X-Rayted Files

Column from: Bill Cardoso

Dr. Bill Cardoso started his first company at age 17 in Brazil, selling it a few years later to work for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). At Fermilab, he led research in nuclear physics to build the equipment that discovered the Higgs Boson (and the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics). After 10 years at Fermilab, Bill was ready to get back to the entrepreneurial life. He moved from Chicago to sunny San Diego to start Creative Electron in his garage in 2008.

Creative Electron is over 10 years old now, and after the acquisition of FocalSpot in 2016, it became the largest U.S. manufacturer of X-ray systems to the electronics industry. Creative Electron’s fast growth has been driven by its artificial intelligence (AI) expertise combined by a core competency in X-ray inspection. As the CEO of Creative Electron, Bill leads the team of engineers and scientists who combine AI and X-rays to deliver the most intelligent X-ray machines in the market.

Bill received his associate degree in electronics at age 13 and went on to achieve a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering as well as his MBA from the University of Chicago.  He is a recipient of the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the Illinois Institute of Technology and sits on the technical committees of SMTA International, SMTA Counterfeit Conference, and SMTA LED Conference; Components for Military and Space Electronics Conference; SPIE Photonics; and the IEEE Nuclear Science Symposium. Bill is a senior IEEE member and is on the board of the SMTA, MiraCosta College, and Illinois Institute of Technology. He has written two books and over 150 technical publications. In their spare time, Bill’s family is putting together a 42,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

April 19, 2023

X-Rayted Files: Best Practices in Buying Machines

A couple of months ago, a good friend and colleague of mine, Dr. Glen Thomas, passed away. I worked with Glen for more than a decade. I was much younger than him—I was in middle school when he was earning his PhD—and I learned a lot about X-ray machines from him. In honor Glen’s memory, I’m dedicating this month’s column to sharing best practices for buying an X-ray machine.
February 08, 2023

X-Rayted Files: ’23 and Me?

I’ll start this year’s X-Rayted Files as so many of us do at the start of a new year, whether in a column like this or in our conference rooms—with a look forward for 2023. Just like that, I’m struck by what a daunting task it is to forecast some of the simplest things in these uncertain times. With the disruption we’ve seen already seen these last couple years in the 2020s, ’23 is likely to be the hardest of recent years to predict. I’m both curious and cautious as we embark on a new year and, like most of you, I find myself trying to identify opportunities among all the noise.
November 23, 2022

X-Rayted Files: Battery-Powered Advancements Keep on Ticking

Understanding that batteries will power our increasingly electrified future is an important focus for the electronics manufacturing industry. While most manufacturers will simply benefit from an increased demand for additional boards and electronic assemblies, some may choose to migrate into battery production as well. Understanding batteries and how they power so many of the devices we make is crucial to the success of this enterprise.
October 12, 2022

X-Rayted Files: What’s Cooler Than X-ray?

At the most basic level, imaging—whether optical, X-ray, or even computed tomography (CT)—is data collection. Why we gather that data, of course, is to develop useful information about the product we are imaging. When the method of imaging provides the information we need, we have actionable data. When considering whether to employ X-ray imaging vs. CT, there are quite a few considerations, but most important is whether our choice will successfully result in actionable data, providing genuine insight (pun intended) into our product and process.
September 07, 2022

X-Rayted Files: My Favorite BGA Assembly Ever, Part 3

While the novelty may have worn off, let’s take one last look at my favorite BGA image. In part 2, we discussed issues of coplanarity, shorts and head in pillow. Now we will review the other common BGA assembly issues, illustrated so well in Figure 1. Whether you are fascinated by this, maintaining awareness of these common failure modes of BGAs, and inspecting for them throughout your process will increase yield, reduce rework and scrap, and result in higher quality, more reliable products.
August 10, 2022

X-Rayted Files: My Favorite BGA Assembly Ever, Part 2

One of the most notorious component failures in manufacturing is a faulty ball grid array (BGA). Any line manager or engineer will tell you that there are too many things that can cause a BGA to fail. When a BGA is installed on a circuit board in a factory, it is visually checked for proper alignment. If it passes this simple test some might assume all is well. However, even a board that passes a cursory exam can still be terribly flawed. Because the BGA is a bottom terminating component, examination for quality of the connection cannot be seen with optical tools. To make sure there is a good connection between the BGA and the board, an X-ray inspection is essential. We’ll revisit my favorite X-ray image of a BGA that I shared in my last column and dig into the details of how to address its many problems.
July 06, 2022

