Better to Light a Candle: Chapter Six—Spreading the Word

Editor’s Note: This column is part of a series on the university course in PCB manufacturing at Michigan Technological University (MTU). Marc will chronicle the progress of this class, interview the guest lecturers, introduce the students, etc.

In the first five issues of this column series, I reported on one grass-roots industry/academia collaborative effort to prepare the next generation of PCB “experts.” Individuals and companies from all over the U.S. have been able to come together to pass on PCB experience through a very hands-on design, build, assemble, and test opportunity at Michigan Technological University, addressing one small aspect of a much larger issue (i.e., the printed circuit engineering shortage over the next few years). Other workforce development options (i.e., programs in K–8, STEM/Certified Technical Education [CTE] programs in high school, and technical certificate and associate degree programs in the field) are necessary as well, and you’re encouraged to get involved however you think best. The important thing is to get involved.

In this issue, I’ll provide a brief status 2020 reprise/expansion class at MTU and report on efforts to get similar local industry/academia partner classes started elsewhere.

2020 MTU Class Status

As a reminder, there are two class portions: a printed circuit seminar series (EE 2230), and a hands-on printed circuit fabrication portion (EE 2231). The ”hands-on” portion of the fabrication experience has been (somewhat) consolidated by location, making it a little easier to coordinate the activities of the students, although capacity still limits the class size to 18 students, and Dr. Middlebrook has done a masterful juggling act to maximize access to throughput-limiting equipment (press, drill, etc.). Uniformity of etching is an equipment issue, which has to be balanced against available space.

Once again, I’d like to thank the subject-matter experts and lecturers for donating their time and expertise and their employers for underwriting travel expenses and diverting critical personnel from their immediate commercial needs to support this effort. Here is the updated calendar of guest lectures for the 2020 classes at MTU, many of which have already occurred.

  • January 13: Class overview, Dr. Chris Middlebrook, MTU
  • January 15: Introduction to the PCB industry and market, Todd Brassard, Calumet Electronics
  • January 17: PWB 101, Marc Carter, Aeromarc LLC
  • January 22: Design and layout (primarily Altium), Chris Jennings, Altium
  • January 24: HDI design strategies and materials, Happy Holden, I-Connect007
  • January 27: Front-end data conversion to DFM, Jose Cordero, Calumet Electronics
  • January 29: Layup/press operations, Rich Snogren, Bristlecon LLC
  • January 31: Mechanical drill (via formation), Herb Snogren, Bristlecone LLC
  • February 3: Photo-resist/image transfer, Marc Carter, Aeromarc LLC
  • February 10: Additive vs. subtractive, Audra Thurston/Brian Hess, Calumet Electronics
  • February 12: Laser ablation/microvia formation, Herb Snogren, Bristlecon LLC
  • February 14: Operations of PCB manufacturing, Todd Brassard, Calumet Electronics
  • February 17: Connecting circuit layers with copper, William Bowerman, MacDermid Alpha
  • February 19: PCBs are 100% chemical, Donald Cullen, MacDermid Alpha
  • February 21: Environmental: Wastewater and recycling (tentative), Happy Holden, I-Connect007
  • February 24: Digital processing: Solder mask and beyond, Audra Thurston, Calumet Electronics
  • February 26: Assembly considerations: Solder paste selection, dispense, Brian Barksdale, Gentex
  • February 28: Assembly considerations: Components (prep, verification, placement, reflow), Brian Barksdale, Gentex
  • March 2: Solderable finishes, John Swanson, MacDermid Alpha
  • March 4: Assembly materials, John Swanson, MacDermid Alpha
  • March 6: Microvia reliability, Audra Thurston/Lee Mayra, Calumet Electronics
  • March 16: Electronic failure-mode analysis, Kirk van Dreel, Plexus
  • March 18: Assembly process design and optimization, Kirk van Dreel, Plexus
  • March 20: Connectors: Design and manufacturing, Doug Schueller, Abelconn/Atrenne/Celestica
  • March 23: Design considerations: Design for solvability, Mike Creeden, Insulectro
  • March 25: Design considerations: Design for manufacturability, Mike Creeden, Insulectro
  • March 27: Design considerations: Design for reliability, Mike Creeden, Insulectro
  • March 30: Final finishes (plating with and without electricity), George Milad, Uyemura
  • April 1: Process control: General concepts, goals, and objectives, David Sullivan, Printed Circuit Solutions
  • April 3: Process control: Practical applications of SPC, CpK, etc., David Sullivan, Printed Circuit Solutions
  • April 6: Flex and rigid-flex technology, Lee Mayra, Calumet Electronics
  • April 8: Smart factory and Industry 4.0, Happy Holden, I-Connect007
  • April 10: Future electronic technologies, Happy Holden, I-Connect007
  • April 13: Flexible hybrid/3D-printed electronics, Girish Wable, Jabil Inc.
  • April 15: Electrical engineering and PCB design: What your future employer wants you to know, Judy Warner, Altium
  • April 17: Industry standards: Just another manufacturing tool, Marc Carter, Aeromarc LLC
  • April 20: TBD
  • April 22: Class review, project presentations, etc., Dr. Chris Middlebrook, MTU
  • April 24: Class review, project presentations, etc., Dr. Chris Middlebrook, MTU

