Weiner International Associates
           Weiner International Associates

Posted November 2016

Re "millennials"--- the problem of attitudes continue to amaze me. Is this true of all millennials at all ages and all phases of their lives??? Is it domestically universal or is there a geographic influence?  Is it true in companies of all sizes? All industries?? This general subject is ripe for a whole new industry of consultants. We'd have to examine the current role of the three major influences on the development of young adults---- the home, the school and the church.  As a productive senior --- or senior senior --- I'd like to examine the role that we can play in the corporate training of young employees and the role of mentors in industry.     And, finally, a very careful identification of the problem and its ramifications.  The changing dynamics within our society must be a factor.  Certainly challenging----- glad I'm where I am and where I came from. ----- Bernie K.

 

Good discussion to have…the same discussion when each new generation comes around! Remember the agonizing over Gen X …they turned out all right.  In the incubator world we work with a fair number of “millennials” – who by the way are not all uniform.  But remember all these kids grew up seeing all the things parents held dear during the recession crumble.  They have good reason to be cautious about commitment to things like house purchase, careers and trusting employers. So we do have to make allowances and work with them a little differently.  And learn to appreciate tattoos!

 

In our area we are working closely with schools, Community Colleges and BOCES on vocational programs for areas like CNC machining and welding which are in huge demand.  One of our local employers expects nearly half of their skilled machinists to retire in the next 5 years.  We have to get this right or they can’t survive.  We have the raw material in our millennials.  It’s up to us as industry leaders to find a way to make jobs in our industries attractive to them.

 

Raw material substitution is always tricky! ----- Dr. Alan R.

 

Just to let you know I was impressed with your thoughts on our younger adults.   It will be interesting to see how they change as they move into the real world. ----- Ray P.

 

Posted September 2016

 

It will be interesting to see if the circle continues and it winds up back in China. I'm assuming that the objective of re-shoring is to bring jobs and taxes back here. GE did that so mission would appear accomplished. The obstacles to re-shoring are essentially or mostly the causes for the move overseas ---- labor costs, taxes, other costs, etc. These issues are becoming more and more dynamic globally and the movement now seems to be to other East Asian countries ---- even from China, so I've heard. Surely, we, as a group and industry, should have something to learn from these experiences.

I wish I could monitor the benefits derived by readers of your columns each month. There is a wealth of activity info and, equally if not more important, a wealth of business intelligence for management's planning. Between you and Naka-san I'd need no other source if I were back in the game.
----- Bernie K.

Having lived and worked in Asia for the past 34 years, let me add my 2 cents worth! Almost all Asian Governments ACTIVELY support their export market companies, with major tax relief benefits, free employee training, tax relief for equipment upgrading, etc.

However of more critical importance is the fact that we just don't have the engineers and technicians in the USA to support re-shoring any more - even if everything else was right! ----- Lionel F.


Publisher's Note: Recent domestic (U.S.) interviews of managers seeking employees state that recent candidates don't want to work in a manufacturing facility, want flex time, and lack communication (person-to-person) skills. They fault the internet for replacing rather than augmenting the social skills needed to participate in meetings and make effective presentations. 

 

Posted August 2016

 

Re "The Silent Complaint"---- these very non-response issues were the subject of lectures presented in 1959, my senior year at USC, by John Lockett, lecturer from our Department of Commerce. He was describing the American companies' responses to overseas inquiries. I listened --- and knowing how I operated--- concluded we could compete in the foreign markets and in 1961 we were off and running. Now, close to 60 years later, we seem to have learned little about the value of communications.

I think the issue of re-shoring is primarily an issue of jobs and product availability. We may never re-shore the original American company configuration but do we accomplish much the same thing by re-shoring foreign-owned companies? ----- Bernie K.

One thing though, there are too many PCB makers in the world, close to 2,500 to fight for a share of the $60 billion market while the semiconductor market is about $340 billion with only 40-50 makers compete. The top 20 account for more than a 90% of share.

There should be fewer PCB makers for the industry to be healthy. We will not see a drastic change in PCB production, but the number of PCB makers is bound to decrease as price pressure continues.

In order to make bigger and healthier fruits many weaker looking ones are removed. This is standard procedure in agriculture. Why not for PCBs, too? ----- Dr. Hayao N.

 

Posted June 2016

 

Good column! One example of improved packaging is the new NVIDIA Pascal GTX 1080 series. These devices use feature size which is reduced by 33% or down to approximately 14nm. One of these beasts, which sells for about $600, has more power than a pair of Titan X GPU’s which were king of the hill just a few months ago. The Titan X sold for over $1000. A pair of the new GTX 1080’s are so powerful that the very high end computer of just a few months ago which maxed out with four Titan’s is now greatly outclassed by just a pair of the new smaller feature 1080’s, and now Nvidia is no longer recommending that even the no holds barred ultimate power computer use more than two GPU’s. Two way SLI instead of 4 way SLI is now the king of the hill. In simple terms, the global market for extremely high end GPU’s has been cut in half due to improved packaging and new technology. - Yes, I am getting a pair of 1080s for my machine! ----- Dan F. 

I make this prediction: Companies who continue to be secretive and paranoid of others, continuing the American PCB tradition of "every company for itself," are going to die. It's as simple as that. ----- Dan B.

You can lead a horse to water, or to the plating line—whichever is more appealing, but you cannot make him....

Sarcasm aside, as a supplier who is serving a global industry, I become extremely frustrated when I hear a small fabricator tell me that he or she can’t get more volume from their customers. Then that company owner proceeds to tell me that he or she is not investing any more capital, has no clue about roadmaps and in turn runs the business in such a way that a prospective customer will find little or no interest in doing business due to the perceived lack of technology and infrastructure.

