Latest Articles

Designing In Thermal Management

In the case of mixed-signal, analog, and mostly analog boards, special attention must go to careful thermal analysis.

What's Hot in Electronics for 2010?

Consumer electronics are undergoing changes spurred by consumer behavior.

Anti-Counterfeiting Protective Measures

This article provides information on the various types of counterfeit semiconductors on the market, and methods to prevent counterfeits from ending up on finished assemblies.

Making PCB Cleaning More Energy Efficient

New innovations in batch and in-line systems, combined with more effective chemistries, have made cleaning printed circuit boards (PCBs), stencils, and bare boards more cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and energy efficient.

Cleaning Equipment at the Aqueous Booth

In this video, Mike Konrad, Aqueous Tech, takes us through the defluxing and cleanliness test system, Trident, and discusses the difference between batch and conveyor cleaning equipment at IPC APEX EXPO 2010.

Book to Bill: Rigid PCBs Step Up; Flex Hovers in April 2010

IPC announced the April findings from its North American PCB Statistical Program. The book-to-bill ratio keeps climbing -- now above parity for a full 12 months, indicating a recovery that is gaining momentum. The growth so far has been in rigid PCB sales.

An Image Library of SMT Defects Section 1: BGA PCB Defects, Plating

Images in this section include damaged PCBs, double plating, mouse bites, missing pads, domes, and other defects.

The Far-reaching Capabilities of Boundary Scan Testing

What do you need to know about boundary scan PCB testing? Though not quite mainstream, boundary scan is increasingly an option for PCB assembly houses that need increased test coverage with fewer test access points, and for companies with assembly in multiple locations. It also can be used to streamline design, production test, and in-field failure analysis. Greg Leblonc, Acculogic, describes the modern capabilities of boundary scan technology, and why it belongs in the testing arsenal.

With Flying Probe, Electrical Test Depends on Mechanical Precision

Flying probe testers use motorized test probes to roam around the surface of an assembled PCB, poking test access points (TAP) to complete circuits. This form of electrical test is more flexible than the typical bed of nails method, which has prompted many low-volume/high-mix (LVHM) assemblers to consider a flying probe machine investment. Electrical test experts can hit roadblocks when comparing mechanical specs on flying probers, says Greg Leblonc, P.Eng., product manager at Accculogic. He described the impact of motor mechanisms, probe layout, and probe angle on test accuracy and repeatability at a recent Acculogic seminar.

Eliminate Trial and Error When Cleaning Advanced Packages on PCBs

With modern environmental restrictions, the electronics industry has moved away from broadly applicable solvents to a host of chemistries than accomplish cleaning within certain parameters. Cleaning materials developers must study the soils found on common PCB assemblies and produce cleaners that will attack residues effectively without damaging component bodies, PCBs, labels, or solder joints. In his recent Boston presentation, Mike Bixenman, D.B.A.., CTO, Kyzen, discussed the new reasons and new ways to clean PCBs.

Limitations of Hansen-Hildebrand with Aqueous Cleaning

While Harald Wack, Ph.D., ZESTRON, is encouraged by the numerous pathways of innovation that have developed to meet new cleaning challenges, he is discouraged by one in particular. Recently, Wack witnessed the promotion of Hansen solubility parameters as a means to determine the performance of cleaning agents and processes.

PCB Designers Notebook
Planning for Very-fine-pitch and High IO Flip Chip: Part III of III

Vern Solberg discusses methodologies for flip chip mounting, including solders, gold and adhesives or GGI, and the impact of residues and underfill. In regard to assembly processing, positional accuracy, repeatability, and placement speed are critical factors when matching the system to the specific application.

Completely Automated PCB Test

Changes in manufacturing processes and economics within companies, along with the short ramp times from design to end-product manufacturing, increasingly justify the use of automation to achieve higher levels of efficiency and productivity. Since testing is part of the manufacturing process, PCB test solutions equally must provide test coverage and diagnostics, as well as real-time feedback to manufacturing and/or design, in an automated way. Walter Gueli, Seica, examines the possibilities to fully extend the automated production choice to the world of PCB test.

Detection of Counterfeit Semiconductors: Nondestructive and Destructive Examples

We need to go beyond visual inspection to track down counterfeit components. Hemant C. Warad, Sakda Sangthamma, Anusorn Sawetwong, and Martin Huehne, Celestica, describe two examples of counterfeit ICs received from a broker. The counterfeits were intercepted by a counterfeit detection procedure routinely applied to every purchase of electronic parts from a broker. The successful detection of the counterfeiting was based on optical inspection of the package, X-ray imaging, C-SAM, and optical inspection of the die after decapsulation.

Stencil Aperture Creation

There are several accepted methods for stencil manufacture, such as etch, laser-cut, and electroform.

The Solder Paste Print Step

Solder paste, which serves primarily as the attachment medium between the device interconnection features and the PCB itself, is deposited (usually by printing) on the attachment sites (pads) of the PCB. Solder paste deposition is one of the most critical steps of SMT assembly. It’s normally accepted in the industry to consider that 60% of process defects can originate in the solder paste printing step.

Laser-cut Electropolish and Laser-cut Nanocoat Stencils: A Comparison of Finish Performance for Complex Designs

Miguel A. Lara, Celestica, examines solder paste deposition for designs with miniature/fine-pitch and large components. This paper presents the results of solder paste deposition with an alternate post-process operation to SMT stencils that is claimed to improve paste release and consistency. There are two analyzed outputs: solder paste brick height and volume. Variation, normality, and process capability analysis is measured for electroformed and nanocoated laser-cut stencils in identical operations.

Selective Soldering with Dispensable Solder Paste

Paste print and mass reflow are the standard processes for soldering PCBs. The exceptional wetting characteristics of solder paste, along with the precise temperature control of reflow ovens, combine to produce billions of circuit boards each year. Sometimes, however, printing is neither possible nor practical. In these situations, states John Vivari, Nordson EFD, dispensable solder paste can be a reliable, cost-effective, and easily implemented solution for rework, prototyping, high-volume repair, and other selective soldering applications.

The Small Component Printing Challenge

Small components, current and future form factors, present challenges to the solder paste printing and SMT assembly process. These challenges exist for tools including stencils, squeegee blades, and under board support. They also pose troubles for materials including solder paste and the PCB; and equipment including stencil printing equipment and pick-and-place equipment. William Coleman, Ph.D., Photo Stencil, considers the challenges in two categories: positional accuracy and the solder paste printing process.

Matrix Maintenance in PXI with Relay Self-Test

Matrix switches connect test equipment to the UUT in many different ways, enabling access to different parts of the UUT during the test process. The switching system is one of the most likely parts of the system to fail, not because the switching system is unreliable, but because it is in such a vulnerable position. The matrix can be subjected to abuse or accidents during development and in use due to programming errors in development, wiring errors, or unexpected UUT faults. David Owen and Bob Stasonis, Pickering Interfaces, explore the reasons for concern and a way that one test system manufacturer has found to diagnose these problems.

The EMS Quality Imperative: Surviving a Challenging Market and Emerging Stronger

The great recession has hit U.S.-based manufacturing companies hard. To stay in the game, EMS providers have cut costs and balanced production with customer demand. Even with all of these changes, quality assemblies must continue to come off the SMT line. Chris Murphy, The Morey Corporation, shares strategies for quality-centric assembly in new and long-term client relationships.

Future Challenges of Lead-Free Rework: The Main Culprits Are High Thermal Mass and Product Miniaturization

Reworking components in a lead-free environment has posed challenges, mainly caused by the increased reflow temperatures demanded by lead-free solders. While processes have been optimized for low-/medium-complexity assemblies, Craig Hamilton, Celestica explains how the industry must now overcome the challenges of reworking high-thermal-mass PCBs with complex designs.

Flying Probe Testers Lower PCBA Costs

With traditional bed of nails testers (ICT and MDA), loss of nodal access and high fixturing costs can be prohibitive. AOI and AXI cannot verify component values or operation.

Cleaning No-clean Solder and Flux

Are no-clean soldering processes really more cost-effective or reliable enough for a given application?

What Can Good Thermal Management Achieve?

Heat must be removed from electronic devices quickly and efficiently to ensure optimal performance, and to prevent premature component failure.

Control the Print Process; Safeguard Productivity

To achieve suitable throughputs and yields, solder paste printing must be tightly controlled, from the machine and materials to process parameters.

Very-fine-pitch and High I/O Flip Chip: Part II of III

In Part I, in the Design center on, Solberg covers how flip chips are created and how to work with these devices, small and large.

Part 12: Lead-free Reliability - Enticing and Intriguing Status

It is correct that there is not an element on earth that can single-handedly replace lead.

APEX 2010: What Does Post-Recession Look Like?

Registration for IPC APEX EXPO 2010, the flagship tradeshow of IPC ? Association Connecting Electronics Industries in North America, is reaching pre-recession levels, with about 1000 companies pre-registering by mid-February for the show April 6?9 in Las Vegas.

Reflow Soldering Under Vacuum: A New Method

With PCBs becoming increasingly complex, unexpected assembly issues are inhibiting quality. Adding vacuum and nitrogen to reflow — whether in a new reflow oven or integrated onto an existing SMT line — offers benefits like higher quality with an economical cost and continuous operation. Raimund Faber, GM, sales & marketing, SMT Maschinen- und Vertriebs GmbH discusses the causes of voids and how these defects affect quality, and one method to eliminate them during reflow without sacrificing oven flexibility or throughput.

Design for Manufacturing Requires Strong Collaboration

Matt Wuensch, Mentor Graphics, promotes collaboration across PCB design, prototype development, and electronics assembly. The more this collaboration transpires between teams, the more potential for cost savings and less potential for problems in new product introduction (NPI).

PCB Designer's Notebook
Planning for Very-fine-pitch and High IO Flip Chip: Part I of III

In this three-part series, Vern Solberg will review flip chip packaging, the increased applications for flip chip in product design, and substrate and PCB design challenges for fine-pitch array-configured flip-chip applications. Part I explains how flip chips are created and how to work with these devices, small and large.

DB Control Joins HEICO Electronic Technologies Group

DB Control, a high-power microwave amplifier, radar transmitter and power supply manufacturer, has joined the Electronic Technologies Group of HEICO Corporation (NYSE: HEI and HEI.A). Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Dual Preheater Rework Prevents Damage to Dense Lead-free Assemblies

Advances in PCB and component technology have created higher demands on the equipment used to repair and rework array components. It is no longer possible for the operator to simply increase the reflow temperature and expect safe and controlled component removal. These uncontrolled operators can damage the latest lead-free assemblies by utilizing older and less-capable rework systems. Ed Zamborsky and Paul Wood, OK International, explain the new machine technologies for safe BGA rework.

ESD in 201x: What Will the Decade Bring?

Jeremy Smallwood, Ph.D., Electrostatic Solutions Ltd.; Charvaka Duvvury, Ph.D., Texas Instruments; and Harald Gossner, Ph.D., Infineon, discuss electrostatic discharge (ESD) control and packaging changes in the next decade. As we enter 2010, ESD control in electronics manufacture may seem like a mature and little-changing area. However, driven by advances in technology and process needs, ESD control practice and standardization will continue evolving throughout the coming decade.

Survey: Soldering Equipment and Materials Updates, Part II

Gail Flower, editor-at-large, SMT, surveyed soldering equipment manufacturers and solder material suppliers to learn more about the latest practices and requirements. In Part II, equipment suppliers explain what customers ask for on new machines and solder suppliers talk about environmental legislation and its effect on solder alloys.

Cleaning for High-reliability Applications

Military and other high-reliability PCBs are cleaned after reflow because of the crucial nature of electronics performance in the field. Why then, with reliability an expected trait of most electronics devices in consumer and commercial applications, does clean not automatically correlate to reliable outside of the military sector? The bigger question, according to Michael Konrad, Aqueous Technologies, is what happens if your product fails. Residues — flux, oils, trapped moisture —are more harmful than ever.

