Printed Circuit Design & Fab Circuits Assembly May 2021 Cover
May 2021
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May 2021 • VOL. 38 • NO. 5
Printed Circuit Design and Fab Circuits Assembly logo
First Person
Is there a branding downside to plant location?
Mike Buetow
money matters
Cybersecurity, but from whom?
Peter Bigelow
“We have used this vendor for years” is not a viable strategy.
Greg Papandrew
Tech Talk
Logically speaking.
John Burkhert, Jr.
How AI and lab-on-a-chip pave the way for economical solutions.
Alun Morgan
Why to consider power throughout the design process.
Terry Jernberg
A novel way to eliminate repetitive data entry.
Kent Balius
Leveraging the IT department for real-time defect analysis.
Hom-Ming Chang
An out-of-body experience leads to introspection.
Robert Boguski
AOI during fabrication will catch most etching-related shorts.
Bob Willis
May 2021 • VOL. 38 • NO. 5
Printed Circuit Design and Fab Circuits Assembly logo
A group of printed circuit design experts have developed a new training curriculum said to be the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in layout. Also: IPC extends its PCB design program.
by Chelsey Drysdale
Printed Circuit Design & Fab Circuits Assembly May 2021 cover
With the onset of 5G and other advanced technology requirements, designers are faced with the daunting task of creating circuit designs that operate anywhere from <1 GHz to the extremely high-frequency mmWave spectrum going above 100 GHz, sometimes simultaneously, for signal coexistence. Integrated passive devices on a PSG substrate enable designers to rapidly build up full 3-D EM circuits with turn times.
by Jeb Flemming
A group of printed circuit design experts have developed a new training curriculum said to be the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in layout. Also: IPC extends its PCB design program.
by Chelsey Drysdale
Printed Circuit Design & Fab Circuits Assembly May 2021 cover
With the onset of 5G and other advanced technology requirements, designers are faced with the daunting task of creating circuit designs that operate anywhere from <1 GHz to the extremely high-frequency mmWave spectrum going above 100 GHz, sometimes simultaneously, for signal coexistence. Integrated passive devices on a PSG substrate enable designers to rapidly build up full 3-D EM circuits with turn times.
by Jeb Flemming
IN the Digital Edition
A look at chapter activities from Michigan to the Silicon Valley.
Updates in silicon and electronics technology.
by Binghamton University
Solder Joint Void Mitigation
with Tim O’Neill and Fred Dimock
X-ray Inspection
POSTMASTER: Send address changes to
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Editor in chief
Mike Buetow, 617-327-4702,

Chelsey Drysdale, 949-295-3109,

design technical Editor
Pete Waddell

editorial office
P.O. Box 470, Canton, GA 30169

Akber Roy, Peter Bigelow, John Burkhert, Mark Finstad, Bill Hargin, Nick Koop, Greg Papandrew

Clive Ashmore, David Bernard, Robert Boguski, John D. Borneman, Joseph Fama, Susan Mucha, Chrys Shea, Jan Vardaman, Ranko Vujosevic


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Frances Stewart, 678-817-1286,

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vice president, editorial and production
Mike Buetow

director of group shows
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Caveat Lector
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Branding Citizenship

onsumer pressure on corporate behavior is cyclical and typically short-lived. Consider “dieselgate.” Volkswagen for years rigged the emissions testing on certain vehicles to appear to meet state and national standards. Confronted with the discrepancies, VW management lied in what would be a futile attempt to cover up its wrongdoings. The transgressions cost the carmaker more than $30 billion in fines and penalties. At the time, it looked like a major hit to the company’s reputation.

We are in an era where focused consumer pressure has the potential for immediate worldwide impact. Primed by social media, buyers have never held so much broad sway. Will this newfound power to drive electronics industry decision-making?

The nongovernmental organization China Labor Watch routinely pummels Chinese-based manufacturers for mistreatment of workers and labor law violations. The leading media companies in the world pick up its investigations. Yet its efficacy in changing corporate behavior is murky.

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Around the World
PCDF People
Cheryl Tulkoff and Greg Caswell have published a book called Design for Excellence in Electronics Manufacturing.

Insulectro promoted Paul Welter to director of sales for DuPont chemistry.

Nano Dimension named Zivi Nedivi president.

