Denny Fritz: The Difference Between Quality and Reliability


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I recently spoke with industry veteran (and I-Connect007 columnist) Denny Fritz about the relationship between quality and reliability—two terms that are unequal but often used interchangeably. We also discussed the current state of lead-free solders in the U.S. military and defense market as well as the microvia reliability issues Denny focused on at IPC’s High-Reliability Forum and Microvia Summit in Baltimore, Maryland.

Andy Shaughnessy: It’s good to see you again, Denny. What’s the name of your company?

Denny Fritz: Fritz Technology Consulting. Send me something to do and I’ll give you a price.

Shaughnessy: Good. Can you give us a wrap-up of what you’ve been up to lately? Everybody is fairly familiar with you, but what are you up to now?

Fritz: Many people know me through IPC involvement, the IPC Hall of Fame, and 40 years of involvement in the PCB industry. Until July of 2018, I had worked about 12 years for SAIC, supporting the executive agent assignment at Navy Base Crane in Indiana. For many years—20 direct, 10 consulting, and a loose relationship today—I worked for MacDermid Inc. out of Waterbury, Connecticut, doing sales, technology, marketing, roadmaps, etc. Currently, if you have something that relates to technology forecasting and supply chain, I would consider consulting for you.

Shaughnessy: As a consultant, you’re the expert from out of town.

Fritz: If you want to pay me, I’ll be an expert.

Shaughnessy: Earlier, you mentioned the relationship between quality and reliability. To a lot of people, they’re almost interchangeable, but you made some points that they’re headed in the same direction but definitely aren’t the same.

Fritz: Correct. They are not the same. Reliability is something that I’ve been very interested in for over 10 years now. It probably dates back to my involvement with a Navy Crane assignment and the reliability of lead-free solders in long-term defense system applications related to tin whiskers, etc. It has been impressed on me that we do a lot of inspection on our board fabrication—particularly board assemblies—to pass quality requirements, but those cannot completely ensure long-term reliability. Reliability is a matter of looking at data over the last 10–40 years when your product performed to the standards you expected. The buzz phrase I’ve heard is quality is care from birth to shipment, and reliability is care from cradle to grave. In my mind, that’s the difference between the two.

Shaughnessy: You’ve spoken at these reliability conferences in the past, correct?

Fritz: I don’t know how far back they go here at IPC, but I do know that I was involved with Werner Engelmaier and Dieter Bergman in 2008. It was a two-day conference in Massachusetts. That’s the first time I became acquainted with organized reliability conferences through IPC. For the last three years, I’ve helped organize and participate annually. The first was held in 2017 in Rosemont, Illinois, and in 2018 and 2019, they were held here in Baltimore, Maryland.

Shaughnessy: You mentioned that the military is considering allowing lead-free. I know that with RoHS, military and aerospace had waivers, but now they’re fine with lead-free?

Fritz: It’s a complicated issue. The U.S. does not have a regulation that electronics have to be manufactured lead-free. In contrast, the European Union dictates that similar lead-free regulations have been adopted in Asia. Even in Europe, the defense industry has been able to get waivers to continue using leaded solder.

To read this entire interview, which appeared in the July 2019 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.

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