X-Rayted Files: My Favorite BGA Assembly Ever

In the early 1980s, Motorola and IBM introduced a novel package that allowed a high number of input and outputs with a large pitch in a small area, thus providing large savings in board real-estate. The ball grid array (BGA) was born. Initially in ceramic, by the late 1980s Motorola—and this time Citizen—brought to market the plastic BGA. This was the pivotal step needed to drop the cost of this packaging technology and to enable the electronic miniaturization wave that soon followed.
June 01, 2022

X-Rayted Files: Smart vs. Intelligent SMT Factory

Amazon currently employs over 200,000 robots across 175 fulfillment centers around the world. The robot ranks at Amazon grow every year, and in some facilities, they outnumber the humans. As the lights out concept rapidly grows with the giant retailer, automation adoption still finds resistance in the SMT manufacturing world. I don’t know what the future holds for surface mount technology (SMT) manufacturing, but I’m certain it depends on our intelligence. As a community, we spend a lot of time discussing the Smart factory. Instead, we should aim higher to the "Intelligent factory."
April 27, 2022

X-Rayted Files: X-ray Everything!

It should be clear by now that my enthusiasm for X-ray knows no bounds. From fighting counterfeits, inventory management, solder inspection, and quality control for an endless array of manufactured products, the usefulness of X-ray inspection tools is seemingly limitless. So, forgive me for not setting my bias aside, but when it comes to X-ray imaging, you probably fall into one of the following categories: you don’t need X-ray and you know it, you need X-ray but don’t know it, you have X-ray but are underutilizing it, or you are the rarest of birds who has X-ray but just doesn’t need it.
April 05, 2022

X-Rayted Files: What’s That Noise? Is it Your Data?

We are in the era of data, big data, and that should be a good thing. But the sheer volume of data we are collecting can be overwhelming; its meaning and usefulness can become a burden, just more noise. All data is noise until it can be contextualized into actionable information. From that perspective, our goal with data collection should be to reduce the noise and organize data in ways that generate meaningful information that can be used to improve our processes. Take this short quiz to gauge where your organization stands.
March 02, 2022

X-Rayted Files: Should I Stay or Should I Go? The Future of Trade Shows

I’ve heard the question repeatedly over the last couple of years, “Is the trade show dead?” It’s a valid question, and I’m not sure what the answer is, should be, or even what I wish it was. With a couple years under our belts now with canceled live events, some limited in person events, and an absolute tidal wave of virtual events and webinars, I am developing an opinion. Informing this opinion is also the fact that we have experience, and in some cases, success in finding effective alternatives to fill the void left by years of shows being on life support. On the whole, it has me scratching my head on another question. Is there a valid purpose for trade shows?
January 26, 2022

X-Rayted Files: Nine and a Half Facts About Unknown Radiation

As we kick off 2022, we thought it would be a good idea to give you a break from another column, talking about “what’s next” after COVID. Yes, the pandemic still here, inflation is kicking in, labor shortages are an issue, supply chains are still disrupted. But let’s take a break from all that and have some fun with X-rays. How about going over some facts that you may (or may not) know about X-rays?
December 29, 2021

X-Rayted Files: 2022's Word of the Year is... Resilience

On balance, this last year goes down as a pretty good one. While we are not as far along in putting the pandemic behind us as we might have hoped, the progress is promising. The economic recovery has been remarkable, despite persistent supply chain woes and (transitory?) inflationary pressures. With consumer demand high, and signs of relief regarding the supply chain, the coming year and its prospect of a return to “normal” will likely offer substantial opportunities, though we must also be mindful of risks.
November 29, 2021

X-Rayted Files: Three or More Intriguing Thoughts on Reshoring

The ground beneath us is always shifting, and while the term “unprecedented” can be somewhat overused, it does seem to be a little tougher to keep our balance these days. For almost every economic disruption, there emerges some argument for how reshoring can mitigate it. This time around, though, there’s a bit of a tug-o-war between the disruptions that are shaping the manufacturing landscape and the broader economy. I’m no economist, but as a dyed in the wool entrepreneur I’d like to share three thoughts about the future of manufacturing with a focus on reshoring, the talent pool, and the joy of making things.
October 27, 2021

The X-Rayted Files: Was CS Model 101 Built on Industry 4.0?

