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Looking Back: Here’s What Topped PCB Assembly Content in 2022

With the shutdowns of the pandemic a bit of a distant memory, industry activity really picked up in 2022. I thought it would be interesting to look back and see what captured the most interest in assembly news over the past year. Here are the top five most-read news articles and columns amongst our readers interested in printed circuit assembly this year, ranging from lowest to highest reads.

The Most-read I-Connect007 Articles of 2022

Each December, we like to look back at the most popular articles of the past 12 months. You never know which article is going to blow up like an Avril Lavigne album. So, grab a cup of eggnog and curl up by the fire! For your holiday enjoyment, here’s a blast from the past: the top five most-read I-Connect007 articles of 2022.

I-Connect007 Editor's Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

In this week leading up to Christmas, we have a little bit of everything. Pete Starkey has a review of the most recent EIPC Technical Snapshot, while Tom Kastner discusses the dwindling number of PCB companies in North America. Are we really down to 170 companies? IPC reports that North American PCB sales up 26.1% in November YOY, and the book-to-bill is dead-on at 1.00. Cybord CEO Zeev Efrat explains how his company can provide 100% component inspection. And I have an interview with a student I ran into at PCB Carolina who is working toward his “dream job” on being a technician. As Alex Barile says, he’d hate to work at a desk all day; he likes to install equipment.

Cybord: 100% Component Inspection Is Here

Nolan Johnson speaks with Cybord’s Zeev Efrat about managing supply chain issues through advanced component verification procedures. Efrat describes the four-step process Cybord recommends to not only ensure that the components used are genuine and in good condition, but also to provide detailed provenance at the component level, thereby improving OEMs' ability to provide cradle-to-grave traceability.

The First India Pavilion

For the first time, IPC APEX EXPO will host an “India Pavilion,” showcasing 16 Indian companies promoting India’s electronics manufacturing capabilities. The initiative was undertaken by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India, and implemented by the Indian government agency, Electronics and Computer Software Export Promotion Council (ESC) India.

Taiyo: Reopening Europe for Solder Mask

Nolan Johnson and Stuart Down discuss Taiyo’s partnership with Ventec and how both companies are leveraging their expertise to blaze a trail into the European PCB market. Stuart shares his outlook on the market and the unique challenges posed by global political instability and supply chain constraints, as well as how Europe’s evolving chemical regulations have impacted solder mask formulation. With their sights set on ramping up manufacturing capabilities, Taiyo sees a secure path forward to establishing a sizeable market presence in this promising region.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

The holiday season is in full swing for most of us; no matter which holiday you choose to recognize here in the second half of December, it’s almost certain that your routine has some level of interruption to it right now. Chances are, you might not be consuming as much of your usual diet of industry news and information, what with all the holiday treats and traditional meals to be consumed instead. That, gentle reader, is why we bring you this week’s Top 5 editor’s picks–your slimmed down version of the news, leaving you more time for the other delights of the season. So without further ado, we bring you the five news items you really should make room for this week.

A New Gathering Place for Designers

IPC APEX EXPO started out as a show for the PCB manufacturing community, but it’s grown beyond that. This year, there’s more design curriculum at the show in San Diego than ever before. IPC instructor Kris Moyer has been instrumental in leading the organization’s efforts around PCB design and design engineering curriculum. So, I asked him the million-dollar question.

Intermingling Semiconductor and PCB Machine Capabilities

In the midst of electronica, which included the co-hosted SEMICON show, Nolan Johnson speaks with Koh Young’a Harald Eppinger about the convergence of capabilities in the IC and PCB lines at Koh Young. In addition, Eppinger points out that while there are similarities between the global regions of production, there also are unique requirements.

The Value of Training Committees

IPC APEX EXPO 2023 is right around the corner and the training groups are assiduously preparing for these meetings. IPC certification programs, built around IPC standards, play a key role in bringing value to the electronics industry. They are created and approved by training committees consisting of subject matter experts and trainers from around the world.