There are more laser drills at Compeq at its Taiwan site than in all of North America combined. I know because I have been there. The ones that are successful today in North America—and I mean truly finally successful—have invested in LDI and HDI.

Quality and technology is what matters. The razor sharp focus of some of these small business owners shows they clearly understand what it takes to compete through a careful niche position in the supply chain.

But when I see duct tape holding the etchers together, well, I understand why those folks complain they can’t make enough money to interest their banker in providing an increase in their line of credit. I recognize capital formation in our country is minimal at best. Perhaps we can educate these small business owners on how they can access government contracts and/or, as Lockheed's Don DuPriest suggested, entice them to join an industry consortia of some sort. ----- Mike C. 

I always smile when reading headlines about 3D PCB fabrication, realizing how many younger people think it is something new. At ELF we printed catalytic inks on continuous webs of flex materials in 1990 and Seiko Epson demoed it printing of a very thin multilayer circuit around 2005 as I recall. I also wrote up a invention disclosure 8 years back showing how to marry inkjet printing of conductors and insulators with embedded components placed in part specific cavities in a substrate created using 3D printing technology to form direct interconnection ala Occam, thus eliminating solder (something the solder industry still views with great trepidation ;-). The technology will be great for prototyping as suggested as it offers the user the most valuable thing in the world... time, more specifically time to market by quickly working out the bugs before production. Interesting times ahead.

And, then there are the semiconductors which can also be printed and actually were printed on paper in the late 1960s

So many improved possibilities these days it is a real treat to be alive in this time. -----Joe F.

 

Posted May 2016

 

I sense the future inherent in this fine presentation. I don't want to just create work for you but I strongly suggest you locate a magazine or similar resource read by the Heads of Engineering Schools at our Universities so that they can read this article. With the growth of all of these new technologies and the concomitant concern for our PCB industry shrinking even further, we're going to need talent and skills that can fill the coming demands. And----- get this into the hands of our investment community. Your article spells opportunity.
Keep going ----- Bernie K. 

The formation of the IPC Designers Council was based on the SMTA model since it was individually based and not company based. Under this format, the council grew to 29 chapters within a few months. Its meetings are all locally based. The chapters provided input to the IPC design standards and the designer certification courses. We presented, and continue to present, technical papers and certification workshops at the PCB West conference. In the early years, a free booth was provided where we sold IPC standards and met many designers and engineers. In addition, the chapter members actively provided review and content input for IPC design seminars and the designer certification courses. Unfortunately, the Designers Council was not a major priority and considered a non-revenue generating activity which hindered further growth. Today, the council does not have an official IPC staff member to work with and represent the council as a whole. However, our certification programs do fall under Director of all IPC certification programs. I'm certainly for any organizational realignment that would provide a structure that more fostered boots on the ground. ----- Gary F.
 

Posted April 2016

 

This is a great piece of work! ----- Ray P.

Really good comments.

On 3D printers, leadership should not necessarily focus on the printing equipment but also on materials and applications. That’s where the opportunity lies. At the Ceramics Expo show this week I saw high precision gas turbine blade cores nearly a foot long produced by Lithoz of Austria. We can now print a range of polymers, metals and ceramics with high precision. We need to find out how we can use this type of technique to prototype and design as well as use for short run and quick turn electronic applications – hybrids, flexibles, packages, sensors etc. Potentially a great tool for the small custom manufacturer.

Good to see the note on IPC. I agree that they now get it and was hugely impressed at APEX.

Also good to see a counterfeiter get caught. I just gave a talk for the SMTA in Toronto on HDPUG’s anti-counterfeit initiative with Michelle Lam of IBM - who’s now heading this up. Companies don’t realize how widespread this is – assemblies as well as ICs. We need companies to get involved to evaluate the many competing techniques to see which are appropriate for different products. ----- Dr. Alan R. 

Actually, there is another angle to the problems facing smaller fabs that need to spend a huge percentage of annual sales to acquire the capital equipment needed to produce short runs of high-tech boards. The larger companies have gotten so big that they cannot handle small orders in an efficient and timely way. The smaller shops are offered these short runs, e.g., 20 boards. 

That said, as you mention, technology is the silent killer. Small orders of high tech products still require the high investment to stay in the game. What I believe is happening is that the high technology products will have to stay with the larger companies, and the low tech jobs with the small shops. What could help the small shops is if the larger companies walk away from the low end products. What will hurt the small shops is the growth in competition fighting for what is left of parts with lower margin items. ----- Gary F.

Very informative! ----- Mel P.

We're seeing this, too. I just heard of 1 system we are delivering that has 1 new chip, 5 existing ADI components, several external components and all sorts of fancy SiPs and flex cables. The integration of silicon companies, assembly houses and 3rd parties is critical for all IoT devices. ----- Merril W.
 

Posted March 2016

 

Yesterday’s excellence is today’s mediocrity. It is no surprise that many of the companies that were once cited as examples of “excellence” no longer exist! ----- Peter B.
 

Posted February 2016

 

Regarding your attempts to reinvigorate the Management Track at IPC events, in particular APEX, let me share some thoughts.

There could/should also be a more tactical track focusing on topics that give us all heartache, such as: finding and retaining good people . . . . an especially big challenge when a relatively small (under $50mm) "job shop" company; how to comply with all the internet-centric cyber security requirements the DOD and Government prime's place on companies without having to build an MIS empire (both Carbonite and Barracuda networks, the two largest data back-up “cloud” platforms in industry, who’s customers include both large and small businesses, volunteer that they are NOT ITAR or DOD compliant, and have no plans to be according to their legal departments. These two examples are the types of topics that all fabricators – if not all member companies – should be learning about, sharing what does – and does not work, and openly discussing in an IPC led gathering.

