Printed Circuit Design & Fab Circuits Assembly August 2022 cover
August 2022
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August 2022 • VOL. 39 • NO. 8
Printed Circuit Design and Fab Circuits Assembly logo
First Person
Don’t diss the small distys.
Mike Buetow
money matters
Timely communication saves time.
Peter Bigelow
Landed costs are up in the air.
Greg Papandrew
Finding your employer fit.
Susan Mucha
Tech Talk
Talk it out.
John Burkhert, Jr.
AI’s data appetite.
Alun Morgan
Why flex punches up tool costs.
Mark Finstad
Getting your print process back in spec.
Clive Ashmore
August 2022 • VOL. 39 • NO. 8
Printed Circuit Design and Fab Circuits Assembly logo
While the 146 companies on this year’s NTI-100 represent only 6% of the estimated 2,400 fabricators in the world, they produced 92% of the output. As we say, the big get bigger every year.
by Dr. Hayao Nakahara
PCB Rework
Reflow in an oxygen-filled environment can lead to all sorts of defects. Can the vapor phase reflow process address HiP in BGA/LGA hybrid connectors?
by Hunter Pullishy, Sandy Yimbo and Jose Pineda
Printed Circuit Design & Fab Circuits Assembly August 2022 cover
Smart Manufacturing
The mix of older and newer production equipment requires IP coordination with the manufacturers and software providers. The result: there’s still a human side to machine-to-machine communication. Brian Morrison, vice president of engineering for Vexos, explains.
by Chelsey Drysdale
IPC Cleanliness Standard Compliance
with Graham Naisbitt
Engineering Soft Skills
with John Burkhert Jr.
Advances in Solder Pastes
with Jen Fijalkowski
The Factory of the Future
with Dr. Matthew Dyson
Rush PCB
PCEA logo
PO Box 807
Stephen Chavez, chairman
Michael Creeden, vice chairman
Justin Fleming, secretary
Gary Ferrari, chairman emeritus

Michael Buetow
Tomas Chester
Douglas Dixon
Tara Dunn
Richard Hartley
Scott McCurdy
Anaya Vardya
Susy Webb
Eriko Yamato










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Clive Ashmore, Peter Bigelow, Robert Boguski, John D. Borneman, John Burkhert, Jr., Joseph Fama, Mark Finstad, Nick Koop, Alun Morgan, Susan Mucha, Greg Papandrew, Akber Roy, Chrys Shea, Jan Vardaman, Gene Weiner

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In the Rush to Get Big, Let’s Not Forget the Little Guys

or more than 20 years, PCD&F/CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY has been proud to be the exclusive publisher of the annual NTI-100 list of the world’s largest board fabricators.

One of the striking changes over the years has been the reshaping of the industry geographical landscape.

In this year’s rankings, which begin on page 32, see how many Europe- and US-based companies are in the top 25. I’ll save you the suspense. One each: AT&S and TTM Technologies, respectively. Long gone are the days when Photocircuits, Sanmina, Hadco, Viasystems and the like dominated the top of the chart.


Around the World

PCDF People
Cadence named Liz Campbell director, inside sales. She has more than 15 years’ experience in EDA and electronics with Dassault, Nvidia, Cognex, Ansys and most recently, Altair.
PCDF Briefs
American Standard Circuits installed new Metrohm CVS 894 equipment and software.

Celus, a software company that uses AI to streamline circuit board engineering, has raised €25 million in Series A funding.

Digi-Key has launched a manufacturing service aimed at hobbyists, makers and students to quote, source and order smaller quantities of PCBs.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers, working with PragmatIC Semiconductor, developed the first commercially viable flexible plastic microprocessor chips, called FlexiCores, that can be manufactured at scale for less than a penny per unit.

Nano Dimension has closed a definitive agreement to acquire Formatec Holding, including its two subsidiaries Admatec Europe and Formatec Technical Ceramics, for $12.9 million (net of cash).

Around the World
Calumet to Invest $6.5M in Michigan PCB Plant
KEWEENAW, MI – Calumet Electronics is investing $6.5 million at a newly built 35,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility in northern Michigan. The firm plans to upgrade operations and expand its staff more than 25%, resulting in 80 new jobs.

