Connect the Dots: Increased Focus on Health and Wellness Transforms the PCB Industry

Can you imagine a time when people went jogging with nothing more than a self-winding wristwatch and a street map? How many of the gizmos in your doctor’s office were there five years ago? What would your boss from 10 years ago say if you asked them to install a napping pod at the office?

Things have changed a lot. Our population is aging, living longer, and seeking to maintain a healthy quality of life in the process. In a job market that’s been at full employment for years, employers are feeling the squeeze from rapidly evolving expectations surrounding workplace wellness and rising healthcare costs. These drivers are converging to create rapid change that is impacting the PCB industry in many ways.

Our increased focus on health and wellness drives technology advancement for personal devices and those used in the delivery of healthcare. This trend also drives both PCB production innovation and a long-overdue update of the employer/employee relationship.

Wearable technology was barely a thing five years ago. When we go for a run now, we expect detailed information about where we went and how our body performed. This health and wellness information must be reliable and easy to use during our workout. It also needs to be available to review and analyze later to see if we are reaching our goals. From the safety lights on the bicycle you ride to GPS tracking, sophisticated fitness monitors, and small-rugged video cameras that record fitness adventures, electronic devices are capturing more and more information even as they become smaller and lighter, as well as more durable and affordable.

To read this entire column, which appeared in the April 2020 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.

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2020

Connect the Dots: Increased Focus on Health and Wellness Transforms the PCB Industry

05-04-2020

Our increased focus on health and wellness drives technology advancement for personal devices and those used in the delivery of healthcare. Bob Tise and Matt Stevenson explain how this trend also drives both PCB production innovation and a long-overdue update of the employer/employee relationship.

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Connect the Dots: The Seven-year Etch

04-16-2020

PCB etching seems like a simple task on the surface, but quite a few things can go wrong during this process. Adhering to best practice and continuous improvement is a must to help avoid issues with your finished board. Bob Tise and Matt Stevenson share their design tips for a better etching process.

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Connect the Dots: Design Tips For Layout

02-06-2020

As a PCB manufacturer, we receive hundreds of PCB layouts represented in Gerber format every week. As you might expect, they’re not all created equal. Some of the layouts check every box and roll straight into manufacturing, while others need work before they can be sent to the production floor.

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Connect the Dots: A Penny for Your Thoughts on Copper

01-22-2020

You're probably thinking: “Bob can’t possibly write an entire article dedicated to the use of copper in PCBs.” To that, Bob says, “Hold my beer.”

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2019

Connect the Dots: A Penny for Your Thoughts on Copper

12-19-2019

Copper is the primary metal for standard PCBs. And while standard PCB capabilities depend on what materials are used and how they are constructed, copper is the go-to choice. Bob Tise explains some of copper's applications, advantages, and challenges.

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Connect the Dots: Build Quality Into Your Boards and Processes

11-06-2019

To the procurement clerk, a PCB may seem like it is just a line item on a bill of materials (BOM) or parts list during the production of an electronic device. At Sunstone, we know differently. The PCB is the building block for all of the components and parts in your electrical project.

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Connect the Dots: A Proactive Approach to Controlled Impedance

10-09-2019

You can save time, money, and effort if you are aware of the impedance math when you sit down to design your board. Gain this awareness by using a good impedance calculator, and you can build the right tolerances into your design. Impedance testing becomes a double-check of your work instead of the tool you rely on to tell you if your documentation is correct. Documenting impedance requirements properly is more onerous than most people realize. Though it seems simple, PCB documentation is a details game that often leaves knowledge gaps for your manufacturer.

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Connecting the Dots: Managing Global Supply Chain Uncertainty

09-03-2019

We are well into the second year of tariff-centric trade policy, and one thing appears certain—uncertainty is here to stay. Though most of the media focus has been on cars and steel or consumer prices and corporate profits, the enduring challenge for both the electronics and PCB industries has been maintaining reliable global supply chains.

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Connect the Dots: Five Best Practices to Ensure Manufacturability

08-01-2019

When you send your design for manufacturing, your partner does not know what type of device the board will be part of nor the conditions in which it will have to perform. It’s common for harsh environments or exposure to mess up a board’s performance. If you call out materials that will not tolerate the end-product’s operating environment, bad things can happen—such as a smoking board, for example. Be sure your board can tolerate thermal stress or solder joints risk breaking and damaging components.

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Connect the Dots: The Future of PCB Manufacturing Doesn't Belong to Robots, but to the Users

07-09-2019

Is the world ready for the consequences of rapid automation? Will the use of robots displace entire categories of workers? Can artificial intelligence really “think”? How will manufacturing, including PCB manufacturing, be affected by all of these smart robots? These questions actually come from a pamphlet published in 1955: "The Age of Automation: Its Effects on Human Welfare."

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Connect the Dots: Accurate Gerber Files Are Mission-Critical for Smooth PCB Manufacturing

05-30-2019

Gerber files can reveal design issues ahead of the quote process and ensure your manufacturer has everything needed to produce your boards correctly. After consulting with Engineering Support Specialist Eric Haugen, we explored some best practices for making sure that Gerber files are accurate.

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Connect the Dots: Preparing for Tomorrow’s Technology Today

05-16-2019

At a recent Sunstone Circuits planning summit, Matt Stevenson, VP of sales and marketing, and Bob Tise had a wide-ranging discussion about emerging technologies and how they will impact PCB manufacturing. The following is an abridged transcript of this conversation.

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Connect the Dots: MakeHarvard 2019: Bigger and Better!

04-09-2019

Sunstone Circuits was eager to return to MakeHarvard as a sponsor and creator of a competition category this year, also serving as both mentors and competition judges. If you were there, you saw us—we were hard to miss in our bright orange vests. As mentors, we were out and about helping students and answering questions.

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Connect the Dots: Exploding PCBs: Don’t Lose Track of Voltage in Your Design

04-01-2019

Managing split planes? Your CAM tool will not do it for you. We see this almost every day—not exploding PCBs, which pretty rare—but rather problems created by having more than one voltage on a power plane layer. From where we sit, this is one of the more insidious and costly challenges facing PCB designers.

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2018

Connect the Dots: Six Tips to Ensure Parts Fit on Your Board

12-12-2018

One of the most frustrating mismatches with alternative through-hole parts occurs when the land pattern matches, but the pin size is off. If hole sizes are too tight, pins may not fit through the holes, or if they do go into the holes, they may not solder well. Solder will need to flow through the gap between the pin and the hole barrel. If there is not enough space to allow enough solder mass to flow through the hole, the circuit board will absorb heat from the molten solder and cause the solder to solidify partway up the hole. This is called a cold solder joint and can result in a premature failure of your circuit.

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Connect the Dots: New Landing Design to Reduce Thermal Pad Failure

11-16-2018

You’ve finally finished your design. All the traces are correct and the IC landings are to the manufacturer’s specifications. A short run of test boards performs perfectly. For best results, you select a reputable domestic board house for production and a quality assembly shop to do the soldering. When the finished boards arrive, everything looks great. You’re in high spirits and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Then the reports start coming in.

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