Up Close: ICT's Hayling Island, UK Seminar
Goodwood, in West Sussex on the south coast of England, is legendary in its association with horse racing, motor racing, and the Rolls Royce factory. Steve Driver, managing director of Spirit Circuits, has become legendary for providing memorable extracurricular experiences for the benefit of delegates to the Institute of Circuit Technology’s (ICT) annual Hayling Island Seminar. This year, his colleague Peter Dobromylski organised a conducted tour of Rolls Royce’s assembly plant to observe first-hand the engineering and quality assurance procedures involved in creating motor vehicles to the ultimate standards of luxury, performance, and reliability. The factory was characterised by calm and purposeful activity--all combining the latest in mechanical and electronic engineering technology with traditional craftsmanship in custom woodwork and leatherwork.
Well-impressed with what they had seen in the assembly area and learned from the knowledgeable engineers who conducted the tour, delegates took a short bus ride to Hayling Island to attend the technical seminar, “Manufactured in the UK.”
The proceedings were introduced by ICT Chairman Professor Martin Goosey, who reported progress on the TSB-funded STOWURC project, which uses crab-shell bioabsorbent to remove trace metals from PCB manufacturing effluent and is now approaching the end of its first year.
Professor Goosey also announced the awards for the “Best Young Person’s Paper” won by Tom Jones, Merlin Circuit Technology, with a report on applications of ultrasonics.
The opening presentation came from Steve Driver, flying the flag for UK manufacturing, reminding the audience that the UK is the eleventh largest manufacturer in the world, and the second largest in the global aerospace industry. The UK had a huge manufacturing heritage, with numerous UK manufacturing industries continuing to thrive. He listed many internationally recognised brand names, in sectors ranging from aerospace and defence, automotive and electronics to plastics, furniture, pharmaceuticals, food, and drink. But heritage and tradition aside, British engineers continued to be globally recognised for their inventions and the quality of their innovation, and those attributes were inherent in a whole new generation of systems and products.
The UK electronics industry was worth £78 billion and employed 850,000 people. The origins of the printed circuit and modern electronics could be traced back to one UK company, Technograph, who developed the ideas of Dr. Paul Eisler, “perhaps the world’s most unsung inventor of the twentieth century.”
Reviewing recent developments in his own group of companies, strategic acquisitions, shrewd investment, and positive, often lateral, thinking had built one of the UK’s most innovative PCB manufacturers with a unique suite of services. Always conscious of the need to encourage young people into the industry by engaging them as early as possible in STEM skills, the latest initiative was an educational programme aimed at teaching PCB technology in schools to 7- to 10-year-olds, under the name Ragworm Education. Specially developed and researched workbooks were focused on the fundamental science behind the PCB, with cartoon-style illustrations and friendly characters based on ground-breaking scientists of the modern era.
Driver’s summing-up message was to be proud of heritage and brand, to innovate and educate, to be different and be first, to think global and partner for the greater good, to listen to the customer, and to create new standards.
The second presentation came from Mark Loader of Viking, a UK equipment distributor and manufacturer of ink-jet printers, with an overview of the history and development of ink-jet printing and its applications. The concept of ink-jet printing was established in 1867, when a patent was registered by Lord Kelvin for a recorder for telegraph signals. Commercial devices were introduced in the early 1950s, as medical strip-chart recorders, but it was not until the late 1970s that printers were developed that could reproduce digital images generated by computers.
Loader explained the principles of continuous and drop-on-demand technologies. The continuous technique was the most widely used in industry, particularly for batch-coding, bar-coding and date-coding of products and packages, whereas the drop-on-demand technique, as used in document printing, presented opportunities in electronics manufacturing. He listed a range of jettable materials and gave examples of applications developed for PCB and printed electronics fabrication. In PCB manufacture, ink-jet offered a digital alternative to screen print for etch resist and legend printing. In printed electronics, ink-jet offered a precise means of depositing polymer thick film conductor, semiconductor and dielectric materials, with the possibility to perform multiple operations on the same machine. Optoelectronics and displays was a rapidly growing market sector where ink-jetted thin-film silver nanoparticle inks were increasingly used, and significant progress was being made in roll-to-roll processing of flexible substrates.
