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Pulsonix PCB
Design Software
PCB design done right
Maximum Productivity in Minimal Time
With a modern, easy-to-use interface and advanced capabilities to automate your layout process, Pulsonix can be the key to a critical reduction in your design time. That’s PCB design done right!
Pulsonix PCB Design Software
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  • Intuitive placement and routing
  • Dynamic copper pour
  • Full rules engine for automatic DRC
  • High-speed design rules
  • Heads-up display length matching
  • Rigid-Flex, embedded components, and chip-on-board
  • Revision control and PLM integration
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January 2020 • VOL. 37 • NO. 1
First Person
The recorder of deeds.
Mike Buetow
money matters
Same old, same old.
Peter Bigelow
Are you giving away your customer’s IP?
Greg Papandrew
Tech Talk
If you want to know where tech is going, watch the kids.
Alun Morgan
Tying in to the digital thread.
James Martin
Can signal-integrity test vehicle results be accurately simulated?
Bill Hargin
Mist-based dispensing for micron-sized lines.
Bryan Germann
Solder paste particle refugees.
Bob Willis
“Customer” status comes with a catch: payments.
Robert Boguski
Changes in purchasing and line practices can save big dollars.
Juan Morales, Filemon Sagrero and Erick Ricos
Machine vs. microsection.
David Bernard
January 2020 • VOL. 37 • NO. 1
The Siemens deal expanded Mentor’s scope well beyond its traditional ECAD and assembly process suites. How the ECAD giant’s integration is shaping up.
by Chelsey Drysdale
EMS Company of the Year
Fast-growing Rocket EMS is taking flight, thanks to novel approaches to supply-chain management and inspection. CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY gets an inside look.
by Mike Buetow
Smart Manufacturing cover story
Tools to identify anomalies, and trends for reducing downtime and defects while driving operations productivity.
by Gregory Vance, Francisco Maturana and Miki Cvijetinovic
Vol. 37 No. 1

ON PCB CHAT (pcbchat.com)

A Recap of 2019
A Conversation about Reflow Technology
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Caveat Lector
Mike Buetow Editor in Chief Image
After 30 Years, The Recorder Goes On

his year marks the start of my fourth decade in the electronics industry, and if you find that hard to believe, well, so do I.

I was reminiscing with a couple of other “old-timers” in recent weeks over the changes that have occurred since I first stepped foot in a factory. I was a graduate of the University of Illinois, and recently relocated to Chicago, when I joined a few others on a tour of the just-revamped Allen-Bradley plant on Second St. in Milwaukee.

Who remembers any of these names: deHaart. HTI. Conceptronic. Dynapert. Sensbey. Celmacs. Those were some of the bigger names in assembly equipment at the time. Many key suppliers then were subsidiaries of end-product OEMs. Kester was owned by Litton. Dynapert was a unit of Black & Decker.

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Around the World
PCD&F People
Bob Wolfe Headshot
Amphenol Printed Circuits named Bob Wolfe PCB design engineer. He has 35 years’ experience in design with Executone, Kimchuk, IPC Systems and others.
Bernie Kessler, a member of the IPC Hall of Fame and an epoxy-glass laminate pioneer, passed away Dec. 2. He was 96.
Yoav Stern Headshot
Nano Dimension appointed Yoav Stern president and CEO. Stern is a turnaround specialist with experience in building smaller companies. He has been cochairman of Bogen Corp. for 22 years and was executive chairman of Kellar Aerospace for eight years.
Christina Jien Headshot
Unimicron named Christina Jien manager. She has nearly 20 years in PCB fabrication with Tripod, Elite Material, Atotech and Compeq.
Anthony Jackson Headshot
Ventec appointed Anthony Jackson general manager UK. He was previously in senior management at Amphenol-Invotec and has experience at Manchester Circuits, Viasystems and DDI Thomas-Walter.
PCD&F Briefs

Accucode purchased a Nano Dimension DragonFly LDM additive manufacturing system, its second.

Element Solutions announced a $15,000 prize competition aimed at students in metal coatings science.

Firan Technology Group’s new contract with its represented employees at its Aerospace – Toronto facility has been negotiated and ratified.

Around the World
Cadence to Acquire NWR for $160M

SAN JOSE – Cadence Design Systems on Dec. 2 signed a definitive agreement to acquire AWR, a developer of high-frequency RF EDA software.

