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March 2022
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March 2022 • VOL. 39 • NO. 3
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First Person
Look up.
Mike Buetow
money matters
Domestic opportunities.
Peter Bigelow
X’d out.
Greg Papandrew
Tech Talk
Surface finish change-up.
John Burkhert, Jr.
Escaping the real real world.
Alun Morgan
The cost of solder.
Hom-Ming Chang
Unrestrained conversation.
Robert Boguski
Updates in silicon and electronics technology.
Binghamton University
March 2022 • VOL. 39 • NO. 3
Printed Circuit Design and Fab Circuits Assembly logo
A new design/analysis method for estimating rogue wave amplitudes is presented that can be compared against the digital chip specs for design verification.
Printed Circuit Design & Fab Circuits Assembly March 2022 cover
Signal traces internal to the board can – and most assuredly do – change temperature along their length. Therefore, they change resistance. Is that change significant enough to worry?
The annual IPC Apex Expo trade show, traditionally the largest assembly show in the US, was more “expo” than “apex” when it resumed as a live event in San Diego in late January. Here are some highlights.
The Rochester Institute of Technology and industry have developed a novel curriculum for teaching PCB design. Chris Banton, director of marketing at EMA Design Automation, and Dr. James Lee, acting chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology department at RIT, explain what spurred the program and what it hopes to accomplish.
If you’re an owner planning to sell your EMS business, here are questions to expect from would-be buyers. Consider this a basic primer before striking a deal.
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Low Temperature Soldering is a function of design.
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Alpha’s low-temperature soldering (LTS) solutions have revolutionized high volume applications, including conversion from Wave to SMT and from SAC alloys to Low Temperature SMT. Let’s work together to find the optimal LTS solution for your process.
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The Route
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The Future of Space is No Longer Up in the Air

t wasn’t long ago NASA administrators were lamenting ongoing cuts to the world’s leading space agency’s annual budget were putting the US at risk of falling behind its competitors.

No one remembers, but in the 1960s the line item for NASA made up more than 4% of the federal US budget. Once a few footprints were made in space, however, the shine was off the moon rock. A decade later, NASA’s budget had been slashed by two-thirds in real dollars, and only briefly topped 1% of the federal budget again over the next 50 years.

Today it hovers around 0.5%, which still translates to more than $20 billion a year in funding. Indeed, the Biden administration proposed allocating nearly $25 billion to NASA in 2022 to support moon exploration and more.

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Around the World
PCDF People
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Bev Christian (left), Doug Pauls, and Jose Servin were presented with Dieter Bergman IPC Fellowship awards.
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Nano Dimension named Sean Patterson chief revenue officer. He joined in June 2021 as president of Americas after holding leadership roles in Amazon’s transportation and healthcare groups.
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Sunshine Circuits added Debra Coburn to its management team as human resources manager.
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Zuken Vitech appointed Enrique Krajmalnik CEO. He joined Zuken USA in 2020 as vice president of business development and later moved into the Vitech organization as COO.
Around the World
It’s Official: PCEA Acquires Key Assets of UP Media Group
PEACHTREE CITY, GA – The Printed Circuit Engineering Association has closed on its acquisition of the functional assets of UP Media Group Inc., including its industry leading publications and trade shows.

The deal, which was pre-announced during the PCB West conference and exhibition last October, includes the annual PCB West and PCB East trade shows; PRINTED CIRCUIT DESIGN & FAB (PCD&F) and CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY magazine; the PCB UPdate digital newsletter; the PCB Chat podcast series; the PCB2Day workshops and webinars; and Printed Circuit University, the dedicated online training platform.

Around the World
Next-Generation Technologies to be Highlighted in PCB East Keynote

PEACHTREE CITY, GA – International electronics industry consultant Gene Weiner, fresh off a trip across the Atlantic where he visited several emerging companies, will keynote this year’s PCB East conference. Weiner’s talk, “From Possibility to Reality,” will paint a picture of exciting possibilities in additive manufacturing, materials, equipment, components and other developments that may be in full swing in the next few years.

The PCB East conference and exhibition ( will return Apr. 11-13, to Marlborough, MA. Weiner’s keynote, which is free to all conference and expo registrants, takes place April 12 at 11 a.m.