Industry Innovation Starts Here

If it isn’t clear already, your money, time, and effort will be well spent attending IPC APEX EXPO in January. Here, we’ve outlined the top six reasons that this event will be the highlight of your year. We’ve done all we can to make the event not only memorable, but a show that allows you to connect with industry peers, learn how to enhance your skills, help advance the industry, and discover new insights on products and strategies from industry innovators.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

We’re into December, and the new year is around the corner. Things are looking pretty good for our industry. Trade show attendance is back up to pre-COVID levels, and a lot of companies are having banner years. Has the virtual trade show gone the way of the dodo bird? Let’s hope! This week, our must-reads include articles and news items on the decline of R&D, STEM education for kids, why vias do not heat up, the need for more DFT, and the lack of movement toward intelligent data transfer. Designers just love their Gerbers, but Dana Korf has a few ideas about how to make Gerbers obsolete.

The Test Connection: Spreading the Word About DFT

As signal speeds continue to increase and feature sizes decrease, PCB designers are beginning to pay greater attention to test and design for test (DFT) strategies. Bert Horner, president of The Test Connection in Hunt Valley, Maryland, is spearheading this drive to show designers the benefits of a solid DFT plan, as well as the downside of not having a test strategy. I met with Bert at PCB Carolina, where he was exhibiting and presenting a paper during the conference. We discussed his presentation, as well as why designers need to understand test and DFT issues, and why we need to see the PCB as one small—but very important—part of the entire system.

Trailblazing Substrates in PCB Fabrication

Todd Brassard, vice president and COO at Calumet Electronics, participated not only in the IPC Advanced Packaging Symposium in Washington, D.C., Oct. 11-13, but also met with congressional staffers at the Capitol during his visit. Todd does not back down from a challenge, and the one in front of him is no different. It’s why his company is at the forefront of the conversation, and he plans to keep it that way.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Normally, the holiday season is a slow(ish) news time, but this year just feels different. My opinion is that the technology industry banked up a whole bunch of innovations and new products during the pandemic disruptions, which are coming to market as quickly as possible. The November/December news is full of technology discussion, as my selections this week clearly demonstrate.

Randy Faucette Discusses PCB Carolina’s Explosive Growth

One of the fastest-growing tabletop shows is PCB Carolina, which is held at NC State University in Raleigh. Each year, the show draws more exhibitors than the venue hall can hold, pushing some exhibitors out into the lobby. And this year, the number of registered attendees broke the 1,000 mark for the first time. At PCB Carolina, I spoke with Randy Faucette, the founder of the Research Triangle Park design bureau Better Boards, which organizes this annual tradeshow and conference, and I asked him to share the secret to this show’s expansion.

The Growing Need for UHDI

Jan Pedersen of NCAB Group is deeply involved in IPC standards development surrounding ultra HDI and keeps his finger on the pulse of the industry surrounding this type of fabrication. With Asia still dominating this area, Jan sees the need for U.S. and European PCB fabricators to make the investment if they want to stay competitive.

The Critical Nature of High-performance Computing

Dale McHerron is senior manager at IBM Research and oversees heterogenous integration research. In his presentation, Dale spoke about the need to architect the next generation of AI systems, and what it means to the infrastructure to run AI systems at this high level of technology.

Excerpt: The Evolving PCB NPI Process, Chapter 2

Managing the supply chain for electronics manufacturing has always been challenging. About 70-80% of the cost of building an electronic product is for the parts, while the remaining cost is in the process to assemble and test the product. However, during the worldwide pandemic, the strain on the overall supply chain for any product has been stretched to the breaking point. When supply of toilet paper, hand towels, and sanitizer is disrupted and cannot be found on the grocery store shelves, one could imagine the challenges in a similarly disrupted supply chain of efficiently acquiring complex electronic components.

The ‘Intel’ on Advanced Packaging Options

Dr. Tom Rucker is vice president in technology development at Intel and was a keynote speaker at the IPC Advanced Packaging Symposium, which helped set the table for the rest of the agenda. Tom understands this “radical and seismic” shift in terms of technology and breaks down what it means for the semiconductor and PCB fab industries. There’s absolutely a place at the table for PCB fabricators, but what are the first steps?