Cadence will pay National Instruments $160 million in cash for AWR, which NI acquired in 2011. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020.

Cadence expects 110 AWR employees to join the firm.

“Companies designing communication and radar chips, modules and systems face increasing time-to-market pressure in high-growth 5G/wireless applications. Creating differentiated products while reducing cycle time requires a seamless design, simulation and analysis environment,” said Dr. Anirudh Devgan, president, Cadence. “The addition of AWR’s talent and technologies will enable us to provide more integrated and optimized RF design solutions, thereby further accelerating system innovation as we execute our intelligent system design strategy.”

Cadence expects to integrate AWR with its own Allegro PCB design flow and other platforms for RF IC design, plus its Sigrity, Celsius and Clarity tools.

The flows resulting from the integration of AWR and Cadence software are expected to be tightly connected with the NI LabView and PXI modular instrumentation systems and semiconductor data platform as part of a new strategic alliance, the companies added. – CD

Around the World
Report: Chiplets’ Influence to Spike
AUSTIN, TX – Continued monolithic integration is expensive and can suffer from the defect density yield loss associated with large die.

As a result, an increasing number of companies are turning to new architectures using chiplets to achieve the economic advantages lost with expensive monolithic scaling.

That’s according to a new report from TechSearch International. Advanced Packaging Update (APU) details advantages of chiplets and provides examples in production today, as well as a preview of future end-products. The 45-page report provides an update on embedded bridge developments and a forecast for high bandwidth memory (HBM). The TechSearch report also peeks inside Apple’s latest iPhone with a count of the wafer-level packages (WLPs) and finds a surprising amount of underfill. – MB

Around the World
LG Innotek, Samsung E-M to Trim HDI Units
SEOUL – Saying its market for HDI boards has dried up, LG Innotek will cease production of PCBs this year, the company said. The company cited lower demand for mobile devices and increased competition.

In a statement on Nov. 28, the PCB fabricator said it has decided to focus instead on semiconductor substrates.

The company was expected to end PCB production by the end of December and close out inventories by June. Staff and related equipment will be transferred to the semiconductor business.

HDI sales make up 3% of LG Innotek’s overall sales.

Likewise, Samsung Electro-Mechanics plans to shut down its HDI PCB manufacturing facility in Jiangsu, China, here as a result of poor profits, according to reports. The site will cease production and sales, and the company will sell its assets there. – MB

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Around the World
CA People
ACL Staticide appointed Dan Kaiser national sales manager. He has more than 20 years’ experience in electronics distribution and business development.
Columbia Tech named Peter Wise principle manufacturing quoting engineer.
Indra Setiawan of SIIX EMS in Indonesia won top honors in the annual IPC hand soldering world championship.
IPC named Alison James senior director, Europe, and Charlene Gunter du Plessis senior director, IPC Education Foundation.
Plexus promoted Ursula Marquez de Tino, Ph. D. to customer quality manager. She joined Plexus in 2010 as a senior staff process engineer, and prior to that spent seven years as a process and research engineer at Vitronics.
Michael Joseph Connolly, former superintendent of printer and card manufacturing at IBM and vice president at SCI, has passed away.
VJ Electronix and VJ Technologies named Lian Li general manager operations in China. She has a degree in mechanical technology and equipment and was an engineer at ScienScope and vice general manager at Unicomp.
Around the World
NCAB Acquires Altus PCB

BROMMA, SWEDEN – NCAB Group signed an agreement Nov. 14 to acquire 100% of the shares in Altus PCB for an undisclosed sum. Cresskill, NJ-based Altus had revenue of $4.8 million in 2018.

“We are very happy to join forces with Altus PCB,” said Martin Magnusson, president, NCAB Group USA. “NCAB Group USA and Altus share a vision to provide PCBs with quality first in mind, and excellent service and engineering support to our customers. With our combined purchasing power, we will have more leverage to continue to provide PCBs to all our customers at the lowest total cost.”

