Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: How Effective Is Your PCB Microelectronics Assembly?

There is a good chance that all PCB microelectronics assembly and manufacturing processes are not created equal. Currently, that can be a major issue for medical OEMs who are now in the midst of developing or producing their newly advanced miniature medical products.

You must first consider the new remarkably tiny sensors, biosensors, micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) devices, chip on board (CoB), and flip chip devices going into those miniature medical products. That’s the initial step in determining whether you have an effective microelectronics assembly and manufacturing line for miniature medical PCBs.

These very tiny devices and other miniature components are critical electronics parts in such small medical products as wearable, insertable, ingestible, or implantable devices. Also, you must take a step back to consider that chip vendors are at the cutting edge of technology with these tiny semiconductor devices. 

In short, chip companies may not have finalized and completely proven their procedures and manufacturing steps for these highly advanced devices, which are still in the developmental phase. Sometimes, these devices are experimental, and as such, they don’t have the fully disclosed documentation, which is essential from an IC manufacturing company.

Therefore, the result is procedures, processes, and intricate details associated with those devices that are fuzzy, and often not available.  In cases like this, it is up to the EMS company or CM to rely on its brain power, tribal knowledge base, and foundation of assembly and manufacturing experience to figure out not only the processes but also step-by-step methodologies for an accurate PCB microelectronics assembly.

Here are some microelectronics assembly examples that can be associated with certain issues. Sometimes, we’re using floating dies for a given medical device application. At times, it’s difficult to pick up a die very precisely as they come in the whole gamut of options like waffle pack, waffle rings or gel packs. When it comes to floating dies, there are additional challenges associated with this process, since the wire bonding process must hold the die in its place without having a base or adhesive in place to hold the dies.

 

Another example is associated with a fragile device. Remember, some of these sensors, biosensors, MEMS devices, CoB, and flip chips are not only very small, but also flimsy, very thin, and extremely fragile. Therefore, you must have a precise pick up and placement tool for extreme accuracy. At the same time, you must ensure that you’re developing a reliable and repeatable process for placing those intricate dies and components.

Even when you are picking these fragile devices up using a vacuum, nozzle, or another pickup tool or device, sometimes there is a limitation as to where to pick up the sensors. This is especially true if it’s an image processing or image capturing sensor. Again, these sensors are very small. Therefore, it’s important to assure that the image sensor is intact while picking it up and placing it because a very small pickup mark can degrade the image sensor, or in some cases, damage it.

Not only does the image capturing sensor need to be placed accurately, but it must be placed at a certain point, specific area, or physical location on the board. So, it very difficult to find the right method for this pick-and-place that maintains accurate tolerances. In most cases, customized tooling is required for picking up these sensors and devices. 

DOE Steps In
In these instances, the EMS company or CM must think outside the box. The key methodology known as design of experiment or DOE is a critical component to create solutions in this scenario. In short, experiments are conducted to resolve microelectronics assembly and manufacturing issues associated with tools, processes, and procedures.

Those solutions are reached by figuring out and performing experiments from time to time and changing one variable at a time to make placements accurately. In the case of wire bonding, this is done by successfully continuing the process with inspection and ensuring it is a reliable assembly by performing pull or shear test. This is to make sure that bonding is performed per specifications and is 100% reliable. 

It’s also possible that after conducting experiments and doing three to five iterations, for example, that specific experiments may not work in the end and you have to start over from scratch. But that’s part of the DOE process, and it’s not a cup of tea for a number of PCB microelectronics assembly and manufacturing companies.

Certainly, there are major challenges. So, it takes a willingness, experience, and a dedicated effort to seriously undertake those new challenges. Take NexLogic, as an example. The DOE program here is established. It takes considerable brainstorming and customer interactions to devise procedures to design a process and develop step-by-step methodologies to perform DOEs. By doing so, we succeed in performing the assembly, which was difficult and intricate to begin with.

Overcoming issues involves creating new fixtures, tooling, and jigs, for example. Those are crucial for picking up dies, placing them accurately and sometimes, performing controlled dispensing. At times, there are stiffeners attached to flex material, and those stiffeners must be placed at the right location and in the right orientations.

Sometimes, a special tool must be created for dispensing of dies, epoxies, fluids, or underfill material. Dispensing is done at a very controlled pace on a very small surface and at very precise locations. These are tiny board areas where extremely controlled dispensing is performed in microns rather than mils.

