Getting Direction at APEX: Roadmaps from IPC and iNEMI


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Trade organizations IPC and iNEMI both revealed their industry roadmaps at IPC APEX in Las Vegas this week, structuring the short- and long-term goals of the electronics industry. These include challenges to overcome, new plateaus of technology to achieve, and likely areas of growth or decline in the years to come.

IPC Association Connecting Electronics Industries conducted a two-year study to develop its roadmap, which provides insight into the future technology landscape of the printed circuit board (PCB) and electronics assembly industries, focusing exclusively on the manufacture of substrates and assemblies.

Expected changes in board, component, and assembly technology from 2008 to 2018 are represented, including new unique interconnection and assembly potential chapters that show revolutionary applications still in early development, noted Jack Fisher, chairman, IPC Roadmap Committee. He suggests that companies test their short- and long-term goals within a future technology framework. The committee shaped the roadmap to be "operational level," meaning that companies can apply it to each process on the manufacturing floor.

The foundation of the IPC Roadmap is its product emulators used to depict OEM needs. Emulators reflect a specific product type as represented by a specific board assembly or piece of equipment. Created with input from several OEMs and experts, the emulators embrace more than one technology philosophy and provide important information for future process and equipment development. The emulators reflect advances in technology in four time periods (current, near-term, mid-term, and long-term). Product emulators for the 2008-2009 IPC Roadmap are: electronic games (portable); consumer products (under $500); handheld/wireless electronics; mid-range performance electronics; high-performance systems (mainframe, server, mass storage); RF and microwave electronics (10 mhz); harsh environments/aerospace; and harsh environments/auto electronics.

New this year, a software analysis program developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is included with the roadmap. The NIST program enables companies to enter its products so that their features can be compared individually to the technology drivers used to define the emulators.

The IPC Roadmap is available on CD and is on sale in the IPC bookstore (located on the show floor) at the member price for all APEX attendees. For more information, visit www.ipc.org/roadmap.

iNEMI and IPC share many ideas in their roadmaps. This year, iNEMI added chapters on RFID for item-level tagging, more environmental issues, solid state illumination like LEDs, and emerging energy markets like photovoltaics (PV), said Jim McElroy, CEO.

The International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (iNEMI) roadmap covers five product sectors and 20 technology and infrastructure areas, which include manufacturing, component/subsystem, design and business process technologies.

The 2009 Roadmap is the result of the efforts of more than 550 individuals (the largest participation to date) from 250 organizations located in 18 countries on 4 continents. It helps set priorities for research and development over the next 10 years, and is not only used by industry but also by government funding agencies and university-based research programs.

Wafer-level packaging (WLP), systems in package (SiP), and microelectronic mechanical systems (MEMS) are emerging as mainstream, added McElroy. He pointed out that indications show that new technologies requiring significant investments in R&D and capital equipment such as through-silicon vias (TSVs) are being delayed.

iNEMI sees a reoccurring interest in collaboration as resources become more limited, and companies look for ways to leverage their efforts. Vertical development teams across the supply chain are growing. The association also reports increased consortial activity on environmental initiatives. McElroy explained that the industry is not waiting for the next wave of environmental regulations, and has started developing standards and working groups to eliminate halogen and PVC, to name a few. Following are some report highlights.

It is important for the electronics manufacturing industry to develop and implement good scientific methodologies to assess true environmental impacts of materials and potential tradeoffs of alternatives. Industry must also be more involved in policy making on material restrictions so that policy makers understand trade-offs inherent in material substitutions. Electronics manufacturers are taking a more proactive approach to environmental issues. Several OEMs have efforts underway to remove halogenated flame retardants (HFRs) and/or PVC materials from their products. However, it is difficult to orchestrate change across the supply chain when there is no regulatory deadline and when each firm is trying to develop its own requirements. Consortia like iNEMI can drive a coordinated approach by establishing common requirements and assessing supply chain readiness. An example is iNEMI's HFR-Free Leadership Program, which is focused on establishing "technology envelopes," or technical specifications, to guide development and deployment of HFR-free solutions. Another example is iNEMI's PVC Alternatives initiative, which will investigate a cradle-to-grave lifecycle assessment (LCA) of PVC and "PVC-free" alternatives. Through performance testing of different PVC-free alternatives, the group intends to understand the electrical, mechanical and safety aspects of these alternatives. Peer-reviewed environmental data for the processes and materials used in high tech electronic equipment is needed.

Advanced packaging is becoming critical for semiconductor growth. The introduction of new packaging requirements in the "More than Moore" era is generating a growing demand for innovation. New technologies, new materials and new package architectures are required, which will demand significant investment in research and development. The investment required to meet these challenges is greater than the current run rate and cannot be met through the gross margin of the assembly and packaging suppliers alone. There is evidence that activity is expanding in other areas to meet this need (university/research institute R&D, venture capital investments, industry innovations).

Despite these efforts, however, there is the concern that the current recession will delay development and qualification of advanced packaging technologies.

While there is the responsibility to minimize the electronics industry's environmental, health and safety (ESH) impacts from operations, products and services, the compelling news is that the electronics industry has the opportunity to play a major role in helping to mitigate society's impact on the environment. The electronics industry can use its products and services to help society function more efficiently and easily, while consuming less material and energy resources.

Electronic products have the potential to reduce energy consumption. Networked, embedded components can add intelligence to physical systems, making it possible to optimize operations in variable environments. Initial efforts are likely to focus on the power grid, energy-smart homes and buildings, and smart lighting. The electronics industry can also re-engineer the way organizations operate. Replacing products with online services, moving business functions to the Internet, and adopting technology-enabled ways of working are examples of these changes.

Innovation can further improve energy efficiency of components, subsystems and full products. For example, replacing cathode-ray tubes (CRTs) with liquid crystal displays (LCDs) is a massive energy saving opportunity. The potential for savings is even greater with the advancement of new technologies, such as light emitting diodes (LEDs) and organic LEDs (OLEDs).

Recognizing the importance of renewable energy and energy efficiency, the new Photovoltaics and Solid State Illumination chapters were added in this roadmap cycle to identify opportunities and needs in these developing fields.

The 2009 Roadmap is available now to members and nonmembers. For information, visit www.inemi.org/cms/roadmapping/2009_roadmap.html.

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