Brian O'Leary: Organizing to Meet e-Mobility in the Market

Brian O’Leary, head of Indium's e-Mobility & Infrastructure, reacts to SMTAI’s keynote delivered by John Thomas of Autel. The title of the keynote presentation was "The Electronic Vehicle (EV) Conundrum" which addressed the sheer scale of the transition to e-Mobility that we are now undertaking. In this interview, O’Leary discusses some of the technical challenges faced in product development by Indium (and everyone else) as well as the new IPC e-Mobility council. Participation in the council is open to everyone.

Understanding the UHDI Market

The more we investigate UHDI in the current market, the more advanced packaging becomes a part of the conversation. Yet there are so many questions to be answered. The I-Connect007 Editorial Team met with Calumet’s Todd Brassard and Meredith LaBeau recently to get answers to these questions and find out where the UHDI market is headed.

An Opportunity to Give Thanks

I-Connect007 wants to take this opportunity to give thanks to so many people that make "the magic" happen day in and day out. Thanksgiving is a time, of course, to give thanks for the bounty that we enjoy, and that couldn't be truer each day for the support we receive in editorial, advertising, and marketing of our daily, weekly, and monthly publications. It's a pleasure to contribute to the industry—and to receive contributions. Read our Thanksgiving message and then enjoy your turkey day.

Advanced Packaging Symposium: Looking in the Rearview Mirror

Matt Kelly had the vision and Jan Vardaman set the tone for the IPC Advanced Packaging Symposium, Oct. 11-13 in Washington, D.C. So, did they accomplish their goals? What were the real takeaways from the event, and what can we expect to see next? Spoiler alert: Matt and Jan came away impressed in more ways than one.

Material Management and Control

In a market that is trying to catch up with increasing customer demands and quickly ship products out the back door, no electronics manufacturing plant can afford to lose any time or resources during the production process. Manufacturers are forced to do more with less and get the most out of every single precious component.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

We’re heading into the holiday season, and tradeshow season is in full swing. Managing Editor Nolan Johnson and technical editor Pete Starkey have spent the week in Munich covering electronica, and apparently the attendance was wunderbar. COVID still persists, but everyone is ready to return to some normalcy. There’s a lot going on in our industry. In this week’s roundup, we have articles on everything from rigid-flex to the supply chain, as well as a primer on the role of physics in PCB design. As we move into the new year, you should check out this Top 10 list of tech trends for 2023, courtesy of Gartner.

Electronica: Picking Up Where We Left Off

The productronica/electronica pairing of trade shows is an experience unlike any other; anyone who has ever attended is likely to back me up on that claim. This year’s iteration of electronica, taking place in Messe Munich, Nov. 15-18, is no exception. I-Connect007 was onsite to gather the news and share our impressions of the show. First, the show’s attendance was rumored to be in the 60,000+ range. This number sure seemed to be reasonable given the crowd sizes we witnessed.

Strength in the Market for 2022 and 2023

In this conversation, Joel Scutchfield, general manager and sales director, discussed Koh Young’s growth and success through 2022 (as evidenced by their recent receipt of the same Service Excellence Award, two years in a row) and hints at some of what we can expect from Koh Young in 2023.

Momentum at Electrolube / MacDermid Alpha

We talk with Beth Turner, senior technical director, about how the integration between Electrolube and MacDermid Alpha is proceeding, especially the added momentum the new organization is bringing to product development. Beth also outlines some of the key customer needs that are driving product R&D.

Your Shortage Is Someone Else’s Excess

Excess inventory is a ubiquitous issue in the electronics manufacturing services (EMS) industry, and it is made worse by the complexity and volatility of the modern supply chain. Considered an unavoidable cost of doing business, unchecked inventory cost has wreaked havoc on manufacturers without strict controls in place to keep their businesses safe. Excess inventory is not only costly for manufacturers themselves, but also for their end customers. Unwillingly, manufacturers are sometimes forced to eat this cost to avoid disrupting relationships with their customers and with the hope of making up the losses in next year’s orders from the customer.