“This is a great opportunity for all of us,” said Zohar Shinar, president, Altus PCB. “Altus PCB is privately owned and dominated by a customer-driven culture with a goal to deliver superior performance and value. Being selected by NCAB Group to be a part of their North American growth is a great compliment. Joining with NCAB will give us access to their purchasing power, 65-person factory management team in Asia and industry’s best PCB facilities. I am looking forward to working for NCAB Group USA to solidify the transition, continue to grow our business and tackle the most demanding PCB requirements in our industry.” – CD

Around the World
USI to Acquire AsteelFlash in Largest EMS Deal in 10+ Years

SHANGHAI – Universal Scientific Industrial, also known as Huanxu Electronics, has signed a preliminary letter of intent to acquire the parent company of AsteelFlash for $450 million. The deal is expected to close by September.

In a filing, Huanxu said it will finance the deal through a combination of new shares and cash. Following the acquisition, which is expected to close in the third quarter of 2020, Asteelflash will become a subsidiary of USI. Asteelflash’s existing operations management team will be retained, according to public reports.

The deal would merge the no. 13 and 27th ranked companies on the CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY Top 50 into an EMS firm with nearly 35 manufacturing sites worldwide and with combined revenues topping $6 billion annually.

If consummated, it would be the largest pure EMS to EMS acquisition since Flex acquired Solectron in 2007.

The acquisition of Financière AFG (FAFG) is not expected to constitute a major asset reorganization, Huanxu said in the filing. FAFG is the holding company of AsteelFlash and its majority owner.

The companies signed a formal transaction agreement on Dec. 12, but the specific transaction plan is still under discussion, Huanxu said. Audits, legal and financial advisory work is pending, as are approvals from China, the US and the EU.

FAFG is made up of multiple investor groups, including SPFH Holding Korlatolt, (62% stake), ASDI Assistance Direction (27.6%), Arkéa Capital Investissement (5.25%) and other minority shareholders. – MB

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Around the World
CA Briefs

Arch Systems announced an agreement with Flex to supply real-time access to and analysis of manufacturing data at its facilities.

Computrol installed a Mycronic LX-300 placement line and Agilis tray magazine tower.

East West Manufacturing, a design, manufacturing and distribution company, has acquired Adcotron EMS for an undisclosed sum.

Engo Holdings launched a computer and mobile phone assembly and manufacturing plant in Uganda.

Eurocircuits invested €5 million in equipment and software in 2019, primarily to enhance EMS work at its plant in Eger, Hungary.

Nortech Systems implemented CheckSum’s UI for its end-of-line testing.

Panasonic will build its first consumer electronics plant in China in 16 years.

Qisda plans to expand its medical unit into Southeast Asia to boost its revenue by 30% annually next year.

Salcomp, one of Apple’s major suppliers, agreed to buy Nokia’s Chennai plant for around $30 million.

Seho Systems is establishing a subsidiary in Shanghai to focus on the requirements of its Chinese customers.

Around the World
Element Solutions Acquires Kester for $68M
MIAMI – Element Solutions, the parent company of Alpha, has acquired Kester from Illinois Tool Works for $68 million in cash. The acquisition brings together two major players in the electronics solder materials industry.

“Kester is a high-quality business with a great brand and strong legacy that brings us new capabilities and broader market access, while fitting well within our existing electronics assembly materials business,” said Benjamin Gliklich, CEO, Element Solutions. “This acquisition is a model for the prudent, highly strategic acquisitions that Element Solutions aims to pursue, alongside the judicious return of capital to shareholders in its capital allocation strategy.”

Kester was founded in 1899 as the Chicago Solder Co. and acquired by ITW in 2006. It has manufacturing facilities in the US, Singapore and Germany.

Element Solutions is the former Platform Specialty Products, a conglomerate formed in 2013 that includes the former MacDermid and Alpha brands. – MB

Around the World
Final DoD Rule Issued on Counterfeit Parts Reporting

WASHINGTON – The Department of Defense, GSA and NASA are issuing a final rule amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to require contractors and subcontractors to report to the Government-Industry Data Exchange Program (GiDEP) certain counterfeit or suspect counterfeit parts and certain major or critical nonconformances.

The final rule does not apply to contracts and subcontracts for the acquisition of commercial items, including commercially available off-the-shelf items. Section 818(c)(4) of the NDAA for 2012 will not apply to contracts and subcontracts at or below the simplified acquisition threshold.

In addition to the requirements for section 818(c)(4) regarding electronic parts for the DoD, the rule focuses on supplies that require higher-level quality standards or are determined to be critical items.