The IPC was created by entrepreneurs who determined that the risk of sharing their problems and working together for solutions was far less than the potential risk of one of them "stealing" an idea, process or customer. That philosophy is regrettably not shared by the leadership, of IPC today. Until there is a determination to create an environment where leaders can share thoughts/experiences freely rather than aggressively charging for having expensive speakers spoon-feed Pablum to attendees in a way where they have no chance to interact and share with each other, I doubt fabricators (or maybe even assemblers and suppliers) will enthusiastically engage.

That said, what the IPC’s Philip Carmichael is doing in China is what is needed in NA as well: he is pulling leaders of different and varied size companies together to meet, talk, and mingle. He is following the game plan that in the beginning made IPC, in America, great! Again, I do not understand why following such an approach in North America is not being pursued. At this point I am finding more value in travelling to the HKPCA event – seeing a lot more Americans than you might think who share my interest in seeing what is new – and being a part of a far more informative event. This year, as there is no fabricator’s track, I will go to Vegas for just one day to meet with a couple of key suppliers. If things don't change, I may not even bother with San Diego next year.

Fearing that I am sounding like an old and crotchety guy, sometimes you gotta call a spade a spade. Your ideas and effort are needed; I truly hope your efforts prove to be successful! ----- Peter B.

 

Posted December 2014

 

There will surely be fewer PCB makers in the future. It is the rule of jungle. The weak disappear and only the strongest survive. This applies not only to PCB makers but also to equipment and material makers. ----- Dr. Hayao N.

There are some naïve people in the U.S. who get excited by the prospect of "Onshoring". Yes, for some industries onshoring makes sense, but PCB manufacturing? Just forget it. Whoever builds a new PCB shop in the U.S. has to import the majority of equipment and materials from China (made not necessarily by Chinese but by Taiwanese, U.S., German and Japanese companies operating there alone, with partners, or by a private label arrangement). ----- Anonymous

We certainly wish Paul LaLiberte all the luck in the world. As our friends at Bergquist, Calumet, Electrotek, Sierra and so many others continue to prove—there is still a robust business to enjoy in North America as long as management has identified a niche. I heard Ray Boissoneau speak at the IPC TMRC meetings several years ago. His strategy was to be trailing edge/low cost/low tech. Here was a veteran of many years who made enough money in this business to have a nice collection of sports cars. He was highly respected by his own employees----not always an easy thing for an owner to earn. We dealt with his firm since the days they also had a division in the suburbs of Montreal. Being trailing edge would only work if you could be the low cost leader with large volumes----otherwise I am afraid the strategy can only squeeze the last nickels out of a short term future.
While New England used to be a hot bed of activity in the printed circuit industry (surely most of your readers remember or have been to the many Hadco’s that covered several states), it is not moribund. All anyone has to see is the clever, uniquely designed new facility that Whelen has put in. Zero discharge—highly automatic and not overly staffed.
Uyemura wishes Ray well in his retirement (if that is what he plans), Paul in his ownership, and Whelen in their establishment of the first new board facility in North America in fifteen or sixteen years. There is a future for those well positioned technologically and with a clear market strategy. We in the Northeast wish the best to both of our New England neighbors. ----- Don W.

Regarding a lack of continual improvement I'm not so sure it will mean that you're no longer good but will certainly mean a slow erosion or surrender of competitive capability. ----- Bernie K.

I thought your reference to TRUST was insightful. We both remember the days when Bell Labs was responsible for developing most of the new technology for the electronics industry. We constantly keep the industry informed of what we were doing and discovering. We really did not worry much about competition so there was no need for trust. Until we can find a way to return to this position I do not believe much progress is going to be made. I suggest that a federal agency be formed to develop leading edge electronic technology much like NASA once did for the aircraft industry and Sandia still does for the nuclear weapons industry. A technology steering committee formed by people from the industry and academia would provide technical leadership. All intellectual information would be shared equally by all nationals. I realize this flies into the face of capitalism, but we must live in the world we are given, not the one we would prefer. Most of our competitors are already being subsidized by their governments, we are force to do the same or fall along the wayside.----- Dr. Lee P.

Lee is spot on. One of the nicest things about growing older is the perspective it provides. One can better sift wheat from chaff. Putting profit before progress and avoiding risk is a sure way to put an end to both. So it goes... ----- Joseph F.

I think that Dr. P hits the nail on the head. I recall those same days and the progress the industry made by the research that was done at Bell Labs. I thought we were heading back in that direction when IPC launched it's endeavor with Crane. However, the rapid expansion of technology in areas that were unheard of back then, has taxed our ability to properly fund the vast number of projects, as Bell Labs did back then. Although the Crane partnership was a step in the right direction, Crane severely suffers from lack of funding. Thereby limiting the number of project areas that they can work on. Yes, this needs to be addressed on a federal level, and not empty promises by "care less politicians. ----- Gary F.

It helps to be playing the same game as the competitors…chess players don’t always make good football players! ----- Dr. Alan R.