“Innovative Thermal Management – Made in UK” was the title of the presentation by Ralph Weir, CEO of Nanotherm, who claim to produce the world’s highest performance thermal management substrates for electronics. Their nano-ceramic dielectric coatings, applied on to the surface of aluminium by an undisclosed electrolytic process, were four to 10 times thinner than conventional resin-based materials, and conducted heat two to three times better. This enabled extremely efficient heat dissipation and allowed LED manufacturers to reduce costs, improve the lifetime of their LED products by up to four times, and to generate greater luminosity within the same physical footprint.
Weir shared, "Most engineers do not understand thermal management: ''I want a 2 Watt material!’ and that naivety pushed their costs up, and their jobs out of Europe." He offered examples as well: UK lighthouses use Nanotherm with 2.5X increase in light and a 16X increase in reliability; UV-cured digital inks use Nanotherm and see double throughput from printer; consumer light bulbs use Nanotherm and are half the cost to manufacture; and Thermo electric generators get 36% more power output. The smartphone market was a current target for development, and thermoelectric generators presented a substantial future opportunity.
Calm was restored as Chris Wall, ICT treasurer and technical director of Electra Polymers, gave a cool and informative insight into how a privately-owned UK company, celebrating its 30th anniversary, had established an outstanding reputation for delivering reliable and innovative products with world-class technical support to all customers irrespective of size or location.
With 25% of its UK workforce focused on R&D, Electra was recognised as specialist in the development of solder masks, and Wall described the evolution of solder resist materials from screen-printed heat-cured two-component epoxy-polyamine adducts, through single-component UV-cured products to present-day liquid photoimageable formulations rheologically optimised for screen or spray application, with photoinitiator systems optimised for traditional UV exposure or specifically formulated for fixed transmission laser or LED wavelengths. There was an increasing demand for solder masks for high-brightness LED lighting circuits with particular attributes, such as rapid tack-drying on high heat-conductivity substrates, high opacity, tailored reflectivity, and resistance to thermal and UV ageing.
Summarising the current market expectation of solder mask performance, over and above its original purpose of enabling mass soldering techniques, Wall indicated that it was required to prevent corrosion of underlying circuitry, to act as a plating resist for surface finishes, to prevent growth of metal whiskers, to insulate substrates from debris and environment, to assist with component placement, and to reflect light from LED backplanes, whilst being able to be applied by every known method, impossible to over-dry, cheap, fast-exposing using any imaging process, easy to develop out of small holes, able to coat or tent large holes, cheap, rapid curing, resist all known chemical processes yet easy to remove if required, cheap, and available in every colour and surface finish under the sun!
The day had started with Rolls Royce Motor Cars; it was appropriate the seminar concluded with Rolls Royce Motor Cars--what better example of high-quality, low-volume, bespoke manufacturing in the UK? David Monks, manager of Drive Train, Chassis and Electronics, described the quality assurance procedures employed at the Goodwood plant delegates had visited earlier. He began by quoting a few greats: Sir Henry Royce--“Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it;” Albert Einstein--“Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them;” and Lord Kelvin--“I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind: it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advance to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be.” These were guiding principles in the Rolls Royce operation.
Monks briefly introduced the model range, from the driver-focused Ghost (base price around £220,000) to the passenger-focused Phantom (base price around £450,000) and explained that, with few exceptions, each car was commissioned specific to an individual customer’s personal needs and preferences, with certain customers prepared to spend enormous sums on customised woodwork, leatherwork, paintwork, and electronics. Whatever the specification, customers demanded the best and Rolls Royce’s quality assurance systems had been developed to ensure that the best was consistently delivered.
In particular, there had been heavy investment in employee training. There were automated measurement and testing systems in place at several stages along the assembly line, and every completed car was subjected comprehensive testing including full dynamometer analysis, calibration and alignment of on-board cameras and radars, and measurement of the effects of severe vibration and monsoon rain. Finally each car was meticulously hand-polished before delivery.
ICT Technical Director Bill Wilkie brought proceedings to a close, thanking delegates for their attention and presenters for sharing their knowledge and experience, with particular acknowledgments to Rolls Royce for their hospitality, to Peter Dobromylski for arranging the factory visit, and to Steve Driver for his continuing support of the Hayling Island seminar. Who knows what surprise he may have in store for next year’s event.