If the United States is ever going to regain some of its historically large PCB fab market share, design and fabrication knowhow must play a significant role.
“Fabricators are an important part of the design with manufacturing practice,” says Scott McCurdy, president of the Orange County chapter of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA), which recently had its first live event in more than two years. “They are advancing their technology and it is incumbent on designers to spend time talking with their fab vendors’ technical people and communicating their needs and concerns. This will ultimately get the best result in yield, cost, performance, and mutual satisfaction in the relationship.”
This relationship is key to success. The more designers know what fabs are dealing with and what they need, and the more that fabricators know about the options for new materials and processes and the issues that designers face, the better it is for the overall industry. Keep in mind, those who know have a significant advantage over those who do not.
I spoke with Scott after the July event in southern California, which featured three speakers and quite a large turnout. Scott said he was very pleased with the interaction between the audience and the presenters.
“This also encouraged some of the talented fabricators to speak up from the manufacturing perspective, and I believe it added to the educational value of our event,” he said.
The Orange County chapter is the largest in PCEA. It was formerly part of IPC back when IPC’s Designer’s Council was active. Scott has been instrumental in keeping the chapter alive, growing its membership, and getting backing from several well-known companies in the industry, including Insulectro, which helped sponsor this event.
I believe these events provide excellent reasons for anyone involved in design and assembly to attend. They allow time to meet, greet, and talk business with industry insiders, some of whom you may not have seen in person for quite some time. They also allow for worthy presentations, lively discussion, lunch, and even raffle prizes.
Here are short summaries from each of the three presentations:
“Signal Integrity Applications in Layout,” by Mike Creeden, CID+, technical director, design education, Insulectro
Mike spoke about applying SI theory to your layout, covering EM fields, laminates, copper profile, uninterrupted GND return path, impedance discontinuities from your routing, and proper shielding. He said the main goal is to obtain maximum placement and routing density, optimum performance as well as defect-free manufacturing. The key laminate composites are glass for rigidity, copper for conductivity and resin for bonding. The construction of the board using these three basic materials was discussed in some detail and generated quite a few questions as well as discussion and commentary between the presenters and the audience.
“Advanced Via Solutions using Ormet® Pastes,” by Chris Hunrath, vice president of technology, Insulectro
Chris spoke on Z-Axis interconnects for multi-lam HDI, back-drill elimination, solving high aspect ratio plating on high layer count boards, and any-layer-via usage. This presentation discussed two basic methods for transient liquid phase sintering (TLPS). The process has some basic advantages, including speed with one or two lamination cycles replacing up to10 cycles. In addition, it establishes metallurgical connection with copper interfaces. He described many other advantages, such as the ability to eliminate back drilling. Chris also discussed compatibility and reliability of the process in detail.
“Overcoming Flex Design Challenges,” by Geoffrey Leeds, CID, product manager, flex substrates, Insulectro
Geoffrey talked about overcoming flex design challenges by understanding the building blocks, pitfalls to avoid during layout, dynamic vs. static design constraint, and the proper materials and their applications. He discussed the basic PCB building blocks for rigid, rigid-flex, and flex circuits as well as the comparisons of the basic building blocks needed for each. One area of interest was the difference between weak and robust design, and various pitfalls such as what to avoid during design.
The presentation also discussed specialty materials and their applications such as DuPont’s Pyralux® high performance materials.
One informal topic of discussion during the chapter meeting was about supply chain, particularly the supply of raw materials and components. I surmised the general feeling was that while supplies are now more readily available, not having just one key component can stop the whole production. So, there is still more work to be done.
Whether you’re a highly experienced design professional, executive, or just getting started, you will always learn something valuable at these chapter meetings. They are focused, encourage excellent questions, and create a great deal of excellent discussion and discourse.
The next Orange County chapter meeting is planned for this fall. If you are in the area, I encourage you to attend. You will find it well worth the investment of a few hours of your time.
Dan Feinberg is an I-Connect007 technical editor and founder of Fein-Line Associates.