At the same time, you need a fixture, tool, or jig to pick up a sensor, MEMS device, or flip chip. Also, highly accurate, very specialized machines operated by experienced technicians are an essential part of conducting DOEs in these and other instances. DOEs involve a continuation of developing and creating new tools, processes, and devices to achieve the goal of making proof of concept happen for those sensors, biosensors, MEMS devices, and flip chips to be assembled properly.

Once that DOE aspect is done, then comes final verification. This important part of the DOE deals with total inspections, including final QC testing to assure the outgoing product—as a prototype, medium, or production build—is accurately performed without any issues. For that, you need specialized devices like high-powered X-ray machines and high magnifying digital microscopes, for example. Plus, you need testers to test voltages, currents, or in some cases, physical wire strength. 

In summary, DOEs that are tailored for accurate PCB microelectronics assembly and manufacturing demand very comprehensive processes, careful study of the project, and carefully reading spec sheets, tech notes, and other documentation. Then, you conduct a brainstorming session with the manufacturing team. These steps are essential to assure the best way to tackle each project, create step-by-step process methods, and determine the necessary instructions. After the DOE is done, you verify and inspect it to assure the project is assembled with high-quality, repeatability, reliability, and accuracy.

Zulki Khan is the president and founder of NexLogic Technologies Inc.

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2021

Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: How Effective Is Your PCB Microelectronics Assembly?

05-05-2021

There is a good chance that all PCB microelectronics assembly and manufacturing processes are not created equal. In today’s day and age, that can be a major issue for medical OEMs who are now in the midst of developing or producing their newly advanced miniature medical products.

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Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: Five Key Benefits for Onshoring PCB Microelectronics Assembly

04-06-2021

There are five key benefits to U. S. OEMs for onshoring PCB microelectronics assembly and manufacturing, but this discussion is prefaced by this fact: the future lies in PCB microelectronics assemblies compared to traditional SMT assemblies.

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Zulki's PCB Nuggets: Onshoring for PCB Microelectronics Production?

03-04-2021

Many OEMs may not be aware that here in the U. S., microelectronics assembly and manufacturing is leading in technology advances and provides OEMs a relatively easier way to bring that production back to the U. S. compared to on shoring PCB SMT production.

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Zulki's PCB Nuggets: Take a Deep Dive Into U.S. Medical Device Production

01-27-2021

There are new angles, new thinking emerging for medical OEMs to consider in order to keep production in the U. S. versus overseas. The foremost thinking (biggest challenge) associated with those angles focuses on whether the product can be produced cost effectively in a timely fashion, so it’s distributed in the supply chain for a given medical device OEM.

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Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: Is U.S. Production Ready for Advanced Medical Devices?

01-06-2021

Medical electronics OEMs may be able to move forward with their prototypes into pilot, medium, and high runs right here on American soil. And it may be sooner than later due in large part to the advances in PCB microelectronics assembly, and perhaps, a helping hand from the U.S. government.

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2020

Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: Wire Bonding and CoB for PCB Microelectronics Assembly

12-09-2020

Real estate continues to be a precious commodity for substrates, package sizes, dies, and PCBs. But now, the industry is taking another stab at further reducing PCB real estate. Zulki Khan examines wire bonding and chip on board (CoB) to point out what might be best for your medical electronics device while undergoing PCB microelectronics assembly.

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Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: Consider Low-Temp Solder for PCB Microelectronics Assembly

11-11-2020

With newer, smaller devices coming on the market, EMS providers and contract manufacturers (CMs) must adjust their PCB assembly technologies to comply with these demands. Zulki Khan details how thermal profiling and the use of the correct solder paste become an even more critical step than before in conventional SMT and the newer microelectronics assembly.

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Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: What’s Different Between C2 and C4 for PCB Microelectronics Assembly?

10-21-2020

In Zulki Khan's last column he talked about flip-chip ball grid array (BGA), or FCBGA, making its grand entrance into PCB microelectronics assembly. But that subject requires a lot more digging to get the full story for OEMs planning highly advanced products that demand PCB microelectronics assembly. In that regard, C4 and C2 bumps for flip-chip assemblies are among the top techniques that require close attention.

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Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: FCBGA Packaging Enters PCB Microelectronics Assembly

09-09-2020

The demand for smaller circuitry and packaging, as well as ever-shrinking PCB real estate, have continually pushed PCB assembly and manufacturing protocols. Part of these technological advances involves a combination of flip-chip and BGA (FCBGA) packaging. Zulki Khan explains the importance of FCBGAs.

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Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: DOEs on Call for New Wearable Medical Devices

08-05-2020

Zulki Khan explores how biosensors for human-machine interfaces (HMIs) and new, flexible electrodes are leading the way, are among the most recent developments and promise more sophisticated medical wearable devices for health monitoring.