Royal Flex Circuits named Jorge Jauregui director of manufacturing.
Portrait photo of a smiling Steve Hudson against a white background
Trackwise named Steve Hudson chief operating officer. He has over 20 years’ experience in automotive and aerospace with MG Rover, Bentley Motors and Rolls Royce Aerospace.
Around the World
New Book Explains PCB Trace Heating and Cooling
Cover of the book PCB Design Guide to Via and Trace Currents and Temperatures
BOSTON – A pair of experts on printed circuit board design have released a new book exploring the temperature of traces and vias and how to accommodate them in a design.

PCB Design Guide to Via and Trace Currents and Temperatures covers PCB materials (copper and dielectrics) and the role they play in the heating and cooling of traces. It details the curves found in IPC-2152, the equations that fit those curves and computer simulations that fit those curves and equations.

The 246-page book, authored by Doug Brooks, Ph.D., and Johannes Adam, Ph.D., presents sensitivity analyses that show what happens when environments are varied, including adjacent traces and planes, changing trace lengths, and thermal gradients; and explores via temperatures and what determines them, along with fusing issues and whether we can predict the fusing time of traces. Readers will learn how to measure the thermal conductivity of dielectrics and how to measure the resistivity of copper traces and why many prior attempts to do so have been doomed to failure.

For more information, visit (MB)

Around the World
Toppan Flex TFT Withstands 1M Bend Cycles
TOKYO – Toppan Printing has developed a flexible thin-film transistor that reportedly withstands a million bending cycles to a 1mm radius of curvature and demonstrates advantages for practical application, such as an on/off current ratio of at least 107, with carrier mobility of 10cm2/Vs or more.

The TFT has the flexibility to be wound around a mechanical pencil lead, the durability of a flex circuit, and carrier mobility exceeding 10x that of amorphous silicon TFTs, the firm says.

Flex testing shows no variation in carrier mobility and other properties before and after a million bending cycles to a 1mm radius of curvature.

Toppan aims to advance manufacturing technology, enhance flexibility, durability, and carrier mobility, and target the development of flexible sensors. (CD)

Around the World
Service Excellence, NPI Award Winners Announced
ATLANTACIRCUITS ASSEMBLY and PCD&F in April announced the 2021 New Product Introduction Award winners for electronics assembly equipment, materials, software, and PCB fabrication. CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY also named the winners of the annual Service Excellence Awards.

The 14th annual NPI Awards recognize leading new products during the past 12 months. An independent panel of practicing industry engineers selected the recipients.

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Around the World
CA People
Axel Wolff
Eutect named Axel Wolff sales representative. He has been a sales representative for various electronics machine manufacturers since 2000.
Michael Wenzel
Kurtz Ersa named Michael Wenzel, Ph.D. managing director. During his 30-year career, he has served as managing director, consultant, and interim manager of well-known companies in mechanical and plant engineering, and automation.
Jeff Swenson
Libra Industries named Jeff Swenson senior vice president of operations. He has 25 years’ experience in contract manufacturing, and has run manufacturing operations in the US, Mexico and Asia. Libra also promoted Cory McMaster to senior director of operations at its Dallas facility.
Around the World
Plexus Breaks Ground on First Thailand Plant
BANGKOK – Plexus broke ground in late March on a 400,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility here, which the EMS company expects to be complete in the fiscal third quarter of 2022. The new plant, its first in Thailand, will include two levels of production and warehouse space and four levels of office space. Plexus did not initially disclose the price tag.

The facility will feature various energy-efficient and green building initiatives, as well as considerations for future enhancements as operations commence. The facility will also include an exterior green zone to ensure team members have a welcoming outdoor space to utilize and gather. Plexus expects to hire 1,800 workers to staff the plant.

“This new advanced manufacturing facility will help ensure that we are properly positioned to support robust future growth projections within the APAC region, particularly given Thailand’s highly skilled workforce and established supply chain,” said Steve Frisch, executive vice president and chief operating officer. “These attributes support Plexus’ strong history of operational excellence, particularly in markets with highly complex products and demanding regulatory environments. We look forward to expanding our services and solutions in Thailand as we continue to fulfill our vision of creating the products that build a better world.” (MB)

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Around the World
CA Briefs
1 Click SMT Technology has opened a demo center in Suzhou to provide local support to the automotive and medical instrument industries.

Absolute EMS invested in a Jaguar N450 lead and lead-free wave soldering system.

A coalition of seven trade associations, including the Telecommunications Industry Association, Information Technology Industry Council, Semiconductor Industry Association and National Association of Manufacturers, has petitioned the US Trade Representative over concerns regarding India’s mounting tariffs on information communications technology products and services.

