating one. But, with a few considerations, it can be an easy and rewarding transition.

Duane Benson
Put the right part in
Put the wrong part out
Put the right part in
But please don’t shake it all about

blog.screamingcircuits.com

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Using Solder Preforms to Reduce Voiding in BTCs

Folks,

Let’s see how Patty and the team are doing on their presentation on voiding for Mike Madigan …

Patty was kind of down. Like millions of others, she and Rob watched, in horror, as Jordan Spieth had his meltdown at the 2016 Masters Golf Tournament. Some newscasters considered it the biggest meltdown in golf history, but Patty considered Rory McIlroy’s 2011 and especially Greg Norman’s 1996 meltdowns to be worse. She felt the NY Daily News did the best job of comparing the five worst Masters meltdowns. She agreed that Spieth would surely recover, certainly better than Ken Venturi in his famous collapse in the 1956 Masters. She was surprised that so many newscasters often seemed to not put history in as strong a perspective as it deserved.

As she sat in her office, she was reminded that she needed to finish her part of the presentation that Mike Madigan needed on minimizing voiding. Her topic was, “Using Solder Preforms to Minimize Voiding.” To her, voiding appeared to be the hottest issue in electronics assembly.  Especially voiding under bottom-terminated components, or BTCs. Rob and Pete were coming by in a few minutes to review her progress. Just as she finished, they were at her door.

“Hey, Professor! What’s the scoop on using solder preforms to minimize voiding?” Pete asked, clearly teasing by calling her “Professor.”

They all chuckled a bit and Rob added, “Yes, Professor. Let’s hear it.”

Patty began, “Remember a few years ago the standard approach to using preforms, to minimize voiding under BTCs, was to use a flux-coated solder preform and place it on the thermal pad on the PWB after printing a minimum amount of solder paste?”

“Sure! A great paper was written on it, by some of the folks at Indium Corporation,” Rob said.

Then Pete added, “I gather there is a new approach?”

“Well, think about the motivation to find another technique,” Patty replied.

“A specialized preform needed to be made, it needed flux coating and placing it was a bit of a challenge,” she continued.

“So, what’s the new technique?” Rob asked.

“Well, I chatted with Tim Jensen. Although the original technique is still used, a preferred technique using 0201- or 0402-sized solder preforms has been developed.  The preforms are purposely placed off center so that the BTC is at an angle.  This angle allows the solder paste volatiles to escape.  Since these preforms are a standard size, and not flux-coated, they will typically be less expensive and easier to handle in the assembly process,” Patty elaborated.

“How well do they work?” Pete asked.

“They work quite well. Look at these data,” Patty replied. (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Preforms of either 0201 or 0402 reduce voiding by up to 50%.  Note that the standard deviation is also tighter by using preforms.

Figure 1. Preforms of either 0201 or 0402 reduce voiding by up to 50%.  Note that the standard deviation is also tighter by using preforms.

“Looks like the 0402 preforms do a little better than 0201s,” Rob commented.

“Yeah! And using two of them instead of one seems to help a little,” Pete added.

“It’s also striking how the preforms tighten the data up. Look at how much the standard deviation is reduced by using them,” Rob added.

The trio spent the next several hours collating all their PowerPoint slides into one 45-minute presentation. Patty then scheduled a meeting with Mike Madigan to review the entire presentation.

Epilogue: Patty, Rob and Pete reviewed the presentation with Mike Madigan using WebEx.  Mike implemented the recommendations after reviewing them with his critical customers.  By using the best solder paste, making minor modifications to the SMT processes, and using solder preforms where appropriate, ACME was able to reduce voiding to less than 10% in all products and less than 5% in most.

Cheers,

Dr. Ron

 

 

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Industry 4.0: The Great Equalizer?

Gen Consutling Co. (GCC) has issued the Radiant Insights report “Global HDI Printed Circuit Board Market Forecast and Analysis 2016-2021.” The report provides a detailed analysis of worldwide markets for HDI Printed Circuit Board from 2011-2016, and provides market forecasts for 2016-2021 by region/country and subsectors. It covers the key technological and market trends in the HDI Printed Circuit Board market and further lays out an analysis of the factors influencing the supply/demand for HDI Printed Circuit Board, and the opportunities/challenges faced by industry participants. GCC states that the major players in the global HDI market are Unimicron, COMPEQ, AT&S, TTM, Zhen Ding, Ibiden, Tripod and Unitech.

Multek, a wholly owned subsidiary of FLEX, launched its new Zhuhai automotive division on May26 to support its rapidly growing automotive business. The company also announced completion of ISO/TS16949:2009 quality accreditation for its high layer count factory, and now delivers TS16949-grade automotive offerings at all of its manufacturing facilities globally.