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Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: Soft Electronics Pose PCB Microelectronics Assembly Challenges

07-08-2020

Zulki Khan explains how PCBs have moved from traditional large rigid boards to considerably smaller rigid and combinations of rigid and flex circuit boards, even to the point that bare chips and wire bonding are used during the PCB microelectronics assembly of these tiny boards.

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Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: Medical Miniaturization and PCB Microelectronics Assembly

06-24-2020

Medical electronics continue to be a gamechanger, with miniaturization being foremost today in the minds of medical OEMs. Zulki Khan discusses how there is a growing demand for even greater device and component miniaturization that plays a major role in the PCB microelectronics assembly of these medical devices today.

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Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: Add Hi-rel to ISO 13485 for More Robust Ventilator PCBs

05-13-2020

It's important to meet FDA and ISO 13485 standard quality and reliability requirements for ventilators and other medical equipment. Zulki Khan explains how there’s still more that ventilator OEMs need to put into practice, specifically in the high-reliability or “high-rel” area to further add to ISO 13485.

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Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: Urgent Call for Ventilators—PCB Technology at the Ready

04-15-2020

An urgent call is out to medical equipment makers that thousands—even millions—of ventilators are in the greatest demand in our history due to the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak. Zulki Khan explains how new ventilator makers—as well as traditional ones—must weigh a number of key PCB design, assembly, and manufacturing factors.

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Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: Putting the Heat on for Thermal Profiling

03-11-2020

A unique thermal profile is designed for each PCB job undergoing conventional SMT assembly, as virtually every PCB assembly professional knows. But what about a PCB assembly project involving both conventional rigid board and an extraordinarily small rigid or rigid-flex circuit undergoing microelectronics assembly? Zulki Khan covers PCB hybrid assembly, which requires two separate, unique, and distinctly different thermal profiles.

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2019

Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: Vital Details for Implantable Medical Devices

12-04-2019

In addition to smart pills and smart cameras, which Zulki Khan covered in a previous column, another segment of the medical electronics devices market is rapidly growing, as well: implantable medical devices, which medical personnel surgically or otherwise insert into various parts of the human body. Zulki explains the extra measures required for these devices.

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Zulki's PCB Nuggets: Multi-tier Wire Bonding—Diving Into PCB Microelectronics

11-07-2019

As the name implies, multi-tier wire bonding involves several levels of wire bonding beyond the single level of wire bonding, which is traditionally used in semiconductor and/or PCB microelectronics assembly. Here, you have two, three, and four levels of wire bonding, in some cases, called stacked wire bonding. Also, multi-tier wire bonding offers OEMs a solution when the number of inputs/outputs (I/Os) are far beyond the traditional ones that are used in the single wire-bonding application.

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Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: Smart Pills & Cameras—The Next Frontier for PCB Microelectronics

10-23-2019

"Take two aspirin and call me in the morning," is the proverbial, jovial, and often-cited elixir that doctors have prescribed over the years for whatever ails you. Today, medical electronics are adopting the same concept but with new technologies. Now, the phrase, "Take two aspirin," takes on new meaning, as medical electronics move into new frontiers of inspecting a human’s gastrointestinal tract with new, revolutionary ingestible smart pills and "pill cams."

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Zulki's PCB Nuggets: A Better Grasp of Glob Top Epoxy Factors

09-25-2019

In my last column, I cited important aspects of glob top epoxies, calling attention to the fact there are different epoxy manufacturers. In this column, I will continue to emphasize six other important factors of glob top epoxies.

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Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: Get a Handle on Glob Top Epoxies

09-12-2019

Most often, glob top is the prevalent method EMS providers use today. However, the most important point to be made about glob top is the fact that multiple manufacturers are producing different glob top epoxies. And within each manufacturer, there are numerous types of epoxies being produced. Another key point is that EMS providers and contract manufacturers generally are the ones deciding on the kind of epoxy to use. This column will further describe how you can get a handle on glob top epoxies.

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Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: Protect the Die and Wire Bonding for Effective PCB Microelectronics Assembly

07-31-2019

Protecting bare dies on a PCB or substrate is a major process of microelectronics assembly. As we’ve said before, microelectronics assembly and manufacturing work in tandem with traditional SMT manufacturing for complete PCB hybrid manufacturing of today’s smaller form factor products, including IoT, wearables, and portable devices.