Argo EMS named Integral Sales manufacturers’ representatives in New England.

Asteelflash reportedly suffered a cyber attack by the REvil ransomware gang, which demanded a $24 million ransom.

Axiom Manufacturing Services revealed its annual revenue for 2019-2020 exceeded £62 million, and the UK-based EMS company is embarking on a hiring spree.

Bharti Enterprises has signed an agreement with Dixon Technologies to form a joint venture to build telecom equipment, including IoT devices, modems, routers and set-top boxes.

Around the World
MacDermid Alpha Opens Die Attach App Center in Taiwan
TAOYUAN CITY, TAIWAN – MacDermid Alpha Electronics Solutions opened its Greater China Die Attach Application Center here on Apr. 1. The advanced technology and application center will house technical service and lab personnel, equipped with die attach assembly and process equipment for high-volume process optimization and component designs using paste and film products.

“With MacDermid Alpha’s unique role as a leading packaging materials supplier to all steps of the electronics manufacturing supply chain, this multimillion-dollar investment to build a leading-edge application center is an important next step in enabling our customers to meet their design goals,” said Rick Frick, VP and GM of the Semiconductor Solutions division. (CD)

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Market Watch
Calm Before the Storm

Trends in the U.S. electronics equipment market (shipments only)

Computers and electronics products
Storage devices
Other peripheral equipment
Nondefense communications equipment
Defense communications equipment
A/V equipment
Nondefense search and navigation equipment
Defense search and navigation equipment
Medical, measurement and control
rRevised. *Preliminary. 1Includes semiconductors. Seasonally adjusted.
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce Census Bureau, Apr. 5, 2021
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IT Piracy
How much of your budget goes to protect you from the companies that are supposed to be protecting you?
Over the past several years I have heard, learned, discussed and agonized over cybersecurity more than I would have ever imagined in my wildest dreams a decade ago. And I have invested a massive amount of money in cyber and all other types of security during this time to be safe (hopefully). When I moan and groan about the staggering cost, cultural change to our operating environment, and considerable training all employees must undergo to relearn basic computer tasks, the response I hear – usually from vendors or some other third-party – is “that’s the cost of being in business these days.”

Yes, being in business has underlying fixed costs that may change but never decline. These days some of those costs are to harden IT infrastructure and put in place systems, equipment and procedures to primarily safeguard data, and sometimes maybe even employees. Several years ago, attempting to explain as simply as possible to employees the need to prepare for cyber attacks, I drew a comparison to the pirate attacks of lore. At the time, piracy was commonplace on the coast of Somalia. Some hacker, I suggested, from a nation/state was ready to kidnap a Captain Phillips, take his ship and plunder its cargo. Indeed, I know of companies held ransom for Bitcoin losing control and access to all their IT infrastructure and basically being unable to operate systems or even shopfloor equipment.

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3 Reasons PCB Buyers Pay Too Much
“We have used this vendor for years” is not a viable strategy.
As the price of PCB materials continues to skyrocket, why are some circuit board buyers stuck firmly in the past, doing business as they always have? Why, even when paying more than they should, do they fear upsetting the apple cart?

Bare board buying can be competitive, but only if those overseeing their company’s PCB supply chain are willing to occasionally buck a system put in place years ago. For circuit board buyers and procurement managers in particular, I see three ingrained habits that do damage to a firm’s PCB purchasing program and its ability to get competitive pricing.

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designer’s notebook
Unpacking Logic as it is Used on a Printed Circuit Board
You need a buffer zone.
The truth shall set you free. The truth table of a logic device determines the outcome of a logical operation. A handful of operations are described as gates. The gates are named for the function that applies. To start, two main ones are the AND gate and OR gate. Both usually have two inputs and one output.

You may have a hallway or stairwell light in your home with a light switch at either end. When both switches are in the down position, the light is on. When both are up, the light is also on. If one is up and the other down, the light is off. The truth table for those two switches is shown in TABLE 1.

