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April 2022
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April 2022 • VOL. 39 • NO. 4
Printed Circuit Design and Fab Circuits Assembly logo
First Person
6
WEEE don’t need no regulation.
Mike Buetow
money matters
18
Redefining the AI revolution.
Peter Bigelow
20
Brain trumps heart.
Greg Papandrew
22
Keeping your customers.
Susan Mucha
Tech Talk
24
Tick tock goes the switching clock.
John Burkhert, Jr.
27
New Space.
Alun Morgan
28
Bending flex.
Mark Finstad
49
Rethinking understencil cleaning.
Clive Ashmore
Departments
April 2022 • VOL. 39 • NO. 4
Printed Circuit Design and Fab Circuits Assembly logo
Features
31
SIGNAL DEGRADATION
A look at signal degradation due to the inevitable absorption and dispersion caused by dielectrics and conductors. How much energy does it take to transmit one bit of information, and where does this energy eventually go?
by YURIY SHLEPNEV, Ph.D.
Printed Circuit Design & Fab Circuits Assembly April 2022 cover
36
ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE
Environmental expert Michael Kirschner details the open comment period for RoHS 3, the circular economy, and why environmental and sustainability standards have yet to achieve their goals.
by CHELSEY DRYSDALE
42
MACK TECHNOLOGIES
EMS company Mack Technologies recently completed a move to a factory in Juarez, Mexico, that more than doubles the previous plant’s footprint. President Will Kendall and vice president of operations, Mexico Oscar Gonzalez discuss the expansion, doing business in Mexico, and why when it comes to retaining employees, the stomach rules the body.
by MIKE BUETOW
ON PCB CHAT (pcbchat.com)
ROHS 3 AND THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY
with MICHAEL KIRSCHNER
THE LATEST PCB SOFTWARE MARKET TRENDS
with WALLY RHINES and MERLYN BRUNKEN
IPC APEX EXPO RECAP
with JESPER LYKKE, GREG PAPANDREW, KEVIN HUO and MICHELLE OGIHARA
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The Route
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President
Going in Circles, or WEEE Don’t Need No Regulation
M

ore than 15 years ago, the Restriction of the Use of Hazardous Substances in Electronics (RoHS) went into effect with great fanfare. While it had far-reaching effects, the most prominent material affected was lead.

Lead has for decades been the industry’s bad boy. (I’d say red-headed stepchild, but I am still mostly red-headed.) Several attempts were made in the US alone to eliminate its use, and the remediation and eradication efforts for lead in plumbing has had a pronounced effect on lowering rates of birth defects and learning disabilities. While an EU mandate, RoHS had a ripple effect throughout electronics-producing regions, and most eventually migrated to using lead-free materials in electronics solder as well.

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Around the World
PCDF People
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Nicolas Chaillan, former chief software officer of the US Air Force and Space Force, will deliver the keynote address for Zuken Innovation World Americas, slated for June 6-9 in San Antonio.
A headshot picture of Jim Francey
Isola hired Jim Francey as RF business development director, Europe. He has more than 30 years of high-frequency industry experience in chemistry and PCB materials and development engineering with Optiprint, Taconic and AlliedSignal.

NCAB Group announced the departure of Elmatica CEO Didrik Bech.

Sandia National Labs named Randy Bossi product design engineer-ECAD librarian.

A headshot picture of Stephen Chavez
Siemens named Stephen Chavez senior product marketing manager. He spent the previous 11 years as principal engineer, SME PCB Design at Collins Aerospace.
Around the World
PCB East Offers Free Sessions on DDR Memory Layout, Flex Circuits and Fab Concerns
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PEACHTREE CITY, GA – PCB East will offer a full day of free classes during its annual technical conference and exhibition in April in Marlborough, MA.

The technical conference takes place April 11-13, with the Free Tuesday sessions on April 12, the same day the exhibition is open.

A highlight of the free sessions is a presentation from noise control expert Rick Hartley on PCB layout of DDR bus structures. Hartley’s presentation will focus on identifying reasonable rules and guidelines, as well as proper PCB layout concepts to ensure DDR structures function as intended without adding extra time or cost to the project.

Around the World
Industry Leaders Foster Open Ecosystem for Chiplet-Based Design

SANTA CLARA, CA – Intel, Advanced Semiconductor Engineering and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, among others, have formed a consortium to establish a die-to-die interconnect standard and foster an open chiplet ecosystem. The new group will promote an open die-to-die interconnect standard called Universal Chiplet Interconnect Express (UCIe).

