Flex Talk: Thoughts on the IPC Flexible Circuits–HDI Forum


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As an attendee at the IPC Flexible Circuits–HDI Conference held October 28–30, I found myself in a room full of people, all eager for technical information, with the opportunity to reconnect with industry friends and to make new connections. The audience was diverse with young people, new to our industry, sitting alongside industry veterans willingly sharing their knowledge and passion for HDI design and flexible circuit technology. The conference kicked off with intermediate level, half day tutorials on both flexible circuit design and HDI. The second and third days provided advanced level speaker presentations in 45-minute segments allowing time to digest the information, speak further with the presenters and network with industry peers.

Two comments made early in the technical conference solidified an event message in my mind. Event Chair Mike Carano, with RBP Chemical Technology, commented in his opening remarks that networking is one the greatest opportunities available with IPC. Brad Bourne of FTG gave the keynote presentation, “Organizational Commitment to High Reliability.” He presented the message that PCB reliability goes way beyond the manufacturing of the printed circuit board. Everyone in the industry impacts reliability: circuit board designers, raw material suppliers, fabricators, contract manufacturers and end users of the product.  

Following the opening keynote, we were treated to a presentation by Andrew Schimmoeller and Jeffrey Friend of the Battelle NeuroLife Project. Their riveting presentation explained the use of flexible circuits in the design of a neurological stimulation system that re-animated a paralyzed hand, controlled by patient thoughts. I have re-watched the short video on this topic several times since the event. This is an inspiring example of the things our industry can accomplish by working together.

Throughout the conference, there were several presentations addressing flex and rigid-flex, including:  design rules for flex performance, high-reliability flex and rigid flex, flex vs. flexibility and new developments in HDI technology. Beyond fabrication and design related information, we also learned of unique challenges with flex and rigid-flex in terms of stack up and impedance, reducing fabrication challenges with new materials, metallization for HDI and flex circuit technology. The amount of relevant technical knowledge disseminated in a short time period was staggering. I was continually reminded of the power of the combined knowledge of our speakers.

While many of the presentations detailed proven technology, reliability data and design criteria, we also learned of exciting emerging technologies including the latest developments in thin film metallization and via filling and a novel new approach for applying metallization to ultra-thin substrates.   It will be interesting to follow these new technologies and see how they develop over the next few years.

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