Growing Tin and Other Dangerous Whiskers

Tin (Sn) whiskers are extremely thin metal filaments, 1 to 3 µm in diameter, that grow from tin metal surfaces as straight, kinked, or even spiral single crystals of Sn. Field failures due to tin whisker growth have occurred in the highest reliability applications, as well as high-volume consumer ones. Lead-free solder and finer pitches are increasing the risk of failures caused by tin whiskers. Laura Turbini, Ph.D., provides updates on the latest whiskers studies.

Sustaining a Robust Fine-feature Print Process

The introduction of 01005 chip components and 0.3-mm-pitch CSP devices is pushing surface mount technology (SMT) to its process limits. Miniaturization is driving the smallest and tightest-pitch components, but how far can this go before solder paste is no longer viable? How small a feature can be printed with solder paste, and can this be implemented into a production environment? George Babka, Assembléon America; David Sbiroli and Chris Anglin, Indium Corporation; and Richard Brooks, Kyzen define an experiment and guidelines.

Part 11: Lead-free System Reliability - Power of Metallurgy Continued

The performance of lead-free solders strictly follows solder metallurgy. Here, we look at the core values at play for two common lead-free solder alloys: tin/silver/copper (Sn/Ag/Cu – SAC) and tin/copper (Sn/Cu).

Further Testing of Hi-rel/Hi-temp Lead-Free Alloy Supports Wide Implementation

A year has passed since Hector Steen, Ph.D., Henkel Corporation and a colleague reported on the development of a novel, patented lead-free solder alloy to meet the high-temperature, high-reliability requirements of automotive applications. Since then, additional testing results for the alloy (SnAg3.8Cu0.7 [SAC387] with Bi, Sb, and Ni additions) have confirmed its robust performance and reliability for high-operating-temperature applications. Steen reports the latest information from additional testing.

Practical Guidelines for Handling Moisture Sensitive Devices and PWBs

Mumtaz Y. Bora, Peregrine Semiconductor, defines MSDs, relevant standards, and where the industry is headed in the handling of moisture sensitive components and circuit boards. The IPC D-35 committee is working to release a standard for moisture sensitivity control guidelines for PWBs.

Mentor Graphics CFD Software Enhances Product Design

With the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) fresh in our minds, product design is the focus of today’s SMT interview with Erich Buergel, GM, Mechanical Analysis Division, and John Isaacs, director of market development, Mentor Graphics. Once in SMT production, each PCB is something of a standalone product — printed, populated with components, reflowed, etc., with the goal of most closely matching set circuit board assembly specifications. However, in the design field, a PCB is one of many interacting elements in a complex environment, such as a high-power gaming system, a ruggedized cell phone, a server farm, a slim flatscreen TV, etc. Designing each PCB without reference to outside elements (enclosure, movement, operating environment) would fail endless prototypes and waste design time. By integrating package/PCB/system/building design, Mentor is hoping to encourage further inter-disciplinary collaboration and more product simulation pre-prototype. When Mentor Graphics acquired Flomerics late in 2008, they entered the thermal analysis market decisively. A little over a year into the acquisition, Mentor’s Mechanical Analysis Division offers FloTHERM for PCB design, FloVENT for buildings, and FloEFD — thermal analysis embedded into mechanical design. Each of these lines is based on computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis and each works together in a comprehensive design flow, preventing costly errors caused by over-the-wall electro/mechanical/thermal design.

3D Solder Paste Inspection Using Pad Reference with Multi Angle Sensor Technology

Solder paste inspection (SPI) traditionally uses resist height or a pseudo-pad height to calculate solder volume on a pad. However, as features are increasingly miniaturized and compressed on the PCB, resist thickness differences are making SPI measurements inaccurate. Toshiyuki Matsuoka, Anritsu Precision Co. Ltd. and Tim Cappoen, Seika Machinery Inc., discuss a new sensor technology that combines two optical systems to measure solder paste deposits from the true pad.

SME: Can 2010 Be a Prosperous New Year without Manufacturing?

Mark C. Tomlinson, executive director and GM of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), looks at what resolutions will get the economy into recovery — starting with manufacturing goods in America.

BGA Mezzanine Connectors Boost Yields

A high-speed BGA mezzanine connector was developed to improve process-friendliness, replacing a thermally massive, bulky design with a three-piece, SMT-assembly-friendly design that is easier to solder and rework.

Survey: Soldering Equipment and Materials Updates

SMT surveyed soldering equipment manufacturers and solder suppliers to learn more about the latest practices and requirements.

Spend Less Time at First Board Inspection

EMS providers can save money and time at the FAI process step. FAI is a critical step in the assembly process, yet it is prone to errors, little documentation, and time wastes.

Creep Corrosion on Lead-free PCBs

Lead-free PWB final finishes are used to provide a solderable and coplanar surface for component attachment.

High-mix EMS in the Current Economy

This article examines how pick-and-place equipment will impact the CM business in a high-mix manufacturing environment and will point out what is necessary to be successful in a tough economy.

Go Greener in Your Cleaner

pH-neutral cleaning can help protect sensitive components while removing aggressive alloy residues. Over the past 20 years, the common notion in this field has been that alkalinity is a must to remove flux residues. pH-neutral defluxing agents are designed to do a superior cleaning job, but still protect extremely sensitive materials and meet stricter rinse water disposal regulations. Cost savings are also possible. Dr. Harald Wack, ZESTRON, explains.

What to Expect from Printed Electronics in 2010

IDTechEx summarizes some of the main global trends in 2009 and gives some predictions and areas of opportunity in printed electronics for the new year. These include metal oxide transistors for OLED displays, memristors, embedded electrochriomic, electroluminescent, and other techs for displays on consumer electronics and for photovoltaics.

Customer Input Drives Selective Soldering Process Efficiency Improvements

Selective soldering equipment was originally developed to do what neither hand nor wave soldering could do — automate the soldering process for individual through hole (T/H) components or groups of components without disturbing nearby SMT components or groups of components. Thus, selective soldering emerged to fill this need, and the technology continues to develop with the advice and valuable input from users engaged in day-to-day production soldering operations. Alan Cable, ACE Production Technologies Inc., shares some of these technician's tips, and how they improved selective soldering.

New Soldering Equipment, Software, and Services

These soldering systems include selective, wave, and reflow ovens and accessories such as nitrogen generators and solder pot service carts. Additional products include reflow profilers and calibration services, as well as a solder paste analyzer and analysis services.

When EMS Companies Put Customers in the Driver's Seat, Get Out of the Way

Pamela Wiseman, sr. operations/supply chain consultant, Technology Forecasters Inc. (TFI), says that it’s typical during challenging economic times for corporate executives to focus internally — especially on costs and cash. She argues that the best survival strategy is to put the customer at the forefront instead, with increased attention on retaining and catering to customers.

New Surface Mount Assembly Materials

These new products include thermal interface materials (TIM), potting compounds, epoxy adhesives, and other materials. They can be applied to assemblies using manual or automated placement and dispensing methods.

New Paste Printing Equipment and Tools

Assembleon introduced the MCP screen printer platform with on-board inspection; DEK's new printer-tool modules include a line-speed SPI system and new substrate clamping technology for higher print quality.

Our Relationship with the Environment

SMT Editorial Advisory Board member Laura J. Turbini, Ph.D., Research in Motion, explores the path of human impact on the environment, and the environmental legislation issues it has created for the electronics production industry.

Present at a Major 2010 Electronics Tradeshow Conference

IPC APEX EXPO (April 6–9 in Las Vegas) and SMTA International (October 24–28 in Orlando, FL) are accepting abstracts for the technical conference programs.

EMS Industry Update: NBS, Sunburst, TT, and Jabil

NBS secured an $8.2 million credit facility from Silicon-Valley-based Bridge Bank, National Association; a subsidiary of Bridge Capital Holdings (NASDAQ: BBNK). TT electronics integrated manufacturing services (IMS) will begin providing electronics manufacturing services to the global rail industry. Sunburst EMS, a high mix, low- to medium-volume electronics manufacturing services provider, installed a Hawkeye print verification system on its DEK Horizon 03i automated printer. Jabil received the 2009 Market Leadership of the Year Award in the global medical electronics manufacturing services (EMS) industry by Frost & Sullivan.

Solder Preform Basics

Paul A. Socha, Indium Corporation, reviews the types of solder preforms and their uses. He offers 10 basic steps to determining if an assembly needs preforms. Solder preforms can be used on a mixed SMT and through-hole PCB or to fortify solder paste on a difficult joint. Most solder preforms can be flux coated. When incorporating preforms, be sure to consider possible effects on reflow, cleaning, and RoHS compliance.

EMS Outsourcing Strategy 2010: U.S. or China?

The electronics contract manufacturing business has grown tremendously in the past 10 years. Many U.S.-based companies have outsourced to EMS providers in China to reduce production costs. Some, on the other hand, have moved their production back to the U.S. Others are still pondering the best outsourcing strategy. John Koon, Express Manufacturing Inc., asks, are you looking into outsourcing? What criteria are used to develop a sound outsourcing strategy? and Does outsourcing to China guarantee lower production cost than building in the U.S.? He also shares useful criteria for creating a successful outsourcing strategy.

Optimizing a Standard Print Process Eases Mixed Technology Assembly

Consumers continue to expect increased functionality in ever smaller electronic products. However, this demand stretches the rules of design-for-manufacture (DfM) and leaves circuit assemblers to wrestle with the combination of decreasing feature sizes coexisting with larger components. Clive Ashmore, DEK, explains how print process control can increase productivity when large and small components coexist on a PCB.

New Cleaning Products and Services

Cleaning is an added step to the electronics assembly process, meaning that the reliability and yield benefits of cleaning must outweigh the additional cost, energy use, and time involved in operating cleaning equipment. These products tangibly reduce costs, increase flexibility for customers, and can have added environmental benefits like lowering VOC emissions.

The Coming Manufacturing Renaissance

Jennifer Read, Charlie Barnhart Associates (CBA), examines potential sustainable economic growth for electronics companies and manufacturing in general, with a trend in the new generation of students toward making real things.

Applied Nanotech Selected to Develop Tin Whiskers Remediation Techniques

Applied Nanotech Holdings Inc. (OTC BB: APNT) was selected by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to receive an award of approximately $500,000 for the development of non-contact methods for mitigation of tin whiskers from electronic devices. ANI will partner with the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering (CALCE) on this project.

One Year On: An Interview with Assembleon CEO André Papoular

André Papoular started with Assembleon about one year ago, though he’s been with parent company Philips for about 29 years, in business management for components, systems and finished products. He’s joined the electronics assembly equipment market at a tough economic time, but Papoular sees this as an opportunity to focus the industry on the way forward, identifying signals of opportunity. The company introduced a printing system at productronica 2009, and also announced a collaboration with Valor to integrate their equipment into a complete suite of software and tools for electronic equipment assembly. These will automate machine-, line- and factory-level workflows and business processes. SMT sat down with the Assembléon team during productronica 2009 in Munich to assess where the company is and where they see placement technology headed.

Tracking, Traceability, and Process Control Products

Managing electronics manufacturing jobs requires adding traceability from the component level to the line, multiple lines, or even multiple factories. Traceability starts at inventory. These new products include component counters, work order tracking software, barcode readers, and laser markers for in-house labeling in the highest security applications.

New Test and Inspection Products

JTAG Technologies released JTAG Live; Surface Mount Technology Corp debuted the SMART platform; Pickering Interfaces introduced RF Matrix LXI switches; Vi TECHNOLOGY upgraded its inspection offerings; Marantz entered solder paste inspection (SPI); and ASSET debuted IC test.

Efficiency Benefits of Manufacturing Operations Software (MOS)

Jason Spera, Aegis Software Corp., explains how MOS systems can improve customer relations and increase manufacturing volume and accuracies. In the pursuit of greater efficiency and customer satisfaction, electronics manufacturing factories must have useful access to manufacturing information, eliminate processing bottlenecks, get new products to the floor more quickly, and respond to engineering changes rapidly. Increasingly, the manner in which a company handles its information sets one assembler apart from its competition.