Intel developed the UCIe standard and donated it to the group of founding members as an open specification that defines the interconnect between chiplets within a package, enabling an open chiplet ecosystem and ubiquitous interconnect at the package level.

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Around the World
CA People
Becky Sidelinger Headshot
Flex named Becky Sidelinger president, Reliability Solutions. She has over three decades’ experience in Fortune 100 industrial organizations.

MicroCare Asia appointed Emma Chen regional sales manager.

Zestron named Aun Hua Yeo executive director, South Asia.

Around the World
Cisco Talos Researchers Find Security Flaws in PCB Viewer
SAN JOSE – Cisco’s Talos Intelligence Group outlined six critical-severity vulnerabilities affecting Gerbv, the open-source file viewer for printed circuit board designs.

The investigators found a so-called “out-of-bounds read vulnerability” in the RS-274X aperture macro multiple outline primitives functionality of Gerbv 2.7.0, Gerbv forked 2.7.1 and 2.8.0. Hackers could exploit this vulnerability to access the contents of Gerber files.

Around the World
Upcoming Webinar to Explain DDR Memory Layout
PEACHTREE CITY, GA – Rick Hartley in June will present a special webinar on layout of DDR memory. PCEA produces the webinar, and registration is at pcb2day.com.

Says Hartley: “The majority of today’s digital systems utilize double data rate (DDR) memory. The advantages are many, mostly that we get twice the amount of information transfer per given ‘clock frequency.’ More data transfer without increased signal integrity or EMI risk: Fabulous!

Around the World
TPCA Publishes PCB Smart Manufacturing Roadmap
TAOYUAN CITY, TAIWAN – The Taiwan Printed Circuit Association initiated the research of a new roadmap for PCB smart manufacturing in Taiwan. With regard to the smart manufacturing implementation process and in consideration of the future challenges for the PCB industry, the TCPA, the Institute for Information Industry and the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research have updated the “Roadmap of Smart Manufacturing Development for Taiwan’s PCB Industry.”

This new roadmap plans the different processes for the development and application of smart manufacturing in the PCB industry. At the application levels, the framework covers smart equipment, smart production and smart operations. It is divided into linkage (data capture and integration), visualization (data presentation), transparency (data simulation and analysis), prediction (data prediction), and adaptation (decision support and guidance).

The plan aims to achieve visualization of production lines for the short term, smart production for the medium term, and smart operations for the long term.

The Printed Circuit Board Equipment Communication Interface established in collaboration with SEMI is the foundation for PCB smart manufacturing; it will help resolve various communication inconsistencies between PCB equipment and manufacture to accelerate the development of PCB smart manufacturing, TPCA says.

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Around the World
Intervala Acquires EPE, Expands US Manufacturing Operations
MOUNT PLEASANT, PA – Intervala in March acquired Manchester, NH-based electronics manufacturing services provider EPE Corp. for an undisclosed amount.

The acquisition enlarges Intervala’s manufacturing capabilities, capacity and resources in the Northeast US and expands the company’s global customer base. Intervala also has manufacturing operations in the Pittsburgh area and Hudson, NH. The addition of EPE expands Intervala’s total operating space to 325,000 sq. ft.

EPE, which began doing business under the Intervala name immediately, was founded in 1957 and manufactures high-quality, complex printed circuit board assemblies and integrated electronic and electromechanical systems. The acquisition provides Intervala with additional manufacturing capacity in these capability areas and adds several top-tier customers in the defense industry and other high-reliability markets.

James D. (JD) Bell Jr., former president and CEO of EPE, as vice president and general manager, will be responsible for leadership and oversight of Intervala’s operations in the Northeast region.

“Intervala’s acquisition of EPE is an exciting and significant step in our strategy to grow and expand our presence and impact in the Northeast region,” said Teresa Huber, president and CEO, Intervala. “We are delighted to welcome JD and his capable team who have built a highly successful business and longstanding customer relationships with excellent customer service and proven manufacturing expertise. We believe our two organizations are a great fit culturally and look forward to serving our new customers with a continued, unwavering commitment to customer excellence.”

Around the World
SVI Austria to Sell SVI Hungary in 2 Installments
PATHUMTANI, THAILAND – SVI Austria, a subsidiary of SVI Public Co., signed a share purchase agreement to divest 49% of its shareholding in SVI Hungary to ml&s Personalservice and ESCHA.

SVI Austria will continue to be a major shareholder in SVI Hungary, with 51% ownership for an interim period of two years. Thereafter, the purchasers will acquire the remaining 51%.

The value of the acquisition is less than 15% and the total size of all transactions in the past six months and does not exceed the 15% threshold limits as prescribed in the regulations.