I disagree. NASA provided a platform and set of goals for American industry and let that industry solve the problems and retain some of the technology. Sometimes even that didn’t work out so well. Do you remember when Hughes Aircraft came out with an AOI? Optrotech and Orbot had received the technology which their systems were based upon through a licensing agreement to IAI or another Israeli outfit which was not limited just military applications. Hughes, who developed that technology, had to develop a workaround, which didn’t work as well, because of government limitations.
The same happened with hot air leveling, which was developed by Sandia and licensed to Gyrex, who made a complete botch of it. That was the machine behind the green curtain at Velie Circuits, if you recall. Velie’s’s own unlicensed version of Sandia’s concept. It was only when CEMCO and others developed superior products outside of the license (geographically/legally) that the technology really took off.
It was Bell Labs and IBM and a few others who really launched the technology. Once it got bogged down in the poisonous union environments at places like DEC and WEECO, yields went to pot and these operations became uncompetitive.
In terms of excellence a few shops stood out. ACI, Multek, HP all strove for excellence. And that is what it bottom lines at: The pursuit of excellence.
Today we rely almost solely on Russian rockets to power our space program; 40-50 year old designs with suspect reliability.
Government defines inertia, whether it’s the VA, the Post Office, the drug approval program at the FDA, or today’s NASA. ----- Matt H. 

Posted November 2014

This is always the time of year to reflect upon what went well and what could be improve. In the PCB industry, many companies are not willing to adapt to the market changes. Watching it from a little more distance (age and experience) a lot of solutions came to mind. However, the industry seems to be fearful to make the changes. I hope we can help some companies to become smarter in the coming year. ----- Michael W.

Posted October 2014

The prospect of a return to vertical integration is intriguing. It will be interesting to see what comes in view of the IBM news. We can look around and see that many of the great companies of the past are gone or shadows of their former selves. Harvey recounted to me recently the many companies that he has worked for in his career that have disappeared. Perhaps even IBM will follow at some point. ----- Joe F.

…What with attrition and off shoring and companies going out of business or going to CEMs for their total PCB packages no PCB Company can ever again count on having the right amount of business without doing anything. That ship has sailed.
In recent times, especially the past year, more and more companies are finding themselves behind the proverbial eight ball when it comes to sales. They just don't have enough sales to sustain the level of business they need to remain in business, never mind profitable.
These same companies seem to be paralyzed when it comes time to do something about this. The have gotten away with ignoring their sales and marketing effort for so long that they no longer know what to do.
They are stuck in neutral when it comes to what direction to take next. Some companies are spending weeks if not months just deciding if they should do anything at all. Others are frozen when it comes to actually hiring a sales person. They are just not sure what they should do. They are not even at the point of addressing who they should hire but rather are stuck at if they should hire someone at all.
Others are wasting time trying to convince themselves that business will just come back if they wait long enough... if they just have the patience to wait things out.
Well guess what? These companies are going to have to do something. They are going to have to get proactive if they want things to improve. They are going to have to get out there and sell something to somebody new or their business will die. Heck their business is already dying. They have to do something right now if they expect their business to live another day. ----- Dan B.

The Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies (CEATEC) was held at Makuhari Messe in Chiba Prefecture October 7th - 11th. I visited the show on Saturday, the last day of the event. Admission was free so the show was packed. There were a few things that I discovered during the show that surprised me, but I was not too impressed overall.
CEATEC was once named the Electronics Show Japan, and without question, it was the benchmark for trade shows throughout the world during 1980s and 1990s. No other show could compare relative to square footage, show attendance and exhibitor participation. It was the largest event for consumer electronics and related industry including components and materials. CEATEC is similar to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas each year. One difference is that the exhibitors are the manufacturers who showcase their products. There is a mix of attendees that include the media who report on technology and business trends; directors from sales teams to understand the market trends; and engineers who are looking for new R&D direction.
Unfortunately, market conditions in Japan have changed drastically during the last few years. Large Japanese electronics companies lost market share along with their prestige for being the market leaders in business and technology. The CEATEC JAPAN show is reflecting this downturn as the show continues to shrink year over year. Floor space is one third of its size compared with the most popular years. Over six hundred companies attended this year but only three hundred booths were rented. Many companies are feeling the pinch and decided to share booths to cut costs. A couple of big named Japanese companies (Sony* and Hitachi) as well as some larger sized overseas companies (Samsung Electronics) didn’t even show up! The vacancies left from these companies were filled in with component suppliers and connector manufacturers that included TDK, Alps Electric, Murata and TE from the U.S.. These companies were primarily component suppliers, but once the recession began they were forced to diversify and provide new electronic systems. Japanese PWB manufacturers are suffering also. None were in attendance at the show and many consider them no more than subcontractors for the Japanese electronics industry.
Several local governments and universities reserved space at the show to showcase their technologies and academic R&D projects. In my opinion, this venue was not suitable to promote their schools. This show is more of a platform for companies to introduce their electronic technologies.
Taiwanese, Chinese and Korean companies reserved a large amount of floor space. There were more than thirty Taiwanese companies and organizations in a special zone made up of mostly small manufacturing firms looking for subcontracting work in the electronics industry. I think it is a struggle for these companies to secure work in a shrinking industry. I plan on following up with a couple of companies I discovered with some unique technologies.
4K TV was the main topic of the event last year. Even though most of the electronics companies still spoke about 4K TV, the market has all but evaporated. NHK and JEITA are now featuring 8K TVs; but there was little interest in this and not too many visitors stopped at their booths.
Many companies are promoting products that center around some popular topic in the electronics world. The buzz words include Car Electronics, Robotics, Wearable and Healthcare. They were aggressively demonstrating the capabilities of their new technologies and new products using these buzz words, but there was nothing new. They more or less improved on their existing products. There was no company that stepped up and created the next greatest “must have” product.
CEATEC designated a large amount of space to feature exhibits that were interactive for children and others not affiliated with the electronics industry. The exhibitions included All Japan Robot Sumo Tournament, Experiences from Powered Suits, Trial Class of Fuel Cell Powered Automobiles and Personal Mobility tours provided by Honda. I do not think there is much of a market for any of this yet, but it did foster interest with the children. This could create a spark for some of them and in a decade or so their studies will take them into an engineering career. I hope the Japanese electronics companies can survive over the next decade. ----- Dominique N., DKN Research