“It’s a new day for industry engineers,” says Weiner, “facing challenges and opportunities with new tools, products and software at their disposal to create never before possible interconnected packages. A realm of new possibilities in design and manufacturing is being made possible by rapidly emerging advances in a wide variety of additive manufacturing processes of printed circuits and precision components, as well as specialty substrates.

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Around the World
CA People
AIM appointed Javier Corona to district sales manager, Northern Mexico.
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Altus appointed Kevin Suen applications engineer. He has a degree in mechanical engineering from Birmingham University.
APITech named Matthew Erlichman quality engineer and supervisor.
Flex named Rob Campbell president, Consumer Devices.
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Hernon Manufacturing hired Edgar Rosas as country manager for Mexico.
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IPC inducted Joe O’Neil to the Raymond E. Pritchard Hall of Fame in recognition and acknowledgment of contributions to IPC and the electronics industry.
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Koh Young promoted Ivan Aduna to global MES leader. He previously designed test plans at Intel and worked on embedded software systems at Dextra Technologies.
Around the World
Draper Team Develops Predictive Design Tool
CAMBRIDGE, MA – Draper has developed a predictive design tool that has been tested and validated to show it can predict material failure rates and help determine design requirements for printed circuit boards and similar products.

In tests, engineers found the tool accurately predicted methods to reduce and eliminate laminate crack initiation and propagation on a PCB.

The study, prepared for IPC Apex Expo 2022, was conducted by designing printed circuit boards, using different configurations and materials, and subjecting the boards to environmental stresses and other tests. Using principles of predictive design, engineers developed data sets to guide them. One data set included tests of the PCB materials for such attributes as fracture toughness and thermal conductivity. Another set included detailed design characteristics of the PCB itself.

Around the World
ICAPE Group Acquires Cebisa France
PARIS – An ICAPE Group subsidiary has signed an agreement to acquire 100% of Cebisa France, a printed circuit board supplier based in Lisses. The transaction was expected to close at the end of February. Founded in 1996, Cebisa France had sales of €2.8 million across its 50 customers in Europe last year.

The deal came about after several months of negotiation and planning.

In a statement, ICAPE Group CEO Cyril Calvignac said, “We are very happy to have signed an agreement with Cebisa France, whose activities will soon be transferred to the teams of ICAPE France. With this new important step, ICAPE Group strengthens its leading position on the French electronic suppliers market.” (MB)

Around the World
Element Solutions Acquires HSO Herbert Schmidt
SOLINGEN, GERMANY – Element Solutions acquired HSO Herbert Schmidt, a multinational developer of surface finishing technology and chemistry. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

HSO focuses on environmentally sustainable products, especially in plating on plastics. In 2021, HSO was certified as a climate-neutral electroplating operation functioning under the values of sustainability and climate protection.

Future results from this acquisition will be reported in Element Solutions’ Industrial and Specialty segment. (CD)

Around the World
Fire Scuttles Elvia’s PCB Site in Loire Valley
LOIRE VALLEY, FRANCE – A fire in the early afternoon of Jan. 30 at Elvia’s plant here destroyed the printed circuit board fabricator’s entire production workshop.

The fire was contained at the end of the afternoon, and no injuries were reported.

A preliminary investigation has been opened by the Orléans public prosecutor’s office to determine the origin and circumstances of the fire, which are still undetermined.

All factory activity has been shut down, sidelining the site’s 87 employees.

While the Loire Valley plant is being cleaned up, a transfer plan is being prepared to permit production to continue, the company said.

It’s unclear how the fire will affect the potential sale of Elvia. In early January, Tikehau Ace Capital announced it had entered into exclusive negotiations to acquire 100% capital of the company in a deal expected to close in the first half of this year.

Elvia was founded in 1976 and has five production sites in France and over 450 employees. (MB)

Around the World
Axion BioSystems Acquires M-Solv Manufacturing
ATLANTA – Axion BioSystems acquired printed electronics manufacturer M-Solv Manufacturing, a subsidiary of M-Solv Ltd. The creation of a new division, Axion BioSystems Manufacturing, UK, cements the six-year partnership between the companies.