Is the Migration of Electronics Manufacturing to Asia Slowing?

Eric Miscoll, Charlie Barnhart Associates (CBA), looks at the 3 issues seen to be slowing the migration of electronics manufacturing to Asia: rising labor costs in China, greater consideration of proper total cost of ownership analysis in outsourcing decisions, and the new trend of insourcing by certain OEMs.

SMT from the Showfloor at productronica

Read the Tweets from productronica 2009 including new product announcements and major acquisitions. productronica 2009 takes place this week, November 10-13 in Munich, Germany.

SMDs in Medical Electronics: Just What the Doctor Ordered

Craig Hunter, Vishay Intertechnology, discusses the medical electronics sector. Recently, component manufacturers have stepped up interest in medical applications. The reasons aren’t difficult to discern. As reported recently by Databeans, there is no shortage of demand for better and more innovative medical equipment, and thus medical electronics has come to represent the fastest growing segment of the industrial market for semiconductors. Secondly, this growth has been quite robust with respect to the worldwide economic downturn. If that phenomenon seems counterintuitive, then consider that one of the key trends in reducing healthcare costs has been to shift the focus of care from hospitals and doctors’ offices to patients’ homes. This could only happen with advances in medical technology, mainly enabled by advances in the performance and reliability of electronic components.

New Products for Component Placement: Chipshooters, Kitting, Pick-and-place and More

APS Novastar introduces off-line placement programming; Toshiba Teli America debuts a high-speed/high-precision machine vision system for pick and place; Universal Instruments intros a line management software package for new and existing component placement machines; Production Solutions offers a center board support; and Manncorp debuts a lower-cost pick-and-place option for prototyping or incorporation on high-volume lines.

New Design Products

Following are design software packages and upgrades that simplify, automate, and otherwise improve PCB design, design for excellence (DfX), and other aspects of new product introduction.

Test Program Set (TPS) Migration: ROI for Functional Test Upgrade

Test program set (TPS) migration solutions address the problem of legacy automated test equipment (ATE) systems that support validation of military/aerospace systems experiencing end of life (EOL) issues. Robert Peet, SEICA, will review a cross section of ATE systems from both a hardware and software perspective, with specific emphasis on the challenges and solutions for test program sets using LASAR™ simulation. Migrating existing TPS from legacy systems* to current technology can be done at considerably reduced time and cost with modern TPS software migration tools. These allow for easy conversion and migration of functional test (FT) programs, with minimal debug. By retaining features such as guided probe, fault dictionary, and many others, test programs developed as far back as the 1970s are easily ported to state-of-the-art testers without losing functionality. Legacy programs can also be enhanced (post-migration) with new software tools. Modern migration tools, combined with hardware advances, can improve test coverage and diagnostic capabilities.

Cleaning for Reliability Post QFN Rework

Mike Bixenman, Kyzen Corporation and Michael Konrad, Aqueous Technologies Corporation make an argument for removing flux residue under the quad flat pack no lead (QFN) post-rework, and present cleaning process options for meeting this cleaning challenge. The need for cleanliness under individual components increases as the spacing between connector leads decreases and power increases. The low stand-off height of QFNs traps flux between the ground pad and component leads. Flux trapped under the QFN is a reliability concern. The purpose of this research is to develop process knowledge for cleaning all flux residues from under the QFN device. The authors, representing cleaning material and equipment organizations, investigated process variables such as solder paste, cleaning agents, cleaning equipment, and wash process factors.

Test and Inspection Round Up: The Equipment Users' Needs

In Part I of this article, we asked test and inspection equipment providers for their perspectives on equipment evolution and contemporary challenges. In Part II, we ask what test and inspection customers want from their equipment, and look at examples of difficult test/inspection problems and how to solve them.

Industry Forecast 2010: Climbing Back Up

Forecasting the electronics industry's direction is never an easy task, but this year, with global economies in volatile flux and no sector left unscathed, it is even more difficult.

Supply Management: The ROI in ERP

One PCB manufacturer invested in its ERP system, improving reporting, resource management, time-to-market, and other aspects of operation. What makes ERP worthwhile?

productronica 2009: Product Showcase

An end to end software suite, DynamiX is designed to integrate solutions that will assist manufacturers in design, planning, monitoring, control, scheduling, box build, traceability, test, and rework processes.

Emerging Materials for EMS: Modifiable Silicone Foams Reduce Contamination

Silicone foams are highly adaptable products for potting, gasketing, and encapsulation. Michelle Velderrain, NuSil Technology, explains the benefits of silicone foams, and how their materials properties can be tailored for processability, chemical resistance, temperature cycling, vibration dampening, and other functions.

Interoperability: The Next Big Thing in QMS/MES

When quality management systems (QMS) or manufacturing execution systems (MES) in electronics manufacturing are discussed today, a new buzz word keeps flying around: interoperability. There is good reason for the excitement in cost and quality ROI. Bruce Isbell and Jay Gorajia, Valor Computerized Systems Ltd., provide real-world examples.

Can AXI Meet Zero Defect Quality Standards?

STEP 9 Test and Inspection: Maximizing Production Efficiency through Automated Inspection

Lean manufacturers are relying on automated inspection equipment (SPI/AOI/AXI) to streamline the manufacturing process and provide real-time root cause analysis of manufacturing defects. The objective is to increase profitability through improved production yields and reduced costly rework. Brian D’Amico, MIRTEC Corp., reviews the types of SPI and AOI technology, and how to choose and implement inspection machines.

A Shift in the Perception of Reflow Profiling

Paul Austen, ECD, explains why information gathering and reflow profile characterization can be wasted practices without the verification step to maintain proper oven operation. Reflow oven profiles can be out of spec due to flux residue build up, belt speed changes, and other small changes that deliver significant alterations to the assembly being processed.

New Manufacturing Relationships to Form as Economy Rebounds

As the economy rebounds and electronic-product companies' (OEMs') requests for manufacturing-outsourcing proposals increase once again, some supplier-customer matches will be made haphazardly. This is a concern of executives at small and large contract-manufacturing companies, as well as at the OEM customers. Pamela Gordon, president, Technology Forecasters Inc., discusses the actions of small and large EMS providers, as well as OEMs, as the economy rebounds, in her TFI blog.

Choosing Carrier and Cover Tape for Tape-and-Reel

SMTAI Booth Preview

SMTA International (SMTAI) will take place next week, October 4–8 in San Diego, CA. This exhibitor preview includes products from Austin American Technology, Juki, ACE Production Technologies, Production Solutions Inc., Mirtec, Smart Sonic Corporation, RMD Instruments, Nihon Superior, and Aqueous Technologies Corp.

How Testable Are Your Circuit Board Designs?

In today's electronic design and manufacturing climate, there is increasing emphasis on improved product yield through better quality and streamlined manufacturing processes. The ability to systematically verify that board designs have been developed with adequate design for test (DfT) helps determine a product's overall testability and define the optimum test strategy for maximum fault coverage. DfT also means that design and test people can work more efficiently, as all designs are analyzed in the same manner, using industry-standard and company-specific DfT guidelines. Peter Collins, Aster Technologies, explains.

New Dispensing Equipment

These needles, valves, tips, and related dispensing equipments are available for specialty needs, such as UV block and highly adhesive materials, and for other requirements such as high speed or high precision. Products come from Tridak, MIXPAC, I&J Fisnar, and Techcon.

Have We Learned from the Economic Meltdown?

Recent economic events impact every aspect of the business world, and the outsourced electronics manufacturing industry is no exception. Some have claimed that what the world economy has experienced will change the game completely; things can never go back to the way they were, because the implications of what has occurred are so profound. If the meltdown was a game-changer, what is the new game, and who will play it most skillfully? Eric Miscoll, principal, Charlie Barnhart & Associates LLC, examines the industry.

Consumer Confidence in Technology Rises in September, According to CEA-CNET Index

Consumer confidence in technology and consumer electronics jumped, while confidence in the overall economy fell slightly in September, according to the latest figures from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and CNET.

Laminates: New Products and Technologies

Rogers Corp. introduced a new laminate technology for high-frequency amplifier designs; the Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Loughborough University, presented “Glass as a Substrate for High Density Interconnects,” asserting a new packaging substrate opinion; and IPC — Association Connecting Electronics Industries released revision C of IPC-4101, “Specification for Base Materials for Rigid and Multilayer Printed Boards.”

SMTAI Exhibitor Preview II

SMTA International will take place October 4–8 in San Diego, with the exhibit hall open October 6 and 7. Many companies are exhibiting new products introduced in 2009, as well as flagship products and those specific to the SMT market.

Products for SMT Assembly Traceability

Traceability in the electronics manufacturing facility generally requires extensive labeling and the associated readers to track components, PCBs, subassemblies, and other parts as they move from inventory to the factory floor and into other processes like final assembly and inspection. These new products from Microscan, Adhesive Applications, Keyence, Taiyo America, and Trumpf increase visibility and tracking at the manufacturer.

Duplicate Exact from the Stencil Perspective

Duplicate exact can help address issues encountered when transferring an assembly from prototype to high-volume manufacturing or from one manufacturing facility to another. Duplicate exact can apply to equipment, materials, tools, and processes in SMT assembly. William E. Coleman, Ph.D, Photo Stencil, examines the stencil tool, though it is easy to see how the concept also transfers throughout the manufacturing operation.

New Products: PCBs, Connectors, and Components

These connectors, ESD protection components, new pulse resistor technologies, capacitors, and other bill of materials (BOM) elements are new from Tyco, Cornell Dubilier, Molex, Hirose, Spectrum Control, Electronic Interconnect, Murata, Phoenix Contact, Printed Circuits Inc., and The Würth Elektronik Group.

IPC Midwest: Exhibits Preview II

IPC Midwest begins next week in Schaumburg, IL, with the exhibit hall open September 23 and 24. Following are many new and highlighted products from a sampling of this year’s exhibitors, including ICT systems from Agilent and Digitaltest; cleaning products from Ascentech, Aqueous, Kyzen, and Zeston, pick-and-place machines from Essemtech, Europlacer, and Juki; and other products like XRF inspection tools and 0% halogen solder pastes.

Applied Research within Universities for SMT Industry Competitiveness

S. Manian Ramkumar, Ph.D., Center for Electronics Manufacturing and Assembly, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), discusses recent industry-university collaborative research on PoP, QFN, and mixed lead-free alloy SMT processing.

TFI Calls Manufacturing Downturn Catalyst to Manufacturing Strategy

Pamela Wiseman, TFI senior operations and supply-chain consultant, writes about the manufacturing out- and in-sourcing strategies that are controversial and lively topics these days. Whirlpool will move a portion of its manufacturing from Indiana to Mexico, and that Nokia , NCR, and LeCroy have all decided to reverse their outsourcing trends to bring some manufacturing back in house. The economic downturn has been a catalyst for change and adaptation, prompting executives to reassess and reposition manufacturing strategies.

The Future of Cleaning OA Fluxes

Many companies are shifting away from cleaning with pure de-ionized (DI) water to chemistry-assisted processes. Numerous reasons can be cited supporting the recent trend toward cleaning with chemistry. Results from this experiment, presented by Harald Wack, Ph.D., Zestron, support the hypothesis that cleaning temperature and cleaning chemistry concentration can be manipulated to meet cost and cleanliness requirements for the majority of solder pastes.

Parallel Processes: Simultaneous Lead and Lead-free Soldering with a Single Reflow System

With many electronics manufacturers still running leaded and lead-free assembly jobs, reflow ovens are tasked to run both solder-type profiles. Hans Bell, Ph.D., of Rehm Thermal Systems, shows how implementing both processes simultaneously with a single reflow soldering system can be approached with leaded and lead-free reflow profiles set up next to each other within a thermal system with two conveyor lanes.