Cleaning Up
Help navigating career decisions is part of the value of PCEA.
In this month’s column, I extend an overview of two recently held PCEA chapter meetings and give a nod to two interesting presenters who gave their time to cover relevant topics. Next, I hand it off to PCEA chairman Steph Chavez who relates a recent personal career “crossroads” experience and shares what gave him the hope and confidence to carry on. This month, I am excited to provide our readers with a growing list of events coming in 2021.
Chapter Updates
The Michigan Chapter held a highly anticipated kickoff meeting on Feb. 24. Chapter chairman Dugan Karnazes welcomed an international online audience to the meeting and spoke about the excitement and anticipation of bringing local area printed circuit engineers together to learn alongside a greater audience. The featured speaker for the event was Terry Munson, owner of Foresite, who presented The Forensics of Dendrite Shorting. Munson offered his definition of cleanliness, then described no less than 16 sources of contamination that cause dendritic shorts on PCBAs and offered mitigation techniques (FIGURE 1).
Material Gains
Applying Principles of Industrial Automation in Healthcare Can Deliver Better Services for All
How AI and lab-on-a-chip pave the way for economical solutions.
We could be moving into the end game with the Covid-19 pandemic, at least as far as the severest effects are concerned. Clearly, the virus and its mutations are here to stay, and the future will be about protecting us through immunization and developing better treatments. The fact that effective vaccinations have become available only a year after the pandemic was recognized is remarkable. It’s partly due to the speed with which researchers have been able to do the data crunching needed to model and understand how best to attack the virus.

In the past, the computations involved in sequencing the virus DNA would have taken vast quantities of computer time and prolonged development of the vaccine. Cloud computing using AI accelerators has dramatically shortened the time to complete the technical work involved in creating the vaccines now being rolled out.

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Jernberg PI
The Case of the Unresponsive PDN
Chip caps help only if the conduction in the path is sufficient to deliver the right charge.
Much of the talk in the simulation world lately is focused on power. Even SI experts are starting to see how power has a material impact on their high-speed data transfer success. With power on the forefront, what effect will that have on the additional design demands of low-frequency supplies? Why should you consider power throughout your design process?

Signal integrity, at its basic core, studies and describes the effects physical structures have on a signal, as it is transmitted from a source (transmitter) to a destination (receiver), but makes no mention of where the energy for the signal originates, or where it goes once received. Although a bit of oversimplification, the transmitting IC pulls energy from its power supply, bundles it as a bitstream and transmits data to a receiving IC, where the energy is dumped onto the ground and eventually returns to the power supply, ready to repeat. Admittedly, today’s high-speed signals are largely differential and draw from multiple power rails, so we aren’t describing the exact current flow. What we are describing is the notion that reliable data transmission involves both a clean path from driver to receiver in addition to a well-designed plan to deliver and return needed power.

Smart Engineering
The OCR Solution to Data Entry
A top-down approach for reducing error-prone and time-intensive manual operations.
Last month we talked about the often ambiguous, unstructured design data packages running rampant in the PCB industry, which drive non-value-add administrative tasks across all phases of our data exchange and processes, and we underscored the urgency to integrate “smart engineering” data-driven processes, as becoming more efficient as an industry in reducing cost and NPI cycles should be a critical objective to all organizations. What exactly do we mean when we talk about smart engineering or data-driven processes? Buzzwords and acronyms are all around us, such as digital transformation, RPA (repetitive or robotic process automation), BPM (business process management), SaaS (software as a service), etc. All encompass a similar objective: optimizing our processes throughout the enterprise.

In the PCB manufacturing facility, some classic examples of duplicated data entry when receiving a new design package are in the front-end engineering process steps (FIGURE 1). Several generic steps occur across the industry, and all of these must occur, with the sequence varying based on the company or manufacturing facility. In many cases, each of these process steps are completely segregated software applications, which in essence results in non-value-added administrative tasks.

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Service Excellence Award 2021 Repair and Rework Winner: AIR-VAC
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Service Excellence Award 2021 Dispensing Winner: ANDA
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Service Excellence Award 2021 Automation and Handling Equipment Winner: Count On Tools, Inc.
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Service Excellence Award 2021 Test Laboratories Winner: Datest
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Service Excellence Award 2021 Test and Inspection Equipment Winner: KOH Young America
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Service Excellence Award 2021 Highest Overall Customer Rating Winner: XLR8 Services
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NPI 2021 Award Dispensing Equipment Winner: ANDA
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NPI 2021 Award Soldering - Reflow Winner: BTU
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NPI 2021 Award Plating Winner: Elsyca CuBE
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NPI 2021 Award Component Placement - High-Speed Winner: Hanwha Techwin America
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NPI 2021 Award Soldering - Selective Winner: JUKI
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NPI 2021 Award Software - Process Control Winner: KOH Young America
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NPI 2021 Award Cleaning Materials Winner: KYZEN
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NPI 2021 Award Soldering Materials Winner: MacDermid Alpha
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NPI 2021 Award Test and Inspection - AOI Winner: MIRTEC
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NPI 2021 Award Test and Inspection - SPI Winner: OMRON
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NPI 2021 Award Test and Inspection - AXI Winner: VISCOM
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New (and different) industry programs fill (wide) gaps of academia. by Chelsey Drysdale