The 300-person company produces printed circuit boards for the industrial, power generation, aerospace and defense, and medical segments.

“This expansion is critical to the growth and recruitment of talented workers for a company that is in a critical industry and critical to the region,” said Marty Fittante, CEO, InvestUP.

The state of Michigan is expected to provide a $600,000 performance-based grant, and Calumet will receive $2 million in Community Development Block Grant funding. (CD)

Around the World
PCEA Announces Dates for PCB East 2023

PEACHTREE CITY, GA – The Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA) announced dates for next year’s PCB East conference and exhibition.

The three-day technical conference will take place May 9-11, 2023, at the Boxboro Regency in Boxborough, MA. The event includes a one-day exhibition on May 10.

“The return of PCB East to the Boston suburbs this year reminded everyone of just how vibrant the New England electronics design and manufacturing industry is,” said Mike Buetow, president, PCEA and conference director, PCB East. “PCB East is the electronics industry’s East Coast trade show, and we look forward to providing our world-class training programs, along with the largest gathering of industry suppliers New England will see.”

A call for presentations will be available shortly. Visit for details.

Around the World
Ventec Increases Prepreg Capacity in Taiwan

TAIPEI – Ventec International is investing in new prepreg treating capacity at its Taiwan facility to expand its global manufacturing capability, control and supply chain flexibility.

The new treating equipment, which features a specially designed impregnation system, includes multiple independent pipe work and pumping systems that will significantly minimize downtime when switching between resin systems. The upgrade is in line with Ventec’s strategy to offer high-mix, quickturn supply of a range of specialty prepregs and laminates to its global customer base.

Fischer Technology
Around the World
CA People
Amtech promoted Kristen Mattson to corporate director of strategic marketing. A 25-year veteran of the electronics industry, she most recently was marketing principal for BTU International.
Arrow Electronics named Richard Henrick environmental, social and governance manager. He has 35 years’ experience in management and technical positions in quality management, regulatory compliance, manufacturing engineering, test and evaluation, the last 15 with Sanmina.
Aegis promoted Paul Vassallo to director of engineering.

Breadboard named Juan Miguel Moreno to its engineering team.

Escatec named HL Wong chief operating officer. He was formerly the general manager of Plexus in Penang.
Pillarhouse USA appointed Deon Nungaray Western Regional sales manager.

Project Kuiper named Amol Kane senior PCBA manufacturing tech development engineer.

Around the World
Zollner Acquires EIT’s EMS Unit, Expands US Presence
ZANDT, GERMANY – Zollner Elektronik has acquired Electronic Instrumentation and Technology’s (EIT) EMS division for an undisclosed amount.

The deal includes EIT’s three EMS facilities in Salem, NH, Leesburg, VA, and Danville, VA, and a cabling and machining operation, also in Danville. The total size of the acquired plants encompasses more than 200,000 sq. ft.

The move was not a surprise as the two companies have partnered for years.

Around the World
IPC: Rising Material and Labor Costs Still Affecting EMS
BANNOCKBURN, IL – Nine in 10 electronics manufacturers are currently experiencing rising material costs, while four-fifths are experiencing rising labor costs, according to IPC survey data released in July. Eighty percent of respondents reported they have increased pricing due to higher material and labor costs.

Data from IPC’s July report indicate forces exerting pressure on the global economy, and, conversely, the electronics manufacturing industry, include growing recession uncertainties, higher gasoline and food prices, geopolitical uncertainties, and China Covid policies and lockdowns exacerbating supplychain disruptions.

Around the World
Note Acquires Dynamic Precision Solutions
STOCKHOLM – Note in July announced the acquisition of all shares in Herrljunga, Sweden-based electronics manufacturer Dynamic Precision Solutions for SEK20 million ($1.9 million), with adders based on profitability that could raise the total price to just over SEK50 million ($4.8 million).

The price, assuming the assumption of no debt, is about five times EBITDA.