NBS Adds SMT Assembly Line

September 4, 2009) SANTA CLARA, CA — EMS provider NBS installed an additional SMT line at its headquarters facility in Santa Clara, bringing in its fourth fully automated line there.

SMTAI Products Preview I

The SMTA will celebrate its 25th anniversary at SMTA International (SMTAI) this year, October 4–8 in San Diego. The exhibition will include more than 80 companies. This product preview includes X-ray inspection from Dage; rework from Finetech; reflow inspection from KIC; cleaning from Kyzen; automation tools from PROMATION; and pick-and-place from Manncorp and Juki. SMT will cover SMTAI news and products throughout September and October.

iNEMI Roadmap: R&D in Printing, Dispense

Given the challenges facing board assembly technology, the iNEMI Roadmap identifies R&D priorities for the application and deposition of interconnect materials (primarily solder paste), as part of the SMT process.

A Cautionary Tale: Outsourcing and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner

The Boeing Dreamliner is years behind schedule, and the company replaced the head of its passenger plane business, naming Jim Albaugh, from Boeing's defense unit, as CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. To save money and minimize its financial risk, Boeing outsourced not just Dreamliner production, but aerospace design and engineering in ways it had never done before, reports NPR's Wendy Kaufman.

Pick-and-Place Round up

Often, challenging macroeconomic conditions, such as those faced by the electronics industry in the past year, bring about creative innovations in both vendor products and engineers using automated assembly equipment.

Lean Manufacturing Principles for EMS Success

Lean manufacturing is based on cutting waste and improving quality.

Collaborate: Design to Manufacture

Software-based collaborations can help improve design for manufacturing (DfM) and the move to production.

Reflow Standard Development in China

IPC strives to involve global electronics manufacturing communities in standards development.

No Waste: Beyond PCBs in Reflow Profiling

In many situations, EMS providers cannot waste a PCB for thermal profiling.

With Electronics, You Can Never Be Too Thin

By Craig Hunter, Vishay Intertechnology - Communications, entertainment, and lighting are being revolutionized by low-profile, surface mount components that retain performance characteristics with a reduced package size. Antennas, LEDs, IPDs, and other components prove that SMT can replace more of the through-hole products in the market.

Combining Tin/Lead and Lead-free: A 5 Step Hybrid Manufacturing Process

Scott Mazur, Benchmark Electronics - The RoHS transition has impacted the entire electronics industry. Supply chain management is challenging, with only RoHS-compliant parts being offered and new classification for PCBAs. Hybrid printed circuit assemblies (PCAs) use tin/lead solder and contain lead-free plastic BGAs or other lead-free components. Maximum reflow temperatures for the leaded and lead-free components often require reflow profile controls.

Tailoring Flux Formulations to Enhance Solder Paste Performance

Kevin Gaugler, solder group research and development manager, EFD Inc., a Nordson Company, discusses how component miniaturization, the emergence of complex assembly methods, finer-pitch connections, changes in plating methods, nanometer-scale materials, and the requirements of new electrical generation and distribution technologies, along with environmental directives, have shaped solders and flux formulations. Slight changes to alloy compositions can tailor a soldering process to specific needs.

Solderability Testing Aids Selective Soldering Process Development

Greg Goodell, process development technician, A.C.E. Production Technologies, recounts tests done in the company's Selective Soldering Applications Lab. A component had oxidized leads. During process development, the operator found that no matter which flux was selected, or which profile was used, the solder would not wet to the part. Process development for the application was stalled by the solder dewetting. Solderability tests were performed to analyze the wetting curve and determine the cause of wetting failure.

Exhibitors at Nepcon South China in Shenzhen

Nepcon South China, August 26–28 at the Shenzhen Conference & Exhibition Center in Shenzhen, China, will co-locate with EMT South China, Finetech South China, ATE China, and AE South China. The show promises a glimpse at the economic recovery in electronics manufacturing. Here are the highlights of exhibitors at Nepcon Shenzhen.

Tailoring Flux Formulations to Enhance Solder Paste Performance

By Kevin Gaugler, EFD Inc., a Nordson Company - Continued component miniaturization, complex assembly methods, finer-pitch connections, changes in plating methods, nanometer-scale materials, and new electrical generation and distribution technologies now challenge the performance of soldering processes at every level. Environmental initiatives, such as RoHS, have also resulted in fundamental changes to both solder alloys and flux-based carrier systems.

Upcoming Event: Nepcon South China

Nepcon South China, August 26–28 at the Shenzhen Conference & Exhibition Center in Shenzhen, China, will co-locate with EMT South China, Finetech South China, ATE China, and AE South China. Nepcon South China promises to focus on prevailing trends in the electronics manufacturing industry, as well as showcase new innovations and technologies. The China EMS environment is reportedly experiencing the first stages of recovery from the global economic downturn.

Solderability Testing Aids Selective Soldering Process Development

By Greg Goodell, A.C.E. Production Technologies - The Selective Soldering Applications Lab processed a group of samples for a customer; in the parts mix was a component that had oxidized leads. During process development, the operator found that no matter which flux or profile was selected, the solder would not wet to the part. Solderability tests were performed to analyze the wetting curve and determine the cause of wetting failure.

iNEMI Roadmap Identifies R&D Priorities for Dispense

By Dongkai Shangguan, Flextronics and Ravi Bhatkal, Cookson Electronics - Component technology advances continue to provide challenges in the PCB assembly environment. Given the challenges facing board assembly technology, the iNEMI Roadmap identifies R&D priorities to develop and optimize jettable pastes and inks as well as jetting/dispensing technology.

iNEMI Roadmap Identifies R&D Priorities for Printing

By Dongkai Shangguan and Ravi Bhatkal - Component technology advances continue to challenge the PCB assembly environment. The iNEMI Roadmap identifies R&D priorities for the application and deposition of interconnect materials, as part of the SMT process. The first is to improve stencil printing technology to increase transfer efficiency with thicker stencils and smaller apertures. The second is to optimize jettable pastes and inks as well as jetting/dispensing technology.

EMS Contracts in the U.S.: Focused Equipment Strategies for Jobs and Profits

By Greg Biesiadecki, Alpha Electronics International Inc. - U.S.-based EMS providers can win back OEM business from overseas with higher quality and lower costs. Automated manufacturing and inspection equipment, along with a solid OEM relationship strategy, can bring business to U.S. firms. This article covers AOI, selective soldering, and business strategy.

Overcoming Bead Probe Contact Challenges
Part II: Enhancing First Pass Yield With Better Spring Probe Tip Geometries

By Michael Farrell Sr., Agilent Technologies and Brian Crisp and Ken Snyder, Everett Charles Technologies - Part I of this two-part article discussed the use of bead probe technology and factors that impact probing, such as spring force and biasing. This section covers contact integrity, from the importance of probe head design to probe materials.

TFI Blog: Personalities of EMS companies

By Pamela J. Gordon, Technology Forecasters Inc. - What is it about EMS companies that has inspired investors to clamor over them despite the industry's consistent, remarkably low profit margins? How did the "board-stuffing" suppliers transform themselves into multibillion dollar international players with star-power executives? I believe that it's the personalities of the companies that have won them fame.

So, You Need to Clean? A Defluxing Process Roadmap, Part II

By Michael Konrad, Aqueous Technologies - Our roadmap consists of several key factors: type of flux, type of assembly, product flow, volume, staff competency, facility restrictions, environmental restrictions, and budget. In Part II, I discuss volume, staff competency, facility restrictions, environmental restrictions, and budget.

Low-volume/High-mix: EMS Jobs in North America

By John Buckley, Zurvahn - OEMs creating mid- to low-volume products and new product introductions (NPI) require flexibility, design skills, and cost-effective manufacturing from their EMS providers. Lower inventory requirements and time-to-market priorities also come into play. Modern high-mix production requires a balance of development in North America and volume production available in low-labor-cost regions, with seamless transitions.

PCB Fab in a Recession: Lean, Web-based Ops

By Pratish Patel, Electronic Interconnect (EI) - PCB fabrication is a competitive and price-driven business with slim margins. One U.S.-based supplier has a lean methodology to thrive and grow even in tough times. This article covers the fabricator's approach to business and the marketplace with the application of lean manufacturing principles and modern communications.

Reduce the Cost of Cleaning Processes

By Harald Wack, Zestron - Cleaning processes bring upfront and hidden costs. The cleaning agent technology, vapor recovery, and bath monitoring are all elements of electronics assembly cleaning that can be optimized to keep costs low and performance high.

Vapor Phase vs. Convection Reflow in Package-on-Package Technology

By Ryan Wooten, EPIC Technologies - The trend toward smaller, more densely populated electronic assemblies is driving increased use of package-on-package (PoP) technology and electronics manufacturing services (EMS) providers are developing viable manufacturing solutions. Here, I review reliability laboratory analysis on the effectiveness of vapor phase (VP) and convection reflow processing of PoP technology.

VLSI Forecast for Semiconductor Equipment

Semiconductor equipment manufacturers posted a book-to-bill ratio of 1.01 in June, according to VLSI Research. It was the first increase above parity since July 2008. Although bookings and billings remain well below normal levels, business activity is beginning to improve. Back-end suppliers are seeing a considerable pick up in business activity amid soaring utilization rates at the subcontractors.

New Facility Improvement Products: Carts, Conveyors, Gas Control, and More

These new products from Bliss Industries, Matheson Tri-Gas, Terra Universal, Seika, Virtual Industries, and other companies provide component and PCB storage and transportation around the electronics manufacturing facility. Products include chassis carts, MSD storage, barcode labels and readers, stencil frames, and more.

Board-level Thermal Management: 3D Heat Removal

By Paul A. Magill, Ph.D., Nextreme Thermal Solutions - The paradigm driving PCB-level design has always been cost. However, IC-generated heat on these boards has increased in modern designs. Frequently, the heat generated by these die leads to hot spot formation on the circuit boards. As board designs progress, a combination of active and passive and bottom, top, and lateral thermal management is needed.

Selective Soldering Fills a Gap in Design for Manufacturing

By Todd King, E.I. Microcircuits - Design for manufacturability (DfM) is extremely important to today's electronics production. DfM can help EMS providers deliver the best product possible at the lowest production cost. One way to avoid costly hand soldering on intricate mixed-assembly boards is selective soldering.

Getting a Handle on Global Sourcing

By Jorina Fontelera, ThomasNet Industrial Market Trends - Theoretically, sourcing globally for inexpensive materials may seem easy. In practice, though, the process and execution is much more complicated. Companies report that sourcing is now driven by product quality as well as cost, and that Asia is not the main source of materials for U.S. manufacturers.

Testing the Reliability of BGAs

By Ching-Mai Ko, Ming-Kun Chen, Yu-Jung Huang, and Shen-Li Fu, I-Shou University - In BGA socket test, avoiding damage to the solder balls while maintaining a high compression force and a stable contact resistance is key. Contact resistance distribution plays a vital role in device reliability. Socket contact degradation can degrade first test yield and increase retest time. Contact degradation can be used as a contact clean guideline.

Thermal Management: The New Generation of CFD

By Meredith Courtemanche, managing editor - Major design companies have released new thermal management solutions recently, prompting a look at the various technologies that can keep complex electronics functioning properly, regardless of their workload. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations are getting faster and more accurate.

Preventing Board-level Defects with Moisture Control

By Russell McCarten, XDRY Corporation - At test and inspection, defects mean lost revenue through scrap or rework. Defects can occur due the board, component, materials, or other factors. One controllable defect-causing aspect of assembly is moisture.

Revised RoHS Directive, and an Erroneous Name in RoHS 2

By Lev Shapiro, Component Master - The European Commission (EC) proposes several changes to its RoHS Directive. Medical devices and other exempted end products will be affected, product labeling will change, and the character of the RoHS legislation will be reinvented. However, calling this revision "RoHS2" is a misstep, based on the informal but generally accepted RoHS5/6 terminology.