The rule also exempts medical devices subject to the Food and Drug Administration reporting requirements; foreign corporations or partnerships that do not have an office, place of business, or paying agent in the US; counterfeit, suspect counterfeit, or nonconforming items that are the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, unless the report is approved by the cognizant law enforcement agency; and nonconforming items (other than counterfeit or suspect counterfeit items) for which it can be confirmed the organization where the defect was generated has not released the item to more than one customer.’

The final rule is available at https://tinyurl.com/qnvh777. – CD

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Market Watch
2020 Memory Outlook Looking Good
SCOTTSDALE, AZ – The 2020 NAND flash market is expected to rise 19%, reversing a 27% decline in 2019. DRAMs are forecast to grow 12%, another strong turnaround from 2019, added IC Insights.

Solid-state computing is expected to drive demand for high-density, high-performance NAND flash this year, even as mobile applications continue to be a significant application. Momentum for 5G connectivity, AI, deep learning, and virtual reality in mobile, data center and cloud-computer servers, automotive, and industrial markets will boost growth in NAND flash and DRAM. Other drivers include increasing electronic content onboard new cars.

Among the IC product categories, 26 are forecast to show growth in 2020, an impressive turnaround from 2019 when only six IC product segments showed sales gains. Five products are expected to enjoy double-digit growth in 2020, an increase from four in 2019 but down from the 17 product categories with double-digit growth in 2018. Seven products are forecast to show flat growth or a market decline in 2020.

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New Year, Same Problems
Changes in materials and components mean yesterday’s issues are also today’s.
Industry is much like the classic Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day: We work on a technical challenge, solve it, and wake up the next day and solve it again.

A recent industry gathering offered such an example. The subject was profiling ovens used in the assembly of circuit boards. Over my decades-long career I have seen dozens of presentations on that very subject. Each time the challenge was the same: new solder materials, laminate or components require tighter and more-defined performance from the oven; thus, the oven must be profiled with ever-greater accuracy and precision.

This recurring phenomenon is not unique to the PCB industry. The original automotive engineers worked on how to make a car accelerate and brake faster, just as their successors do today. The materials, control technologies and performance demands may change, but the recurring engineering challenge is there, whether it’s for an auto braking system or wave solder process.

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Board Buying
Are You Giving Away Your Customer’s IP?
And does your purchasing department know what to send, and what not to?
Many commercial EMS and OEM companies have a gaping hole in the system to protect the intellectual property (IP) of their customers.

I can’t count the number of emails from customers requesting a quote for a printed circuit board that include not only the Gerber file(s) for that PCB, but also the assembly drawing, the bill of materials, and the schematic drawing for the entire product.

Companies in our industry take a number of steps to protect customer IP. They require signed nondisclosure agreements for all involved in the manufacture of their PCBs. They verify the identity of any visitors to their secured US manufacturing facilities and assign outsiders mandatory escorts. They may ban cellphones or any other devices that could be used to record inside those facilities.

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Material Gains
Meeting Gamers’ Demands Has Made Life Better for All
If you want to know where tech is going, watch the kids.
Video game sales were valued at $79 billion in 2017, larger than the global PCB market and growing at about 14% per annum. As far as gaming hardware is concerned, combined sales of pure game consoles and high-performing PC graphics cards for gaming generate about $50 billion each year.

Short product lifetimes mean gaming hardware is a constant revenue driver. In addition, gamers’ demands for more lifelike experiences have driven rapid technological change, including the development of dedicated high-performance graphics processing units (GPUs), which first emerged in the late 1990s.

The GPU was initially conceived to boost 3-D graphics performance, taking on specific workloads such as triangle calculation. As GPU capabilities have increased, game designers have increased the complexity of their scenes to ensure ever-greater realism. Ultimately, of course, the benefits of this “arms race” have transcended the gaming community: GPUs are now found to be remarkably adept at taking on performance-hungry workloads such as AI acceleration and blockchain mining, tasks that much of today’s world depends on but that could barely have been on researchers’ radars when the first GPU chips hit the market.