“The need to control the supply chain has never been more important,” said Tom O’Brien, CEO of Axion BioSystems. “This vertical integration not only ensures our customers have the products they need to conduct critical biomedical research. It also allows us to advance assay plate technologies more rapidly to meet the increasingly complex scientific demands of our users.”

“The M-Solv manufacturing team is proud to have played a role supporting Axion’s growth over the last six years,” said Phil Rumsby, CEO, M-Solv Manufacturing. “Now, as part of the Axion Group, we are looking forward to working together even more closely to grow this part of our business, as we develop the next-generation of bioelectronic assay consumables. Alongside our biosensor business, we will continue to maintain and grow our strong position in touch-panel devices.”

No financial terms of the transaction were disclosed. (CD)

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Market Watch
Hot Takes
  • Worldwide smartphone shipments were 362 million during the fourth quarter, down 3.2% year-over-year. On an annual basis, the market grew 5.7% in 2021, with 1.35 billion smartphones shipped. (IDC)
  • Total semiconductor sales will rise 11% this year, following a 25% increase in 2021 and an 11% increase in 2020. (IC Insights)
  • Worldwide tablet shipments amounted to 46 million units during the fourth quarter, down 11.9% year-over-year, posting a decline for the second time since the pandemic began in 2020. (IDC)
  • Six million electric cars (battery electric and plug-in hybrid) will be shipped in 2022, up from four million in 2021. (Gartner)
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Get Ready for New North American Opportunities
As governments realize the importance of investing in domestic manufacturing, opportunities are coming for EMS firms and PCB fabricators.
It takes time to gain perspective, especially perspective on the industry you are immersed in. In my case, it’s been 30 years since I entered the printed circuit board market. During the first six or seven years, it was heady, upbeat times in North America. Growth was a bounty supporting hundreds of domestic fabricators. Materials, supplies and capital equipment were made “locally” in North America. Then, around the new millennium, everything changed.

Suddenly, work headed to Asia, and fabricators contracted at an unprecedented scale to fewer than 200 within a few short years. The collateral damage was a collapse of materials, supplies and capital equipment companies that supported the industry. Even worse was the exodus of skilled talent who sought careers in more promising industries and never looked back. The relatively few companies that survived did so by hunkering down, focusing on a niche, and investing in only the equipment they needed to support their business base, in some cases taking draconian steps that worked short term but eventually led to their demise. Over the first decade-plus of the new millennium, it was depressing to be a North American circuit board fabricator.


A ‘No X-Out’ Policy is a PCB Cost Driver

A board’s level of technology should dictate how often to expect imperfections.
One of the most common questions I get from PCB buyers is, “How many X-outs are acceptable?” Some might say receipt of a PCB manufacturing panel or array with any X-outs indicates the supplier cannot maintain a high level of quality.

This is not necessarily the case.

An X-out occurs when a defective board in an array or manufacturing panel of like PCBs has been shipped. The board is literally marked with an X in permanent marker to signify it is flawed.

While a panel or array with zero X-outs is ideal, the board’s level of technology should dictate how often to expect this kind of perfection. If the board is a single-, double- or easy four-layer item, then a PCB buyer should expect – in fact, should demand – the manufacturer deliver panels free of defective boards.

designer’s notebook
PCB Surface Finishes: When to Change It Up
The primary purpose of surface finishes is to prevent oxidation of the copper prior to soldering components.
Back when I held a soldering iron, we used a mixture of tin (63%) and lead (37%) for the solder (Sn63). The boards had the same coating on the plated holes and surface-mount pads. The application for surface mount is referred to as hot air solder leveling (HASL) and applies to any of the available solder types. The beauty of Sn63 is it has a lower melting point and is eutectic. “Eutectic” means the metal solidifies rapidly over a short temperature range. The benefit is fewer disturbed solder joints and good “wetting,” where the surface finish and the solder form a cohesive bond for a reliable connection. You can still buy Sn63 off the shelf at the local electronics store.