Industry 4.0 is advancing rapidly in the Kunshan, China, electronics manufacturing hub. Will Industry 4.0 be enough by itself to make other areas of the world more competitively suitable for  sourcing?

Kunshan in Jiangsu Province near Shanghai attracts much of its investment from Taiwan. It is now accelerating growth by replacing workers with robots. Thirty-five of the 4,800 Taiwan companies in this area, including Foxconn, spent $610 million on artificial intelligence last year. Foxconn reduced  its labor force there from 110,000 to 50,000 by the introduction of robots. AS many as 600 more Taiwanese companies in  Kunshan are reported to have similar  plans.

Reality 4.0 – Are you missing the boat?

Some of our North American smaller fabricators facing difficult times and decisions sit back on their haunches and vociferously state that the IPC does nothing for them. They are missing the boat. The IPC provides the structure and support that allows virtually any group to band together, and work collaboratively to overcome obstacles and handicaps, and succeed in a rapidly changing and challenging environment. The IPC Ambassadors are creating an Executive Forum just for them and their supply chain. It will explore new technologies and trends, support opportunities,  and provide answers to many of the questions posed by these smaller enterprises of which there are more than 100 in the US. Additionally, the IPC will provide a new membership opportunity that will be difficult to refuse. Remember, there is strength in numbers! Stay tuned!

The IPC’s 3rd Reliability Forum held in Dusseldorf this month was a resounding success. The 2-1/2 day event started with a presentation on building in reliability by IPC director and ambassador Mike Carano, vice president of RBP Chemical Technology. Other prominent presenters included DuPont, Fraunhofer Institute, Atotech, and Park Electrochemical. The first full day focused designing for reliability, while the second addressed process. A half day on government relations activities was also included.

The Boston Chapter of the SMTA held its May meeting at Cirtronics, which graciously opened its doors (and factory for a tour) to host the event. Though held in New Hampshire, it attracted IPC and SMTA members from Massachusetts and the Western part of Connecticut. Cirtronics is an employee-owned contract manufacturer founded by its CEO Gerardine Ferlins. The busy facility was up-to-date and spotless. The profitable 176 employee company has progressed to the point where 70% of its business includes box-build. It has just acquired several new screen printers and is evaluating several new 3D AOI systems for purchase.

The meeting program featured Leo Lambert, vice president and technical director of EPTAC Corp. He covered key changes in and amendments to the IPC-A-600, IPC-A610, and J-STD-001 standards and how they affect our industry and the latest training and certification programs. Somehow the live presentation provided a far different result than the typical webinar. Humor was used to highlight specific points, problems, difficulties and the current situation. The result was very effective – at least to me. For example, amendments have been made that are different or in direct opposition to the original document. Yet the certification programs and manuals still contain and teach the unmodified or corrected items. Lambert well presented the need for peer review of training – if not standards – documentation so when the users receive it, they are not confused by any inconsistency.

The first Innovations Forum Hungary: Automation in Electronics Production “– building a competitive advantage in the region” will be held on the 16th of June, 2016 at the prestigious Academy of Sciences in Budapest.

The International Federation of Robotics (IFR), which represents robot manufacturers and research institutes, says China has surpassed Japan to become the world’s biggest market for industrial robots.

There is increasing concern about the secure availability of advanced printed circuits for America’s defense industry. These are needed to provide the platforms for high tech electronics. R&D for new systems seem to be progressing well. However, the US base of smaller fabricators that produce more than half of military boards is hard-pressed to fund the new equipment needed to build these circuits. Costs are often more than 20% of annual turnover. Some fabs in the Northeast as well as in California continue to report difficulty in acquiring the skilled workers needed for production. Others cannot modernize or add capacity due to local (state) “environmental” laws and restrictions. Congress is slow to act and too busy with the election to do much of anything this next year. It has funded some major items but do not consider printed circuits a big item. PWBs’ importance is still not yet well-enough understood. Do you have a comment, recommendation, or solution?

When will 3-D printing for prototyping be at your favorite circuit shop?

Sooner than you think — at least for prototyping. One system utilizing an ink containing nano silver particles for fine line printing will be made available commercially by the end of this year. It will be demonstrated at the CES show in Las Vegas January 2017. The deposited circuit traces may be photonically cured (sintered). HP announced a 3-D new system that is 10 times faster than its predecessors. The insulating substrate may be UV cured epoxy. One such system for epoxy has already been demonstrated in the UK. Get your 3-D circuit printing update at the IPC Ambassador Council Executive Forum for fabricators and their supply chain at IPC Apex Expo in San Diego on Feb. 13, 2017.