Laying It on the Line

What are the current challenges in managing workflow on a manufacturing floor? The I-Connect007 Editorial Team breaks down the process with Jason Sciberras, president of Saline Lectronics Inc., who shares insight into how his team has responded to the challenges faced across the industry. Jason says his key strategy has been the willingness to invest in technology, step back and look at the problems, and be bold enough to take risks. The payoff? A company that’s growing and customers that keep coming back.

ICAPE USA's Jeremy Griner Talks Market Conditions

ICAPE USA managing director Jeremy Griner discusses current market conditions for PCB fabrication and shares the ICAPE perspective on which industries are experiencing growth. Griner also outlines how ICAPE is navigating current shipping and logistics challenges while continuing to grow sales during these dynamic times.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

The industry news cycle seems to be picking up speed lately. Of course, 30 days into the quarter is about when public companies announce their results, and in the midst of this worldwide financial situation, we’ve got all eyes on anything coming out from our counterparts in the industry. I’ve noticed that global corporate results (Nan Ya PCB and TTM, in particular) do seem to be on everyone’s radar. In addition to financial news, trade shows are popping back up around the world—Europe, India, and a special report from editor Andy Shaughnessy, who took his own road trip to Raleigh, reporting on PCB Carolina, which had its own heyday this year.

IPC to Unveil New Member Magazine, ‘IPC Community’ at IPC APEX EXPO 2023

IPC, in partnership with IPC Publishing Group (I-Connect007) will unveil an exciting new publication, "IPC Community," at IPC APEX EXPO 2023, as a continuation of its commitment to better serve the electronics industry and provide additional value for IPC members.

Real Time with... SMTAI 2022: Essemtec Claiming Its Place in the Automated Factory

Bryce Timms, managing director, gives Nolan Johnson a tutorial on Essemtec’s position in the market, how Essemtec (as a division of Nano Dimension) fits not only into the additive manufacturing space but also in the more traditional EMS market.

Working on the Hill to Build a Future

The message can’t be emphasized enough: Producing IC substrates overseas weakens America’s position and national security. In this frank discussion with Will Marsh, president of PCBAA, he talks about his efforts to educate government policymakers on the dire need to consider the entire microelectronics ecosystem. There’s power in numbers, Will says, and he sees the association’s efforts making a difference.

Advanced Packaging Gets an Additive Upgrade

The recent approval of the CHIPS Act has reignited the U.S. semiconductor industry and shone a spotlight on the intricacies involved in chip manufacturing. As new technological innovations—such as 5G, IoT, AI, automotive and high-performance computing—come to market, they’re pushing chip manufacturing and integration capabilities. They demand more performance which leads to added complexity in an already extremely complicated process. All this requires a fundamental shift in the way that semiconductors are manufactured and integrated.

Modern Inventory Management Secrets

Inventory management should be simple; after all, it is how many of us learned to count. ERP solutions have become complex yet cannot solve our immediate supply-chain and manufacturing challenges unaided. It’s time to unfold the root-causes behind key issues and reveal the secrets for success in modern inventory management which have a significant impact on any manufacturing business.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

We’re officially in show season and Managing Editor Nolan Johnson just got back from SMTA International. As he says in his review, the show drew a sizeable crowd this year. With the pandemic in the rear-view window, let’s hope our trade shows are getting back to normal.

SMTAI 2022: Like a Tesla in a Drag Race

If you’ve ever experienced an electric car launching from a dead stop, felt the torque and acceleration that a motor made of magnets and copper coils can deliver over a combustion engine, then you’ll have a sense for how this year’s SMTAI took off—both literally and figuratively.