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Enabling the Electronics Digital Thread
Model-based enterprise initiatives often ignore electronics.
Reams of presentations and data support efficiencies gained by digital thread initiatives, but much of the dialogue is driven by mechanical design processes with little regard for the electronics components of a product being developed, deployed and maintained. To review some of these basic concepts, see Figure 1, which starts with model-based design as a foundation of a model-based enterprise. This enables a robust digital thread that feeds into Industry 4.0 with smart factory initiatives under a framework of communication and collaboration that is defined as intelligent information management (IIM).

In particular, the digital thread is focused on breaking down the data and workflows that are siloed inside of and among companies that need to be connected in the product lifecycle. This enhances organizational decision-making by getting the proverbial right information to the right people at the right time. For electronics, however, engaging these initiatives is not a simple matter. To understand the problem, Google the phrase “model-based definition” and you would be hard-pressed to find electronics. Mechanical design was the leading edge of model-based practices starting 10 or more years ago, and accordingly, the search results still show pages of MCAD images and GD&T samples, along with tons of conversations related to MCAD system best practices for eliminating traditional paper and 2-D drawings to improve communication and efficiencies.

Preparing for Next-Gen Loss Requirements
Can signal-integrity test vehicle results be accurately simulated?
Ed.: This is Part 1 of a three-part series on preparing for next-generation loss requirements.
THERE ARE A lot of factors to juggle to stay on top of the parameters that contribute to loss. Frequency, copper weight, resin system, glass characteristics, dielectric thickness, trace width, copper roughness, and fabricator processing all contribute to the discussion if you’re savvy and driving fast, with both eyes open.

If frequencies aren’t increasing, no need to worry. But if your windows are getting chopped in half year-over-year, read on.

Background. Several years ago, I marketed laminates for servers. Older generations bumped up frequencies incrementally, but then we ended up dealing with frequencies that doubled from one generation to another, with downward pressure on costs.

There are multiple server platforms, of course, but a quick review of Intel’s PCIexpress (PCIe) trends shows performance jumps going from 8Gbps (4GHz) to 16Gbps (8GHz) to 32Gbps (16GHz) with PCIe 5.0. Those are incredible jumps, particularly when also trying to hold down material costs. The world would be easier if no one had to pay for the performance improvement, but loss and cost are intimately intertwined. And it’s not just Intel and PCIe. Multiple interconnect standards have transitioned from incremental speed increases to doubling generation-over-generation.

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PCB West 2020
Conference: September 8 – 11
Exhibition: Wednesday, September 9
See you in September!
See us at APEX EXPO Booth 2748
Who’s Exhibiting

Accurate Circuit Engineering

Aculon, Inc.

Advanced Assembly

Advanced Circuits

AGC Nelco America Inc.

All Flex Flexible Circuits & Heaters

Altium, Inc.

American Standard Circuits, Inc.


Arlon EMD Specialty

Bay Area Circuits, Inc.

Bittele Electronics Inc

Bowman XRF

Cadence Design Systems

Cicor Group

Clear Blue Engineering


Dino-Lite Scopes (Big C)

DownStream Technologies, Inc.


Dynamic Electronics Co., Ltd.

Elgris Technologies, Inc.


EMA Design Automation

Firan Technology Group – FTG

Fischer Technology, Inc.

Flex Interconnect Technologies

Flexible Circuit Technologies

Freedom CAD Services, Inc.

Fujipoly America

Goal Searchers Co., Ltd.

Green Circuits


GTS Flexible Materials Ltd.

HIE Display Limited



Imagineering, Inc.


Integrated Technology Ltd. (ITL Circuits)

IPC-2581 Consortium

JS Electronic Co., Ltd.


Kinwong Electronic Co., Ltd.

Krypton Solutions

Kyocera International, Inc.

Leader Tech, Inc.

LPKF Laser & Electronics

Medcadtron GmbH

Mentor, A Siemens Business


Minco Products, Inc.

Multek Technologies, Inc.

MV Circuit Technology Co., Ltd.

MVINIX Corporation


Oak-Mitsui Technologies LLC

Ohmega Technologies, Inc.

Optiprint AG

Panasonic Electronic Materials

PCB Power Inc.

Polar Instruments, Inc.


Printed Circuits

Pulsonix PCB Design Software



Rogers Corporation

Royal Circuits

San Diego PCB Design

San-ei Kagaku Co., Ltd.

Sanmina Corporation

Screaming Circuits

SEP Co., Ltd.

Shenzhen Danyu Electronics Co. Ltd.

