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Getting to Know Your Designer
In this issue, we examine how fabs work with their design customers, educating them on the critical elements of fabrication needed to be successful, as well as the many tradeoffs involved. How well do you really know your customer? What makes for a closer, more synchronized working relationship?
In this issue, the biggest names in PCB manufacturing share their economic outlook for the upcoming year and beyond. As you will see, they were all bullish on our industry, but there was some apprehension as well. No one wants to get burned by another the supply chain disruption.
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Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
The European Angle
By Pete Starkey
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An Inside Look: UK's Hayling Island ICT Seminar
Thankful for a respite from three months of miserable English summer weather, over 100 printed circuit enthusiasts made the journey south across Langstone Bridge in bright September sunshine to attend the Institute of Circuit Technology (ICT) Seminar in Hayling Island, now firmly established as the venue for a not-to-be-missed annual event on the PCB industry’s technical calendar.
ICT Chairman Martin Goosey welcomed the delegates, commenting that membership of the Institute, now in its 38th year, continues to grow in numbers. He was delighted to announce that Ocean Ho, Spirit Circuits’ sourcing manager who travelled from China to attend the seminar, had been elected as a member of the institute and presented his membership certificate.
Professor Goosey introduced the first speaker, Spirit Circuits' Managing Director Steve Driver, recognised for his talent in presenting serious messages with a touch of mischief and good humour, whose theme was “Be British, Think Global.” Once Driver had completed his inevitable mockery of associates and contemporaries, he focused on recent events in the UK--Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games in particular--and how the excitement and elation that these had generated should form a foundation for positive thinking against a background of economic gloom. Although the PCB industry had not been in good shape, Driver believed it still held some great opportunities. Citing Graphic PLC as a success story, and probably the best PCB company in the UK, he remarked upon their strategic thinking--UK manufacturing, trading globally: Chinese joint venture with Somacis, acquisition of Printca in Denmark--and the attributes of Graphic Chairman Rex Rozario OBE: Grit and commitment, tenacity, enthusiasm, vigour, passion, charisma, and vision. Driver also acknowledged Rozario’s successor as chairman of EIPC, Alun Morgan, and was confident that the industry would benefit enormously from Morgan’s energy and zest for life, especially his technical and industry knowledge and, not least, his talents as a musician.
Returning to his Olympics theme, Driver reiterated Team Great Britain’s successes, which had inspired the nation, but could not have been achieved had funds not been provided to support training and facilities, and then focused on examples of British design and engineering skills which helped create the infrastructure and some iconic accessories like the Torch and the Cauldron. “We have just witnessed one of the biggest successes in the last decade. We are a country locked in depression yet we have just pulled an almighty rabbit from the hat. Sharing with the world our best musicians, performers, engineers, athletes, and our culture, it proves what can be achieved when there is a vision, a plan, a good leader, and a committed team! Be proud of our country and its cultures, and take it with us wherever we go!”
Dominic Millett, application support manager with Xact PCB, then gave an extremely informative presentation on the challenge of controlling registration in PCB manufacture, where multiple sources of distortio--related to materials, processes, environment, and design--all added to the complexity of the problem. Starting with copper-clad laminate, he explained how stresses originated from the weaving of glass fabric, roll-to-roll prepreg manufacturing, and the pressing operation, and how these stresses were released and new ones introduced during the fabrication of a multilayer board. Millett listed 12 stages at which dimensional distortion could occur, whether they originated from artwork, stress relief during etching, material movement during lamination and sequential build-up, stretching during mechanical brushing, moisture uptake during chemical processing, or stress relief during solder mask curing. When quantified with physical dimensions, many of these individual distortions combined to make layer-to-layer and hole-to-pattern registration within acceptable tolerances exceedingly difficult to achieve, especially when the distortion was non-linear, and the situation became particularly critical as build-up complexity increased. The capability of laser drilling and direct imaging systems to automatically align and compensate was not necessarily the answer, since they were aligning to an already distorted pattern and the result was to pass the actual registration problem further down the line--often to the assembler. Xact’s approach was to gather real information from the interaction of all of the sources of distortion and feed this knowledge into a user-configurable material database library. Using this “predictive intelligence,” a stack-up model could be generated which would predict and simulate material movement and allow artworks to be plotted with scaling factors precisely calculated to compensate in advance for in-process material movement.
