‘Electronic Velcro’ Print E-mail
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Written by Mike Buetow   
Wednesday, 30 April 2008 19:00
Caveat Lector The biggest breakthrough shown on the floor during Apex last month wasn’t a placement machine, a reflow oven or a tester. Instead, “it” would fit on the tip of your forefinger. The inventor didn’t even have a booth.

“It” refers to the so-called Film-Based Connector, a new low-profile device that has all the advantages of traditional press-fit styled parts but is a fraction of the size.

The brainchild of Dominique Numakura, the brilliant materials scientist and serial inventor, the remarkable device stole the show.

Think 1.0 mm of vertical height constitutes “low profile?” Think again. The miniature device registers just 0.2 mm in the Z axis.

The device requires no soldering, and thus would not be exposed to reflow or wave soldering temperatures. But unlike its conventional cousin, where a pressfit connector has pins, the Film-Based Connector has bumps. Think electronic Velcro.

These 0.5 mm plated bumps have pitches of 250 to 300 µm, yet Numakura modestly says, “They could be smaller.” One of the samples I saw has more than 100 I/Os, and Numakura believes he can squeeze up to 500 bumps on a footprint roughly half the size of your pinky nail.

What’s more, the connector can be built using conventional plating techniques. (Numakura’s partner, a Japanese flex plating shop, built the prototypes.) There’s nothing like incumbent technology to ease acceptance.

The potential applications are enormous. The immediate uses would include any handheld device, cameras, RF devices, and so forth. It could also be an enabling technology. The thinnest connector I am aware of is a 1.0 mm style used in mobile devices. Such “monsters” are probably hindering the use of embedded actives, insofar as a unit is only as thin as its tallest component. With the connector out of the way, more parts could be buried inside the laminate layers.

Very slick.

IPC’s big gamble. The decision to move Apex to Las Vegas drew firm opinions from all sides, with most longtime exhibitors betting the house, while a few chose to fold their cards.

To recap, tired of watching attendance dwindle, suppliers clamored to relocate the trade show after just one year in Los Angeles. The move to Sin City came with some risk, however. To wit: Exhibition space was down about 9% year-over-year to 147,000 sq. ft., as some companies opted not to renew.

Then the show opened. Traffic appeared a bit light on the first day, then ticked up as the week wore on. The attendance numbers through day 1, as provided by IPC, included 3,300 show visitors, on track to best 2007’s official counts, although it’s unclear whether the latter included all registered visitors or just those who made it to Los Angeles. The professional development and technical conference numbers were much stronger over 2007, however, with the former up more than 30%.

But, where the difference truly could be felt was the enthusiasm, which was palpable among all who ventured inside the vast Mandalay Bay Convention Center. We heard several comments along the lines of those of VJ Electronix general manager Don Naugler, who said, “It’s been a good show; we’re quite happy with what we’ve seen so far.” Despite (or perhaps because of) the economic worries, attendees and exhibitors seemed upbeat and glad to escape the real world for a few days. If nothing else, Apex put to rest notions that the industry would not support a trade show in Las Vegas. With a couple years to go on the Mandalay Bay contract, it looks like Apex will be Velcroed to Las Vegas for the foreseeable future. And so another myth falls.

Finally, congratulations to Ramon Mendez, Mario Moreno, German Soto, Jessica Herrera and Craig Hamilton of Celestica, who won the International Best Paper for “Design for Manufacturability in Lead Free Wave Solder Process”; and to Brandon Gore (Intel) and Martyn Gaudion (Polar Instruments), who won the US Best Paper award for “Toward a PCB Production Floor Metric for Go/No-Go Testing of Lossy High Speed Transmission Lines.” No one writes papers for the glory, but much work is poured into these projects; these (and many other) authors deserve more than just a pat on the back from the boss.

For Chelsey Drysdale’s recap of Circuits Assembly’s NPI and Service Excellence Awards, see pg. 26-29. And to catch up on the products making their debuts last month – and there were quite a few – visit our New Products page.



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