Shenzhen JDB Technology Co., Ltd.

Shin Yi PCB Co., Ltd.

Sierra Circuits, Inc.

Somacis Inc.

Summit Interconnect

Sunshine Global Circuits

Sunstone Circuits

SVTronics, Inc.

Tempo Automation

Ticer Technologies

Ultra Librarian

Varioprint AG

Vayo Technology

Ventec International Group

Victory Giant Technology (Huizhou) Co., Ltd.

Zuken USA Inc.

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Merger Complete, Mentor Sees More Convergence Ahead
How the ECAD giant’s integration into Siemens is shaping up.
As a telecommuter who has favorable, nostalgic feelings about her leafy university campus, visiting Mentor Graphics near Portland in June elicited office envy. A forest surrounds the peaceful Mentor property, which contains several large buildings encircling a park – reminiscent of Aldrich Park at the University of California, Irvine, where I attended a different lifetime ago.

At its US headquarters, Mentor has a highly rated daycare center, a hair salon, a masseuse (!), a gym, a basketball court, hiking trails, and a café. Lest we not forget, it also offers electronic design automation software.

Larry Toda, senior marketing communications manager and a Mentor alum of two decades, gave me a tour of the campus, while Dave Wiens, product marketing manager, who has been with the firm more than three decades (including acquisitions), kindly invited me into his office for a lengthy interview.

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EMS Company of the Year
Rocket Men
Rocket Men
Silicon Valley’s fastest-growing EMS is taking flight.
by Mike Buetow
It’s cliché to say profitability in electronics manufacturing services is not about making better solder joints but rather turns on a company’s ability to manage its supply chain.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in software and other tools designed to ensure optimum inventory levels and real-time feedback loops. But as an industry we have yet to overcome the wild inventory swings and occasional lead-time fiascos.

One Silicon Valley EMS is edging closer, however. Santa Clara-CA based Rocket EMS is betting its future on homegrown software that oversees every aspect of its operations, from ordering to inventory to line management.

Rocket EMS founder and president Michael Kottke is already something of a legend in the Valley, having cofounded three other successful EMS companies. He’s worked in the industry since he was a child, learning assembly at the feet of his father, Dennis, a successful electronics executive in his own right.

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Automating Detection of Pick-and-Place Nozzle Anomalies (An IIoT Case Study)
Tools to identify anomalies, and trends for reducing downtime and defects while driving operations productivity.
by Gregory Vance, Francisco Maturana, Miki Cvijetinovic
In the SMT pick-and-place operation, components in tape or tray are vacuum picked and placed in solder paste on a PCB location. An optical inspection step takes PCB images to detect the components’ centroid and other possible displacements. Nozzles are mounted to spindles contained within a head that moves at high speed. The equipment in this study can use up to 30 nozzles per head and may have one to four heads per machine. Nozzle vacuum degradation (from clogging, tip wear or mechanical issue) increases the likelihood to mis-pick components and increases the potential of an end-of-line defect. The challenge is to leverage the knowledge extracted during this operation to learn potential defects and other tendencies.

To manage the pick-and-place process, operators monitor the machines using machine management data that conveys process information such as feeder, component and nozzle reject percentages and total rejected counts over the course of a production run. These metrics, coupled with machine utilization, allow operators to identify a component pick or inspection problem that requires domain-expertise support for troubleshooting.

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Added Up
How Aerosol Jet Works for Fine Circuit Creation
The mist-based dispensing method is adept at putting micron-sized lines on non-planar surfaces.
Aerosol Jet technology is a fine-feature material deposition solution used to directly print functional electronic circuitry and components onto low-temperature, non-planar substrates.

Aerosol Jet printing functions on the principle of generating a mist through atomization of a nanoparticle colloid solution. Nanoparticle materials liquids, or inks as they are generally called, are made up of nanoparticle solids, solvents and organic binders and even some polymer resins, which are included to make the ink perform on different substrates. These inks must have a certain viscosity and particle sizing in order be printed with aerosol jet. That viscosity is generally less than 500 centipoise (cP), and the particle size must be under 100nm.