Dr. Pavel Shaskov from Cambridge Nanotherm described a novel method of producing a thermally-conductive dielectric coating directly on aluminium, claimed to represent a breakthrough in the thermal management of solid-state lighting. The Cambridge Nanotherm process formed a nanocrystalline aluminium oxide layer in-situ on an aluminium component of any geometry--a heat sink, or a board, or a luminary frame--minimising the number of thermal interfaces by enabling the LED chip to be placed directly on to the surface of the dielectric. This concept of chip-on-heat-sink packaging gave the shortest possible thermal path and hence the highest thermal conductivity. There was no need for a PCB as such: Conductors could be printed on the dielectric surface using silver or copper inks.
With a thermal conductivity of 6-7.2 W/mK, the coating could be as thin as 5 microns or controlled to thicknesses up to 50 microns, depending on the required breakdown voltage based on a dielectric strength of 60-110KV per mm. The crystalline grain size was in the range 20 to 40 nm. Dr. Shaskov stressed that the process was not anodising, although it was electrochemical in nature. He did not disclose the chemistry, other than to say it was extremely environmentally friendly and could be discharged directly to drain, consisting of more than 99% water--the remainder being “our know-how.”
In a case study based on an LED down-light module, changing from a standard metal-core PCB with a 100 micron dielectric of 2W/mK to a nanoceramic aluminium substrate with a 20 micron dielectric of 6W/mK had resulted in a 24ºC reduction in LED operating temperature, a 9% increase in light output and a X4 increase in life span.
The final presentation of the evening came from human development specialist Nigel Risner. Perhaps appearing loud, larger than life, and a little intimidating to begin with, he soon developed a rapport with the audience as he encouraged people to increase their confidence and self-esteem. Expounding his theories on effective communication, he classified people into four personality groups, based on their style of communication--monkeys, lions, dolphins, and elephants--and invited the audience to categorise themselves and also their colleagues, employees, and customers.
Monkeys are lively, energetic, and extrovert, creative and full of good ideas, but not so good at seeing projects through to a conclusion. Lions are visionary leaders, focused, and purposeful--good at making tough decisions and achieving results. Dolphins are emotional, caring, and sharing, and like to be part of a team, although they find change unsettling. Elephants are loyal and reliable; meticulous problem-solvers, but cautious and in need of detailed data and evidence--they would rather be right than happy (certain members of the ICT Council admitted to fitting the “elephant” category).
To work better with other people, a person needed to know what type of animal he was himself and to find out what type of animals he was dealing with. And it was absolutely essential for a leader to communicate effectively with his staff, to motivate them, and provide them with information to enable them to make decisions and meet changing objectives--in effect to be a good zookeeper--and to make sure he was communicating in their language, not his own. Similarly, in business, Risner maintained that there were no “difficult” customers, just “different,” and the key to dealing successfully with them was to recognize what personality-group or animal-type they belonged to and communicate with them accordingly.
On the subject of “change,” Risner acknowledged that it could be perceived as a threat or a barrier, whereas with the right way of thinking it could in fact be a natural and exciting experience. He challenged members of the audience to turn to a colleague and share what they might do different in the next 21 days, on the basis that it took 21 days to break a habit, commenting that it was easy to say that they wanted to do things differently then go back and do what was comfortable. Risner succeeded in getting people thinking, and talking to each other. He maintained that most peoples’ dreams could be met if they were prepared to share their ideas with other people and not to be scared of looking stupid. Certainly there was a lot of enthusiastic conversation in the networking session that followed his presentation.
Martin Goosey brought proceedings to a close and acknowledged the support of Spirit Circuits in sponsoring and extremely successful and well-attended event.
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