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In this interview, Mathieu Kury, business development manager of Asteelflash USA Corp., provides an overview of 5G, the opportunities in the market, and how it will impact the electronics manufacturing industry. He also discusses the key challenges from an EMS standpoint and how to become successful when 5G really arrives.
Stephen Las Marias: Give us a brief overview of 5G. How will this differ from 4G/3G, and, apart from mobile communications, what other applications do you think it will enable?
Mathieu Kury: 5G is really another level from what we’ve seen so far in telecommunications, mostly from a speed perspective and the ability to connect many more devices to each other—the real, connected world we’ve been talking about for quite some time now. More than just communications, when we think about the new technologies getting closer and closer to reality such as autonomous vehicles and smart cities, these verticals will not exist and/or not perform at the expected pace without a powerful infrastructure, which 5G will enable. The numbers are high: we’re talking about 10,000 times more traffic than today; 100 Mbit/second wherever needed; low energy consumption; and further decreasing M2M communication cost. The impact of 5G will be huge!
Las Marias: Speaking of impact, how do you think will 5G impact the electronics assembly industry in particular?
Kury: From a design and assembly standpoint, 5G is not mature enough to have had an actual impact on product development, and therefore, assembly. Most of the connected devices on the market use a mix of different wireless communication protocols, and it will take a while until 5G is integrated as a design requirement for any new connected device. But it will certainly happen. We’re talking at a horizon of 2020–2022 for me, where 5G will be accessible enough to most of the population. At that time, we’ll witness the power of 5G.
Las Marias: Do you think manufacturing 5G devices will require a different electronics assembly/manufacturing process set-up compared to previous generations?
Kury: It will certainly require specific components, therefore, specific testing at the electrical but also at the functional level. But from a purely assembly perspective, I believe the impact will be limited.
Las Marias: In our conversations with OEMs, one of the critical issues they see impacting the assembly process is indeed the functional testing of 5G devices/systems. Please give your comments on this.
Kury: Well, to be honest, any product has its fair share of functional testing specificities creating challenges for any manufacturing/assembly company. The challenge we currently see with existing devices is mostly around functional testing targeted towards mass production: it’s relatively easy to test one device at a time.
It’s another story when you have hundreds of them to test at once, potentially communicating with each other already. These aspects must be taken into consideration at the design stage through a thorough design for testability (DFT) analysis targeted towards mass production, which is something we do on most projects we serve, from the get go.
Functional testing requirements can be very complex even without talking about 5G. The objective is to understand what the true requirements are, and to provide a design proposal that is ready for mass production. To do so, it will require not only to be supported by design firms but more importantly by a manufacturing/assembly company integrating these DFT principles into their operations and processes.
Las Marias: Ever finer pitches and line spacing will continue especially in 5G devices. What challenges do these present, and how are you addressing them?
Kury: Ultra-fine pitch components have been here for quite some time and supporting wearable or sensor products have required us to adapt to these challenges. I believe we’ll still see a lot of that coming within the next few years as 5G will downsize any connected device we can think of. From an assembly standpoint, investing in cutting edge equipment will be key. Our current equipment already supports nanoelectronics placement as well as flexible circuit assembly.
Las Marias: How do you see the future of 5G? Do you see it emerging this year?
Kury: I believe we’ll really see the push in 2019–2020. This is when, according to major telecommunication service providers, 5G will start being accessible and affordable to a good share of the population, at least in the United States. This will be one of the major criteria to5G adoption, and therefore to the success of connected industries—self-driving cars, smart cities, etc.
Las Marias: Thank you, Mathieu.
Kury: Thank you.
This article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of SMT007 Magazine.