I Never Realised It Was So Complicated!

Chris_Haley.JPGHow many designers or assemblers have ever set foot in a PCB fabrication shop? Nowhere near enough!

An initiative by SMART Group, the technical trade association dedicated to promoting education and innovation in electronics assembly technologies, and Amphenol-Invotec, a manufacturer of time critical, advanced technology and high-reliability printed circuit boards, gave a group of engineers from design, assembly and quality assurance positions the opportunity to learn a little about the realities of high-end PCB manufacture.

AndThenWeDoThis.JPGThe venue could not have been better chosen. Amphenol-Invotec’s Tamworth factory is probably the best-equipped and best-qualified PCB shop in the UK, and certainly one of the leaders in Europe, with a host of leading defence and aerospace companies on its diverse customer list. Participants were made welcome by Chris Haley, Engineering & Technology Manager, and Ram Pall, Field Applications Manager, and given an overview of the structure of the Amphenol-Invotec group before Chris Haley focused on the technology and capability of the Tamworth factory: 5,500 square metres, with 200 employees of which the direct workforce of 140 is split across three shifts to give continuous cover from Monday through Friday.

The factory carries AS9100C, ISO14001, NADCAP and ESA accreditations, and Haley made it clear that every job goes through the same system whatever its level of approval. Capability includes flex and rigid-flex, complex multilayer including HDI, stacked and stepped microvias, copper-filled holes, resin-filled holes, embedded devices, high-speed and RF, CTE controlled, thermal management and metal-backed substrates. Often, a design will contain a combination of many of these technologies. Haley explained that investment in capability is driven by knowledge of customer future needs and aligned with the technology roadmap of the European Defence Agency. Recent investment was directed at innerlayer automation with direct imaging, large-format X-ray drilling, large-format 4-gas plasma, doubling of plating capacity, resin via-filling and a new bare-board test, final inspection and despatch area.

AutoXRayDrill.JPGInnerlayerAuto1.JPG

All this investment was put in perspective as Haley used a series of real examples to illustrate the type of technology challenges his engineers had to address every day. Mixed materials, multiple mechanical drilling, laser drilling and back-drilling, hole filling, bonding and plating operations were routine. But he emphasised the importance of intelligent design for manufacture, and close cooperation between design engineer, applications engineer and manufacturing engineer to avoid over-complicated process routes and the accumulation of dimensional tolerances resulting in yield loss. For example, in an HDI design, every successive layer of microvias required the job to make an additional journey around the bond/ laser-drill/electroless plate/photoimage/electroplate/strip/etch process loop.  

Although every effort was made to carry a comprehensive range of materials in stock, and in many cases customers’ future requirements were anticipated and materials bought-in in advance, it was not possible to cover every eventuality and if particular materials were engineered into a new design it could take longer to get the materials than to manufacture the job.

Haley covered an enormous range of technologies in his presentation, many of which left his audience amazed at their complexity and the potential opportunities for failure if the job was not properly engineered or if the manufacturing process was not properly characterised, controlled and managed. But he summarised some important design-for-manufacture guidelines in a few basic bullet points:

  • Wherever possible use print-and-etch layers rather than plated layers—cheaper, lower-cost point of failure and easier to remake
  • Minimise the number of bond operations required
  • Increase tracks and gaps on plated layers to reduce problems of etching heavy copper
  • Cut back background planes on plated layers to improve yield
  • Increase annular ring on each bond/drill operation to compensate for tolerance build-up
  • Avoid resin-filled-holes technology unless absolutely necessary
  • Use standard materials; they are cheaper and available
  • Listen to your PCB suppliers—they do this every day
  • Remember we ask questions for a reason
  • Invest an extra day cleaning-up the design and save multiple ongoing issues
  • Use industry standards rather than in-house specifications wherever possible

NewPlatingCapacity.JPGThat all sounded very impressive in a conference room environment, but what about the realities of manufacture? Chris Haley and Ram Pall each took a group on a guided tour of the engineering and pre-production area, the production floor, the process control and quality assurance laboratories, electrical test and final inspection, pausing at each significant stage to describe the procedure and to give informative answers to the many questions that arose. The whole operation was immaculately presented and got about its business calmly and industriously. A Lean manufacturing culture was apparent, and there was a distinct absence of paper—all the engineering, manufacturing, process control, production control, inspection and test information was in the computer system. The complexity of the manufacturing process was apparent to all. I never realised it was so complicated!  

