SMTA West Penn Expo: Who Says There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch!


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It's nice to be able to attend a local, industry-related show, and the SMTA West Penn Expo & Tech Forum in April fit the bill. Bill Capen, of DRS Technologies, is the chapter president and you couldn't ask for a more enthusiastic person. Besides the show part of the Expo, four speakers passed along information to anyone in the industry who was willing to spend a free day learning (complete with an excellent free lunch).

Patty Goldman: It's good to see you again, Bill. How is this meeting coming along?

Bill Capen: This meeting is going very well. We have four excellent presentations with a lot of variety. We have ‘avoiding the void underneath very complex parts, and we have how the PERM council and reliability for lead-free in the military world is going to affect the electronic world.

We also have how to reball BGAs, doing it correctly, and then we have nano-coating on stencils, the good, the bad and the ugly of it. Some amazing vendors and individuals are here, and it looks like it's going to be one of our better conferences.

Goldman: Excellent. Four speakers and a lot of good information being exchanged.

Capen: We figured four speakers covers everybody. That way if you only want to see two, you can. If you want to see all four, great; we want that.

Goldman: There's always something to be learned and some tidbits to pick up.

Capen: I think as an organization, the SMTA does provide that and we want to continue to make sure our members appreciate that they can come and learn something from other folks who are just like them in the manufacturing world, and then take it back to their world and actually use it. So that's what we're doing today.

Goldman: How's your attendance at the talks?

Capen: Right now, we're averaging about 34 people in the talks and there's been a lot of grilling questions, which the speakers, I don't think, were ready for. They had to think on their feet, which was awesome.

Goldman: So everybody learns. Even the speakers.

Capen: Correct. It's been fantastic already this morning and it's only going to get better.

Goldman: How many chapter meetings do you have every year?

Capen: We're averaging four chapter meetings a year. Our next chapter meeting will be first part of June and it’s going to be all about the stencil process for printing. We have Chris Shay, who's going to do a presentation. We'll also have a couple other solder companies that are going to talk about parameters, sizes, and materials.

Goldman: So you will have a another set of talks in just a couple of months?

Capen: Yes, and then we will probably have one at the end of August. We'll see how the rest of the calendar goes because I know SMTA International is at the end of September, and it does get a little challenging. But we are trying to do four and, if we can, we'd even like to do five per year.

Goldman: You don't just have a meeting where everybody gets together to meet and greet, you have a meeting with a purpose and with speakers, so it's a definite learning experience.

Capen: Every meeting that we try to present is a learning opportunity for whoever wants to attend. It is all about the learning and the sharing of information.

Goldman: Of course, it costs so little to belong.

Capen: Correct. The Expo today is free thanks to our wonderful vendors here. For our chapter meetings, we do not charge anything more than $20. We feel that's fair. That way nobody is financially in a bind, and in a worst case scenario, we can arrange financial help or we'll even cover it for them, if they really want to attend.

Goldman: Excellent. So how is DRS Technologies doing?

Capen: We are busy. The military is good. We have a new president who wants to spend money and the military is more than happy to spend it. That's what we're doing right now.

Goldman: I was in a conversation the other day about the new security requirements for the military industry. Have you been involved in that?

Capen: I have not. It will come to us though, because of the trickle-down effect. It'll probably be June before it will actually get to us.

Goldman: I've heard that it's not been easy.

Capen: I think that's being very generous from what I've been told. You will go through a lot more investigation and a review of what you can and cannot be allowed to look at and touch, and I get that. We'll just deal with it. We have some wonderful security folks that will walk us through the process and go from there.

Goldman: As painful as it is, it's extremely necessary.

Capen: Extremely necessary and important to make sure that the right people are touching something that they should touch. There have been times that the wrong people, not intentionally, were doing something that they shouldn't have, which could cause issues, long term.

Goldman: What is DRS manufacturing at your site? You do a lot of military work, but do you do other things?

Capen: The area at Johnstown, Pennsylvania, is strictly a military site. Our urgent customer right now is the United States Navy, which is wonderful because they are building a large number of new ships that people forget about; we are making sure those ships have the equipment they need. From hard drives to sonar, to you name it, we are doing a lot of technology for the ships.

Goldman: You don't just assemble, but you box build?

Capen: We do. We box build and then it normally goes down to our sister site in Florida, where they will do the different testing on the units, and then it will go to the Navy.

Goldman: Very interesting. So, tell me, anything else to add here about our West Penn show?

Capen: This little show has over 30 vendors. We have 64 people that have signed up to actually be attendees, so that's basically two attendees to one vendor, which is a great ratio. We have a couple of prizes we're going to give away, and we've kind of rigged it so if you want to get a prize you have to talk to every vendor. We are hoping that vendors get the foot traffic and we get people talking with them. It works both ways. And in the end, they get registered for a prize.

Goldman: And everybody's happy. Well, very good.

Capen: Glad to see you here today, Patty. Glad to keep reading your stuff.

Goldman: I'm happy to be here and see you again. Thanks so much, Bill.

Capen: No problem. Thank you.

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