Just Ask John Mitchell: Blurring the Lines of Technology


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First, we asked you to send in your questions for Happy Holden, Joe Fjelstad, and Eric Camden in our “Just Ask” series. Now, it’s IPC President and CEO John Mitchell’s turn! A regular PCB007 columnist, John focuses on many of the challenges affecting the global electronics industry supply chain. Over the years, he has served as an engineer, manager, and executive at a variety of companies and organizations. We hope you enjoy “Just Ask John.” 

Q: Advanced interconnection technology is blurring the distinction between circuit boards and ICs. What is IPC doing to address this trend?

A: This subject has been raised a few times over the past couple of years—the “blurring of the lines” proposal, if you will. Some examples of technical similarity include copper line/space design range overlap, high-speed laminate materials, HDI, vias/stacks, and signal integrity control, to name a few.

Currently, while there are technical similarities shared between (a) IC packaging and (b) printed circuit board assembly and test (PCBA) market segments, at IPC, we do not share this viewpoint. We think that “blurring of the lines” messaging is confusing the industry. At this time, we are not seeing a significant number of reported cases where the lines are blurring between IC packaging and PCBA. Instead, we see IC packaging and PCBA manufacturing operating as two separate, but very complementary, supply chain operation segments. While technologies may be shared, base materials, design rules, equipment sets, assembly, electrical test processes, and quality/reliability assessment requirements can be different.

It appears the driving force may be that some EMS providers are attempting to extend their service offering beyond PCBA/test to also include IC packaging assembly/test. From an EMS perspective, this is attractive because it allows them to benefit from their manufacturing infrastructure economies of scale (EOS) and offer higher value to OEMs with increased margins.

At IPC, we continue to lead and serve the electronics manufacturing industry. Our core consists of standards, education, training and certification, and government advocacy. In the future, if this migration occurs and if EMS providers offer back-end OSAT services, IPC’s network of members and standards development processes is positioned to drive new standards and technology adoption as needs arise. IPC standards can be applied to both PCBA assembly and test and IC packaging assembly. IPC “factory of the future” activities, including the connected factory exchange (CFX), are driving digital factories and modernization across the supply chain.

To submit your questions to John, click here.

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