An enlightening and very successful learning day for everyone, and all credit to SMART Group and Amphenol-Invotec for making it possible. A typical testimonial: “Many thanks for your hospitality yesterday, and for the fascinating insight into the manufacture of high-reliability PCBs. Andy and I really enjoyed the visit,” from Peter Robinson, Package Development, Qualcomm Technologies International, Ltd.

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2017

I Never Realised It Was So Complicated!

05-31-2017

How many designers or assemblers have ever set foot in a PCB fabrication shop? Nowhere near enough! An initiative by SMART Group, the technical trade association dedicated to promoting education and innovation in electronics assembly technologies, and Amphenol-Invotec gave a group of engineers from design, assembly and quality assurance positions the opportunity to learn a little about the realities of high-end PCB manufacture.

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The European Angle: Institute of Circuit Technology 43rd Annual Symposium

05-22-2017

Time marches on and change is inevitable. Here we are anticipating the consequences of a Fourth Industrial Revolution—new technologies are blurring the lines between physical, digital and biological worlds, with the potential to fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. But where and when did the original industrial revolution begin?

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Ventec International Group's Martin Cotton Celebrates 50 Years in PCB Design

05-15-2017

This column by Pete Starkey celebrates Martin Cotton’s 50 years in PCB design. Amongst Cotton’s more significant design achievements was to successfully tackle the challenge of reducing the layer count of the PCB for the IBM PS/2-30 personal computer in 1986. He transformed a four-layer multilayer into a double-sided PTH that fitted two to a panel, resulting in substantial cost savings.

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Reporting on the Institute of Circuit Technology Spring Seminar

03-21-2017

There has long been debate over the exact location of the geographical centre of England, but the village of Meriden has traditionally laid claim to the title, and it offered an appropriate Midlands venue for the Institute of Circuit Technology 2017 Spring Seminar, which followed the Annual General Meeting of the Institute.

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EuroTech: Raw Materials Supply Chain—Critical Challenges Facing the PCB Industry

02-08-2017

In response to growing concern from members about cost increases and potential availability restrictions affecting copper-clad laminate and prepreg supplies, the EIPC 2017 Winter Conference in Salzburg included a special panel discussion on critical issues facing the raw materials supply chain for the PCB industry worldwide, particularly the availability of copper foil as a consequence of rapidly increasing demand from the manufacturers of lithium batteries for electric vehicles.

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EuroTech: ENIPIG—Next Generation of PCB Surface Finish

01-30-2017

MACFEST is a multi-partner project co-funded by Innovate UK to develop an electroless nickel/immersion palladium/immersion gold (ENIPIG) “universal surface finish” for printed circuit boards. Project partners are University of Leicester, MTG Research, C-Tech Innovation, A-Gas Electronic Materials, Merlin Circuit Technology and the Institute of Circuit Technology.

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2016

EuroTech: Institute of Circuit Technology Northern Seminar 2016, Harrogate

12-08-2016

A new location for the Institute of Circuit Technology Northern Seminar: Harrogate, the elegant and historic spa town in North Yorkshire, England. And an impressive venue: the chandeliered drawing room of the palatial and stately Majestic Hotel, dating from the Victorian era.

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2014

Top 10 SMT Tech Tuesday Articles of 2014

12-30-2014

Technical Editor Pete Starkey presents his list of the top 10 SMT Tech Tuesday articles for 2014. The year's topics cover a wide range and include printed electronics, lead-free processes, preventing tin whiskers, stencil printing challenges, and thermal management issues.

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Top 10 PCB Tech Tuesday Articles of 2014

12-30-2014

Another year has come and gone. To mark a year of innovations, Technical Editor Pete Starkey presents his list of the top 10 Tech Tuesday articles for 2014. Each item on the list provided innovative information to the industry.

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An Inside Look: 3D AOI of Electronic Assemblies Seminar

12-16-2014

This UK event brought together experts from leading AOI suppliers, to discuss and explain different approaches to three-dimensional inspection and to present the latest in technology to those with a collective interest in yield improvement, process control, and quality assurance. All were welcomed by SMART Group Chairman Keith Bryant, who introduced the speakers and moderated the panel discussions. Pete Starkey reports.

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J-STD-001 & IPC-A-610 Updates for Conformal Coating: An Insider's Guide

12-09-2014

SMART Group recently offered a "direct from the committee" technical guide to the changes being made to J-STD-001 and IPC-A-610, presented by Doug Pauls, Principal Materials and Process engineer at Rockwell Collins and chair of IPC Cleaning and Cleanliness Committees, in a webinar organized and moderated by Bob Willis. Technical Editor Pete Starkey reports.