On the other hand, lead is a dangerous metal that can cause birth defects and other health issues. The Europeans took the vanguard with the RoHS initiative. If you want to sell electronics products to consumers, the lead content must be the minimum possible – not eliminated entirely but found primarily as a trace element within chips.

material gains
Alternate Reality is Getting Very Real
The metaverse offers opportunity for escapism and empowerment.
Market research published last summer suggests the total AR/VR market will top $700 billion by 2025, suggesting a compound annual growth rate close to 75%. Those are amazing statistics, although we know investment in virtual and augmented reality has surged during the pandemic. Spending on VR has increased, particularly among consumers constrained to stay at home for extended periods. They have time, and they’re bored. But professional applications are also expanding quickly in marketing, retail, healthcare and manufacturing.

As a concept, AR/VR is closely connected with another emerging phenomenon: the metaverse. The distinction between the two is quite blurred. The metaverse is perhaps best envisioned as an alternative reality whose scope extends throughout the entire internet and into the real world. Although there will be elements of virtual reality, and a VR headset will provide one means of entering the metaverse, the big tech giants are thinking much bigger. Facebook’s parent company has even changed its name to Meta, a clear expression of its ambitions.

Rogue Wave Estimation in PDNs Using the Multi-Tone Technique
Effective strategies for calculating rogue wave noise levels.
by Istvan Nagy
For about 20 years, PDN design and analysis focused on the target impedance method. In recent years, additional considerations surfaced about rogue waves, but more as a general discussion. Here we present a new design/analysis method for estimating rogue wave amplitudes we can compare against the digital chip specs for design verification.

Electrical designs must be verified against possible worst-case conditions. For power distribution networks (PDN digital chip supply rail), this is typically done by comparing their impedance profiles against a target impedance requirement. From recent research and publications, we know the target impedance method for analyzing PDN design does not always predict the worst-case noise voltage because different frequency components of the chip supply current load steps can superposition on top of each other. This is sometimes called rogue waves (RW).

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Signal Integrity
Does a Heated Conductor Have Signal Integrity Implications?
Signal traces internal to the board change temperature along their length, changing resistance. by Douglas Brooks, Ph.D., Johannes Adam, Ph.D., and Ulisses Castro

In our recent book,1 an image shows how heat from a relatively hot trace flows downward through the board (FIGURE 1). What is important to recognize here is how little horizontal heat dispersion there is. The heat seems to flow straight down. What thermal images like this obscure is the relative horizontal and vertical scales. The horizontal width in this image is 50mm, while the vertical height is less than 2mm. Not enough room is underneath the trace for much horizontal dispersion. Consequently, the temperature of the bottom layer of the board directly under the trace is only a few degrees cooler than the temperature of the top layer, regardless of what is beneath the top layer.

We discuss this and its implications in some detail in another recent article2, but in this one, we want to suggest a different issue: whether this heat flow poses a potential signal integrity implication.

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Apex Was Live Again. We Should Be Thankful for That.
The annual trade show was slow by historical standards but attendees were pleased to be there.
by Mike Buetow
The annual IPC Apex Expo trade show, traditionally the largest assembly show in the US, was more “expo” than “apex” when it resumed as a live event in San Diego in late January. Traffic was certainly lower than typical, and notably quiet at times. See what Covid hath wrought.

Several suppliers decided not to bring equipment. Some others cut back on the number of machines they brought. Many exhibitors reduced their employee headcount as well, leaving those East of the Mississippi at home and counting on their West Coast staff to carry the load.

Apex remains primarily an assembly equipment and materials trade show. The message from several SMT line vendors is Covid has led to diversification to North America from China, as companies can’t afford long lead times and face pressure to keep the IP of sensitive products in the West.

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Design Engineering: Back to School
RIT and industry have developed a novel curriculum for teaching PCB design. Is this the start of a college trend?
by Mike Buetow
We are always interested in the approaches being taken to recruit and train the next generation of engineers. Readers may recall last summer we did a podcast with a group of recent graduates from the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Capstone program. There, the students conceive, design, source and build electronics hardware as part of a senior project. It’s truly a great way to immerse themselves in what a career in our industry could look like.

What we didn’t mention was RIT is launching another hands-on program. This one focuses on printed circuit board design. The first class started in January with 25 students. Chris Banton, director of marketing at EMA Design Automation, and Dr. James Lee, acting chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology department at RIT, explained what spurred the program and what it hopes to accomplish.