In the 2020s, receiving an undergraduate – or even a graduate – degree in one’s chosen area of expertise is no longer enough to start a career, let alone sustain one. We must all be lifelong learners to keep abreast of new information, technology, and processes to flourish. Continuing education is not an option; it is a must. The PCB design occupation is no exception. Cue scores of passionate subject matter experts, eager to impart decades of knowledge gleaned from on-the-job training, higher education, face-to-face interaction, and teaching in a time when the industry struggles to replace veterans who are retiring at a rapid pace.

In March, PCD&F reached out to the creators of emerging online programs available to those interested in perfecting design and layout of printed circuit boards. First, PCD&F spoke with Michael Creeden, CID+, and Rick Hartley, BSEE, CID, via Zoom about their new self-published manual, Printed Circuit Engineering Professional, and the instructor-led program that accompanies it: Printed Circuit Engineering Designer (PCED), available from a national training center.

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Enabling High-Performance RF Devices with Photosensitive Glass Ceramics
A lower cost, highly accurate way to integrate passive devices.
Photosensitive glass was invented in November 1937 by Dr. Donald Stookey of the Corning Glass Works. It was made public 10 years later, on June 1, 1947, and patented in 1950. Most will know glass ceramics from their glass stove top or the iPhone 12 Corning Ceramic Shield screen.

Glass is amorphous, meaning it has no crystalline structure. It’s just a random assortment of molecules in a solid matrix. Ceramics, on the other hand, are crystalline structures of various types and compositions. Glass ceramics can exist in both the amorphous glassy phase and the crystalline ceramic phase. Glass ceramics are used in either one of those two states: 100% glass or 100% ceramic. For example, a Brown stove top is 100% ceramic, and the Samsung Gorilla Glass screen is 100% glass.

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Facilitating Continuous Improvement with IT Tools
How an app approach to data analysis cut initial data formatting time and sped defect resolution.
A key tenet of Lean manufacturing is to reduce variation through process standardization and control. To that end, most companies develop a control plan and monitor various steps of the process. The data collected in those monitoring activities are also useful in facilitating continuous improvement activities. This is particularly true as automated data collection technology has evolved and made it easier to share across multiple platforms.

For example, SigmaTron’s team in its Suzhou facility uses a combination of enhanced inspection equipment, a proprietary manufacturing execution system (MES) and a newly created IT tool to drive continuous improvement efforts.

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Seeing is Believing
When Life Goes Off Script
An out-of-body experience leads to introspection.
BY THE TIME you read this, I’ll be having an anniversary of sorts. Commemorating, not celebrating.

Your life can change in an instant. Let me explain.

Two years ago, at the end of May 2019, our team exhibited a new CT scanning machine at an aerospace trade show in Southern California. Nothing newsworthy there. Display the machine, a kind of entry-level CT scanning system; answer questions from any and all; harmlessly scan a few souvenir water bottles to interactively show the novelty of nondestructive 3-D imaging. Do the usual glad-handing and manufactured sincerity that comes with the show gig. Expectantly snag a few promising leads over three tedious days. Inspire somebody to part with their cash. Show team solidarity around our maypole of a machine by memorializing the moment with a group photo. Say kumbaya, crate it up and dodge forklifts while prepping for shipment back north to our facility. There the system will go into working display as a demo unit. Goodbye, crate. Mission accomplished, take the rest of the week off and enjoy the sights and sounds of Southern California, rekindling my youth and visiting friends, savoring the week’s success over cocktails with broiled fish in Seal Beach. Life is good.