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Institute of Circuit Technology's 2014 Darlington Seminar

11-25-2014

Editor Pete Starkey recently made a trip to the Northeast of England for the Institute of Circuit Technology (ICT) annual Darlington Seminar. Highlights included a presentation from Ventec's Martin Cotton on practical design considerations for high-speed PCBs--"Design once, make many times" was his main message--and a talk from Dr. Andrew Cobley addressing the rise of wearable technology.

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HASLEN: An Obituary to Black Pad

10-28-2014

A webinar recently presented by ITRI Innovation introduced a new solderable finish known as HASLEN, which combines features of two established technologies to deposit solder directly on to electroless nickel by hot air solder leveling, and made possible by novel fluxes based on deep eutectic solvents. The HASLEN finish claims to reduce cost and offer overall improvements in the longevity and reliability of PCB assemblies when compared with ENIG. Pete Starkey reports.

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SMART Group Webinar: Advances in AOI technology

10-22-2014

SMART Group recently presented a webinar to clarify the fundamentals of AOI technology and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the equipment options currently available. Chairman Keith Bryant drew upon many years' experience as a specialist in X-ray and AOI techniques to give a clear and comprehensive overview, with detailed explanations of attributes and applications.

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Update An Inside Look: UK Collaborative Research Project Dissemination Conference

10-14-2014

The headquarters of the Surface Engineering Association in Birmingham, UK, was the venue for a one-day conference to disseminate the results of a number of UK and European collaborative research and development projects with direct relevance to the electronics manufacturing, surface engineering, and metal finishing industries. Pete Starkey reports

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Up Close: ICT's Hayling Island, UK Seminar

09-30-2014

"Manufactured in the UK" was the theme of this year's Institute of Circuit Technology Hayling Island seminar in Goodwood, UK. Topics ranged from details of the European PCB market and an educational programme aimed at teaching PCB technology in schools to innovations in ink-jet printing, thermal management strategies, and the evolution of solder resist materials. Pete Starkey reports.

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ECWC13:

09-01-2014

First held in London, UK, in 1978, and triennially since then, the 13th Electronic Circuits World Convention came to Nuremberg, Germany, running in parallel with the SMT Hybrid Packaging Exhibition. Technical Editor Pete Starkey reports on the keynote presentations delivered during the event.

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2013

Cleanness Assessment Using Solvent Extract Conductivity to Improve Circuit Reliability

12-11-2013

Technical Editor Pete Starkey reports on an informative webinar presented by Ling Zhou, National Physical Laboratory specialist in electronic circuit reliability and metal-corrosion-induced failure mechanisms, on cleanness assessment using solvent extract conductivity.

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An Inside Look: High-Temperature Electronics Manufacturing

12-04-2013

Moderator Bob Willis explains, "High-temperature electronics is not just about solder, it's about all of the parts that make up an electronics product. Substrates, components, connectors, cables, solders, and assembly processes all need to be considered." Technical Editor Pete Starkey provides an in-depth looks at Willis' latest seminar.

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PCB Technology the Focus of ICT Darlington Seminar

11-12-2013

The Institute of Circuit Technology (ICT) Darlington Seminar, held November 5, 2013, was split between advances in PCB technology and the mechanisms available to help promote the transfer of technology and the development of export business. Technical Editor Pete Starkey gives an inside look.

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An Inside Look: SMART Group European Conference 2013, Day 2

10-15-2013

The second--and intensely technical--day of the SMART Group 2013 European Conference highlighted lead-free solders, the return of cleaning, alloy development, failure analysis, and bath process monitoring and control. Technical Editor Pete Starkey concludes his report.

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An Inside Look: SMART Group European Conference 2013, Day 1

10-15-2013

This year's conference hosted eminent guests from the electronics manufacturing community travelling from far and near to network with peers and increase their understanding of material and process selection and yield improvement techniques. Technical Editor Pete Starkey reports on day one.

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IeMRC 8th Annual Conference: Innovation and Sustainability

10-08-2013

The 8th annual conference of the Innovative Electronics Manufacturing Research Centre (IeMRC) at the UK's Loughborough University featured 11 informative and highly-technical presentations grouped into four sessions: Accelerating Innovation, Flexible Electronics, Sustainability, and Nanoelectronics. Pete Starkey reports.

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ICT Hayling Island Seminar: Young People Don't Lick Stamps

10-01-2013

The ICT Hayling Island Seminar has become a must-attend UK PCB community event. Breaking with tradition this year: The programme offered an alternative to conventional "grey suit brigade" contributions with a focus on the importance of bringing new, younger minds to the industry. Pete Starkey reports.