Establishing Classes Elsewhere

It’s in the very early days, but I’m excited about the Seattle-area prospects. Russ Adams, Mark Thompson, and Lee Salazar (Prototron); Joe Fjelstad (Verdant Electronics); Tamara Shephard (SMTA); and I are reaching out to Lake Washington Technical Institute. Prototron and SMTA already have working relationships with LWIT’s School of Manufacturing-Electronics Technology program. Further afield, preliminary contact with the University of Washington-Bothell has been initiated.

Other outreach efforts include continued contact with the University of South Florida and the Florida SMTA chapter in and around Tampa. Preliminary contacts have also been initiated with industry partners in Toronto, Tucson, and Denver areas.

I’ll keep you posted on progress.

For further information, you can reach Dr. Chris Middlebrook at or me at

Marc Carter has worked in the electronics interconnection industry since 1984 in a variety of roles in fabrication and assembly materials, processes, environmental compliance, and supply chain management activities around the world. He has had the honor and privilege of working with and learning from many of the true giants of this industry in multiple functions over many years. His experience includes a major mil-aero OEM, field and development work at materials suppliers to the printed circuit industry, and an educational stint as the sole proprietor of a manufacturer’s agency representing multiple high-tech mil-aero material suppliers.



Better to Light a Candle: Chapter Six—Spreading the Word


In the first five issues of this column series, I reported on one grass-roots industry/academia collaborative effort to prepare the next generation of PCB “experts.” In "Chapter 6," Marc Carter provides a brief status 2020 reprise/expansion class at MTU and report on efforts to get similar local industry/academia partner classes started elsewhere.

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Better to Light a Candle: Chapter Five—2020 Reprise of MTU PCB Course


Continuing his series on the university course in PCB manufacturing at Michigan Technological University, Marc Carter provides some feedback in the form of testimonials from students who participated in the 2019 classes, as well as a preliminary look at the upcoming “new and improved” 2020 reprise/expansion class at MTU.

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Better to Light a Candle: Using Industry Standards as Another PWB Manufacturing Tool


Some people will say, "Standards are so boring!" To that, I might respond, "Well, that's kind of the point." When you're in production manufacturing, a "boring" day (i.e., everything works smoothly with no disruptions, and everybody shares clear expectations) can be a welcome relief from your usual. But what should we do with all of these standards anyway?

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Better to Light a Candle: Chapter Four—Next Steps for Developing the Future Workforce


This fourth installment of Marc Carter's column series will give the prospects and status of repeat (perhaps even expanded) classes at Michigan Tech, and report on developing contacts at other prospective university, industry, and government nodes for similar efforts to ensure basic printed circuit technology familiarity of college graduates over the next few years.

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Better to Light a Candle: Chapter Three—First-year Recap of the PCB Fabrication Course at MTU


In the third installment of this column series, Marc Carter acknowledges the many organizations and individuals that willingly and freely contributed their time, materials, and support to make this first “prototype” effort a success. This article also gives a sneak preview of some of the efforts underway to expand the efforts at MTU and to start similar grassroots, industry-academia supported programs elsewhere.

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Better to Light a Candle: Chapter Two—Introduction to PCB Fabrication


As a reminder, “EE4800: Printed Circuit Board Fabrication” is a hands-on class intended to give engineering undergraduate students an introduction to the basics of printed circuit design, fabrication, and assembly, which started on January 14 of this year.

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Better to Light a Candle: Chapter One—Prepping the Next Generation


There has been a considerable amount of (electronic) ink and words shared in our industry bemoaning the graying-out of our industry and the growing shortage of skilled people at all levels. (See the May 2017 PCB007 Magazine column “Help Wanted—and How!” for just one example). As is usually the case, though, when all is said and done, more has been said than done.

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