Through the acquisition, Note gets its fourth Swedish plant and an establishment close to customers in western Sweden. DPS has about 30 employees and forecasted sales of SEK140 million ($13.3 million) for the full year 2022 and with an operating margin in line with Note’s. Its customers are mainly in the communications and industrial segments.

Around the World
All Circuits Expects Expanded Plant to Be Largest in France in 2 Years

MEUNG-SUR-LOIRE, FRANCE – All Circuits in July inaugurated its new electronics manufacturing factory here, where it intends to supply electronic assemblies to the automotive sector. The company will eventually install 13 SMT lines, reportedly making the plant, which operates under the MSL Circuits brand, the highest-volume EMS site in France.

The 6000m2 (65,000 sq. ft.) expansion brings the total factory size to about 24,000m2 (258,000 sq. ft.). The campus now employs about 600 workers and builds 200,000 electronics assemblies per day. Both figures are expected to climb as demand and the number of lines grow.

Market Watch
Hot Takes
  • Global virtual reality headset shipments jumped 242% during the first quarter compared to the same period last year. (IDC)
  • First quarter cross-strait Taiwanese PCB output totaled NT$209 billion (US$7.02 billion), up 20.6% year-over-year and a new quarterly high. (TPCA)
  • Global server shipments are forecast to grow 6.5% sequentially this quarter, with full-year growth of 5%. (TrendForce)
Grounded: Short-Term Business Plans with Long-Term Consequences
A thwarted vacation provides lessons in the importance of timely communication, training and skilled staff.
Summertime was here, and after a couple years that seemed more like a couple decades hunkering down under the Covid cloud, it was finally time to take a vacation. Based on the Covid protocols at the time, we decided not to travel abroad but instead return to one of our favorite domestic vacation spots. Resort accommodations were booked, airline tickets purchased, and a rental car secured. Now we waited for the day to come for our first real pre-pandemic trip, wondering, with everything booked well in advance, what could possibly go wrong?

Communication (or lack thereof). My vacation started at 3 a.m., as I had to travel to the airport two hours ahead of my flight, scheduled to take off at 7 a.m. Half-asleep, I raced around, packed the car, drove to the airport, and parked. Preprinted boarding passes in hand, I scurried to security, then to the gate to checkin. That is when I discovered our flight had been canceled. Off to the customer service desk, which had a line about 30 deep, to see what – or if – later flights might be available. The answer was no, and I was rebooked onto the same flight the next day. Back to the car and home again, where I spent the day rearranging my itinerary. This was tough, as each place I called required navigating a user-unfriendly phone system to get through to a real person.

Full Freight: PCB Buyers Should Demand a Delivered Price
Shortsighted approaches lead to overspending.
Most air freight – including for printed circuit boards – is hauled in the cargo holds of passenger aircraft. While the number of available flights is slowly increasing as Covid restrictions lessen, the price is still high, and getting PCBs delivered on time and at a reasonable cost remains a significant challenge for buyers.

That’s why they should negotiate with suppliers for a “delivered” price.

PCB buyers often overlook fluctuating freight costs when considering total cost of ownership (TCO) of the offshore products they purchase.

Personnel Recruitment and Retention
Strategies for finding a long-term employer-employee fit.
Ask any EMS company what its top challenges are, and labor shortages are now tied with material constraints. The labor market was already in the process of a culture change pre-Covid. More than two years of Covid’s impact on workplaces have made many in the workforce question their priorities in terms of work/life balance. It’s an applicant’s market.

On top of that, the rules of the game have changed dramatically. The younger generation has a different work ethic from previous ones that doesn’t necessarily see acceptance of a job offer as a commitment to actually take the job. Some applicants try companies out for a week and leave. Others apply to multiple companies, accept the first offer, and then renege if a better offer arrives.

Precision Technologies
designer’s notebook
PCB Design Requires People Skills
For emergency respins, bureaucracy sometimes prohibits on-the-fly project completion, especially when colleagues refuse to revisit schematics.
Rush jobs can be a pain. They usually come in the form of a small, simple board or a seemingly minor revision to something more substantial. The common thread is somebody wants it right now. Normally, this means setting aside your current project and whipping out a quick spin. It’s a cumulative thing that stretches the longer-term projects.

