IPC Reliability Forum Wrap-up With Brook Sandy-Smith


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I attended the recent IPC High-Reliability Forum and Microvia Summit in Baltimore, Maryland. The speakers and panelists focused on a variety of topics, but one issue that kept popping up was the failure of some microvias on military and aerospace PCBs. Fortunately, some smart technologists are focusing on determining the cause of these via failures. I asked Brook Sandy-Smith, IPC’s technical education program manager, to give us a quick wrap-up of this event.

Andy Shaughnessy: Hi, Brook. It was great seeing you at the reliability conference in Baltimore. This conference has grown quite a bit in the last few years.

Brook Sandy-Smith: Yes, it has grown considerably. This was the third year for this conference, and I’m so pleased with the quality of the content and the number of attendees. It’s a pretty big group, and yet it still feels intimate and special in this venue with lots of opportunities to interact and talk with other attendees. You’ll be excited when you hear what we have planned for next year.

Shaughnessy: I talked to attendees who traveled from all over the country. Why do you think reliability is such a draw as a topic now? I know some of the attendees were concerned about military microvias failing.

Sandy-Smith: For several industries—such as defense, aerospace, and automotive—high reliability is the name of the game because our safety is in their hands, and the function of these devices is critical. In addition, companies that make other products look to these high-reliability industries to understand how to do things better. It’s important to strive for a high level of quality and reliability even when making something less critical than a car or an airplane. This is why we keep seeing this “reliability” buzzword all over the industry.

You also mentioned the hot topic of weak microvia interfaces. This is an emerging topic because several companies across the industry have witnessed intermittent failures related to plating interfaces within microvias. This is a particularly difficult problem because the open fracture may appear at higher temperatures but “heal” itself again upon cooling; nonetheless, this often results in field failures. It’s insidious because the problem pops up after routine test procedures are successful. This issue is a big focus for this event because the team is working with IPC and the industry to define the problem, collect data to see how big of a problem it is, and find ways to mitigate it. Microvias have been—and will continue to be—a reliable and important feature in circuit boards, so it’s important to figure out this concern quickly.

Shaughnessy: You all had a great line-up for the conference. What were some of the highlights in your opinion?

Sandy-Smith: It is difficult to single out a few moments because I enjoyed all of the presentations. I felt the keynote by John Bauer of Collins Aerospace was quite interesting. My favorite part is always the panel discussions because the interaction drives the conversation to the heart of the matter (both for the microvias panel and the surface reliability panel). We truly have some great experience among the speakers at IPC conferences, and they are so appreciated.

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

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