HDPUG Demonstrates Benefits of Cooperative R&D


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Love returned to report the progress of the X-Ray Tomography and Signal Integrity project, being carried out in collaboration with Professor Sven Simon of the University of Stuttgart. The project, which was now in definition phase, was seen as a useful adjunct to the award-winning High-Frequency Materials project. After completion of Df and Dk testing during the High Frequency Measurements Project, short-pulse-propagation samples, manufactured by two fabricators on multiple materials, had been sent to the University of Stuttgart, who proposed to use high-resolution X-ray tomography to generate manufacturing tolerance data, import the geometry data into 3D electrical models and output S-parameters for the test coupon circuits. The university had a new detector with 1.5 micron resolution, but had suffered some commissioning problems that had led to a delay. To have gone elsewhere at this stage in the project would have been prohibitively expensive, so the team was waiting on the equipment supplier to fix the problems. Once the project got under way, it could provide statistical data on tolerances and directly correlate tested Dk and Df values to actual geometries. The technique, if successful, would be very helpful to signal integrity engineers and would offer a non-destructive alternative to cross-sectioning.

HDPUG-MichaelWeinhold.JPGWeinhold's guest presentation was entitled "Added Value PCBs in Europe", and focused on PCB design and production for embedded devices and the requirements for their successful introduction. His main message was: "We should only do what the industry needs, not what we personally need." Weinhold commented that added-value PCBs in Europe were more important every day, and the automotive industry expected a 15-year service life, whereas PCBs built to mobile phone standards were unlikely to last more than three years.

Global PCB production in 2012-2013 had been of the order of $60 billion, of which the United States accounted for 5%; Europe, 4.5%; and Asia, 90%. The United States and Europe continued to be the technology drivers, but for how long? Whatever business companies operated in—PCB design, PCB fabrication, component manufacturing, electronic device manufacturing or automotive manufacturing—the primary business objective was to make money! There was potential to make money through innovative new electronic products, with a focus on volume production, using competence and existing know-how, investing money and resources in future technologies, and targeting markets with growth opportunities.

Weinhold examined the meaning of "reliability" in a present-day context. In the past, reliability had been measured as mean-time-between-failures. Now, it was mean-time-to-failure. In other words, equipment should not fail at all. And if it did, repair was generally not possible.

So, having established two themes: innovation and reliability, Weinhold asked the question: "How can embedded components add value?" He reviewed the evolution of embedded component technology from the ceramic hybrids of the 1960s to the technologies of the present, based on organic printed circuits. Ceramics were more suited to harsh environments, but were expensive. PCB-based solutions, although technically inferior, were more cost-effective although certain developments like SIMOVE had been obsoleted by developments in silicon technology. But the design cycle for silicon was much longer than, for example, designs based on low-temperature co-fired ceramic, so for small volumes ceramic offered a viable solution.

In general, fixed costs for silicon were enormously higher than those for PCB or LTCC, but variable costs were much lower, and design-on-silicon was an enabling technology for cost reduction. Compromises between cost reduction and innovation were key drivers for the PCB fabricators and OEM and EMS companies in Europe. Device embedding technology in Europe was used to add electronic, mechanical, thermal management and environmental function to PCBs. For PCB fabricators, embedding was a step towards integration in the supply chain, and would shift the focus away from the PCB assembler to the bare board PCB fabricator. Designers would have to understand that testing would have to be carried out at the inner-layer sub-assembly stage.

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