Meanwhile, some departments or people within the company move at their own pace. You may not have the clout to jump the line for whatever it is they do. An example is having the circuit simulated for signal or power integrity. It could just be the librarian creating the symbols. These are the things you need to get started as early as possible in the process.

PCB West 2022 logo
Register by the early bird deadline of
to save up to $200 on the 4-day all-inclusive conference pass!
October 4 – 7
Wednesday,October 5
PCB West 2022 logo
CONFERENCE: October 4 – 7
EXHIBITION: Wednesday, October 5
Who’s Exhibiting
Accurate Circuit Engineering

AGC Multi Material America, Inc

All Flex Flexible Circuits & Heaters

American Standard Circuits, Inc.


Archer Circuits

Arlon EMD

Bay Area Circuits, Inc.

Binary Process Solutions

Bittele Electronics Inc.

Cadence Design Systems

Cicor Group

DownStream Technologies, Inc.

DuraTech Industries

Dynamic Electronics Co. Ltd.

EM Solutions Inc.

EMA Design Automation

Emerald EMS

Fischer Technology, Inc.

Flexible Circuit Technologies

Fujipoly America

Glenair, Inc.


HZO, Inc.


Imagineering, Inc.


IPC-2581 Consortium

Ironwood Electronics



JS Electronic

Leader Tech, Inc.

MFS Technology (S) Pte Ltd.

MicroConnex, A Carlisle Company

Micro Systems Technologies Management GmbH

MVINIX Corporation

Nano Dimension

Notion Systems GmbH

Oak-Mitsui Technologies LLC

OKI Circuit Technology Co., Ltd.

Optiprint AG

Panasonic Electronic Materials

PCB Technologies – USA

PFC Flexible Circuits Limited

Polar Instruments, Inc.


Printed Circuits LLC

Quantic Ohmega/Quantic Ticer

Rogers Corporation

San Diego PCB Design

San-ei Kagaku Co., Ltd.

Screaming Circuits

SEP Co., Ltd.

Shenzhen Kinwong Electronic Co., Ltd.


Sierra Circuits

Summit Interconnect

Sunshine Global Circuits

Sunstone Circuits

SVTronics, Inc.

Taiyo America Inc.


Tempo Automation

Trilogy-Net Inc.

Ultra Librarian

Vayo (Shanghai) Technology Co., Ltd

Ventec International Group

Victory Giant Technology

Xiamen Bolion Tech Co., Ltd.

Zuken USA Inc.
material gains
Machine Learning at the Edge
AI is spreading quickly into sensors and will drive an even greater appetite for data.
The mental health issues surrounding the pandemic are affecting people’s attitudes as they contemplate returning to work. Surveys have shown that people are somewhat concerned about their safety as they begin to mix with others in the workplace once more. For generations now, many of us have gone to work expecting to catch no more than a cold, at worst, from our colleagues. Our work environments have been designed accordingly: although conventional hygiene is catered to, there have been minimal precautions to prevent transmission of airborne viruses.

With the pandemic, measures were hastily put in place. Semi-permanent transparent screens have become commonplace in retail settings, as well as limitations on occupancy and direction of movement in stores and public places. Were they effective? Probably. Could they be better? Almost certainly.

Our Flex Circuit Tooling Costs are Higher than Rigid. Is That Normal?
Different die and punch requirements mean more labor and material expenses.

A DESIGNER COMPLETED their first flex circuit design and sent it to several suppliers to quote. When the quotes came back, they noticed all of them had nonrecurring engineering/tooling costs that were higher than normally seen on a quote for a rigid PCB. Is this typical, or did something in the design cause this?

Flex circuits almost always have higher NRE/tooling costs than a comparable rigid PCB. And while some suppliers may opt to absorb some of these costs to win business, most costs are passed on to the customer. While it is possible that a specific design may have contributed to additional elevated NRE/tooling costs if unrealistic tolerances (part outline, etched feature to outline, stiffener placement, etc.) are specified, it is more likely this is just the true additional cost of building flex circuits. Following are several potential items that will drive up the costs of flex tooling and NRE beyond what those seen with a rigid PCB.

