Shopping at IPC APEX EXPO: Evolutionary or Revolutionary Products?


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Every year, managers and technologists descend upon IPC APEX EXPO, shopping list in hand, scouring the aisles in search of deals on capital equipment, software, alloys, chemistry, and whatever else they can find. Sure, many of the big pieces of equipment on display are already sold. On the flip side, there are plenty of deals to be made at IPC APEX EXPO because no company wants to pay to ship a machine twice.

As you're finalizing your shopping list, take a second to consider this: Are you in the market for products that are evolutionary or revolutionary? And what do those terms even mean for someone looking for new DFM software or a new pick-and-place machine?

Evolutionary vs. Revolutionary

The term "revolutionary" gets thrown around pretty often in the electronics world. But most new products—even the most expensive—fall into the evolutionary category; they feature logical updates and improvements over the last revision of that particular product. You could see these updates coming, and they make a good product a better product.

If you look back on a product’s life cycle, you can track the new functionalities as they were incorporated each year or so, much like parents chart their children’s growth by marking the kids’ height on the wall on their birthday. Evolutionary change is slow and gradual, and fairly predictable. I imagine that most of the equipment and software in your facility contain evolutionary improvement and upgrades over the previous models.

But revolutionary change is disruptive to the status quo. Revolutionary change is unpredictable, an upset applecart that can’t be set right until the full effects of the shift are quantified and understood. Sometimes the reverberations from revolutionary change make it almost impossible to measure its long-term effects for years.

You know your product is revolutionary if it forces other companies to change the way they operate. I liken revolutionary change to a quantum leap; it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, but it’s close.

The Model T was clearly revolutionary, putting the average Joe into an automobile and blacksmiths and wagon builders out of work almost overnight. EDA software and the SMT process were likewise revolutionary, changing the way PCBs were designed and assembled, and allowing employees to be more productive.

Then again, some products are “leaners” that are tough to categorize.

To read the full article, which appeared in the December 2018 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.

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