*Sony forecasts a $2+ billion loss for the current fiscal year. How long can it survive? ----- Publisher Weiner's World

WKK has been working with Europe's VI Technologies to introduce the new VI Pi SPI system into the greater China market. Our entire team of sales, marketing and support engineers were very impressed with the system when we first saw it. What was it that impressed us? When we compared the Pi with the competition and the problems that the competition had it came down to ease of use and simplicity. Like the Apple iPhone when it first came on the market, people loved it because it was so easy to use. The Pi has no keyboard or mouse. All commands are done on a touch screen in the same manner as an iPhone. Ease of programming stood out, too. It can take hours to program a 10 square inch PCB with a conventional SPI system but with the powerful Pi software such a board can programmed in 15 minutes by a trained operator – engineer not needed! It’s all about speed and ease of use, not to mention it's small footprint. All of the customers that have tried the system agree. Some have already opted to purchase second units. The completion has countered by dropping their prices. ----- Hamed E-A.

How real you are!!!!!!!! So very often we know what it costs to do something but have no idea of the costs of not doing something when we should. I have a hunch some of the answer lies with his customers and what demands they make
of him. I remember coming back from my first trip to Japan with the astounding report that a major customer took his fabricators to shows and if any piece of equipment served to reduce costs he'd insist they buy it and if they could not afford it his company assisted in the financing. My reps told me this story in the presence of one fabricator and he confirmed it. ----- Bernard K.

Terrific Sept update! Do you have any idea what the TTM/VIA entity will represent in terms of U.S. capacityy or revenue, or employees versus the remaining the U.S. PCB fabricators? 70% or so?

We’ve seen big shifts and huge consolidations in the PCB realm for decades now. This might be the biggest in terms of impact to the U.S. I think we are on the verge of a similar wave of consolidation in the EMS arena. The number of EMS manufacturers in the U.S. is about where we were 15 years ago on the PCB fabricator side. The technical challenges and capital requirements are escalating with the need for solder paste inspection, newer SMT equipment with ultrafine pitch capability, and various types of x-ray systems. The scaling up and forward to meet these needs has become a firm requirement. The bar is getting raised, Just as the advance of blind/buried and HDI techniques drove the need for LDI and other big ticket investments. This has changed the equations of what a viable supplier and a viable business must look like. ----- Joe O.

The U.S. PCB production of TTM will be about $910-$920 million in 2014 pro forma, which represents about 1/3 of the total N. American production value. ----- Dr. Hayao N.

Good article, Gene. As usual you bring up some good questions. One thing that is becoming obvious, and that you point out without specifically saying so, is that there is great uncertainty, perhaps more than in a half a century. Uncertainty is never good for business in the long term.
China may now be exposing one of its Achilles heels, and here in the USA a business unfriendly climate appears to be spreading beyond the borders of California. I hope it is not the case but I feel that there are some difficult times ahead. ----- Dan F.

Thanks for the newsletter (Weiner’s World – September 2014); well done as usual. And perfectly timed to help me write my monthly market analysis report for my internal management. ----- Don C.

The machine looked good and seemed to work very well during the demos. As far as machines are concerned that was really "the hit" and had the most people around it. There was also a noticeable increase in Automation products over past years. No one stood out, but for sure there were more such products. There were also a few new chemical products that seem to stand out, products such as those from e.Surface as well as from Yincae Advanced Materials. ----- Hamed E-A. 

Posted September 2014

Re: August 2014 "Weiner's World" - Very good perspective!! Hope (all) those in need will heed.----- Charles C.

In regard to the slow adoption of 2.5D and 3D (TSV), I think it's progressing in an orderly manner and there is still a great deal of technical issues to overcome before it takes off in high volume. So far, the big players are making the investment, some attempting to develop it all in-house while others are prudently banking on the help from partnering, consortia and joint industry/academia strategies.

Flip-chip and die-stack using wire-bond processes on 2.5D interposer is likely to take off in a big way for custom multiple die SiP applications. TSV die stack is initially targeted for high volume high capacity memory applications due to the common I/O. When semiconductor developers begin to develop heterogeneous die with the same outline and common locations for power, ground and associated signal, then the 3D TSV stack will become realistic for logic as well.

In regard to packaging innovation, there are a number of 'bridge' technologies that have evolved to fill some of the miniaturization gaps but 2.5/3D TSV technology is strongly embedded in the primary industry roadmaps, domestic and international. ----- Vern S.

Posted August 2014

Certainly a wake-up call!!! Good for you!!! ----- Bernie K.

Link to new EMSNow video interview by Philip Stoten at IPC PCB EXPO 2014 (9 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVOPMgbZ6kA

NOW AVAILABLE

Masamitsu Aoki has updated his detailed charts of "Build-Up Types of Printed Wiring Boards and Their Applications in Japan" (Version 14.1) and "Thin Types of Printed Wiring Boards and Their Applications in Japan" (Version 24.1). They are both now current through June 2014.

Write to us at gene@weiner-intl.com if you wish to receive a copy.