While smart devices like sleep trackers that monitor the quality of our ZZs are exciting to some, for others it induces the fear of becoming subject to robot overlords. Regardless, the age of IoT is upon us, and as manufacturers, IoT is just one facet of the broader Industry 4.0.
September 22, 2021

X-Rayted Files: Radiation’s Effects on Electronic Components

Whether it’s from naturally occurring sources or induced by modern human ingenuity, electronic components, like everything else, are subject to regular exposure to radiation. It is vital to understand the various sources of radiation exposure as well as their likely effects on today’s microelectronics and the devices they make possible.
August 11, 2021

X-Rayted Files: Semiconductor Shortage—Avoiding Counterfeit Components

From bicycles to sundries, from consumer electronics to automobiles, shortages and supply chain issues have hampered an otherwise strong economic recovery much of the world emerge from the pandemic. Among these challenges, none has received more media attention than the semiconductor shortage.
June 23, 2021

X-Rayted Files: Tales from the Files of Lithium-ion Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries have, in part, enabled the continued miniaturization of the devices we love. They have also played an important role in making practical electric cars a reality. But like other approaches high density energy storage, they do present risks.
May 20, 2021

X-Rayted Files: Genius, Evil, or Evil Genius?

Apple dominates its market in many ways. Is this genius for the consumer, or does it effectively rule out any competition? Columnist Bill Cardoso debates its merits—and disadvantages for other players.
April 20, 2021

X-Rayted Files: Crafting Our ‘Next Normal’

As profound an experience as it has been to lead an enterprise through the pandemic, what’s to come may make every bit as much of an impression. So many things that we took for granted as practices and behaviors etched in stone, were interrupted, suspended, or eliminated entirely. As we exit the tunnel into the light of the post-pandemic, we will be challenged collectively in crafting the next normal.
March 17, 2021

X-Rayted Files: The Bright Side of the Chip Shortage

In his previous column, “The Dark Side of the Chip Shortage: Counterfeits,” Bill addressed one of unanticipated outcome of the crisis: the shortage of electronic components and predictable wave of counterfeit components likely to flood the market. Combating that tsunami of fakes may also accelerate the adoption of advanced techniques for detecting counterfeit components.
February 17, 2021

X-Rayted Files: The Dark Side of the Chip Shortage—Counterfeits

It’s February 2021, and as the world slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, another problem plagues the global economy: the electronic component shortage. What some economists have deemed to be a decade of immense prosperity and growth, the “roaring ‘20s” started with a hiccup.
January 20, 2021

X-Rayted Files: The Year of 2020 Vision

What else can we say about 2020 that hasn’t been said? We have so much to reflect on, both to mourn and to be thankful for. The global pandemic has made an indelible mark on us all, and we, like everyone else, are changed forever. With the year behind us, and light at the end of the tunnel, we take a moment to look back as well as look forward.
December 16, 2020

X-Rayted Files: Solving for the Limits of Human Visual Inspection

Because a key element of quality control in manufacturing is still good old-fashioned visual inspection, it’s important to understand the ability of operators to sustain their focus and what we can do to support their success. And while the fallibility of human inspection presents challenges, Dr. Bill Cardoso details how there are many ways to address shortcomings.
November 17, 2020

X-Rayted Files: iPhone Transparency—A Window Into SMT

Though we don’t do them just for fun, teardowns are fun, but they have also taught us more than we could have imagined. Modern teardowns provide critical insights into the nature and construction of these devices. As an example, Dr. Bill Cardoso details the history of the iPhone as told through X-ray.
October 28, 2020

X-Rayted Files: A Century of X-Rays in the Automotive Industry, Part 2

As one of the main users of X-ray inspection, the automotive industry has been one of the main drivers for the development of higher power and higher resolution X-ray imaging systems. Dr. Bill Cardoso continues with Part 2 of this column series.
September 29, 2020

X-Rayted Files: A Century of X-Rays in the Automotive Industry, Part 1

If you have read any of Bill Cardoso's previous columns, you know that he is passionate about X-rays, cars, and electronics. In this column series, he talks about some of his idols, including Curie, Roentgen, Marconi, Galvin, and Ford.
August 19, 2020

X-Rayted Files: Is Quality Really Priceless?

