An energetic and engaged crowd filled last week's SMTA Upper Midwest Chapter Expo. The event, held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, hosted 57 exhibiting companies and had over 100 pre-registered attendees. Attendees were invited to three technical presentations, a fabulous lunch, and had the opportunity to interact with exhibitors to learn about new programs and technologies. The underlying theme for the technical presentations was “Raising the Capability Ceiling!”
The event kicked off with a presentation by Bill Cardoso from Creative Electron who discussed iPhones and the technological advances displayed by Apple’s latest model. In his presentation, Bill showcased a live teardown of the iPhone X. The teardown included detailed coverage of the technical details of critical parts of the device and was accompanied by X-ray and CT images of the iPhone X. The audience gained unprecedented insights on what makes this iPhone tick, and the assembly process utilized to put the iPhone X together. Bill reviewed both current technology and the projected trajectory for the next generation of smartphones.
Ray Rattey of TEXMAC/Takaya gave the second presentation, “Flying Probe Test as Part of the Total Test Strategy.” First, he played a video of a flying probe to show everyone the equipment in action. Ray then began his talk by giving a history of flying probes. In the 1990s, test pads were 12 mils. In the 2000s they shrank to 8 mils. Today they are less than 4 mils. Laser technology is starting to be built into flying probes because it allows mapping out measurement of the height of the board. Typically, there are 4, 6, or 8 probes used on a flying probe machine that can measure resistance, capacitance, and diodes. An optical inspection camera on a flying probe can be used to measure the presence or absence of components as well as barcodes. Flying probe testing is part of a total test strategy. When considering a flying probe tester, one should consider the ease of programming, test times, test coverage, accuracy, repeatability, and LED test capability.
Will Slade, 3D-MID, Laboratories of Multiple Dimensions, marked the final speaker of the day. 3D-molded interconnect device (3D-MID) technology is an emerging market that allows manufacturers to insert circuitry directly onto injection-molded plastic parts. In some cases, it is replacing traditional circuit boards altogether. The process consists of applying a special laser direct structuring additive to injection-molded parts, and then a specially tuned laser ablates the circuit trace/pad geometry onto the plastic surface. The laser ablation vaporizes all non-copper material in the LDS additive, which leaves behind trace amounts of copper on the ablated plastic surfaces. Next, the plastic molded parts are plated with electroless copper to create the circuitry and a surface finish is added to complete the process. These parts can then be further processed with electronic assembly, such as soldered SMT components.
This technology is a revolutionary way to combine circuitry with interconnect devices when component space, assembly complexity, and the need for miniaturization solutions in final designs is a must. It is already used in many markets, from medical and automotive, to industrial and consumer electronics. One of the biggest growing markets for 3D-MID is in an anti-tampering application for point-of-sale devices, or credit card readers. Applying the circuitry directly to the casings creates a virtually tamper-free security measure to protect card information from would-be thieves—much more secure than older methodologies.
With all these exciting new technologies and applications for PCB and PCA manufacturing, it is easy to see that our industry will continue to become more challenging as time goes on.
In addition to the technical presentations, exhibitors from all areas of the industry discussed new technologies, product offerings, and capabilities. There were plenty of opportunities for networking and catching up with colleagues throughout the day. Attendees ranged from those new to the industry, some interning to learn more about the electronics industry, to our industry veterans. A new addition to the fun of the raffle prizes was the bingo game. Attendees had the opportunity to visit with exhibitors and complete bingo cards for a chance to win raffle prizes. With over 20 raffle prizes donated by exhibitors, there were many happy winners!