July 2014

I appreciate your points and call to arms - so to speak - with respect to renewable energy. Maybe as a first step we can disband the Department of Energy - or at least downsize it. Remember the DOE? This was created, I believe, in the late 1970s, and today has an annual budget of over $31 billion. The DOE was created for the sole purpose of lessening our dependence on foreign oil.
How is that working for us?
Now we have a president that guaranteed $500 million to a company (Solyndra) to manufacture tubular solar cells. Did you even pick up a solar wafer? One false move and it will break - and these "yahoos" were trying to bend silicon. Not going to happen!
At the time and (still going strong) SunPower and First Solar have proven technology. My understanding (and we do business with both firms) is that their senior management was never asked by the Obama team for their input. ----- Michael C.

As always, you write very informative and forward looking articles. 
A key observation that I have is that today's market is very competitive and changing daily. New technologies represent a certain level of risk. With no real track record, OEM's risk a rapid market share loss if a product introduction bombs. The recovery from such a situation could take years. Blackberry is a good example. They took a risk at an attempt to catch up with their competition, and lost most of their market share. The recovery will take years to come back, or may never come back.
This is even more evident in Hi-Rel markets, such as military and medical equipment. Once a product/process is approved for a Hi-Rel application, it takes almost an act of congress for any new revolutionary change to displace the old product/process. In many instances, changes are not allowed for several years.
My two cents. ----- Gary F.

I have seen the rise and fall of an abundance of new ideas in PCB industry in the past 50 years.
I don't remember how many of them did not succeed. Some of the ideas and systems which started modestly and are still going strong are Dry Film Photo Resist (Du Pont), numerically controlled drilling machines (Excellon), laser drilling machines (many entries), PTH chemicals (pioneers were Shipley and Photocircuits), liquid photo imageable solder resists (Ciba-Geigy), etc. to name a few. There have been patent disputes among suppliers, but all of the developments met the needs of the industry and provided a cost benefit (reduction). ----- Dr. Hayao N.

SANITY CHECK

Below are some of the unsolicited comments from the readers of the July issue of Weiner's World.

"Gene : Very Good Stuff !!
I totally agree that Quantum Computing and some other technologies yet to be invented or even thought of are not too far away from us.
Keep your eyes & ears open. It's right around the corner." ----- Mel P.

"Hi Gene, I would like to get a copy of Matt’s updated buildup charts. I have the first one and find it quite interesting. Enjoy the newsletter too, keep up the good work." ----- Don D.

"Gene, you don't miss a beat!" ----- Bobbi G.

"Gene what is required to receive a copy of his (Aoki's) papers? I would like to better understand what they are doing (in Japan). Thanks," ----- Gary F.

"Hi Gene --- I enjoy your insights--- as always ---- but just a wee bit ambivalent when it comes to your intro comments. I'm sure they're designed to be entertaining and I wonder if you want to go in that direction. Your WW comments have always had the touch of professionalism that lends confidence and a sense of reliance on the presentation. I truly don't know if the in-between comments adds to this. I appreciate wit and bon mots ---- that you know--- but I truly don't know if it's a fit here. That's my inner gut speaking----------- Thanks and best regards," ----- Bernie K.

That last one got my attention as I have a great deal of respect for the opinion of my friend of nearly 55 years. So, I decided to select 30* or so of our thousands of readers around the globe and ask them what THEY thought. It is Sunday afternoon during the July vacation period. The responses of the first 24 hours are below.

*These include industry notables, two college presidents, a member of the Department of Justice, officers and management of several trade associations, some company owners and executives, a few consultants, members of the press, and some other technical/business folks whose opinions I respect.

"Gene, I assume the comment was in response to your reference to Satya Nadella. (It was NOT.) If so, there's always a few readers who feel politics has no place in technical/pseudo-technical communications. Not much you can do about that.
If the writer is taking issue with your general style, which is to provide some sort of commentary to the news of the day, well, then they are missing the whole point of your newsletter. As one of the folks cc'd on your list wisely advised me upon taking charge of PC FAB, it's OK to have opinions. It was great advice then, and it's great advice now. Best,"

"I assume he is talking about the italicized comments between the main points. I think that they add to the overall content. Keep it up…"

"Hi, I really dont agree with the guy who wrote to you. Seems he does not really know you well. I think of the people who know you and who have read your work over the many years have come to understand that your insights are very valid and basically tell you things you would not otherwise know. Most times its the little unknown things that we don't understand."

"I think you are doing great."

"Gene, I have no problem with your monthly newsletter. I think I know what are facts and what are editorials. Weiner's world comes from Gene's point of view. I didn't find anything in July out of the ordinary."

"Hi Gene – I believe that ----- summed up the comments I was going to make perfectly below. We all have our own style and yours has worked exceptionally well for many years. It’s a big part of what makes you…. You! I have consistently relied upon your wisdom and guidance since we first met in the early 80’s. There is only one Gene Weiner and I am very grateful for our friendship and for your hard work on behalf of all of us in the PCB industry."

"Gene, You’re never going to please everybody. But for his or her 1 comment, I am sure there are 50 or even 100 that appreciate the “entertainment” you bring along with your opinions and facts. In my view, the wit does nothing to undermine your credibility or professionalism. I enjoy reading your monthly..."

"Dear Gene, As a recent entrant to the PCB Market, after 25 plus years in the Semiconductor market, I find your commentary, & knowledge of the Global PCB Market, second to none, & I look forward to your input. You have a Global Perspective, & this is invaluable in today’s ever changing world!! Safe Travels & keep it up!!"

"Gene, I went back and read the comments. I didn't think they were in any way an issue. The only one that could have struck a nerve is the one before the Microsoft info. Having experienced a layoff, it's very humiliating, even though it's not your fault. This is your column and your insights/opinions are important. I guess the only thing I might be careful with is sarcasm, and this comes from someone who can be very sarcastic."