In Aerosol Jet, the liquid ink exits either pneumatically or with ultrasonic energy. This generates mist droplets ranging from 2 to 5µm. Then, a carrier gas, which in almost all cases is pure nitrogen, carries that mist through the print head. Inside the print head is a nitrogen sheath that collimates and accelerates the beam through a converging nozzle. What comes out is a beam of material made up of very small droplets that exits the nozzle at high velocity. This allows it to be anywhere from 1 to 5mm off the surface of the part and print right over the nonplanar substrate, so that the surface does not have to be flat. Because the nozzle is so far from the part, it can be moved in patterns to create circuitry on the surface of the part, regardless of the flatness.

Defect of the Month
Solder Paste Migration
Are you vacuuming the right way?
This month we see a solder paste print deposit with what appears to be migration of paste particles away from the main pad. If this is just a one-off, a careful wipe with a cotton bud would avoid an unnecessary wash-off and reprint. Ensure the PCB surface finish can withstand a wash-off process; some surface finishes don’t like it. Wash-off can affect wetting and final solderability.

A few reasons for this defect, each of which could be the root cause:

  • Double printing or excess squeegee pressure
  • Solder paste contamination on the bottom of the stencil from a previous print
  • Misplaced or missing component
  • Vacuum hold-down of PCBs during printing with exposed vias under BGAs.
Solder paste print with stray solder paste particles on the surface of the solder mask
Figure 1. Solder paste print with stray solder paste particles on the surface of the solder mask.
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seeing is believing
Great Expectations
“Customer” status comes with a catch: payments.
Another morning in America. Mornings bring trouble. In various guises, but always in simple declarative sentences.

“Trouble here. Line down. Big problem. Management screaming. We need your immediate help.”

Like clockwork.

No matter. Trouble is my business. (Cue breathy melancholic saxophone solo.)

This fine day’s episode comes in the form of defective batteries. The call, invariably frantic, continues thus with the symptoms:

“We have six defective batteries that need to be CT scanned. Field failures. Possible cracked electrodes. Very upset and belligerent customer, threatening litigation. You come well recommended for speed and precision. We need time on your machine now. Our entire production is halted until we identify the root cause of this field failure. Quarterly results hang in the balance. When can we come in? Today, hopefully?”

