iNEMI Charts Aggressive Tech Path Print E-mail
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Written by Mike Buetow   
Monday, 12 March 2012 12:29

iNEMI continues to expand and impress. CEO Bill Bader spoke with CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY editor in chief Mike Buetow on Feb. 29 during the IPC Apex Expo trade show.

MB: You made strong gains in membership since you came aboard. Have you been able to keep up the gains of late?

BB: We've added six new members since the beginning of the year, so now we're at 99. We have more members from universities and research institutes now. It seems the beginning of the year is always better for gaining new members.


MB: What are your newest points of emphasis?

BB: We put a lot of energy in getting from the starting gate in medical electronics in a meaningful way. iNEMI officially launched three new projects in medical in January, and three more are in "definition." (Ed.: See sidebar.) What we've found in the medical segment is that many of the problems that are inherent and generic can't be solved by one company. And they are fundamental in that, if you solve them, everyone gets better. It's not an area of differentiation (for those companies), and that's good (for encouraging collaboration). These things take some time. We went from a workshop to some projects in about eight months, which is a pretty good turnaround.

Another big area is MEMS. We have two new initiatives forming: MEMS test methods and capabilities, and also reliability methodologies. We will hold another workshop in Pittsburgh in May. These are indeed "working shops," not "feel good" types of things. We try to get a full group of research and key companies to present, and we always present an element of our roadmap (in order) to bring the iNEMI perspective, as well as engage other players in industry. Then we sit down in breakout sessions and ask them to identify what they feel are the key collaborative opportunities. We ran a survey online to see which are the hottest, and to identify which the members would like to lead.

MEMS is an area with a lot of innovation still. There are some areas that are still sensitive to IP, so we picked areas we thought people would work together so we could establish some credibility and trust. There's a narrowing of the field. You might start with 30 and end up with 15. Ultimately you have to join iNEMI, and that's a decision point.

MB: I can't remember a time when iNEMI seemed to have so much going on.

BB: Yes, there is a lot on our plate. We have design of experiments (DoE) underway for copper bonding. We're in the third stage of a study on creep corrosion. We have a lot more programs underway. The staff is managing projects: Haley Fu has three in Asia and Grace O'Malley has two in Europe. There's a lot of sorting out of what the critical projects are. Getting teams moving and to execution mode is time-consuming.

MB: What can you tell me about the UL certification program?

UL is a new member, and we are working with them on a new project to improve UL certification of laminates and printed circuit boards. It will be interesting to see how the test and materials certification program materializes. UL Research, which is their not-for-profit arm, contacted me and said, "We need to update our standards and specifications methodology. We recognize we are seriously out of date. We want to approach it with a science-based approach, and you look like good members to partner with." They were willing to lead it. We then introduced it to the PCB Technology Working Group, and said we need the supply base, not just our membership, to step up. How detailed will it come out? Time will tell. We are in the definition phase, finishing up the statement of work.

MB: I've heard reports of OEMs concerned that laminates are not meeting the supplier's own specs, and some are questioning even whether the materials are being faked. That seems unlikely to me, but I do sense that with all the new resin systems and fillers, there's some real issues going on.

BB: We have had work going on halogen-free flame retardants for a good long time. It's just wrapping up. One of the outcomes was to hand to the laminate supply base a detailed list of requirements the materials must be tested to prior to being shipped. The team that was doing the technical work needed laminate materials to support the bus speeds of today and tomorrow. Part of their work was to hold laminate suppliers accountable to produce what they say they produce. There is a verification stage that is the next phase; it will be largely done in Asia where the product is largely being produced. iNEMI will coordinate that.

MB: Speaking of fakes, does it help with recruitment when the counterfeit problem is discussed on the front page of The Wall Street Journal?

BB: (laughs) I think it's about time the counterfeit problem has reached the mainstream media. I'm not surprised. I used to teach a class at Intel about intellectual property, and one of my slides was a DVD with a Lord of the Rings hologram on it that was released in China a week before the real thing. It's a spiderweb and it’s growing. The more you touch things, the more complicated it gets. I find it fascinating that the US government said, out of the blue, that (counterfeiting) must be fixed yesterday. I think the attention will help (iNEMI). In January we launched a new project to develop a methodology to evaluate the risk of counterfeit use with the ultimate goal to develop effective risk avoidance and mitigation. We got a lot of corporate support; we have 13 active members, and I think it will grow to 20 before we are done. The understanding of the severity level will help us get momentum and information.

MB: And you are starting up on the next Roadmap.

BB: That work is going well. We always have new areas that we add – nothing this cycle, but several only one cycle old. We are tasked to beef up those areas, and we start with some broad technology perspectives. I walked into that; iNEMI has that process down. (iNEMI director of roadmapping) Chuck Richardson has been doing it for a long time and has the methodology down. 

Also, the environmental program work continues. That is the established strength of the organization. We run it through a leadership steering committee, and we use that model for all our focus areas. When we call a steering committee meeting, the committed members and leaders show up, participate, commit resources, discuss strategies of how to broaden the impact of what we are doing. The challenge is to ensure you have the proper priorities and focus. One good example of iNEMI working on high-performance environmentally sound materials is a project investigating 16 different alternative solder materials – I don't really like to call it lead-free anymore – and Dr. Greg Henshall (of HP) is leading a team of 20-plus members running a highly complex DOE and evaluation of the 16 different materials.
Then there's lifecycle analysis for high-end ICT products, which is being run by Cisco and Alcatel, and which will result in a model that will be used by designers when deciding parts and content that are environmentally friendly. That project is on track and will deliver new capabilities to the ICT industry.

We also are writing a white paper on harmonization of environmental data management. It drives companies crazy – 100 different companies ask for environmental data in 100 different ways. We will also hold a workshop on Electronics Goes Green in Berlin in September. We will invite some NGOs to come and talk, and hopefully someone out of the European Commission. All of these are examples of the excellent leadership and role modeling in environmental electronics from the iNEMI membership.  

iNEMI's Rx for Medical Electronics

iNEMI has made a strong push into programs for enhancing medical devices. A snapshot of programs underway:

• Component specifications for medical products. (10 companies participating)
• Defining reliability requirements for implantable medical devices. (10 companies)
• Qualification methods for portable medical products. (7 companies)

... and initiatives starting development:

• Supply chain support of medical products.
• Compatibility of MRI/x-ray with implantable devices.
• Development of reliability models and specifications for flexible medical electronics.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 March 2012 06:51


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