Tuning nob
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Planning to Sell Your EMS Business?
Here are prospective buyers’ questions. Do you have the answers? by Bob Rossow
If you’re an owner planning to sell your EMS business, here are questions to expect from would-be buyers. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say. For those who haven’t been through the process yet, this is a basic primer before striking a deal.

“Can I relocate your business to my own location?”

Prospective buyers want to increase their sales and bottom lines, so many, if not most, buyers are looking for new customers, not real estate or used equipment. If they can move your customer base into their own shop, they can make much of your labor force redundant and maximize their profit. So, depending on the buyer’s intent, this can be the question that makes or breaks the deal.

“What is your labor rate?”

This is extremely important if a prospective buyer wants to relocate the business. If your labor rate is lower, then your contract rate is probably lower too. As a result, if they move the business to their location and must pay a higher rate, either they have to raise prices and risk losing customers or take a hit on the bottom line. This can be a deal-killer.

getting lean
Automated vs. Wave Soldering: What’s More Efficient for Through-Hole Technology?
Using Lean Six Sigma to balance the increasing cost of solder.
While the death of through-hole technology has been predicted for decades, the reality is some applications have components that require a level of solder joint robustness that only through-hole technology can deliver. In low- and medium-volume operations, the cost-effectiveness of soldering those mixed-technology printed circuit board assemblies using a selective solder machine is an easy calculation because it may eliminate the cost of operating a wave solder machine. However, operations doing high-volume assembly of predominantly through-hole PCBAs may find determining the cost-effectiveness of selective solder is more challenging since their wave solder machines operate continuously. In those cases, the question becomes: What is the point at which use of wave soldering becomes inefficient when the percentage of through-hole components on printed circuit board assemblies drops?

The cost of solder, along with other material and production costs, is increasing globally. While these cost increases are unavoidable, implementing efficiency improvements can help balance these costs by reducing the amount of solder needed and eliminating solder dross.

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Seeing is Believing
A Qualified Success
Industry colleagues reunite after two years for in-person lunches with a side of unrestrained conversation.
I meet a certain friend periodically for lunch. I value his company and conversation. Time with him is never dull. He runs an EMS firm, also never dull. His work provides daily material for stories. He tells those stories well. Sometimes I’m privileged to hear them at our lunches. Talk flows with an easy and relaxed familiarity, a kind of relief. Sometimes the food gets cold. No matter.

Our discussions are more urgent now because the pandemic preempted our lunches for two years. We have a lot of pent-up opinions to catalogue and classify. Add to that winter’s natural chill, which enforces a certain introspection. Two years is a long time to accumulate vent-worthy prejudices. Like a trusted confidante, our resumed midday dialogue is most welcome – and good therapy.

These exchanges with my friend take place in a bullshit-free zone. No topic is sacred. No opinion is off-limits. Salesmanship and posturing are implicitly discouraged. Aside from the standard business-related talk, we risk diverting into politics, history, science, philosophy, religion, child-raising, youthful folly, renewed inflation, government, taxes, hiring difficulties – whatever suits us at that moment.

State-of-the-Art Technology Flashes
Updates in silicon and electronics technology.
Ed.: This is a special feature courtesy of Binghamton University.
Manufacturing technique yields flexible electronics. Stanford University researchers have invented a manufacturing technique that yields flexible, atomically thin transistors less than 100nm in length. Flexible electronics promise bendable, shapeable, energy-efficient computer circuits that can be worn on or implanted in the human body to perform health-related tasks. 2-D semiconductors have shown promise because of their excellent mechanical and electrical properties, making them better candidates than conventional silicon materials. Atop a solid slab of silicon coated with glass, they formed an atomically thin film of MoS2 overlaid with small nano-patterned gold electrodes. The layering technique (chemical vapor deposition) grows a film of MoS2 one layer of atoms at a time. (IEEC file #12537, NASA Tech Briefs, 10/1/21)
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We get customer scorecards all year long. We work hard to continuously improve.

When we win the CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY Service Excellence Awards, it means we’ve done everything right.”

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CEO, Electronic Systems Inc.
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Deadline is April 5, 2022.