PCEA Corporate
NTI-100 2022
The Unsinkable, Unstoppable PCB Market
Political and supply-chain issues could not slow printed circuit growth in 2021. by Dr. Hayao Nakahara
The author attended his first IPC meeting in 1966. At that time, the consensus was the world PCB output was $500 million. Some “knowledgeable” experts predicted PCB output would dwindle since semiconductors were rising rapidly and PCBs would not be needed. If that $500 million assessment was correct, in 55 years the PCB market grew 192 times, to $96 billion!

It is with that in mind that the author embarks on another attempt to establish the value of the world’s printed circuit board market, culminating in the NTI-100 list of the largest fabricators.

Tackling Head-in-Pillow Defects with Vapor Phase Reflow
An EMS finds VPS dramatically reduced HiP in BGA/LGA connectors. by Hunter Pullishy, Sandy Yimbo and Jose Pineda
Head-in-pillow (HiP) defects are one of the most common issues that affect printed circuit boards containing ball grid array/land grid array (BGA/LGA) packages. These defects can result in costly repairs and reduce a component’s lifespan. HiP defects are compromised solder joints often attributed to undesired environmental factors during the reflow process. These factors include reflow in an oxygen-filled environment, exposure to temperatures surpassing a component’s thermal limit, and uneven thermal distribution across the PCB.

Exploration of innovative reflow processes has led to the renewed adoption of vapor phase soldering within electronics manufacturing. Vapor phase soldering introduces an oxygen-free environment and a unique heating process that could address the cause of HiP defects. Collecting images and data from a reflowed BGA/LGA hybrid connector in a convection oven, then using vapor phase soldering (VPS) for rework, we investigated whether vapor phase reflow addresses this defect. The data showed a noticeable improvement in solder quality, as well as increased coplanarity after vapor phase rework. These findings offer preliminary support for the benefits offered when reflowing PCBAs using VPS.

Smart Manufacturing
M2M Communication is Here.
Do We Still Need Judgment Calls?
Data-driven processes require IP coordination among vendors – and that means humans. by Chelsey Drysdale
We hear a lot these days about smart manufacturing, but is there a broad consensus on what it means, and more specifically, its application in electronics assembly?

Brian Morrison, vice president of engineering for Vexos, a mid-tier multinational EMS with manufacturing facilities in the US, Canada, China and Vietnam and more than 900 employees worldwide, explains his views on smart manufacturing to PCD&F/CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY in July.

SCREEN printing
How to Troubleshoot an Amber Printing Process
The top eight fixes in the fishbone diagram to get back in spec.
The last column focused on making a “green light” stencil printing process more efficient, but for a not-so-green – maybe a bit more amber – print operation, some tried-and-true troubleshooting methodologies can get high-yield boards moving again. As I’ve noted before, myriad stencil printing inputs can affect outcomes. The famous fishbone diagram, noted in FIGURE 1, can seem daunting at first, but by taking a methodical approach to understanding the root cause of a problem, it’s relatively straightforward to get printing back in spec.
Off The Shelf typography
Off The Shelf typography
Machines Materials Tools Systems Software
Avishtech Gauss Stack Pro Software
Gauss Stack Pro software reportedly enhances PCB prototyping and reliability. Goes from stackup to layout in same environment to look at areas of concern from manufacturing, reliability, signal integrity and thermomechanical behavior standpoints. Can input layout files directly into software. Provides detailed, spatial simulation of factors such as glass stop, resin starvation and filler damming. Developers can simulate impact of imbalance of layouts on board level warpage. Stackups and layouts can be visualized and meshed.
Keysight PathWave Advanced Design System (ADS) 2023 RF/Microwave Software
Keysight PathWave Advanced Design System (ADS) 2023 RF/Microwave Software
PathWave Advanced Design System (ADS) 2023 integrated design and simulation software addresses increasing design complexity and higher frequencies for radio frequency (RF) and microwave designs. Includes enhancements to electromagnetic (EM) simulation for circuit designers. Streamlines integration of multi-technology circuit assembly and simulation into enterprise EDA design workflows. Addresses signal complexity, design densification, multi-technology integration and frequencies moving to 60GHz and beyond.