New Products in Component Placement: Pick-and-Place Systems, Heads, and Tooling

Following is a product preview for the new MultiStar pick-and-place head, as well as new placement system SIPLACE SX and software, from SIPLACE Electronics Assembly Systems (SEAS). Also highlighted is the feeder and inspection conveyor package for Manncorp's MC-391 in-line dual-head pick-and-place system.

Identify Lifted Objects using Z-axis Measurement and 3D AOI

One AOI solution constitutes a radical departure from existing vision technology in that it senses and measures the Z-axis height of features, in addition to the X/Y 2D image plane, and combines them.

CFD Thermal Analysis for Improved Reflow

There is an urgent need for PCB design solutions that merge operator expertise on oven behavior with deep knowledge of the PCB’s layout, particularly the copper content and component placement, and their effect on thermal properties.

Testing the Reliability of BGAs

Experimental analysis of failure site conditions for the final testing of BGA packages, focusing on touchdown-times-related worn-out changes in BGA sockets, is presented.

The Basics of Soldering

In this article, I will present a basic overview of soldering for those who are new to the world of soldering and for those who could use a refresher.

Designing in Underfill for PoPs

Package-on-package (PoP) is a recognized technology that is becoming more commonplace in mobile electronics with the increased demand for features like cameras, Bluetooth, FM radio, WLAN and mobile TVs.

Industry View: Green Has to Mean Better

It is easy to point a finger at certain substances and say they are bad and should be eliminated.

So, You Need to Clean? A Defluxing Process Roadmap

Our roadmap consists of several key factors: type of flux, type of assembly, product flow, volume, staff competency, facility restrictions, environmental restrictions, and budget.

Upcoming Webinars on Advanced Packages: BGAs, BTCs

KIC's Brian O'Leary will present "How to Profile BGAs," a 30-minute webinar on designing reflow profiles for the components, on June 26. SMTA will host two webinar tutorials on design and assembly of BGAs and BTCs with SMT Editorial Advisory Board member Ray Prasad, on July 7 and July 14.

Thermal Management Issues Resolved by Optimizing Airflow in Chassis

By Chris Heard, Amphenol - This case study examines a leading-edge chassis design from the thermal management perspective. Through increasingly detailed simulation environments, the system designer was able to optimize airflow, verify the design's feasibility, and circumvent possible thermal problems as the design progressed.

Troubleshooting Solder Bridging: Causes and Recommendations

Compiled by Cookson Electronics - Bridges, defects where excess or misprinted solder creates an undesired connection, can be caused by problems at various points in the assembly process. This article examines root causes and solutions at stencil manufacture, screen print, component placement, reflow, PCB manufacture, and solder paste.

IPA-Water (75/25): Ineffective for Cleanliness Test with Modern Contaminations

Harald Wack, Ph.D., ZESTRON America - Numerous test methods are used to determine cleanliness. IPA water has poor solvency, and limits ionic contamination and ion chromatography testing. To quantify contamination, one has to remove all residues (ionic and non-ionic) from around and under the components. The modern, alternative mix that replaces IPA-water has to be able to fully solubilize all remaining residues on assemblies, even lead-free, after cleaning.

New Products: Placement Systems, Feeders, and Carriers

Following are the new pick-and-place machines, substrate handlers, components, and feeders for SMT and through hole component placement from Juki, Bliss Industries, Leader Tech, Assembleon, Panasonic Factory Solutions of America, Siemens, and MYDATA.

SMT Components Toughen Up for Rugged Applications

By Craig Hunter, Vishay Intertechnology - It's not surprising that surface mount technology is continually branching out into new applications. Even a few years ago, however, not everyone could have anticipated the extent to which SMT components have penetrated some of the more rugged applications for electronics. Manufacturers are using novel approaches to upgrade device capability and provide higher performance and higher reliability for these more demanding environments.

Upcoming Tradeshows: Attend, Present, Network

SMTAI, IPC Midwest, APEX 2010, and Pan Pac will host exciting technical conferences as well as special events. SMTAI celebrates the 25th anniversary of the SMTA; IPC Midwest is expanding its free forums, and APEX and Pan Pac 2010 are recruiting presenters.

ESD Risks and Management in SMT Manufacturing: Part II

Overcoming Bead Probe Contact Challenges
Part I: Bead Probe Compression

By Michael Farrell Sr., Agilent Technologies and Brian Crisp and Ken Snyder, Everett Charles Technologies - Test access on modern PCB assemblies is a major challenge. Bead probe technology resolves many of the issues test engineers face. This two-part article provides best practice recommendations for bead probe implementation, PCB design for test (DfT), and product selection.

Problems and Promises of BTCs: Bottom Termination Components

Ray Prasad, Ray Prasad Consultancy Group - What are bottom termination components (BTCs)? You may not know the term BTC, but expect to hear about them. IPC coined the term BTC for industry-descriptive package names such as QFN, DFN, SON, LGA, MLP, etc. They are similar to BGAs, which also have hidden terminations. Differences abound, as they do not have balls but just metalized terminations or pads under the package.

New Products for Cleaning Stencils, PCBs, and Labs

These are the new cleaning materials, wipes, and equipment used to remove flux residues from reflowed boards, solder paste from stencils, contaminants from the manufacturing area, and other unwanted materials from electronics assemblies and associated tooling.

A Guide to Infrared (IR) Rework on BGAs

By Roger Gibbs, PDR - BGAs, now mainstream for manufacturers seeking better device functionality and quality, present some problems for rework-and-repair processes. Infrared soldering/desoldering technology is safer, more repeatable, and easier to operate than prior technologies for reworking BGAs.

Thermal Profiling: Sensitive Component Degradation

By Paul Austen, ECD - Solder joints that pass inspection can hide functional degradation of temperature-sensitive devices during the soldering process. From circuit design on, users must account for the thermal sensitivity of passive devices as well as active ones. When factored into the design, and thermal behavior characterized in the NPI phases of the project, the effort is simplified in manufacturing to verification that the thermal profile is met.

ESD Risks and Management in SMT Manufacturing: Part I

By Vladimir Kraz, 3M - Sensitivity to electrostatic discharge (ESD) and electrical overstress (EOS) is becoming increasingly important in PCB assembly (PCBA) manufacturing. This first article in a two-part series discusses the occurrences of ESD exposure in the assembly process. These include PCB loading, component handling, soldering, and operator interventions.

BPA Releases Semiconductor and PCB Industry Forecasts

The analyst firm finds that minor improvements in demand were seen by semiconductor manufacturers; output by many Asian and European PCB fabricators declined by more than 40% in the first quarter. North America is in a slower decline. BPA predicts a U-shaped downturn.

Photovoltaic Module Assembly Using SMT Materials and Processes

By Karl Pfluke, Indium - EMS providers specializing in SMT are seeking to diversify and fill capacity. Photovoltaic module assembly is a popular choice. PV cell stringing in solar module assembly is achieved using many common SMT materials and processes. Solders, fluxes, and reflow technologies produce electrical interconnects in a-Si and c-Si photovoltaic assembly technology.

SMTA Toolbox
Avoiding Counterfeit Electronics: The Role of Component Manufacturers, OEMs, and CEMs

By Lev Shapiro, Component Master Counterfeit electronics have rapidly become a serious issue for electronics manufacturers. Supply chain management is crucial to counterfeit prevention. Collaboration with parts makers can help identify counterfeits. End-of-life electronics disposal also can prevent reuse. This article covers the statistics on counterfeits, detection and prevention, and the global supply market.

PCB Designer's Notebook: Overcoming Imaging Challenges for High-density Circuits

By Vern Solberg Designers often face increasing product functionality without the luxury of increasing board size. One option is implementation of a higher-density circuit interconnect solution. Laser direct imaging (LDI) efficiently transfers the circuit pattern directly onto a photoresist-coated panel, eliminating traditional photo tools. Benefits include time and costs savings, quality, and better registration than traditional contact printing fabrication methods.

BOM Products: Components, Circuits, and Associated Services

Following are the bill of materials (BOM) products recently released by component manufacturers, PCB suppliers, connector companies, and other industry suppliers, including Wall Industries, Vishay, Hirose, Premo, Aimtec, and Screaming Circuits.

Large-area Flexible Electronics Promise High-Volume, Low-Cost Production

By Daniel Gamota, iNEMI - The term large-area flexible electronics encompasses a wide array of devices and applications manufactured on flexible substrates. These products can be fabricated using a full range of materials and processes. One of the most compelling aspects of large-area flexible electronics is that they can be produced using high-volume, low-cost, and R2R processes. This article touches on functional inks, processing platforms, and in-line characterization tools.

Step 5: Adhesives/Epoxies & Dispensing

Derrick Moyer, Steve Ratner, John McMaster, , Martin Lopez, and Frank Murch, Heraeus Materials Technology LLC. In modern electronics assembly, wave soldering continues to prosper, and innovations in adhesives and dispensers continue to advance the state of SMT. Adhesives manufacturing, packaging, and dispensing methods each affect the quality and effectiveness of this step.

New Products in Soldering

These are the new solder ovens, reflow profilers, hand rework tools, dross management chemistries, solder alloys, and other products, including a white paper with solder paste deposition information, developed to improve the soldering process in electronics manufacturing.

New Distribution Agreements for Equipment, Materials, and More

Suppliers are adding distributors from New England to Shenzhen. Check out this list of new and expanded distributor agreements for the most up-to-date supply chain information from Data I/O, A.C.E., Balver Zinn, Nextreme, IMS, Essemtec, Koh Young, and more.

Quality Assurance: Planning is Valuable

By Zulki Khan, NexLogic Technologies Inc. - There are two ways to perform quality assurance (QA). One is to move a PCB through design, fabrication, and assembly focusing on expediting the project, but leaving QA at the end of the process. Time is definitely saved by placing QA as an afterthought, but too much of the process is left questionable.

Determining and Influencing Your Marketing Status

By Ted T Turner, CoGen Marketing Inc. - Marketing creates preference and awareness for your company and products. These generate leads. Marketing has four key responsibilities: generate products and services, generate demand for these products and services, generate orders, and generate loyalty. Evaluating the status of each of these four responsibilities as a dashboard can direct your marketing resources.

New Product Roundup: Test and Inspection

New Products: Board and Component Handling

Manufacturing and Reliability Challenges With QFNs: Part II

By Craig Hillman and Cheryl Tulkoff, DfR Solutions - One of the fastest growing package types in the electronics industry today is the QFN, also known as a bottom-termination SMT component. While the advantages of QFNs are well documented, concerns arise with manufacturability, compatibility with other OEM processes, and reliability. In Part I, we covered DfM and introducing QFNs. In this section, we'll cover reliability of QFN components.

New Reports: Connector Tech; Mass-market, Auto, and I&I Sectors; EMS Shares Publications, Henderson Ventures, and Reportlinker share up-to-date analysis and data on various electronics assembly products and end-use sectors, as well as a vendor market-share report on EMS providers. Reports include: Evolving High-speed Mezzanine Connectors, World Electronic Industry Mass-market and Automotive Products, I&I Production to Fall 10%, and Worldwide Electronics Manufacturing Services Vendor Shares.

TFI Blog: Overreacting to Economic Downturn?

By Kathleen Geraghty, TFI Quarterly Forum - Here is a priority topic for almost everyone (even optimists). Following TFI's recent webinar, "Managing through the Downturn," we had an exchange with participants about signs indicating that a company is overreacting in a downturn-economic environment. We also talked about best practices that can be leveraged to overcome these adverse overreactions.

Printing Resolves Solar Cell Manufacturing Challenges

Solar cell makers must improve cell efficiency for more power/sq.m. of surface area and increase productivity without correspondingly higher investment.

Sensitive Component Degradation

Read the full technical article online! Visit and search by the article title or author name to finish reading this feature.

Competing with Tier I EMS: Software for Lean

Many EMS providers are implementing lean manufacturing to help achieve performance goals and also improve competitive advantages, customer responsiveness, and quality.

Cleaning Equipment and Materials Trends

SMT talked to suppliers and users about problems, trends, regulations, training, cost control and ongoing research regarding cleaning materials and equipment.

