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This summer, Patty Goldman interviewed Greg Vance, senior project engineer at Rockwell Automation and president of the Ohio chapter, at the SMTA Ohio Valley Expo and Tech Forum in Independence, Ohio. Vance discusses the show, young professionals in the industry, and other events, such as solder paste roundtables.
Patty Goldman: Greg, this show seems larger than it was the last time I was here. How has the show been?
Greg Vance: The show has been fantastic. We've been at the Embassy Suites for a few years now and this year’s event has had the best attendance so far. This event continues to grow and be supported by the exhibitors—we have 86 this year. We anticipated approximately 120 attendees. And, from the conversations I've had with exhibitors, it provides a great opportunity to see the people they do business with, meet new people, and establish business leads. Without this show, they would have had to spend several days to travel and touch base with these same people.
Goldman: I noticed you had one talk in the morning and one in the afternoon with a lot of space in between for people to mingle. What brought about that change?
Vance: We've always had our technical sessions, but we did one mid-morning before the show started, one after lunch, and left some time until the show ended. What we found is the show floor faded out after the last speaker. We decided to open the show floor and have our first technical session at the same time. If people wanted to come and start walking the floor, they could do that, which also provided extra time for the exhibitors. Then, we close the shop floor a half hour earlier than we have in the past and then have our final speaker. All indications showed this would work well because it provides more time for people to spend with the exhibitors.
Goldman: I’ve been to a couple of these chapter events and it usually goes exactly as you said; your speaker comes out and the show floor empties, and when the speaker is done, the show floor fills. Now, it seems like there will be no cross-purposes, so to speak.
Goldman: Your last speaker sounds pretty interesting. Can you tell us a little bit about him?
Vance: Dr. Chuck Bauer will discuss 3D printing, which is a developing technology heavily impacting electronic assembly. With its many advancements, 3D printing is very applicable to the PCB industry.
Goldman: Seems like a great trending topic to address. On that note, when I walked in, I noticed you were talking to a few young people. Are they new to the industry?
Vance: Yes. We refer to them as young professionals, which is the demographic of professionals that are less than 40 years of age. One of the comments many people make about SMTA events is that it's a very consistent community of people. And as we all age, we recognize that we have to invite and encourage new talent to join us in the industry. Globally, SMTA has placed an emphasis on reaching young professionals to get them involved. Our chapter has done this too. Based on who you've seen walking around today, there's a wide range of ages represented.
Goldman: Are these students or actual young professionals working for assemblers, suppliers, or OEMs?
Vance: The particular group you saw work for a company called Tiny Circuits in Akron, Ohio. They make circuits targeted for hobbyists, so they have different cards with functionalities that you can incorporate into other devices, like drones or cameras. Hobbyists can pick and choose what they want, put it together, and add that functionality to their project—whatever it might be.
Goldman: Nice. What are your plans for next year?
Vance: We are working on putting our formal plans together. Traditionally, our expo is held in July, but we have been talking with the SMTA about a medical electronics conference they hold every year that may be in the Cleveland area in addition to this event earlier in the year, around May. As a chapter, we do two to three additional meetings a year. Our next meeting will be in November. Lastly, we're still working out the final date, but we're going to have a solder paste roundtable with seven different solder manufacturers talking about wide range of topics from alloys, cleanliness to overcoming process challenges.
Goldman: That's all good to know. Sounds like it will be quite a roundtable!
Vance: Yes, we will actually be hosting the roundtable meeting twice. We did it earlier in the year in Cincinnati, Ohio, because we cover the entire geographical area of Ohio. So now we’re going to duplicate it in northeast Ohio so our members across the state will have the opportunity to attend one session or the other. The first event was very successful. It's amazing to gather solder manufacturers together, talk about different technical challenges in the industry, and have time for open questions and answers. Seeing the collaboration between them is fantastic.
Goldman: That's encouraging. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Vance: In addition to our more technical events, we also do some fun events. We have a golf outing in June that has grown over the years. It’s a nice, casual networking day.
Goldman: Where do you have most of the chapter events?
Vance: The majority are in northern Ohio, but move them around the state of Ohio. We tend to stay around the Interstate-71 corridor, but we will go wherever the opportunity is. We like to have our meetings somewhere where we can tour a facility that does electronic assembly or is involved in technology that would be interesting to attendees in conjunction with our meeting. We vet and solicit these opportunities and structure our meeting around it.
Goldman: Very nice. Thank you, Greg. It's been good talking with you.
Vance: Thank you, Patty. I appreciate you coming out.