Warm Skies and a Warm Welcome in Minneapolis

The SMTA International show floor was fairly quiet Tuesday afternoon at the Minneapolis Convention Center, as most exhibitors had already moved in their equipment, set up their displays, and grabbed their attendance badges, all in anticipation for opening day on Wednesday. But it’s expected to be a completely different atmosphere as the show open and attendees start streaming through the doors. SMTA International is the biggest show of its kind in North America, and with the pandemic largely behind us, show organizers expected to see decent crowds on the show floor.

Sherry Stepp Honored as SMTA Member of Distinction

The SMTA has honored Sherry Stepp, global marketing manager, with a 2022 Members of Distinction Award. Stepp was chosen for an Excellence in Leadership Award. Sherry has been actively involved in SMTA activities as a KYZEN staff member for 25 or so years and has been a member herself since 2009. In this interview, Nolan and Sherry dish on what it means to receive the award, and some key moments that have been the most gratifying for Sherry on a personal level.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Halloween is next Monday and parties will be taking place over the weekend, I’m sure. Here in the United States, at least, the “any-holiday-is-an-excuse-for-a-party” crowd has integrated Halloween, along with Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Cinco de Mayo into wide-ranging opportunities for themed revelry. The news this week has been a bit crazy as well, though certainly not alcohol-fueled. There was a lot of important news and narrowing it down to just five was thought-provoking yet ultimately rewarding. Here then, are the five top pieces of news you shouldn’t miss this week.

New Growth Opportunities Worldwide for BTU

It’s not just automotive and medical devices for which capital equipment manufacturers like BTU International are finding a market. It’s also not just domestic. Bob Bouchard says his company has seen an uptick in sales after the pandemic into more “purpose-built” equipment with sophisticated requirements and very tight process control. It’s meant an increase in sales staff as well. It’s encouraging news ahead of BTU International’s exhibit at SMTA International next week.

SMT Tooling, PSA: 'Perfect Marriage of Innovation and Product'

Jeffrey Pulaski describes the recent partnership between SMT Tooling and PSA, which brings SMT Tooling’s innovation and PSA’s manufacturing capabilities together. Pulaski also shares news on product development, and what visitors to SMTA International can expect to see in SMT Tooling’s floor presence.

Forming Standards for Ultra HDI

To get the latest news about ultra high-density interconnections (UHDI), we checked in with Jan Pedersen, NCAB Group’s director of technology. Jan is co-chair of IPC D-33AP, and a great source of overall DFM expertise as well. We asked him to give us a snapshot of UHDI in the industry, where we’re headed, and what this means to PCB designers.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Where did the year go? I can’t believe we’re planning our January and February issues now. It was 84 degrees most of last week in Atlanta, and now it’s 31. I guess I should take my Hawaiian shirts out of rotation! This week we have quite a variety of articles for you. It’s officially show time and the industry is back in business in a major way. We have some news coming out of last week’s advanced packaging event in Washington, D.C., and an article about navigating SMTA International, which opens on Halloween this year in Minneapolis. We have a great column on avoiding EMI with good routing strategies, and an article on electrically conductive inks. To top it off, I-Connect007 has published a new book, written by Matt Stevenson of Sunstone Circuits, that posits a new “design for”: Designing for Reality. If you’re a designer, isn’t designing for reality what it’s all about?

EMA Helps Ease Designers’ Supply Chain Woes

Supply chain issues are continuing to cause disruptions in our industry, though lead times have dropped from astronomical to merely troublesome. In this interview, Chris Banton, EMA Design Automation’s director of marketing, explains how Cadence’s software has evolved as designers’ needs have changed in the past few turbulent years, including providing designers with component availability data early in the process.

KYZEN Comes Clean For SMTAI

In this interview, KYZEN Executive Vice President Tom Forsythe explains his company’s plans for the upcoming SMTA International show in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Oct. 31-Nov. 3. He discusses KYZEN’s latest aqueous cleaning chemistries and the company’s focus on providing reliable cleaning equipment and accurate data for customers. "This is the latest in that expanded envelope, with better economics, and better environmental health and safety," he says. "It's all part of this trend of always trying to be a better product and deliver better value.