A Guide to Infrared (IR) Rework on BGAs

Read the full technical article online! Visit now and search “A Guide to Infrared (IR) Rework on BGAs” to finish reading this feature.

Building a Robust High-mix Manufacturing Process

EMS providers have many preferred business models. High mix, variable demand production has become increasingly popular.

17th Annual SMT VISION Awards

SMT VISION Awards recognize products that display innovation, solve an industry challenge, save money, promote environmental friendliness, and otherwise enhance electronics manufacturing.

Fixed SMT Stencils: Sewing Technology for Stencil Mounting

By T. Sasson, Suron A.C.A Ltd. - Many SMT assemblers use both fixed-frame and universal SMT stencils in the paste printing process. Conventional methods for adhering stencil to frame can introduce hazardous materials, offset errors, time waste, and other negative impacts to flexibility and line productivity. One process borrows technology from sewing to attach stencils onto frames without adhesives.


The SMT/Hybrid/Packaging tradeshow and conference takes place May 5 through 7 in Nuremburg, Germany. The show encompasses back-end semiconductor packaging and test, PCB assembly, and various end-market sectors. In addition to the exhibits, 14 tutorials, and full-day technical conference, an EMS comparison service, job fair, and vendor forum are resources for attendees. Following are some of the highlights to take place on the show floor at SMT/HYBRID/PACKAGING.

Latest Reports: Mobile Handsets, European Electronics, and Tech Financials Publications released the European Electronic Market Forecast; iSuppli examines the outsourcing trend in mobile handsets, while ABI Research tracks 2009 cell phone shipments from major OEMs; and Reuters reports on Apple, Google, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft beating expectations in the financial markets.

Lead-free Solder Update

By Mitch Holtzer, Cookson Electronics - SAC alloys became the industry-standard lead-free solders after RoHS went into effect. Technical and economic factors are reducing the silver content in SAC compositions, with disadvantages like slower wetting speeds, and advantages like minimized BGA voids. Solder choices are influenced by the desired results, cost, BOM, and other factors.

Tech Still Down: Inventory, Consumer Spending to Blame

By Jim McGregor, In-Stat - After a disastrous Q'04 to end 2008, it would seem that the high-tech industry had nowhere to go but up. However, the release of Q'01 results from several market leaders has revealed that up wasn't a direction we were headed. An inventory surplus affects semiconductor through PC companies, and consumer spending is still the critical driver for electronics demand.

Zero Mistakes: Inspecting Complex Automotive Electronics

By Gene Fujita, Omron Electronics - Auto manufacturers demand that the incoming electronics boards have zero defects. Many Tier 1 suppliers inspect boards for defects in printing, placement, and reflow, but cannot easily inspect odd forms. The most reliable AOI used directed light to simulate 3D views, and new algorithms are increasing automation for odd forms.

Avoiding Mistakes in SMT Manufacturing Via MOS

Jason Spera, Aegis Software - Quality management in electronics assembly often means data collection, repair and test management, and mining the results of these activities. To improve quality, avoid mistakes that result in nonconformances, maximizing yield and minimizing waste. A total quality system should provide controls to eliminate as many mistakes as possible, as well as capture and analyze those nonconformances that do arise. Control and visibility are required.

New Products in Dispensing, Printing, and Dispensable Materials

Following are the new solder-dispensing print heads, jet dispensers, dispense valves, curing technologies, materials mixers, and various materials such as conductive inks and epoxy adhesive/sealants.

Stencil Controls

By William E. Coleman, Ph.D., Photo Stencil - It is generally stated that over 70% of defects in surface mount assembly are related to the printing process. There are many factors involved with print, including the printer, squeegee blades, solder paste, printer set-up, and the stencil. All of these factors have a major influence, but I will confine this discussion to an analysis of stencil controls.

Design, Manufacturing, and Reliability Challenges With QFNs

By Craig Hillman and Cheryl Tulkoff, DfR Solutions, Inc. - While the advantages of QFNs are well documented, they can be considered as a next-generation technology for non-consumer-sector OEMs. This article is designed to review specific concerns in relation to design and manufacturability by CMs and OEMs and provide possible mitigations or solutions to allow the reliable introduction of QFN components into products.

BOM Products: Components, PCBs, and Associated Tooling

Following are the new connectors, components, PCB materials, and tooling options such as lead trimmers and wire crimpers available to increase assembly density, improve reliability, and deal with challenges such as harsh environments and high frequencies.

Alkalinity, Defluxing, and Materials Compatibility

By Harald Wack, Ph.D., ZESTRON - From solvent replacements to modern chemistries, materials compatibility is the key for cleaned parts to perform better than uncleaned assemblies and better than assemblies cleaned with prior-generation chemistries. Defluxing under low standoff components, non-corrosive cleaning, and other challenges are met by materials compatibility. Now, neutral — neither base nor acidic — product technologies are bringing cleaning chemistries new capabilities.

Step 4: Solder Print: 3D SPI and Process Control

By Jean-Marc Peallat, Vi Technology - Solder paste inspection (SPI) becomes necessary to the SMT line as a process control tool, especially with small components' landing pads, such as the pads for microBGAs and 01005s. This article reviews the available SPI technologies (laser triangulation, Moiré methodology, flying absolute height profilometry), usefulness of SPI on the line, and the cost/benefit equation of adding solder paste inspection post-print.

Setup Parallelization Enables Flexible SMT Production

By Adrian Schärli, Essemtec - Constant changeover is the norm in today's SMT production. In such an assembly environment, the largest costs are accrued by machine set up, set-up change, and product changeover. These costs can be minimized through set-up optimization and parallelization. It is a concept that saves costs and increases productivity. It also puts high demands on personnel, your organization, and placement machines.

Getting Direction at APEX: Roadmaps from IPC and iNEMI

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. Highlights from both roadmaps are reported here.

Pre-show Preview: IPC APEX Expo

These new and legacy products include modular pick-and-place systems, factory-level software, PCB handling trays, and more tooling, equipment, and materials for electronics assembly that will be displayed at the IPC APEX Expo, March 31 through April 2 in Las Vegas.

APEX Product Showcase

Following are more new products to debut at APEX, as well as upgraded and updated equipment and materials that will be displayed at the IPC APEX Expo, March 31 to April 2 in Las Vegas.

Military and Aerospace XRF Verification: Keep the Lead In?

By Scott Mazur, Benchmark Electronics Inc. - Various industries such as military and aerospace sectors continue to be exempt or not covered by RoHS. These industries require leaded assembly, given the risk of growth of tin whiskers and lack of field reliability data for lead-free components and subassemblies. Military and aerospace companies are searching the supply chain for COTS leaded components. Tin whiskers can grow unpredictably, and are mitigated by leaded materials.

New Installations: ACI Adds Selective Soldering, USR Implements Factory Traceability, and More

EMS providers, centers of excellence, OEMs, and others are adding equipment, materials, and software to improve their operations. The American Competitiveness Institute installed an RPS selective soldering system; Ascentech sold solderability testing equipment to Continental Automotive; USR Electronic Systems implemented Valor's vCheck quality management system; Sennheiser New Mexico LLC added a barcode labeling system from PROMATION; Nortec Group approved Zestron's cleaning materials.

New Distributors for Industry Products

Multiple distribution contracts have been signed recently, leading to better service and expanded service ranges for electronics assembly materials and equipment. Following are the new distributors and their territories, serving KIC, L3 Electrodynamics, Taiyo America, RPS Selective Soldering Systems, Indium Corporation, SMH Technologies, and Austin American Technology.

APEX Booth Preview

Following are new and flagship products on display at IPC APEX Expo, March 31 to April 2 in Las Vegas. New solder paste inspection (SPI) systems to factory-floor software to flex circuit coverlay will be demonstrated at the show.

Thermal Profiling: A Practical Approach to Reflow Profiling

By Liyakathali Koorithodi, Indium Corporation - In the lead-free era, thermal profiling has a critical role. We discuss profiling, tools, practical issues, and inspection methods. As the process window narrows, profiling equipment and/or thermocouple errors must be taken into consideration. In addition, the accuracy and method of TC attach will impact critical assemblies.

Step 3: Solder Materials
Melting and Freezing Characteristics of Common Lead-free Alloys

By Ranjit Pandher, Cookson Electronics Assembly Materials - Much work has been reported on the melting and freezing behavior of SAC alloys. Knowing melting and freezing points is only part of the information. A slight change in composition may result in a significant difference in solder performance.

Part 10: Lead-free System Reliability — Power of Metallurgy

By Jennie S. Hwang, Ph.D. - On this global lead-free electronics manufacturing's tenth anniversary (plus and minus a year or so), it is timely to reflect what have progressed and what is on the horizon. If I have to mention one thing that stands out, that is the power of metallurgy. How so?

High-Performance Polymers for Environmentally Friendly Electronic Components

By Edson Ito, Ticona Engineering Polymers - The time is right for green electronics. With higher energy costs, consumer awareness of carbon consumption, e-waste laws, and plans to invest in renewable energy projects, computer and electronic gadget manufacturers are starting to leverage green credentials. Material suppliers are developing new materials to help manufacturers produce eco-friendly system components without hazardous chemicals such as antimony, beryllium, and phthalates.

Top Companies in Printed Electronics

Printed electronics change everything from medical end products to product packaging. Two recent reports from Publications and IDTechEx discuss the companies developing and commercializing printed electronics for consumer products, e-displays, solar cells, and other electronics.

Medical Equipments: Flexible Circuits in Hearing Aids

By Thomas H. Stearns, Brander International Consultants - - Hearing aids were one of the first modern medical electronic devices worn on the patient. These externally mounted devices make use of flex and rigid circuits in highly miniaturized assemblies. Starkey Labs and Sonic Innovations weigh in on this report about flexible PCBs enabling medical advances.

Studies and Associations Focus on Manufacturing Business Management

Prime Advantage released its first "Group CFO Survey," representing financial executives of U.S.-based manufacturers in more than 25 industries; AMT — The Association for Manufacturing Technology will pursue new leadership following the resignation of president Robert K. Simpson; and IBM's supply chain management study found that managing risk is now as important as faster, better, cheaper in regards to an effective supply chain strategy.

STI Electronics Inc. Opens AL Facility

MADISON, AL – STI Electronics Inc. experienced 32% growth in 2008, expanding into a 54,000-sq.ft. facility with more than half ISO-9000-certified manufacturing space and an expanded laboratory.


For MSDs, the adsorption drying process dries components at speeds competitive with traditional methods, without oxidation problems.

Thermal and Process Sensitivity Beyond ICs

Semiconductor components that go through reflow can be damaged by heat.

The Environmental Impact of Pick-and-place Machines

EMS companies committing to environmental standards have to report and try to minimize their effects.

Creating the Intelligent Factory

In a typical high-mix environment, lean thinking cannot be applied only to the material flow, but also has to include the information flow throughout the factory.

Producing through the Downturn

There is no one sweeping technology trend for the EMS sector. EMS companies can leverage several technologies and trends to deal with present challenges while preparing for the future.

Rework on Small, Leadless Devices

A rework process was developed to simplify rework of leadless devices, which will soon be taking over leaded as well as area-array devices.

Cooling Needs to Start at the Chip Level

By Paul Magill, Ph.D., Nextreme Thermal Solutions - Energy consumption is rampant in the U.S., and theories vary on curtailing its impact. Electronics thermal management can cool electronics from the first level, exponentially improving operating temperatures throughout the server farm.

Building High-volume Electronics in High-labor-cost Regions, For Less

By Gary A. Tanel - Automation is the key to domestic high-volume manufacturing. For many years, we have accepted that high-volume manufacturing is built in low-labor-cost regions of the world and low-volume assembly is performed close to the design center and end user. This seems ironic in that low-volume assembly has higher labor hours per unit than automated high-volume. The difference is in logistics.