Getting Lean
Lean Six Sigma Approach Helps Keep Costs on Track
Changes in purchasing and line practices can save big dollars.
The benefits of implementing Lean manufacturing philosophy are higher throughput and elimination of the variation that can introduce defects into a process. In a static environment, implementing Lean philosophy creates significant efficiencies that stay in place with little oversight. Most electronics manufacturing services (EMS) providers have very dynamic environments, however, where supply chain, customers, project technologies, volumes, production personnel and factory floor layout change frequently. In that environment, inefficiencies can creep in. Six Sigma training provides employees with a formalized product-solving methodology that allows these inefficiencies to be corrected. SigmaTron in Tijuana, Mexico, uses Six Sigma as a tool to keep its team focused on eliminating inefficiencies. The facility faced three major challenges over the past year: changing dynamics in the materials market; more projects moving to Mexico for tariff mitigation; and spikes in demand at existing customers for their products. This column looks at four Green Belt projects that cumulatively have eliminated nearly $300,000 in unnecessary costs in the first five months of improvement implementation.
Test and Inspection
Viewing Solder Joint Cracks in X-Ray
It’s cheaper and faster to inspect by machine over microsection.
Most of my columns have attempted to discuss the “typical,” and often more obvious, solder joint failures that can be seen using x-ray inspection. This is usually the main and most important function of this type of analysis.
Nondestructive inspection of cracks within solder joints or components is also desirous, however, but this is much more difficult to evaluate optically or by x-ray. Even for those joints that are not optically hidden, optical inspection for cracks is likely limited to the very end of the termination and requires a mostly edge-on view at a reasonable magnification (Figure 1) to have the best chance of seeing a crack failure. When inspecting fully populated boards, achieving this level of magnification and orientation may be difficult to do optically, and any cracks present will need to be distinct by showing a separation in the joint. If the two halves of the cracked solder are still touching, then analysis may be almost impossible to make. Furthermore, such a crack will be at the end of the termination and not necessarily extending further back into the joint – for example, into the heel fillet of a QFP, which is more crucial to joint integrity. This may mean a cosmetic issue is seen on one joint, and the actual fault may remain hidden elsewhere.
Solder paste print with stray solder paste particles on the surface of the solder mask
Figure 1. Optical image of QFN joints after 1,000 thermal cycles, where there is an indication of a separation between the joint and pad.
Off The Shelf
Off The Shelf
Machines Materials Tools Systems Software
ECI Technology
Rigol Technologies
Hirose Electric
ECI Technology
Benchtop Plating Bath analysis
QualiLab Elite supports multi-language operations and provides accurate analyses in an ergonomic design. Configurations range from compact single-sample manual analyzer to fully automated closed-cell system that can measure up to 42 samples without operator intervention. Offers high-precision selectivity and analyses with easy-to-use software, advanced reporting and data handling features, and analytical recipes.
ECI Technology
Rigol Technologies
Analog Oscilloscope
DS1202Z-E 200MHz oscilloscope comes standard with two analog channels and 24MPts of deep memory. Has 60,000 frame segmented record mode, standard serial decode and triggering, high-res FFT, 15 trigger types and 37 integrated measurements.
Rigol Technologies
Hirose Electric
High-Stress Connector
ZE05 series low-profile, 2mm pitch wire-to-board connector is for high heat and high vibration applications, including automotive, off-highway and transportation. Heat resistance up to 125°C. Maintains high electrical conductivity in severe heat environments. Has double-spring, three-point contact design with minimal clearance.
Hirose Electric
Off The Shelf
Off The Shelf
Machines Materials Tools Systems Software
AI-Driven 3-D AOI
Master Bond
Saki Corp.
AI-Driven 3-D AOI
Closed-Loop Conformal Coating
Panorama S-Line modular conformal coating line performs automated conformal coating in smaller footprint with overlapping line processes. Delivers a single point of contact for support and maintenance needs, process improvements, and smart solutions; range of equipment options; minimal operator interaction; closed-loop controls, parameter limits, and inspection; process data; stability and consistency. Includes conformal coater, exhaust conveyor or IR-cure, inspection module, curing module, and dryer.
Nordson Asymtek
Master Bond
2-Part Epoxy
Master Bond EP29LPTCHT low-viscosity epoxy compound is for underfill and encapsulation applications. Does not need excessive heat for curing and has long working life at room temp. Is electrically insulative and thermally conductive with fine particle size filler material. Forms bond lines from 5 to 15µm.
Master Bond
Saki Corp.
High-Power AXI
3Xi-M200 3D-CT inspects and measures insulated gate bipolar transistor power modules. 200keV high-precision x-ray imaging and 3-D reconstruction uses planar CT; provides clear images by penetrating through heat sink’s multiple layers. Is equipped with detector that enables high-sensitivity imaging, while expanding field of view and updated 3D-CT reconstruction processing software. Handles board sizes of 50 x 140mm to 360 x 330mm. For 360 x 510mm boards, two-step image capture is available.
Saki Corp.
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Technical Abstracts
In Case You Missed It

Embedded Cooling

“Orientation Effects in Two-Phase Microgap Flow”

Authors: Franklin L. Robinson and Avram Bar-Cohen; franklin.l.robinson@nasa.gov.

Abstract: The high power density of emerging electronic devices is driving the transition from remote cooling, which relies on conduction and spreading, to embedded cooling, which extracts dissipated heat on site. Two-phase microgap coolers employ the forced flow of dielectric fluids undergoing phase change in a heated channel within or between devices. Such coolers must work reliably in all orientations for a variety of applications (e.g., vehicle-based equipment), as well as in microgravity and high-g for aerospace applications, but the lack of acceptable models and correlations for orientation- and gravity-independent operation has limited their use. Reliable criteria for achieving orientation- and gravity-independent flow boiling would enable emerging systems to exploit this thermal management technique and streamline the technology development process. As a first step toward understanding the effect of gravity in two-phase microgap flow and transport, the authors have studied the effect of evaporator orientation, mass flux, and heat flux on flow boiling of HFE7100 in a 1.01mm tall × 13.0mm wide × 12.7mm long microgap channel. Orientation-independence, defined as achieving similar critical heat fluxes (CHFs), heat transfer coefficients (HTCs), and flow regimes across orientations, was achieved for mass fluxes of 400 kg/m2 s and greater (corresponding to a Froude number of about 0.8). The present results are compared to published criteria for achieving orientation- and gravity-independence. (Journal of Electronic Packaging, vol. 141, no. 3, September 2019)

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