Financial news from Taiwan

Chin-Poon Industrial, with more than 70% of its revenues coming from the automotive industry, announced consolidated revenues for April 2016 increased 5.4% over April 2015 to $58.7 million. The company’s cumulative 2016 sales through April increased 9.3% from a year earlier. Consolidated revenues at Tripod Technology’s sales were up 1.1% from a year ago to $107 million in April 2015 Compeq Manufacturing had consolidated revenues of $93.9 million in April 2016, down 0.1% from April 2015 PCB producer Apex International’s April 2016 revenues were $21.4 million a 9.4% increase over last year.

Board maker Zhen Ding Technology Holding’s net profits declined 88% on quarter and 77% on year to $9.52 million in the first quarter of 2016.

The UK’s HK Wentworth, parent company of Electrolube, which supplies sprays and coatings to protect, clean and lubricate electronic circuit boards, switches and sensors, is spending £500,000 to build a new factory to make protective coatings in Bangalore, India.

It’s a new era and all about “the Car”

SEMI and Georgia Tech, in partnership with iNEMI, IMAPS, and IEEE, will launch a new workshop called FUTURECAR: New Era of Automotive Electronics Nov. 9-10, 2016, in Atlanta, GA. The new era of automotive electronics is the most complex electronics technology to date. It includes not only computing and communications electronics, autonomous driving electronics, sensing electronics but also high-power and high-temperature electronics. It is expected to account for a third of the value of “the car”, creating a market of approximately $1 trillion within a decade. The challenges to address this market include: 1) research and development of key technologies, and 2) technology ecosystem stewardship to enable swift and cost-efficient commercialization. The basis of this workshop is the synergy between Georgia Tech in R&D in partnership with its 50 supply-chain companies and SEMI in technology stewardship. This is complemented by the strength of co-sponsors such as iNEMI in roadmaps, and IEEE-CPMT and IMAPS as global electronics societies.

The European Institute of Printed Circuits (EIPC) meeting on “Strategies to maintain profitability in the European PCB Industry” will be held June 9-10 in Glasgow, Scotland.

The European Commission said growth in the euro zone and the wider European Union will be slightly weaker this year than previously forecast, as it warned that the economic slowdown in China and other emerging markets, geopolitical tensions and uncertainty ahead of the U.K. referendum on EU membership could weigh on the economy. Economic growth in Gulf States is forecast to slow to 1.8% this year as the oil dependent region cuts spending to battle fiscal deficits reaching 11.6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

A new China target?

French oil and gas producer Total plans to sell Atotech. “Atotech no longer falls within Total’s strategic vision,” chief executive Patrick Pouyanne was quoted as saying. Total is reported to be seeking a buyer that was “committed to sustaining Atotech’s current strategy.” Berlin-based Atotech, which generates annual sales of about $1 billion, manufactures specialty chemicals and equipment for printed circuit boards and semiconductors. It is Total’s sole remaining specialty chemicals unit.

Apple lost the trademark suit in the Beijing Municipal High People’s Court, which ruled that Xintong Tiandi Technology can continue to use the phrase “IPHONE” on its leather wallets and accessories, according to China-based Legal Daily. Chinese regulators reportedly shut down iTunes Movies and the iBooks Store last month.

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn sold his entire stake in Apple, citing the risk of China’s influence on the stock.

SEMI continues to strengthen and broaden its supply chain reach

SEMI has announced the appointment of Melissa Grupen-Shemansky, Ph.D., as chief technology officer for the FlexTech Group and for SEMI’s Advanced Packaging program. With over 20 years of experience in the semiconductor industry, Grupen-Shemansky will oversee FlexTech’s flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) and Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium (NBMC) R&D programs and technology advisory councils. Grupen-Shemansky will also serve as technical advisor to SEMI’s Advanced Packaging initiative and as technical liaison to NextFlex, the Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

Nepcon China held in Shanghai the last week of April was surprisingly the best in years. Pent up demand for pick-and-place equipment led the surge in active buying interest after a near drought in purchasing the past few years of the economic slowdown there.  The next few weeks will tell just how real the show activity was as stated interest converts to orders.

Firan Technology Group (FTG) is buying the assets of Teledyne Technology’sNew Hampshire’s printed circuit technology business (Teledyne PCT) for $9.3 million in cash. For approximately 50 years, Teledyne PCT has designed and manufactured rigid-flex printed circuit boards and assemblies used in the defense, aerospace and oil and gas industries. For each of the last three years, the unit has generated between $15.0 to $20.0 million of annual revenue. FTG has two operating units: FTG Circuits is a manufacturer of high technology, high reliability printed circuit boards. FTG Aerospace manufactures illuminated cockpit panels, keyboards and subassemblies for original equipment manufacturers of aerospace and defense equipment.

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Foxconn Can’t Say ‘No’ to Nokia

Mar. 30, 2016: Foxconn buys Sharp.

May 19, 2016: Foxconn buys Nokia.

As we were saying …

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