January: Time to leave home and travel to sunny San Diego to attend the meetings, professional trainings, technical sessions, and exhibition at IPC APEX EXPO 2023. I hear that this year promises an excellent turnout for both the large exhibit floor and IPC committee meetings; maybe Tom Cruise will give us a fly-over from the Miramar Top Gun airbase?
For myself, I have a full agenda and new tennis shoes, so my feet won’t wear out as soon as they did last year. (Thanks to one of my committee team members for the shoe recommendation.)
This yearly conference is an excellent chance to learn how to streamline your design and NPI manufacturing process by familiarizing yourself with the newest technology trends and networking with folks from many companies and countries. Learning that you aren’t the only one with problems is vital in this industry; many people and companies actually face the same issues. Over 40 years of attending IPC meetings has immensely upgraded both my knowledge and my trusty contact list.
PCB data transfer is not generally a hot topic. You won’t see large LED signs advertising how well products seamlessly transfer data bi-directionally, but if you peel the onion back, you may be surprised to discover that substantial progress has been made on this topic over the years.
Below are a few suggestions on how you can improve your knowledge of seamless data transfer and emphasize its importance to suppliers at the show. Preparing yourself to have these conversations can help you justify the trip to your company.
Technical Committee Meetings
Get involved in developing and reviewing standards. You will be surprised how easy it is to influence a new technical standard or a new revision just by participating in these meetings and making your voice heard. If you have a request, speak up; there are likely other people in the room who want to raise the same issue or make the same recommendation. Don’t be shy about speaking up in these meetings. Every specification requirement or section starts with one person making an initial suggestion.
Here are my top three recommendations for standards committees to check out:
- Committee 2-16 (DPMX) IPC-2581 Data Format: Bring in suggestions for new features to enhance the 100% full electronic data exchange for fabrication, PCB assembly, and test. We will be voting on improvements to the impedance section and voting on the proposal to add 3D AME (Additively Manufactured Electronics) mechanical data into the schema in a future revision.
- Committee 2-12A Digital Twin Task Group: There will be a discussion about the W3C standard and data transfer improvements being used predominately by the PCB assembly industry. This is an important standard for Factory 4.0 initiatives. If the industry adopts the digital twin concept it could revolutionize bi-directional knowledge transfer between designers and manufacturing.
- Committee 1-14 DFX Standards: This committee is important because it encompasses the entire design process. The Standards Committee strives to integrate many of the IPC standards and design guidelines into a comprehensive approach that reduces the tedious and expensive NPI cycles that currently impact the timeline for releasing designs to manufacturing.
CAD and CAM Software Suppliers
I encourage you to visit as many ECAD, MCAD, and CAM software suppliers at the conference as you can to investigate what’s new with these products. Software suppliers rely on user suggestions and requirements for new products and enhancements, so new features are more likely if customers make a point of pushing for them.
Please visit the many excellent smaller suppliers exhibiting this year, too. Their tools can enhance the Tier 1 suppliers’ solutions. When chatting with suppliers, be sure to emphasize that we all need to have error-free design transfer.
If you are a designer, visit the fabricator or assembly CAM software suppliers to understand how their software works. If you are a fabricator, visit the PCB CAD suppliers to learn about all the data output options and design DFM/clean-up methods currently available.
When you find a supplier you like, remember to support them by buying their products.
Hallway and Luncheon Networking
IPC meetings have always been an excellent opportunity to talk with industry peers. Networking exposes you to different and innovative ideas on how to improve your process. These meetings are also an opportunity to bring awareness to the need for data transfer improvements; by sharing the issues you care about, you could potentially help the industry create more innovative solutions.
We can finish the data transfer quality journey by working together. Over the last couple of years, we have been forced to work in a massively distributed global environment. This year’s IPC APEX EXPO is a great opportunity to meet and interface with real people instead of images in a web meeting. So much more can be accomplished in person, and hopefully, we can avoid the rain this year, too.
If you happen to see me at the conference, stop me and say hi—I’ll be the older person with a grey beard (of course, that narrows it down to about 20% of the attendees). I am passionate about discussing data transfer and data quality. I’m always interested in new ideas and the innovative ways companies are improving quality and performance.
Have a good show and enjoy San Diego.
Dana Korf is the principal consultant at Korf Consultancy LLC.