The purchasers are expected to increase SVI Hungary’s revenues with new business, as well as provide investments in new equipment.

ML&S is a subsidiary of Duotec, a German EMS firm with consolidated revenues of more than €230 million.

Around the World
Volex Acquires Majority Stake in inYantra Tech
BASINGSTOKE, UK – Volex has acquired a 51% stake in electronics design and manufacturing services firm inYantra Technologies for $13 million. The deal includes the $5 million purchase of 13.5 acres of industrial land.

The equity investment and property purchase will be in cash on completion from the company’s existing debt facilities.

“The equity investment strengthens Volex’s ability to provide flexibility and choice to its global customer base in the provision of its vertically integrated solutions by adding a new manufacturing region to its unique international operating footprint,” Volex said in a statement.

The site expansion offers the ability to construct a new 100,000 sq. ft. medical and industrial technology cable assembly facility. Volex plans to expand in consumer electrical and electric vehicles.

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Market Watch
EDITED by CHELSEY DRYSDALE
Hot Takes
  • More than nine in 10 manufacturers have experienced an increase in lead times for parts and components since the start of the pandemic, with approximately half indicating an increase of one to three months. (IPC)
  • Worldwide hardcopy peripherals (HCP) shipments declined 18% year-over-year to 22.3 million units in the fourth quarter. Shipment value was down 12.3% to $9.7 billion. (IDC)
  • The 2021 European EMS industry grew 9% year-over-year to more than €44 billion (US$48.9 billion), an all-time high, beating the 2019 result by 1%. (in4ma)
  • After surging 36% in 2021, semiconductor industry capital spending is forecast to jump 24% in 2022 to a new all-time high of $190.4 billion, up 86% from three years earlier in 2019. (IC Insights)
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ROI
Redefining the Meaning of Revolutionary Change
The pandemic taught us the importance of AI is not on the shop floor but in the ability of people to communicate.
For roughly half a decade, pundits have been waxing poetic about revolutionary changes about to take place in manufacturing – and in society at large – made available by advances in sensor technology that can be driven and manipulated by sophisticated software. Artificial intelligence (AI) and Factory (or Tech) 4.0 often best represent these revolutionary advances. Both have been touted to promise improving productivity, efficiency and speed, resulting in reduced costs and the need for fewer human employees where implemented.

I have never been a fan of any technology that replaces “human employees” but prefer technology that helps people achieve more. Based on the past couple years, that appears to be exactly what these revolutionary advances have actually achieved: using AI to enhance what people can achieve, rather than replacing them. How this has occurred, however, is different from originally imagined.

Many viewed AI and Factory 4.0 as enabling radically new products or game-changing process improvements throughout the manufacturing plant that would result in significant new products. In at least one way this came true, but in so many other ways, the game-changing has been subtler. Possibly the best example of this is in the area of communication.

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BOARD BUYING
Emotional Investment in PCB Suppliers Shouldn’t Hamper Business
Buy PCBs with your brain, not your heart.
“Pray for me. I buy circuit boards.”

That was a saying posted on the wall of a prospect I visited some 25 years ago. It’s funny, of course, but it also speaks to an unchanging truth about PCB buying: It’s often an emotional experience, especially when it comes to the bare board.

The PCB is the foundation of your products. It represents a good chunk – about 8 to 12% – of the cost of the bill of materials. While it is the first item needed to begin the assembly, it is usually the last item ordered. That alone can make buying boards stressful.

In my years selling boards and training companies how to buy PCBs, I’ve found it’s not a lack of knowledge about circuit boards that prevents buyers from leveraging their annual spend most efficiently; it’s misplaced loyalty or an aversion to risk.

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FOCUS ON BUSINESS
Handling Program Management Workload and Material Constraints
Strategic conversations are key to sustaining existing business.
The current business environment is creating two significant challenges for mid-tier electronics manufacturing services companies at a strategic planning level. The first is program management workload. Material exceptions have become the norm, and program teams have become highly reactive to respond to changing program variables. Second, material constraints are causing OEMs to keep projects at their current suppliers and push out launch plans on new products. Taken together, planning for account growth beyond what is automatically going in the pipeline based on spikes in existing demand may not be a great use of program management time.