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Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: PCB Microelectronics—Inspection and Calibration

07-18-2019

Microelectronics manufacturing is the companion of SMT manufacturing and forms PCB hybrid manufacturing. Tools for SMT manufacturing have been around for a long time and have proven their value. Now, with microelectronics, new and different types of high-powered laser microscopes are populating the microelectronics assembly and manufacturing area to provide highly effective inspection and calibration.

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Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: Three Die Attach Methods for Microelectronics Manufacturing

06-27-2019

Die attach technology is increasingly being applied in PCB hybrid manufacturing (i.e., combining traditional SMT manufacturing with microelectronics) to comply with the requirements of small PCBs, especially rigid, flex, and combination rigid-flex circuit boards. These smaller boards are used in a variety of IoT, wearable, and portable applications.

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Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: Consider the Integrity of Wire Bonding

06-12-2019

While reliability and integrity can be regarded as synonymous as far as PCB manufacturing with microelectronics assemblies is concerned, the integrity of wire bonding—the methodology of interconnecting the wire to the bond pad—takes on other reliability-associated process qualities. Here are three factors that need to be implemented to create the integrity of wire bonding.

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Zulki’s PCB Nuggets: Avoid PCB Wire-bond Loop Failures

05-30-2019

Today, hybrid PCB manufacturing is making greater inroads into our industry, which is the marriage of traditional SMT manufacturing together with microelectronics and wire bonding. In many cases, the OEM working with EMS providers doesn’t fully understand the nuances of effective wire bonding and related failures.

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2014

Tighter Scrutiny Needed for PCB Cleaning Agents

05-13-2014

PCB cleanliness on the assembly floor is now getting more attention, due to tiny residues and contaminants being left on assemblies after new, advanced assembly processes. Cleaning methodologies, testing, analysis, and special chemistries are being taken to a new level to assure customers of ultraclean boards to avoid costly latent issues.

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Zulki's PCB Nuggets: Tighter Scrutiny Needed for PCB Cleaning Agents

05-13-2014

PCB cleanliness on the assembly floor is now getting more attention, due to tiny residues and contaminants being left on assemblies after new, advanced assembly processes. Cleaning methodologies, testing, analysis, and special chemistries are being taken to a new level to assure customers of ultraclean boards to avoid costly latent issues.

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Uncovering Assembly Problems of High-Speed PCBs

03-12-2014

The high-speed board may be perfect when it comes to BGA assembly. All the balls properly collapse; all the thermal profiles are accurately determined and performed. All soak temperatures, pre-heat, soak, and cool-off periods fall within manufacturer limits and ranges. Yet, this high-speed board fails at high speed at the time of system functional level testing in the system.

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Zulki's PCB Nuggets: Uncovering Assembly Problems of High-Speed PCBs

03-12-2014

The high-speed board may be perfect when it comes to BGA assembly. All the balls properly collapse; all the thermal profiles are accurately determined and performed. All soak temperatures, pre-heat, soak, and cool-off periods fall within manufacturer limits and ranges. Yet, this high-speed board fails at high speed at the time of system functional level testing in the system.

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EMS Discovers Mature IC Technologies

01-14-2014

Columnist Zulki Khan asks, "Did you know that really new, up-to-the-moment PCB technologies are nesting on the doorstep of PCB assemblers?" In fact, he says some of these technologies are very mature, but they're completely new to the assembly side of things.

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Zulki's PCB Nuggets: EMS Discovers Mature IC Technologies

01-14-2014

Columnist Zulki Khan asks, "Did you know that really new, up-to-the-moment PCB technologies are nesting on the doorstep of PCB assemblers?" In fact, he says some of these technologies are very mature, but they're completely new to the assembly side of things.

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2013

Another Look at AOI

11-13-2013

PCB inspection is taking on greater significance as boards and packaging become increasingly smaller, with greater functionality. Automated optical inspection (AOI) and its backup associate, X-ray, team up to catch a variety of board assembly problems. But it's AOI that's at the forefront of this process.

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Zulki's PCB Nuggets: Another Look at AOI

11-13-2013

PCB inspection is taking on greater significance as boards and packaging become increasingly smaller, with greater functionality. Automated optical inspection (AOI) and its backup associate, X-ray, team up to catch a variety of board assembly problems. But it's AOI that's at the forefront of this process.

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Zulki's PCB Nuggets: ECOs Reviewed - The Importance of Accuracy

09-11-2013

Designers can perfectly layout a design and, in theory, follow written specifications to the letter, but when one factors in the practicality of that design, virtually everything associated with it has its limitations--ranging from the material used to make the board to assembly, machine tolerances, and process limitations.

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