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01005 Built-in Short
AOI during fabrication will catch most pad shorts caused by etching.
THIS MONTH WE look at etching faults on PCBs. This is no ordinary set of pads. They are for an 01005 chip capacitor, the second-smallest chip component available. (Yes, there is an even-smaller size.) The 01005 component package is approximately 0.016″ by 0.008″ or 0.4mm by 0.2mm and small enough for most members of your staff.
State-of-the-Art Technology Flashes
Updates in silicon and electronics technology.
Ed.: This is a special feature courtesy of Binghamton University.
IMEC and Intel researchers develop spintronic logic device. Spintronics is a budding path in the quest for a future beyond CMOS. Devices use much less power than their CMOS counterparts and keep their data unpowered. IMEC and Intel researchers have created a spintronic logic device that can be fully controlled with electric current rather than magnetic fields. An electron’s spin generates a magnetic moment, and when many electrons with identical spins are close together, their magnetic moments can align and join forces to form a larger magnetic field. Such a region is called a magnetic domain, and the boundaries between domains are called domain walls. A material can consist of many such domains and domain walls, assembled like a magnetized mosaic. (IEEC file #12091, Semiconductor Digest, 1/21/21)
Off The Shelf
off the shelf typography
Machines Materials Tools Systems Software
Simulation 2021 accelerating simulation of real-world product performance
Altair Simulation 2021
Simulation 2021 accelerates simulation of real-world product performance and expands simulation-driven design for manufacturing functionality. Simulates 5G connectivity, electronic board-level performance, and manufacturing processes. Provides efficient PCB design review, verification, analysis, and manufacture for design of motors, sensors, and actuators with simulation. Updates include improved simulation and optimization of wireless connectivity, including 5G and EM compatibility.
PCBflow cloud-based software
Siemens PCBFlow
PCBflow cloud-based software extends Xcelerator portfolio with secure environment for PCB design teams to interact with manufacturers. Performs DfM analyses in the context of each manufacturer’s process capabilities. Powered by Valor NPI software engine. Performs more than 1,000 DfM checks. Scalable to any company size.
D.FL75 75Ω, 4K/UHD transmission coaxial connector
Hirose D.FL75
D.FL75 75Ω, 4K/UHD transmission coaxial connector supports 12G-SDI standard and SMPTE ST 2082-1. Requires 4 x 4mm PCB mounting space. Mating height of 2.7mm. For A/V equipment, portable medical devices, security cameras and video screens. Eliminates PCB traces and is reflow-solderable.
Off The Shelf
off the shelf typography
Machines Materials Tools Systems Software
iCube HighFlex selective solder machine
Juki iCube HighFlex
iCube HighFlex selective solder machine offers all-in-one package. New fluxer cleaner permits reduced maintenance of fluxer head. Flux residues and other contamination are dissolved and automatically cleaned from flux head at user-defined interval. All existing iCube features and options available.
Z-Axis for 3Di AOI
Saki Z-Axis
Z-Axis for 3Di AOI inspects tall components, press-fit components and PCBAs in jigs. Achieves max. height-measurement range in 3-D mode to 40mm. Max. focus height in 2-D is also increased to 40mm. Can inspect low-profile components and refocus on identification and polarity markings of tall components such as large electrolytic capacitors. Composite image enables accurate defect detection and optical character recognition. Enables accurate height measurement when inspecting pins of press-fit connectors.
Saki Corp.
ii-A1 flexible placement machine
Europlacer ii-A1
ii-A1 flexible placement machine features single Tornado turret head. Placement speeds up to 15,000cph. 164 x 8mm feeder positions and two different types of internal matrix trays with up to 5 Jedec capacity, for devices up to 99mm x 99mm. Intelligent conveyor with board stops under full software control. Handles boards over 1m in length.
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Technical Abstracts
In Case You Missed It
Electronic Materials
“Highly Stretchable Multilayer Electronic Circuits Using Biphasic Gallium-Indium”

Authors: Shanliangzi Liu, Dylan S. Shah and Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio

Abstract: Development of sophisticated stretchable circuits requires new materials with stable conductivity over large strains, and low-resistance interfaces between soft and conventional (rigid) electronic components. To address this, the authors introduce biphasic Ga-In, a printable conductor with high conductivity (2.06 × 106 S m−1), extreme stretchability (>1,000%), negligible resistance change when strained, cyclic stability (consistent performance over 1,500 cycles) and a reliable interface with rigid electronics. A scalable transfer-printing process is employed to create various stretchable PCB assemblies that maintain their performance when stretched, including a multilayer LED display, an amplifier circuit and a signal conditioning board for wearable sensing applications. The compatibility of biphasic Ga-In with scalable manufacturing methods, robust interfaces with off-the-shelf electronic components and electrical/mechanical cyclic stability enable direct conversion of established circuit board assemblies to soft and stretchable forms. (Nature Materials, Feb. 18, 2021)

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Thanks for reading our May 2021 issue!