Material Compatibility Worldwide

By Harald Wack, Ph.D., ZESTRON - For decades, despite research and trials, chemicals have continued interacting with the cleaned surfaces in question. Cleaning materials are researched and changed based on the root cause of the observed problem. Are there issues with all cleaned parts or only with selected ones? The answer will give you an idea whether the problem is related to chemistry or not.

Optical Interconnects for Silicon Circuit Boards

By Daniel Stevenson, siXis - A silicon circuit board (SiCB) is designed for components interconnection, targeting a higher degree of integration than is practical with current VLSI technology. SiCBs are manufactured using standard silicon electronics fabrication methods. In contrast to traditional PCBs, they use unpackaged integrated circuits (ICs) extensively and feature the finer-pitch signal trace geometries available with photolithographic fabrication.

Improve Time to Market with Freeze Gate Development

By James Scholler, MEC - In compressed product development cycles, traditional checks and balances become insurmountable constraints, driving non-value-added activity. A "freeze gate" lean concept leverages existing resources to meet a tight schedule without adding risk or impairing quality.

February New Products: Soldering Materials, Processes, and Equipment

Following are the selective and wave soldering equipments and tools, new high-reliability lead-free solder alloys and fluxes, and vapor phase reflow technology. Companies presenting new products and processes include Manncorp, Rehm Thermal Systems, Vitronics Soltec, Cookson Electronics, and Nihon Superior.

Micro SMT Connector Combines Old and New Technology

By Mark Leach and Ann Cibelli, Advanced Interconnections Corp. - In this case study, a 1.0-mm-pitch SMT connector is replaced by a new connector with the same footprint that surpassed shock/vibration, thermal shock, cyclic humidity, high-temperature life, and MFG tests. The connector had to be low-profile and lead-free for a telecom application.

New Products: Cleaning Materials, Equipment, Tests, and Processes

Following are the new cleaning products introduced by MicroCare, Aqueous Technologies, Rehm Thermal Systems, and Practical Components. The products range from cleaners to a flux residue management system within reflow ovens to cleanliness and residue evaluation testers, and a stencil cleaning system.

Step-by-Step: Process Control — Eco Lifecycle Assessment and Improvement

By Jim Dills, Green EcoSystems Group In the new green business climate, global manufacturing companies must continually assess and improve their products and processes to retain customers; gain competitive advantage; and comply with environmental legislation like RoHS, REACH, WEEE, and EuP. Eco lifecycle assessment and improvement processes are required for the management of the critical environmental aspects and impacts of product toxicity, waste stream management, and energy use.

Integrated Test and Inspection: Inspection Strategies and X-ray Techniques for Identifying Manufacturing Defects

By David Bernard, Ph.D., Dage Precision Industries, a Nordson Company With PCB assemblies increasing in complexity, test access for ICT and functional test is reduced. Along with AOI, 2D and 3D X-ray is moving beyond hidden-joint inspection into the high-density PCBA inspection area, including ASICs, memory, thru-hole joints, and more. X-ray inspection needs vary with each application, but a combination approach with 2D and 3D systems provides comprehensive coverage.

New Products: Connectors, Programming Scripts, Pastes, and More

Following are recently introduced products from power semiconductor lead-free solder paste to flex-to-PCB connectors, to hot bar or pulse soldering systems, and more.

The Ins and Outs of BGA Reballing

By Zulki Khan, NexLogic Technologies - When high-speed/high-performance BGAs are damaged during assembly, replacement costs can exceed reballing costs. The rework steps associated with BGA reballing are straightforward, yet highly complex.

New Products in SMT Electronics Assembly

Following are the newly released prototyping lines, LXI interfaces, solar cell production tools, feeder/component storage, epoxy materials, XRF testing tools, component handling accessories, and PCB-mount components from around the SMT supply chain.

The State of the EMS Industry

By Sharon Starr, IPC - A recently published study, 2007–2008 Analysis & Forecast for the EMS Industry, from IPC shows that the market for EMS continues to grow, although growth rates are slowing with the current economic downturn. EMS continues to outpace other segments of the electronics industry due to expanded outsourcing.

EMS Business Update

By Susan Mucha, Powell-Mucha Consulting Inc. - Any time the words "global economic downturn" become headlines, the EMS industry will be impacted. Assessing that impact can be difficult, because the EMS industry is a collection of subgroups that cluster around revenue, geographic focus, OEM industry niches, technologies, and services. This article focuses on economic; political-legal; technology; and behavior trends.

Consistent PCB Traceability with Data Matrix Symbols

By Laura Hoffman, Microscan - To improve quality control, traceability, and throughput on their test adapters, an electronic components and modules manufacturer implemented miniature data readers inside inspection systems. These vision systems have to read barcodes and cope with challenges posed by shiny PCB materials, limited space, and zero-defect/high-reliability end-product standards.

New Year, New Headquarters

In 2009, several electronics manufacturers and supplier to the EMS industry will move into expanded facilities and relocated headquarters. Following are the announcements from Dynatech Technology, Adept Technology, KIC, and STI Electronics.

Defluxing Déjà vu

By Michael Konrad, Aqueous Technologies Corporation - In the face of cutbacks, the cleaning industry, specifically post-reflow defluxing and cleanliness testing equipment, experienced a surge of new business in 2008. The reason lies between two electrical components mounted on a circuit board. It is a small metal crystal called a dendrite.

New Products in Electronics Assembly

Following are products designed to improve selective soldering, ESD control, kitting and box build, hand soldering, boundary scan tests, and other steps in the electronics assembly processes.

Industry Forecasts for 2009

We asked industry suppliers and end users "How can PCB assemblers control costs in these economic times?" and "What will be the most impactful technological advances in 2009?" Following are responses from companies across the supply chain.

New Components, Modules, and Subassemblies: January 2009

Following are the new products, reports, and software tools in the component sector, including power splitters, capacitors, sensors, connectors, varistors, oscillators, and more. Products come from AVX, IMS, Molex, Fox Electronics, EPCOS, and other companies in the component manufacturing industry.

TFI: Streamlining Supply Chain and Logistics

By Jonathan Gilbert, TFI logistics consultant - With all of the recent bad economic news, it's sometimes hard to think of positive effects from all the disruption we're seeing. Tough times bring challenges as well as opportunities. We need to be focused on what's coming up and prepare. For supply chain managers, the current worldwide slowdown presents some unique opportunities.

Part 9: Lead-free System Reliability — Avoid Likely Failures

By Jennie S. Hwang, Ph.D. - In this ninth discourse on the subject of lead-free reliability, let's look at what it takes to maximize system reliability, achieving a product's ultimate performance and reliability. Ultimate reliability can only be achieved by planning for reliability at the outset, followed by sound design, material selection, parts selection, and executing manufacturing for reliability.

Taking Cue from CES, Window-shop Your Work

With Macworld and CES generating a modest amount of excitement in the midst of depressing economic indicators, sorting through the new product releases has become a mixture of electronics news and online shopping. Interesting products all make good use of LEDs, flex circuits, advanced electro-mechanical design, etc. The most hyped new products are the thinnest, most mobile PCs and Macs. And while we're talking hype, let's take a lot at the new crop of green electronics.

Lead-free for High-reliability, High-temperature Applications

By Hector Steen, Ph.D. and Brian Toleno, Ph.D., Henkel Corporation - Though the electronics industry is nearing RoHS's three-year anniversary, several challenges remain with lead-free materials. Automotive and military/aerospace products require a lead-free material that can withstand under-the-hood conditions, offer vibration resistance not commonly associated with traditional SAC alloys, and deliver high-temperature thermal cycling reliability levels beyond those currently available.

STEP 1: Correct-by-Construction Approach for HDI Designs with High-speed Interfaces

By Hemant Shah, Cadence Design Systems Inc. - This article covers how HDI manufacturing rules should be integrated with any PCB design system to enable a correct-by-construction methodology without giving up on high-speed constraints that ensure the board will work with few or no physical prototype iterations.

Selection Criteria for SMT Placement Equipment

By Ray Prasad, Ray Prasad Consultancy Group - Typically, surface mount pick and place equipment, including a full complement of feeders, constitute about 50% of the total capital investment required for a medium-volume surface mount manufacturing line. Since no one type of placement equipment is best for all applications, the effort required in selecting equipment with an appropriate feeder system should constitute a major part of the effort spent in selecting capital equipment.

Halogen-free Guidelines, Databases, and Future Projects

By Scott O'Connell, Ruben Bergman, and Marshall Andrews, HDPUG - The High Density Packaging User Group International (HDPUG) has been evaluating halogen-free material properties and the feasibility of using them in electronic products since information about the first halogen-free materials was introduced some 12 years ago. HDPUG recognized the market need for halogen-free materials in electronic equipment and developed programs to assistant in this transition.

New Products in Electronics Manufacturing: January 2009

Following are the new components, factory automation elements, screen printing tools, thermoelectric power generation kits, dispensing systems, product data management software, test boards, ESD control products, soldering systems, and other products for design, assembly, and test of PCBs released recently.

Double-sided Flying Probe Solves PCB Test Challenges

By Ray Rattey, Texmac Inc. - Flying probe technology has been used to verify bare-board opens and short and as an alternative to in-circuit test (ICT) on populated PCBs for more than 20 years. Test issues caused by complex, dense, or otherwise challenging PCB designs are resolved by double-sided test probe system technology.

Automating Nondestructive Analysis of Underfill in Flip Chips

By Tom Adams, Sonoscan Inc. - Flip chip failure under operating conditions often stems from a root cause in the solder bumps or underfill materials supporting the bumps. Voids, delaminations, and cracks can lead to failures. Individual flip chip inspection can be difficult at production speeds without specialized software tools.

Implementation Challenges for Halogen-free Solder

Concerns about halogen toxicity have brought on reduction/elimination campaigns across the electronics industry, including the soldering materials sector.

Solder Paste Basics: A Round-up

This article asks major suppliers some of the basic questions that every user wants to ask about solder paste.

Industry View: Medical Electronics OEMs: Prepare for Lead-free

The old saying, “It’s never too late,” applies to some Johnny-come-lately medical electronics OEMs that aren’t ready to comply with the EU’s upcoming new RoHS directives.

BBC: Smartphones Drive Mobile Markets

By Mark Ward, technology correspondent, BBC - There is no doubt that 2008 was the year of the smartphone. The last 12 months saw the launch of iconic devices such as the iPhone 3G, Google G1, Blackberry Storm, and Nokia N97. It also saw the emergence of the electronic ecosystems needed to get the most out of such handsets. The popularity of these devices has brought to light several problems that look set to become acute in 2009.

Outlook Dreary for 2009

The outlook for the global electronic equipment industry is dreary, with most of the risk on the downside. The global financial system remains fragile, and is subject to further debilitating shocks. Based on Henderson Ventures' economic forecast, world electronic equipment production is forecast to fall by 2.2% during 2009 after an anemic 1.2% gain in 2008. Moreover, the recovery predicted for 2010 will be less than effervescent. Only a 6.7% increase is now forecast for that year.

Most Popular Articles on

Each year, SMT publishes hundreds of tutorials, opinion columns, expert analyses, tech solutions, editorials, and other features on our homepage, in addition to the latest news and new products. Here is a collection, in no particular order, of the most read articles published on our Website in 2008, including solutions for rework, PCB design, tin whiskers, lead-free soldering, the current business environment, and many other challenges and emerging technologies of the SMT industry.

PCB Designer's Notebook: Selecting Halogen-free (HF) Soldermask Materials

By Vern Solberg - There has been considerable discussion and public concern about flame retardants, halogenated flame retardants in particular. Fortunately for the electronics industry, an EU Risk Assessment concluded that brominated retardant TBBPA does not present a risk to human health or the environment when used in PWBs.

Inside EFD's Solder and Dispense Equipment Manufacturing Operations

EFD hosted an open house at its new, larger East Providence, R.I., facility. SMT toured the solder paste development, manufacturing, and testing areas; dispenser manufacturing; shipping; and other operations at the facility.

Letter to the Editor: An Expert Weighs in on Dross

Dross: Waste, Revenue Source, or Just Another Process to Optimize?