While it is unlikely a significant number of projects will be awarded in the short term, a lot of dynamics in the background make strategically assessing larger accounts an important activity right now. These include:

  • The great resignation. While the media may have overhyped it, labor shortages are a reality, and people are moving around as a result. Do you have multiple relationships within each customer’s decision team? If you don’t and your key contact leaves, you will be building a relationship with someone who is viewing your company only from the perspective of the current market.
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designer’s notebook
Length Matching Routing for PCB Busses
Shortening and folding traces takes creativity and persistence, as long as the timing budget is met.
Printed circuit boards are becoming more complex, with high-speed interfaces more common. Whether it is a PCIe, Ethernet, USB or memory of some kind, clock nets proliferate across the board. Those clocks have kindred spirits in nets that want to hit the receiver in conjunction with the ticking clock.

Crucial parameters of a group of traces include the target length or maximum. Less is more. Most other signals on the board will switch periodically. Meanwhile, the clock switches all the time. The clock uses the same voltage, but the constant stream of “10101010101…” creates more energy fields than a seemingly random sequence of ones and zeros. These constantly shifting reactive clock net fields are the reason we shield the clock, giving it space to do its thing.

Shorter traces equal lower electromagnetic emissions. Shorter clocks have comparatively lower emissions and are less lossy. This gives rise to the use of available length matching tolerance to minimize the length of the clock, starting with finding the longest member of the group. Look at that net; locate any extra bends or places where it can be shortened.

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material gains
The ‘New Space’ Revolution
The proliferation of satellites and the “orbital economy” have exciting implications for Earth – but not without challenges.
An exciting market is developing 300km above Earth. New Space promises to revolutionize the delivery of internet services and create new opportunities for Earth observation that could help us improve crop yields, anticipate natural disasters, and manage our impact on the environment. There are also opportunities for manufacturing in space, taking advantage of microgravity to produce high-purity optical fibers and materials such as graphene, semiconductors, and superconductors. The in-space, or orbital, economy is already being debated.

This commercial development of New Space, which defines low Earth orbits (LEO) in the 300km-2000km altitude range, has become possible through the ongoing democratization of rocket and satellite technology over the last few years. Until recently, space missions were mostly the preserve of government-backed organizations. Today, however, the responsibility for launching satellites, as well as taking people and supplies to the International Space Station, has become substantially outsourced to private enterprises.

the FLEXPERTS
Bending the Flex in Rigid-Flex
Increasing distances between rigid areas helps prevent potential damage.
When designing a rigid-flex that needs to bend 90° in the flex area, what is the minimum flex length (distance between rigid sections) one should allow?

That is a loaded question without knowing the overall thickness and width of the flex layers. For this column, I will assume only a couple of flex layers, and the flex width is 2″ or less. Several issues come into play when determining the minimum distance between rigid areas on a rigid-flex. Some will affect the supplier’s cost because of yield reductions, and others may affect the mechanical function.

Manufacturing issues. Fabricating a rigid-flex circuit means juggling a number of technical issues to get everything to work. First, the rigid material must be removable in the flexing areas. (The rigid material is applied in full sheets.) This can be done by pre-scoring the rigid-flex interface lines part way through and removing the adhesive in the flex areas used to bond the rigid material to the stack.

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Signal DEGRADATION
Absorption and Dispersion in PCB Interconnects
Reducing signal degradation requires dielectrics with lower Dk and LT, more metal and conductors without rough surfaces.
by Yuriy Shlepnev, Ph.D.
At a trade show a few years ago, our Simberian booth was next to a booth with a very loud demonstration transferring 112Gbps over a distance of about one meter through cables. I don’t know how many terabytes of data they transferred during the show, but the demonstration equipment was noisy because of the industrial cooling equipment. I could feel the heat coming out of it. The devices were transferring data and not much else. How much energy is required to transmit data, and why is so much power dissipated into heat, I wondered.

PCB interconnects degrade digital signals. Signals may be reflected, coupled to other interconnects, or to power distribution structures or free space, but most important, conductors and dielectrics always absorb the signal energy and dissipate or turn it into heat. This article is about signal degradation due to the inevitable absorption and dispersion caused by dielectrics and conductors. How much energy does it take to transmit one bit of information, and where does this energy eventually go?

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SUSTAINABILITY
As RoHS is ‘Recast,’ Questions Arise Over Eco Standards’ Efficacy
With recycling efforts well below international targets, will manufacturers be forced to adapt again? by Chelsey Drysdale
Environmental issues have been front and center in electronics for decades. Most engineers today remember when the Restriction of the Use of Hazardous Substances in Electronics (RoHS) first went into effect in July 2006.

Michael Kirschner is president of Design Chain Associates, where he helps manufacturers understand and ensure their products comply with health and environmental regulatory, customer and market requirements. He has broad expertise in areas including semiconductor quality and reliability, software design and development, hardware design, development, and manufacturing, as well as manufacturing processes and supplier/supply base management.

