The Changing Landscape


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As I write this column, I’m in Chicago, wrapping up our coverage of SMTA International 2019 with other members of the I-Connect007 team; it was a productive, news-rich show. We’ll be bringing you video and written interviews, articles, and—when the publication moratorium is lifted—some of the most impactful technical papers presented at the SMTAI technical conference sessions.

I couldn’t help but be continuously reminded at SMTAI of the theme for this issue. Our theme is “Landscape of the Industry” with the implication that it’s changing, which certainly fits the current state of our market. Factory automation continues to move forward. New developments are being introduced, which are based upon improved AI and data analysis (as opposed to simply capturing the data). And multiple tiers of equipment suppliers are introducing capital equipment and add-ons to enable Industry 4.0 for (nearly) everyone.

SMTAI featured two keynote speakers: Adam Steltzner, a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) engineer who led the Mars Science Laboratory's Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) Phase for the Curiosity rover and the chief engineer for the Mars 2020 Project; and Dr. Mike Hawes, Lockheed Martin Vice President for Human Space Exploration and Orion Program Manager. The energy at both keynotes was palpable. We’re returning to extra-orbital space with human crews, and the demands of such missions drive innovation.

However, human factors in our industry are changing; as the “gray tsunami” of retirements begin to deplete the industry’s hard-won wisdom in printed circuit fabrication and assembly, our work will need to be done in a different way. New technology and product R&D is being driven by emerging applications (e.g., automotive, medical, and the return to space), and new applications are being enabled by leading-edge technologies. Together, these dynamics create an upward spiral and a wider view of how innovation can change our world.

This issue launches a multi-month, thoughtful look at our industry across all of our magazines.

To read this column, which appeared in the October 2019 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.

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