Dross is often thought of as waste, a residue that forms on the surface of a metal from oxidation that looks bubbly, filled with metal impurities. This mass of solid impurities floating on molten metal in wave solder machines can be removed from the process, and recycled by shipping to the recycling site of an outsourced processor or in-house using specialized equipment. With lead-free alloys, recycling now has a monetary consideration. There are a lot of companies that provide help with dross.

Successful Electronics Outsourcing: An Old Concept with a New Twist

By Joe Zaccari, Stilwell Baker - In a contracting environment, many OEMs are experiencing significant challenges in outsourcing product manufacturing. Inability to outsource manufacturing efficiently without outsourcing some of the engineering tasks associated with a design has become prevalent. How can an electronics OEM transition designs to volume manufacturing with the least amount of risk?

New Products in December

Following are the new soldering systems, cleaning materials, training resources, software programs, testers, and other electronics manufacturing products introduced by Zestron, STI Electronics, Lumex, AVX, Corelis, and other companies in the electronics manufacturing supply chain.

Turn Environmental Awareness into Gain

By Simon G. Norman, EVS International - The impact mankind has on our planet makes for uncomfortable reading. Changes put in place now will undoubtedly pay our children back tenfold, but what if being environmentally responsible could pay you back in a year, rather than decades? We follow one electronics company's commitment to the environment through the installation of two solder dross recovery systems.

Reducing and Preventing Tin Corrosion Whiskers

By Olaf Kurtz, Ph.D.; Peter Kühlkamp; Jürgen Barthelmes; and Robert Rüther, Atotech Deutschland GmbH - For the connector and IC/leadframe industries, corrosion can occur on metalized components and products, resulting in malfunctions. This article presents the work done on an effective anti-corrosion treatment* that can mitigate corrosion whisker formation effectively. Process benefits to tin solderability are highlighted.

Embedded Packaging Comes of Age

By Risto Tuominen, Imbera Electronics - The demand for improved functionality within smaller spaces in the electronics arena is straining existing semiconductor and SiP packaging technologies. Several novel technology approaches are being developed to increase product miniaturization and performance. During recent years, component embedding inside PCB motherboards and substrates has generated a lot of attention and is seen as one of the most promising technology solutions for future.

Matching Cleaning Process to Solder Paste

Cleaned electronic circuits represent only a small part of the electronic assembly market, as most companies use a no-clean process. In several sectors – aeronautics, medical, automotive – cleanliness and reliability are crucial.

Via Optimization for Speed

As more PCB designs move toward high-speed serial links with pico-second edge rates, any impedance discontinuity in the channel can affect signal quality adversely

2009 Industry Forecast

This article represents a collection of viewpoints from industry leaders, answering both “How can PCB assemblers control costs in these economic times?” and “What will be the most impactful technological advances in 2009?” Lean manufacturing, creativity in business operation and technological development, and the promise of new energy sources are shared goals.

New Components, Connectors, and Subassemblies

Following are the new surface mount and insertion components, as well as off-the-shelf subassemblies, and various connectors available from companies such as Laird, AVX, Amphenol, FDK, and others. The products suit harsh environments, consumer applications, and other target markets.

New Products of SMT Assembly

Following are the new equipment, solder and materials, and software products released for high-changeover, high-reliability, high-mix, and other challenging SMT assembly environments.

Supplier Quality Doesn't Just Happen

By Robert Rowland, RadiSys - Supplier quality management is a critical success factor, especially when commodities are procured globally and manufacturing is outsourced. Selection, qualification and approval, and monitoring require well-defined processes to ensure quality expectations are achieved consistently. Focus on preventive actions rather than waiting for problems to occur.

The Restructuring Supply Chain

The reorganization effort is underway across the supply chain lately, as the home loan collapse snowballed into the credit crunch, then into the global financial crisis. Respondents to our 2009 forecast question, "How can PCB assemblers cut costs in 2009?" pointed to smart management and lean manufacturing. Companies from Camtek to Rockwell Collins announced cost-cutting plans of late.

From the Show: IMAPS 2008

Conferences abound in the electronics industry. After a while, attendees have to choose between local shows where drayage and employee travel times do not require hotel stays and the larger shows where travel and coverage prove costly. Fortunately, IMAPS 2008 had great international participation, good attendance, and excellent presentations. From keynoters to the technologically educational papers, the show was sound. And it was close to home for SMT editors.

New Products Online

We're featuring the debuts of next-generation sockets, dry boxes, thermal profiling software, laser inspection systems, cleanroom wipes, a 10 Gbit/sec. assembly, pick-and-place systems, vacuum tables, and soldering machines.

Names in News

Following are the outreach initiatives, industry recognitions, new hires and promotions, and more announcements from suppliers like Zestron America, Cognex, Allied, Kraydenmex, Fine Line Stencil, The Morey Corp., DEK Solar, Electronic Interconnect Technology, IPC, Balver Zinn, iNEMI, and Seica.

DfM Navigation Tools for PCB Success

By Nolan Johnson, Sunstone Circuits - Of the key decisions that can improve design for manufacture (DfM) and design for yield (DfY), 75% of the impact of those decisions will be made before the design leaves the CAD tool environment. With the realization that designers influence ultimate yield, it makes sense to give designers as much useable information as possible to improve the assembly. The role of DfM/DfY is to provide a feedback loop for the engineering and design team.

The Importance of Global Technical Support

Harald Wack, Ph.D., ZESTRON America - Numerous companies have shifted their main production facilities from service-driven economies to lower wage, developing countries. It is clear that to take advantage of technological advancements, we must continue to use our competitive, educational edge. Customers expect a global mindset with excellent service.

November New Product Showcase

New products released to the SMT assembly market include pressure-indicating films for adhesive applications, components and off-the-shelf modules, MSD moisture-control cabinets, final assembly components, XRF systems, programming software for automated tools, soldering system controls, automated programmers, rework systems, and test analysis systems.

How to Use Machine Calibration Techniques

Information provided by CeTaQ - Machine calibration can increase the efficiency of a production line, reduce rework, improve manufacturing accuracy, and enable use of more advanced components and board designs. Knowing the many possibilities available for machine calibration is key to maximizing its benefits for your assembly and inspection lines.

The Evolution of Start-ups: Nextreme Meets Its Market

Start-ups face an uphill battle, with strong competition, limited access to resources, and a market that often isn't ready. We spoke with Nextreme's Paul Magill, Ph.D., about Voxtel's addition of Nextreme's thermoelectric cooler into its VDHAX APD receivers. This marks a new phase in our evolution, says Magill, asserting that the market is ready for their thermal management advances.

U.S. Assemblers Growing Businesses

ENDICOTT, N.Y. and WOODRIDGE, Ill. – Endicott Interconnect Technologies Inc. (EI – is looking to add more than 150 professional and full-time manufacturing employees during Q’04 2008.

SIM Card Connectors

The expanded 9162 family of SIM card connectors includes three versions designed to reduce space and provide extra security.

The Silver Debate: Sn/Cu-based Solder Explained

Lead-free solder alloys with micro-additions like nickel and germanium are finding increased acceptance globally, entering the mainstream for high-reliability PCBAs.

Placement Quality Affects Costs

Each of the main SMT assembly processes has quality criteria that help determine the total process DPMO, which determines FPY.

Keeping Your Cool with Thermal Analysis

Thermal issues increase due to the competing requirements of higher complexity, lower cost, and faster time to market.

Making the Switch from Board Fabricator to EMS Provider

Decimated by post-9/11 cutbacks, offshore fabricators, and environmental legislation, one U.S.-based bare-board company decided to transition to a contract PCB assembler.

STEP 10: Rework Silicone Conformal Coatings

Conformal coatings – generally one of the last production processes performed on a PCB – continue to see increased usage and popularity.

Reballing Rework: The Bright New Future

By Kris Roberson, MIT, BEST Inc. - Components are always evolving, which brought us the BGA. Add in RoHS and WEEE, and BGA rework becomes an exciting topic. To rework or install a BGA on a lead-free assembly, reballing is necessary. Here, we look at the history and the why and how of reballing, examining a reballing technique that could increase operator ease and assembly reliability.

Willingness to Take on Big Challenges: REACH and SIN

The EU's REACH requires companies producing in or exporting to the EU to register chemicals they place in the EU market in amounts above one metric ton. EU officials will evaluate whether companies registering these chemicals have demonstrated safe production and use of them. But how will REACH impact U.S. companies?

Moisture Sensitivity Concerns in PCBs for Lead-free Assemblies

By Ray Prasad, Ray Prasad Consultancy Group - During the early stages of lead-free implementation, we were concerned with lead-free alloy selection and reliability issues. Now a new issue has cropped up — PCB delamination and moisture sensitivity and steps necessary to control them.

Analysts on Flexible, Organic, and Printable Electronics

NanoMarkets and IDTechEx both released reports on flexible, printed, and organic electronics (FPOE), including data on dielectric materials for next-generation thin-film, organic, and printable electronics assemblies; applications for these technologies; end products in the market now; and an upcoming printed electronics show.

The Double Edged Sword for Green Initiatives

By Chris Rehl, CIMTEK - The green movement sweeping across companies worldwide may be politically and environmentally correct, but it also is creating some concerns among electronic manufacturers who are at the front line of these initiatives. Product lifecycle and quality control testing can provide the data and the direction to make green initiatives successful.

New Electronics Assembly Products

New products coming into the supply chain range from flexible test platforms to surface mount connectors, selective soldering systems, conductive epoxies, pick-and-place vision systems, and strain gauge simulation. Suppliers include CheckSum, Bliss Industries, CeTaQ, Zierick, Conductive Compounds, RPS Automation, Pickering Interfaces, Epson Toyocom, and APS Novastar.

Changing Times: Where to Find Cleaning Today

By Tom Forsythe - Beginning in the 1990s, soldering technology advances, ever-shortening product lifecycles, the global ban on CFC-113, and other technology advances together brought on the era of no-clean soldering. While cleaning never truly disappeared, significant segments of the industry moved away from cleaning, far away. At the time, they did not need a cleaning process. But those times are changing.

From the Editor: EMS Trends

Cosponsoring the A-Line at IPC Midwest gave me a unique insight into the amount of work that goes into every PCB assembly manufactured. To dig deeper, I chaired a panel of EMS providers on keeping lines running efficiently and keeping OEM customers on track and happy, for product development, NPI, manufacturing, and program management. Concise, efficient, and resourceful. What else would you expect from this industry?

Events around the Industry

Newark will host an online networking and educational event on energy-efficient electronics; SMTA released the final program for Pan Pac 2009; and IPC announced an all-academic poster competition to take place at IPC APEX EXPO.

Association News

IPC released power conversion standard IPC-9592; the ESD Association (ESDA) elected board members and officers for 2009; and SMTA is looking for papers for its 6th annual Medical Electronics Symposium.

Part 3: PCB Designer's Notebook: IC Component Package Evolution and the Impact of Lead-free Soldering

By Vern Solberg - Although the majority of ICs in use today are SO and fine-pitch leaded devices, many new product offerings are furnished without leads. Another shift is the move to lead-free board assembly. Will part numbers of components that are in compliance with RoHS change?

It's What's Inside That Counts: Embedded Components

Recently, PCB fabricator Ibiden Co. Ltd., with more than 12,000 employees and about $4 billion in consolidated annual sales, announced that they would be licensing Finland-based Imbera's embedded packaging technology. We knew that this had to be a solid way to embed components into the PCB. When you think about creating a functionally dense system, the directions seem to be building up — a stacked package — or down — into the board material in an embedded active or passive device.

Solder Charge — An Alternative to BGA

By Herbert Endres, Molex - Traditional techniques of applying solder have become impractical for today's high-density mezzanine connector market. To stay relevant, connector manufacturers have designed new methods for attaching surface mounted connectors. A new solder charge method has proven to provide good fatigue strength and lower applied costs compared to traditional SMT mounting methods.

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