"I think it is just fine, Gene."

"Gene, I value receiving the Weiner’s World e-mails and find them insightful and informative. Your comments, whether in the introduction or body, are valuable and these comment put your “stamp” on the newsletter. What you are doing and the time and effort you put in doing it is appreciated and I hope that you do not change. Regards,"

"Dear Gene, Your years in the business and your multitude of contacts make your comments insightful and relevant. Keep it up! Best regards. "

"Gene, Reading this reminds me that it is not possible to satisfy all the people all of the time. I have high regard for you, your experience, your global perspective, and your judgment/opinions . Please continue to share them with all of us.
Perhaps this person was having a bad hair day and your Weiner's World was not the real issue. I suspect the next time this person reads Weiner's World, they will likely have a different opinion.
Please know that a vast majority of people do NOT share this person's opinion.
Best to you,

"You asked for “help”... I’m not sure who else received this mailing from you... but I think you should continue doing your good job of reporting on technology and marketing trends...and stay away from political opinions. I am sending this comment to you alone, and not to any others on the ---------- Council."

"Gene: I would not change your approach based on just one comment. I am sure they were trying to be helpful, however you can’t satisfy everyone, 100% of the time, and the overall product -- musings and all – continues to be outstanding and more often than not spot on! "

"Gene, What I've seen is you. I am not distracted by bon mots or wit. It can often bring context. But then, I have a life......."

"Gene, Without your comments, opinion and insight it would just be like any anonymous RSS news feed. And much less readable IMHO. I didn’t see anything objectionable in the July issue."

"Hi Gene: Without a doubt, your commentary and insight is what makes Weiner’s World what it is… an interesting read. Keep it up. Best Regards"

PLEASE SEE THE PRIOR PAGE "WEINER'S WORLD" FOR THE BASIS OF THE COMMENTS BELOW.

It's a cut and paste world

One of my Korean business associates, a retired research engineer, says that Korea is a “Copy and Paste Technology” country. Korean companies buy the minimum order for state of the art equipment from Japanese companies and conduct a detailed tear down analysis. From this reverse “R&D”, they build their own equipment with minor modifications. There is no innovative idea in the new machines - the only difference is a much lower cost. The executive teams from Samsung Electronics recognize the lack of innovation from their engineering staff, and are encourage its R&D departments to generate new ideas. Unfortunately, nothing new has come from them over the last several years. One R&D director told me that he has more than fifty engineers with PhDs from universities in Japan and the U.S., but none of them can come up with any creative ideas. From the engineers view, one R&D manager grumbled that his department forwards many proposals to the executive managing teams, but none of them are ever accepted. The executive teams ask for accurate forecasts from potential products or ideas, but the R&D teams cannot accurately forecast the potential for a product that is not in the market. ----- Dominique N.

Sony Is Selling Off Its VAIO PC Business!

Consumer electronics giant Sony posted more than a billion dollar loss last fiscal year, forcing the company to restructure and reduce its work force by 5,000 employees. It also looked at segments of its business that were not profitable in order to determine its options. Sony’s personal computer line, VAIO, was once popular in the PC market; however, it has now become a drain on resources due to mounting losses, forcing Sony to discontinue the product line. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of die-hard consumers that love that product line, my wife included.

Sony reached an agreement to sell its PC business to the investment firm Japan Industrial Partners Co., Ltd. (JIP) on July 1st. From the 1,100 employees currently affiliated with the VAIO division, 230 will transfer to the new company, 430 are expected to accept early retirement packages, and the remaining displaced employees will transfer to other business units within the company. Sony still plans to support existing customers. JIP plans on downsizing as it tries to turn the PC into a viable growing business. It has no immediate plans for expansion from new technologies or new product launches.

Sony was the leader in the personal mobile electronics industry for years. Their products were unique and innovative, and included the portable transistor radio, Trinitron color TV, the Walkman, Video Consumer Recorder (VCR), and electronic game consoles along with many electronic games. It created new benchmarks for competing electronics companies throughout the world. Sony was king from many years until it was knocked off the throne by a little product from Apple called the iPod.

The 21st century now has a new electronics leader - Apple. There are only four products in its portfolio – the PC, MP3 (iPod), tablet PC (iPad), and the smart phone (iPhone). Apple’s strategic business plan is to link each of these unique products with each other. Once customers purchase an Apple product, their tendency is to purchase another because a combination of products will create more valued capabilities. Apple appeals to a broad range of customers ranging from toddlers to senior citizens. Each one of them will remain loyal to Apple, and will upgrade their devices with each product update.

Sony has many more product lines than Apple, but their products do not link together as well. New products are developed and commercialized independently from each individual business division. It seems like Sony is throwing a lot of mud against the wall hoping that some of it will stick. If one in ten of the new products released can be successful, the company can generate income for the next five years. Unfortunately, Sony has not successfully released a new product during the last fifteen years. Sony plans to remain in the smart phone and tablet PC business.

The company hopes some new ideas will win over the Apple consumer; however, their products are not very innovative and cannot stand up to Apple's dominating presence in these two markets. Sony is not a small venture firm, and one successful product launch cannot rescue the company. Sony’s management team needs a long term business plan.

It can only bleed for so long…. ----- Dominique N.

