Reflow Standard Development in China


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BY David Bergman and James Liu, IPC -- Association Connecting Electronics Industries

IPC strives to involve global electronics manufacturing communities in standards development. Volunteers in China have been working together to understand the standards and develop a reflow standard that originates in the Chinese electronics manufacturing industry.

A keystone of IPC's long-term goals is to expand the acceptance and use of IPC standards worldwide. Historically, IPC developed its standards in the U.S., but as the industry continues to become more global, so must standards development.

The first step in the journey to increased local usage is translation. Many IPC standards are now translated into Chinese and other languages, such as Russian, Spanish, German, and Vietnamese. IPC currently has documents in 18 languages.

Early in this process, IPC learned that translating the words does not guarantee a useful document. IPC paid for professional translation of a Portuguese and French document, and upon release received many complaints on the terms used. We learned that capturing and translating the meaning, not simply the words, is vital. Unfortunately, this is not always easy to do.

There is an old adage that a camel was a horse designed by committee. Now, try to take that and describe that horse in a different language. When IPC considered what we wanted to do in China, we confirmed that the goal was to build industry standards awareness and acceptance, along with participation in the process.

For several years, volunteers in China have been working together to understand the standards. Chinese committee members are supported by IPC's China officers and English-speaking committee members, who provide detailed interpretations when there are questions. The volunteers have technical expertise in the standard, but must spend time to accurately understand the English language documents.

While this process is lengthy, in the end, IPC will have a pool of standards experts in China with the requisite knowledge to participate in revision activities, which is a major part in the standards development process. IPC standards are typically revised every five years.

Step one is translation, step two is participation in revision, and the expected step three was the creation of new global standards locally. For a standard to be global, it doesn't really matter where it's originated. The consensus-building process is much more important.

IPC anticipated that, down the line, the need for new standards would arise. It happened sooner than we expected, which was surprising as well as exciting.

Reflow Oven Standard

Many members and volunteers working with IPC China want to develop new standards because so many new production technologies are used in China. As local companies become more knowledgeable and comfortable with IPC standards, they begin to look to IPC for more standards. Sometimes they find that a document does not currently exist.

This was the case in 2008, when IPC members in China started to develop a new standard for reflow ovens. This effort is a key example of how companies in China are beginning to truly feel a part of the IPC standards process, thus being able to gain the benefits of a global organization. The reflow oven standard committee has approximately 50 members, one from Singapore, some from Taiwan, and most from mainland China. Once the standard is released it will mark a milestone for IPC: the first standard developed fully in China.

Like any document in development, the China reflow oven standard presents its own challenges. Typically, IPC translates a document after it has been approved. This time, the document will be translated into English before it is finalized so it can receive global consensus.

Throughout the standard development process, the volunteers in China are learning that the consensus-building process takes a long time. Individual experts must come to agree upon what issues are most important. When you're starting with a blank sheet of paper, it's tough. It's much easier to critique something and provide comments when you can see it in front of you. The volunteers working on the reflow standard in China are getting a first-hand experience in the consensus-building process and are learning, just like their English-speaking counterparts, that in standards development you have to go back to the drawing board a number of times.

At IPC's China Electronics Manufacturing Annual Conference (with ePChina, Pudong) in March 2009, the committee met to review its first draft. After that meeting, the development committee realized that it will not be able to finish this standard by the end of the year, as the standard requires much more testing for viability. The release date for the standard is to be determined. No doubt this new committee is learning the joy and burdens that come with standards development. SMT

David Bergman, vice president of international relations, IPC and James Liu, IPC China technical director.

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