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Behind the News: Tripod Selects Semblant's Plasma Finish

09-04-2013

Technical Editor Pete Starkey knows what an arduous task it can be to get a new finish recognized, qualified, and specified: "I was favourably impressed to read Semblant's announcement and delighted to then have the opportunity to seek the comments of VP of Worldwide Sales and Marketing Steve McClure." Read on to learn more about the company's plasma-based surface treatment process.

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EIPC Summer Conference, Day 2

07-09-2013

A well-rested and bright-eyed audience reassembled for an early start to the second day of the EIPC Summer Conference in Luxembourg and enjoyed an intense programme of 12 technical papers in three sessions: Advanced PCB Research Projects, PCB Design, and Novel Technologies. Pete Starkey continues his in-depth report.

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EIPC Summer Conference, Day 1

07-03-2013

A small landlocked country in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany, Luxembourg covers an area of less than a thousand square miles and has a population of little more than half a million. The world's only remaining grand duchy, with the world's highest gross domestic product per capita, Luxembourg was the location for the 2013 Summer Conference of the European Institute of Printed Circuits. European Editor Pete Starkey reports.

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2012

An Inside Look: ICT's Annual Northern Seminar

11-13-2012

Hartlepool's Historic Quay was the new venue for this year's Institute of Circuit Technology Northern Seminar. Technical Editor Pete Starkey attended this evening seminar and provides a detailed account of the excellent and informative featured presentations. The section on designers' tendency to be "stubbornly resistant to change" alone is worth a read.

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Meeting Soldering Challenges of Miniaturization

11-05-2012

Although minimum solder joint sizes have stabilised in the 0.3 to 0.4 mm range and soldering technology is currently under control, it is projected that joint sizes could reduce to the 0.1 to 0.2 mm range by 2020. What would be the consequences on manufacturability and reliability?

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NPL Webinar: Practical Applications for Nanoelectronics

10-15-2012

The Nanocarbon Electronic Interconnects project is a collaboration between NPL and University of Surrey, aimed at developing characterisation tools for nanointerconnects based on nanocarbon. Researcher Vimal Gopee presented a webinar October 10, 2012 and Technical Editor Pete Starkey fills you in on the many topics covered.

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Invotec and Printed Electronics: The Story Behind the News

10-08-2012

Technical Editor Pete Starkey recently met with Invotec Managing Director Tim Tatton and PEL Technical Director Dr. Neil Chilton at their offices in Tamworth, UK, to discuss the significance of their strengthened partnership and the new opportunities it would create.

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A Walk on the Technical Side: SMART Group's 2012 European Conference, Day 2

10-05-2012

The second day of SMART Group's 2012 European Conference got underway in Thame, Oxfordshire, UK with a second grouping of industry experts ready to present and attendees eager to learn. Technical Editor Pete Starkey made the trip for I-Connect007 and continues his detailed report.

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A Walk on the Technical Side: SMART Group's 2012 European Conference

09-25-2012

Thame, a charming old market town close to the Chiltern Hills in the county of Oxfordshire, was the venue for SMART Group's 2012 European Conference. As always, Technical Editor Pete Starkey made the trip for I-Connect007 and reports, in his usual amazing detail, on the presentations given, new information revealed, and areas of study.

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EIPC's Summer Conference in Milan: Day 2

09-19-2012

The Ramada Plaza in Milan, Italy was venue for the 2012 Summer Conference of the EIPC which drew delegates from 10 European countries, as well as from the U.S. and Israel, to meet, network, and learn from an intense two-day programme of 21 presentations and a factory tour. In his typical fashion, Technical Editor Pete Starkey provides an excellent review of Day Two.

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EIPC's Summer Conference in Milan: Day 1

09-17-2012

The Ramada Plaza in Milan, Italy was venue for the 2012 Summer Conference of the EIPC which drew delegates from 10 European countries, as well as from the U.S. and Israel, to meet, network, and learn from an intense two-day programme of 21 presentations and a factory tour. In his typical fashion, Technical Editor Pete Starkey provides an excellent review of Day One.

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IeMRC Conference: One Day of Education to Last a Lifetime

09-12-2012

Henry Ford College at Loughborough University was quite an appropriate venue for the 7th Annual IeMRC Conference which immersed attendees in a sea of information. Technical Editor Pete Starkey provides in-depth coverage of all presentations given, covering an amazing range of PCB fabrication, design, assembly and packaging, and military/aerospace topics.