This background enables him to help manufacturers assess and improve supply chain risk, readiness and performance, and achieve compliance with REACH, RoHS, Circular Economy, EcoDesign, CEAP, WEEE and other related health, environmental and social regulations.

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MACK TECHNOLOGIES
Mack in MEXICO: ‘It Just Makes a Lot of Sense to Be Here’
Mexico’s appeal over other geographies is driving big expansions at EMS companies looking to supply the North American market. by Mike Buetow
Mack Technologies is one of the largest family-owned EMS companies in North America and probably the world. Headquartered in Westford, MA, it also has facilities in Melbourne, FL, and Juarez, Mexico. It recently completed a move to a factory in Juarez that is more than double the previous plant’s footprint.

We talked in January with president Will Kendall and vice president of operations, Mexico Oscar Gonzalez about the expansion, doing business in Mexico, and why when it comes to retaining employees, the stomach rules the body.

Mike Buetow: Oscar, I have visited the plant in Westford a couple times, but I haven’t been to Juarez or Melbourne. I understand you’ve made a substantial capacity expansion to the Juarez plant. Could you give us an overview of what the expansion includes, and what spurred the changes?

Oscar Gonzalez: This move stemmed from our growth. We used to be in an 82,000 sq. ft. facility, and over the past few years we’ve been growing by leaps and bounds, and we ran out of space. As we continue serving existing and new customers, we made the strategic decision to move into a 2x building: a 164,000 sq. ft. facility. We’re occupying 50% of it, with the strategic vision to fill it out in the next few years.

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SCREEN printing
Rethinking the Understencil Cleaning System
Protecting modern-day, complex stencils requires a mechanism overhaul.
Ahh, understencil cleaning: a necessary – but challenging – aspect of the stencil printing process. I’ve certainly discussed cleaning in this space before, as the topic bears revisiting when things change. Now is one of those times. As a subprocess of the overall printing operation, understencil cleaning is employed at specific intervals – after “x” number of prints, as determined by the process and the product details – to clear the aperture area of solder paste. Left unchecked, there is a high probability any smear around the aperture will cause defects. This is especially true if printing anything close to microelectronics-level dimensions such as 0402s, fine-pitch BGAs, etc. With these conditions, the likelihood of bridging, solder balling or some form of defect is relatively high without a robust understencil cleaning regimen. To maintain a centered, high-yield process, thorough cleaning of the underside of the stencil between prints “as and when” is required. (There is no standard, “right” number.)

These facts have not changed in many years. What has changed are PCB designs, dimensions and electronics assemblers’ expectations. As we are all aware, miniaturization has driven stencil thicknesses down to an almost unbelievable 60µm for today’s mobile products. That’s thin! Modern-day stencils are highly complex tooling components with many tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of apertures cut into a paper-thin piece of stainless steel. The material is delicate, to say the least. With these actualities, it is time to reconsider the mechanisms for ensuring thorough, repeatable understencil cleaning that do not damage the stencil, introduce instability into the process or take too long to perform routine tasks. The industry should rethink the understencil cleaning system needed to manage current and future assembly realities. Aspects to consider include:

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Technical Abstracts
In Case You Missed It
Flexible Electronics
“Microwave Flexible Electronics Directly Transformed from Foundry-Produced, Multilayered Monolithic Integrated Circuits”

Authors: Guoxuan Qin, et al.

Abstract: Monolithic microwave integrated circuits hold a dominant position in telecom applications, especially in mobile devices with capabilities for wireless connectivity, due to high and repeatable performance, compact form factor, and low cost. With flexible electronic technologies forming the foundation for a rapidly growing wearable and implantable device segment, the need for flexible microwave electronics with levels of performance that match those of rigid counterparts has increased to unprecedented levels. Here, the fabrication processes for transforming a rigid form of foundry-produced, multilayered monolithic microwave integrated circuit into a flexible format for amplification of radio frequency signals in the gigahertz level are described. The strategy involves a complete replacement of all rigid materials in the integrated circuit that do not provide any active electronic functionality with a soft, silicone elastomer to yield an overall structure that is mechanically compliant. Experimental studies indicate the transformation process leads to a flexible silicon-germanium-based heterojunction bipolar transistor with a maximum oscillation frequency of 49GHz and a 24GHz amplifier with a small-signal gain of 13.2dB. This approach has potential uses across a diverse set of microwave devices and circuits in a manner that could enable wireless connectivity using entirely flexible electronics. (Advanced Electronic Materials, March 2022, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/aelm.202101350)

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