In a day and age when we can learn virtually anything online, manufacturers still manage to be opaque about pricing, especially when it comes to specialty equipment. Some may say, “Quality is priceless,” but Bill Cardoso explains how it isn't.
July 29, 2020

X-Rayted Files: Marching Toward 2021, 20 Miles at a Time

We’re only at the halfway mark, and 2020 has been a real challenge. Our best-laid plans have been cast in doubt by the COVID-19 pandemic. During this transformational time, Dr. Bill Cardoso looks back a century for a bit of inspiration from Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.
June 17, 2020

X-Rayted Files: E-Commerce Boom Fraught With Risk—X-Rays to the Rescue

It’s not news that online sales are increasing dramatically during this global pandemic. However, with increased sales comes the increased risk of return fraud and abuse. Dr. Bill Cardoso explains how X-ray can help detect dummy and counterfeit merchandise.
May 20, 2020

X-Rayted Files: Why Do We Break Stuff? Intelligence From Teardowns

The impulse to break a new gadget to "see what's inside" and to “learn how it works” is often the first sign someone will become an engineer. We’ve learned a lot in over a decade of teardowns, which have helped us to understand how the SMT industry has changed over these years. Bill Cardoso investigates.
April 08, 2020

X-Rayted Inspection: Manufacturing in the Eye of a Pandemic

Dr. Bill Cardoso usually writes about X-ray inspection, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and how it all connects to Industry 4.0. This month, however, he shifts gears and shares some of the things Creative Electron has been doing during the COVID-19 outbreak.
March 18, 2020

X-rayted Files: X-ray and AI—A Match Made In Heaven, Part 2

In Part 1, Dr. Bill Cardoso covered the basics of the relationship between X-ray inspection and artificial intelligence (AI). In Part 2, Cardoso takes a step forward to cover some of the practical ways we use AI to improve the efficiency of our X-ray inspections.
February 05, 2020

X-Rayted Files: X-Ray and AI—A Match Made In Heaven, Part 1

Dr. Bill Cardoso has been working with AI for a while now and seen real application and success in X-ray inspection, as well as failures. In Part 1 of this column series, he shares how AI is changing the way we think about X-ray inspection.
January 22, 2020

X-Rayted Files: When SMT Lines Develop Line Conscience

Bill Cardoso explores the history of Henry Ford's assembly line, how this may be the end of the automation era, and the future of autonomous systems, AI, machine learning, etc.
December 17, 2019

X-Rayted Files: Will Radiation Damage My Electronic Component?

Before I start talking about radiation damage on electronic components, let me warn you: if you are looking for a simple “yes” or “no” answer to the question, "Will radiation damage my electronic component?" stop reading now. Things will get complicated. You may feel like I did not answer the question at all, and you would be correct. There are whole conferences dedicated to this question (check IEEE’s Nuclear and Space Radiation Effects Conference), so the goal of this column is to give you some background to guide you to the right answer for your specific situation. Ultimately, the best way is to ask an expert.
November 11, 2019

X-Rayted Files: The Currency of Technology

In the ever-moving tide of technology, the need to innovate requires a constant shift in vision, and this need has never been more evident than in PCB manufacturing. In fact, innovation has become so valuable that PCBs are quickly becoming the currency of technology. Dr. Bill Cardoso explains.
October 02, 2019

X-Rayted Files: The Risk of Installing Counterfeit Parts

In high-tech manufacturing, the use of sub-standard components can be catastrophic. There is no greater need for quality control than in PCBs, as they are only as good as the components installed on them; therein lies the problem. Some components shipped to manufacturers are counterfeit!
August 20, 2019

X-Rayted Files: Just Because You Can't See the Problem Doesn't Mean It's Not There!

In this new column, Dr. Bill Cardoso will cover everything related to X-rays from cool historical facts to the latest in technological advancements, starting with the discovery of X-rays in 1895.
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