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An Inside Look: UK's Hayling Island ICT Seminar

09-07-2012

Thankful for a respite from three months of miserable English summer weather, over 100 printed circuit enthusiasts made the journey to attend the Institute of Circuit Technology (ICT) Seminar in Hayling Island, now firmly established as the venue for a not-to-be-missed annual event on the PCB industry's technical calendar. Pete Starkey details the presentations made.

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2011

An Inside View: The Wurth Elektronik Design Conference

10-19-2011

I spent many years as a PCB fabricator actively encouraging designers to try to understand what we could and could not achieve, what was cost-effective and what not, and to involve us in discussion at the earliest possible stage of the design project. The recent Wurth Elektronik Design Conference in Manchester, UK, seemed to share this objective!

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2010

IeMRC Conference in UK: Five Years of Innovation

09-27-2010

Our European Technical Editor Pete Starkey recently made the journey to Loughborough, UK to attend IeMRC's fifth-annual conference. He reports on a myriad of topics and new technologies addressed, including: Flip-chip bonding; packaging materials for high-temperature electronics; maskless electrochemical pattern transfer in micro-fabrication; and the electrical and morphological characteristics of PEDOT:PSS.

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Adventures in Non-Conformance at SMART Group Seminar

01-26-2010

With Rockwell Collins' high-reliability, flight-critical equipment, non-conformance is a non-starter. Doug Pauls and Dave Hillman of Rockwell Collins shared case studies in non-conformance during their recent SMART Group Seminar keynote address.

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2009

Institute of Circuit Technology's Darlington Seminar a Success

11-05-2009

An enthusiastic audience, and speakers from as far afield as Japan, Germany, Scotland and Cumbria, gathered to share the latest knowledge on high-speed laminates and advanced conductor finishes at ICT's Circuit Technology Seminar on Tuesday.

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Bulk High-Temperature Superconductors for High Field Apps

09-15-2009

At the fourth annual IeMRC conference, David Cardwell, Professor of Superconductor Engineering at the University of Cambridge, gave a presentation illustrated with live demonstrations of magnetic levitation accompanied by dramatic smoke effects from the liquid nitrogen he used to cool his superconductor samples.

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Glass as an HDI Substrate?

09-02-2009

Have you ever considered glass as an HDI substrate? At a recent symposium, Dr. David Hutt of Loughborough University described work being carried out by his team to investigate the practicability of using glass as an alternative to organic substrates in the fabrication of multilayer HDI devices.

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SMART Group Seminar on Materials and Finishes

05-01-2009

"I never realised it was this complicated!" That was just one of the comments overheard during Tuesday's SMART Group seminar on printed circuit materials and finishes, held in Arundel on the south coast of England.

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EIPC Winter Conference Review

02-23-2009

It's rough out there right now. But, as attendees discovered at the EIPC Winter Conference in Amsterdam, many European PCB makers are continuing to innovate through the down cycle.

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The A-Z of Lead-Free Reliability: SMART Group workshop at NPL

01-23-2009

The NPL recently hosted a workshop entitled "A-Z of Lead-Free Reliability," organised under the auspices of SMART Group, which provided the opportunity for members of Hunt's team to update a full-house audience of electronics industry professionals on a series of current NPL investigations and studies, many of which were Joint Industry Projects with external partners.

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2008

Inside the Orbotech European PCB Executive Forum

07-21-2008

Orbotech has evolved in two dimensions--deeper into technologies related to PCB engineering, imaging, inspection, repair and process control and broader into applications in flat panel displays, PCB assembly, recognition solutions and medical imaging.

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Flying Start for National Electronics Week

06-20-2008

With the underlying theme of "Learning & Discovery," NEW brought together over 350 exhibitors to present the latest innovations in electronic design, silicon, hardware systems, software design, components, test tools, assembly equipment, production systems, contract manufacturing services and distribution.

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Europe Update: The 2008 EIPC Summer Conference in Dresden, Germany

06-06-2008

An international audience--83 delegates from 13 countries--of decision makers and leaders of the packaging and interconnection industry, met to exchange information on market trends and technical innovations and enjoyed an intensive program of 23 expert presentations over two days.

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Review: The 34th Annual Symposium of the Institute of Circuit Technology, June 2008

06-05-2008

The 34th Annual Symposium of the Institute of Circuit Technology had a distinctly Scottish flavor. The venue for the symposium was Tweed Horizons on the Scottish borders and the keynote speaker was Dr. Peter Hughes OBE, Chief Executive of Scottish Engineering, who spoke with infectious enthusiasm about the opportunities that exist in Scotland's electronics industry.

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