Time to Go ‘Exploring’ at SMTA International

Students, young professionals, and industry newcomers will have a unique way to network with subject matter experts at SMTA International 2022 in a fun and non-threatening way. “Passport to the World of SMT” is designed to assist “Explorers” in making connections with exhibitors during part of the annual trade show in Minneapolis.


SMTA International Technical Conference: Trending on Topic

One of the highlights of SMTA International is the Technical Conference, where more than 100 papers will be presented across at least 30 sessions. “Work that was delayed due to the effects of COVID has been completed and the amount of material coming from the industry is impressive,” says Julie Silk, VP of technical programs. “We have a packed conference this year in Minneapolis.”

EPTAC Primed for SMTA International

I recently spoke with Leo Lambert, vice president of technology for EPTAC, about the training company’s newest classes and his plans for the upcoming SMTA International. The event, co-located with the Medical Device & Manufacturing (MD&M) Show, takes place in Minneapolis Oct. 31—Nov. 3. It’s never a dull moment in this industry and Leo takes a few minutes to talk about his company’s certification efforts, what’s planned for SMTAI, and where some of this technology is headed. Swallowing a pill that measures diagnostics? It’s a great time to be in the industry.

Time to Go ‘Exploring’ at SMTA International

Students, Young Professionals and Industry Newcomers will have a unique way to network with subject matter experts at SMTA International 2022 in a fun and non-threatening way. “Passport to the World of SMT” is designed to assist “Explorers” in making connections with exhibitors during part of the annual the trade show in Minneapolis.

Sunstone and I-007eBooks Launch Book on Designing for Reality

I-007eBooks is excited to announce the release of the latest title in its series for designers, The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Designing for Reality. This book covers both written and unwritten rules for how to create a realistic, manufacturable design.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

I’ve been in Washington, D.C., most of this week, attending and reporting on the IPC Advanced Packaging Symposium. You’ll see more content from me in the weeks and months to come as I sort through and highlight the varied aspects of this ground-breaking event. If you’re in this industry, advanced packaging will affect you, make no mistake about it.

IPC Symposium: U.S. Must Address Critical Gaps in Advanced Packaging Needs

There is a significant capability gap in advanced substrate packaging in North America, forcing all semiconductors to be packaged in Asia and leaving North America at risk in its supply chain. This was a common theme during a two-day IPC Advanced Packaging Symposium, which launched yesterday at the Kimpton Monaco hotel in Washington, D.C.

Real Time with...SMTAI: VJ Electronix Introducing Component Auto Align Option

Nolan Johnson and James Bishop, eastern regional sales manager at VJ Electronix, prepare for the upcoming SMTAI conference in Minneapolis by discussing the current market challenges, changes in how EMS companies are making use of their rework stations, and how VJ Eletronix is meeting customers with new functionality.

Women’s Leadership Program: Technology Innovations and Career Advancement

While planning the theme for the 2022 Women’s Leadership Program (WLP) at SMTA International, we discussed the idea of skills as tools in your toolbox. We brainstormed on how to bring this idea to reality and enable women colleagues to advance their careers. We realized that taking the time to reflect on the skills you have in your toolbox makes you self-aware and recognize your self-worth. Knowing what you bring to the table helps you build the confidence you need to navigate your career. In this article, we detail the Women's Leadership Program, its speakers, and what you gain by attending.

Lessons Learned: Breaking Down the Four Types of Communication

Kelly Dack and Nolan Johnson explore the silver linings from the past two years, especially the importance of good communication. These skills are—as they have always been—key to the success of the project. But how do you define the best methods for communication? Kelly breaks down four personality types and why it’s important to recognize how one person differs from another. When you better understand how a person thinks, your level of effective communication increases exponentially.

SMTAI: Packed With Content!

We’re now in trade show season, and SMTA International is coming up at the end of this month, so I asked SMTA President Martin Anselm to discuss the show and what manufacturing professionals should expect to take away from this event, now in its second year at the Minneapolis Convention Center.


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