New features include: Automation of EM-circuit co-simulation setup which ensures that analysis is easily accessible by circuit designers without the help of an EM expert or the need for invasive layout editing. Advanced EM solvers and meshing technologies are accessible via a single unified environment with parallelized simulation acceleration through cloud-based, high-performance computing (HPC) that supports fast, high-capacity simulation. Seamless integration with Cadence Virtuoso, Synopsys Custom Compiler and Ansys HFSS facilitates enterprise electronic design automation signoff workflows.

Keysight Technologies
KiCad 6.0.6 PCB CAD
KiCad 6.0.6 PCB CAD
KiCad 6.0.6 EDA software contains bug fixes and other minor improvements, including the following: fix intermittent QA crash; fix stock templates path for flatpack; allow closing PCM progress windows after installation from ZIP file; enable and disable apply and discard buttons in PCM; fix net highlighting between schematic and board editors; fix “select previous symbol” toolbar state in footprint assignment tool; update selection filter title bar with language changes; implement cross-references for labels; resolve title variable when plotting; plot alternate pin definitions correctly; fix library symbol properties dialog tab selection bug; fix duplicate pin number test; fix duplicate messages when updating schematic from PCB; fix blind via visibility issue; fix reference and value variable expansion; change default symbol matching to use UUID instead of reference when back annotating schematic; use correct backside placement angle using experimental Gerber export option; import P-CAD footprints to correct layer; Import Eagle octagonal pads correctly; prevent length and skew tuning dialog values from becoming negative; fix router not on grid issue; maintain visibility state when changing layer count; many router fixes; export microvias correctly to Hyperlynx; and others.
Molex Quad-Row Board-to-Board Connectors
Molex Quad-Row Board-to-Board Connectors
Quad-Row board-to-board connectors feature staggered-circuit layout. Support compact form factors, including smartphones, smartwatches, wearables, game consoles and AR/VR devices. Pins are positioned across four rows at signal contact pitch of 0.175mm. Adhere to 3.0A current rating. Align with standard soldering pitch of 0.35mm to expedite volume manufacturing using typical SMT processes. Interior armor and insert-molded power nail safeguard pins from damage during volume manufacturing and assembly. Suited for applications requiring small PCBs and flex assembles. Come in 32- and 36-pin configurations with 20- and 64-pin configurations coming soon. Plans are underway to support up to 100-pin counts.
Rohm BD9xxN1 Series Automotive LDO Regulator ICs
BD9xxN1 series automotive LDO regulator ICs have stable operation at nanoscale output capacitance. BD950N1G-C, BD933N1G-C, BD900N1G-C, BD950N1WG-C, BD933N1WG-C and BD900N1WG-C are optimized for primary (direct connection to 12V) power supplies in applications including powertrain, body, ADAS and car infotainment. In addition to common µF-order MLCCs (multilayer ceramic capacitors) and large-capacitance electrolytic capacitors, regulators can handle output capacitances down to 1µF or less in 0603/0402 size. Meet basic requirements of automotive products, such as operation above 125°C, qualification under the AEC-Q100 automotive reliability standard, and input voltages greater than 40V for primary power supply. Support output capacitance of 100nF.
Rohm Semiconductor
Technical Abstracts
In Case You Missed It
“FlexiCores: Low Footprint, High Yield, Field-Reprogrammable Flexible Microprocessors”

Authors: Nathaniel Bleier, et al.

Abstract: Flexible electronics is a promising approach to target applications whose computational needs are not met by traditional silicon-based electronics due to their conformality, thinness, or cost requirements. A microprocessor is a critical component for many such applications; however, it is unclear whether it is feasible to build flexible processors at scale (i.e., at high yield), since very few flexible microprocessors have been reported and no yield data or data from multiple chips has been reported. Also, prior manufactured flexible systems were not field-reprogrammable and were evaluated either on a simple set of test vectors or a single program. A working flexible microprocessor chip supporting complex or multiple applications has not been demonstrated. Finally, no prior work performs a design space of flexible microprocessors to optimize area, code size, and energy of such microprocessors.

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