For more information, visit:

Circuits Assembly's Service Excellence Awards
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Machines Materials Tools Systems Software
Altium Designer 22
Altium Designer 22 has features to help designers source component availability, capabilities to reduce manual design tasks, and real-time lifecycle management tools used in conjunction with Altium 365. Parts Insight Experience provides supply chain intelligence directly within design experience; advanced board design capabilities for creating complex designs and preparing them for fabrication; enhanced SPICE simulation tools enabled with Monte Carlo analysis to measure circuit quality; real-time lifecycle management with Altium 365. Part Insights Experience delivers real-time supply chain intelligence directly in the design environment so information about component specs, lifecycle, and availability is always available. Supply information, fueled by BoM tools and integrations from Octopart and IHS Markit databases, aggregates data from more than 300 distributors and more than one billion parts. Suggests alternative parts. Capabilities include PCB technology awareness modeling to optimize designs for complex boards; enhanced intelligent routing to reduce manual routing time; improved solder paste specifications to help avoid fabrication bottlenecks; circuit sensitivity analysis to understand circuit output characteristics.
T-Tech IsoPro 6.0 Software
Quick Circuit systems are equipped with IsoPro software, which enables automatic data conversion from almost any CAD package. Is designed to be intuitive and has the ability to import DXF and export Gerber data.
Rogers Radix 3-D Printable Dielectrics
Radix 3-D printable dielectrics material features dielectric constant of 2.8 and low loss characteristics at microwave frequencies. Radio frequency designers can create new components, reportedly eliminating need to consider typical manufacturing design constraints. Composite materials are designed for digital light processing 3-D printing, enabling scalable, high-res printing process for end-use RF dielectric component manufacturing. Dissipation factor is 0.0043 at 10GHz when cured. Intended for use as RF materials in applications where new geometric freedom can enhance figure of merits of RF system, such as gradient dielectric constant structures and other 3-D parts. Can manufacture systems and components at scale.
Rogers Corp.
Altair PollEx ESD Software for Altium
Altair PollEx electronic system design software is free for Altium users. Predicts and maximizes PCB performance and verifies manufacturability. Supports ECAD software products including Altium Designer. Reportedly makes board-level simulation and design verification features accessible to Altium Designer users.
ASM Material Tower
ASM Material Tower
New generation of ASM Material Tower supports classic manual withdrawals, as well as fully automated AIV-supported material flow processes in integrated smart factory. With intelligent software control, modular storage system is versatile, scalable and interconnected. Multiple towers can be combined into clusters where material is exchanged between units via integrated transport module. Distribution of materials within storage system is handled by intelligent algorithms. Number and type of transfer points can be flexibly selected and modified for manual operation and for use with autonomous transport systems. Is designed to hold up to 960 7″ reels or 480 15″ reels. Packages can be supplied or withdrawn in magazines holding up to 30 reels for specific setups. MSDs can be stored and exposure times monitored. Software handles vertical integration into range of MES solutions. Is fully integrated into ASM Works software infrastructure; can be linked to ASM Material Manager software module. Standalone operation or connection to third-party solutions is possible via Tower Cluster Controller.
Technical Abstracts
In Case You Missed It
“Molecular Electronics Sensors on a Scalable Semiconductor Chip: A Platform for Single-Molecule Measurement of Binding Kinetics and Enzyme Activity”

Authors: Carl W. Fuller, et al.

Abstract: For nearly 50 years, the vision of using single molecules in circuits has been seen as providing the ultimate miniaturization of electronic chips. An example of such a molecular electronics chip is presented here, with the important distinction that the molecular circuit elements play the role of general-purpose single-molecule sensors. The device consists of a semiconductor chip with a scalable array architecture. Each array element contains a synthetic molecular wire assembled to span nanoelectrodes in a current monitoring circuit. A central conjugation site is used to attach a single probe molecule that defines the target of the sensor. The chip digitizes the resulting picoamp-scale current-versus-time readout from each sensor element of the array at a rate of 1,000 frames per second. This provides detailed electrical signatures of the single-molecule interactions between the probe and targets present in a solution-phase test sample. This platform is used to measure the interaction kinetics of single molecules, without the use of labels, in a parallel fashion. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, February 2022,

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Thanks for reading our March 2022 issue!