Posted June 2014

At the Page Mill Y sauna in Palo Alto, I met an Intel engineer.
Below is the “free advice” I asked him to provide to Krzanic (Intel CEO Brian M. Krzanich).
Intel should buy a company with analog IC IP, one that needs foundry service.
It makes sense to launch mixed signal SOCs for the IoT.
It makes sense to have analog fab capability vs. TSMC
(taking the business from TSMC).
It makes sense to use that excess fab capacity
(leveraging its powerhouse digital tech).
It makes sense to gain the analog design team.
I did not mention MEMs – I should have done so.
The engineer had once worked at Qualcomm. So he must be related to
Intel's mobile effort. I suggested that mobile price attrition will destroy profit opportunity-- 60+% GM will not last long!
IoE is where it is!!!! -- AND WILL BE!!! ----- Harvey M.

Posted April 2014

My opinion is that Conflict Minerals may become a de facto regulation. That is, that market pressures for disclosure will become stronger than the actual law. Look at RoHS. How many arrests or criminal actions can you name for the vast amount of electronics that flood the EU? BUT, everyone seems to obey the law, because being called out as being in non-compliance is terrible in the marketplace. Companies scramble to be even "more green" through a higher product rating on the E-peat scale here in the U.S. Not sure what to call "enforced through market pressure" - not exactly green-mail, but close. ----- Denny F.

I have been visiting many PCB makers; Shanghai, Kunshan, Suzhou, Wuxi, Tianjin, and Beijing.
These areas produced about $12 billion worth of PCBs in 2013, 4 times larger than that in N. America. Being a "PCB man" 100% to the bone, China is much more exciting to me. Altogether I counted over 1,000 drilling machines installed in just the past year at 17 different PCB makers - I visit them once or twice a year. 60-65% of the PCB manufacturing equipment sold worldwide ends up in China. My boss used to tell me, "Show me the purchase order," when I told him about "prospective buyers". Americans are sometimes over-optimistic.
Of 3,600 mechanical drilling machines supposed to have been sold worldwide in 2013, how many were made by American makers? On the other hand, we still have to continue in N. America. ----- Dr. Hayao N.

Re Vern Solberg's IPC session on embedded standards.........electronic manufacturing. It will merge pcb and assembly. It will remove solder paste from mainstream manufacturing. We are back at 1980, folks, when Surface Mount Technology began its 20 year march to electronic manufacturing dominance, consigning through-hole to nichedom .
(You all know that I think solder paste is problematic, especially the lead-free varieties--good riddance!!!) ----- Harvey M.

My impression is that the industry is like an ocean --- a surface of movement obvious to all --- being carefully studied and analyzed; with strong undercurrents that are not so obvious and potentially treacherous. Political situations, currency controls, economic incentives for re-shoring vs. retaining industries --- makes reports like yours invaluable because, like the myriad of shows taking place at the same time, management may not be able to keep up with all the influential movements and developments without modifying the traditional infrastructure. CEO's, CFO's, COO's --- all still needed but here comes the CAE, Chief Analyst of Events. That's my prediction. ----- Bernie K.

The action was busy, with many potential customers in the market for Direct Imaging equipment.
I left Las Vegas quite optimistic that this could be our most successful year in positioning systems into the U.S. market.
Overall, a good show for Maskless! ----- Dr. William E.

I totally agree, especially this year as it became obvious. In fact some attendees could not visit some exhibitors because they were heading out early to go to one of the major private company "entertainment" events. As one of the largest hospitality suite providers at NEPCON in the 80’s and early 90’s, and as the founding chair of Expo I can attest that what you say is correct as well as of concern. ----- Dan F.

Posted March 2014

If any PCB fabricator wants to see the latest technologies and "stuff" available in Asia, but not in North America, then attending a show in China is necessary! If the Chinese shows become truly bilingual they will be "must attend" events.
New technologies such as 3D printing when combined with printed electronics may be the oft feared game changer! ----- Peter B.

Being a supply chain guy, I naturally gravitate to ways and means of getting your products to clients in the most efficient and lean ways while putting emphasis on sustainability. It’s important to remember that procurement of components and raw materials is part of the total supply chain as well as inventory management and the use of the five types of inventory control methods. In addition, IT is how the supply chain is coordinated and kept together. ----- Robert S.

You might want to reveal why these are your priorities.* ----- Mike B. *Refers to the priority list for IPC PCB EXPO in Weiner's World.

The government is facing a big supply chain issue with IC chips right now. Last summer, Endicott Interconnect went through bankruptcy. I am not sure what this new 3I really is. Now, IBM indicates that it will get out of the chip business. Not widely known is that Defense has pumped at least $500 million into the East Fishkill facility so there will be a fab to make radiation hardened ICs for missiles. Will DoD demand that IBM honor agreement to keep that in US hands and operate it?
There are big implications for propping up the US printed circuit board industry.
We see all kinds of blending of chip fab into chip stacking and packaging. Whose domain is that - the chip packaging companies, or will the chip foundries extend their reach into this aspect of "packaging"?
Is there any sign that high wage rates in China will slow down the China juggernaut?
Will Samsung expand out of its comfort zone of products?
Can Japan stabilize their downward electronics spiral? ----- Denny F.

February 2014

It is really tough to nail down the corners of this industry to get an accurate measurement these days. There are just too many moving parts which are global in scope, as you well know.
I just check these days to make sure the sun rises - and that I am here to see it. ----- Joseph F. 

January 2014

Regarding graphene pricing: it is still stinking expensive, priced per gram. ----- Dr. Alan R.

"Maybe some in America are rethinking multidiscipline manufacturing right now. A couple of years ago at APEXpo I ran into the manufacturing head of Whelen Engineering, the leading manufacturer of lights/sirens that go on police cars in the U.S. I was familiar with Whelen from earlier in my career prior to IMI when they had been a major customer. I learned at that time that they were in the preliminary analysis for building a circuit board fabrication plant adjacent to their New Hampshire plastic molding operation thus bringing back from China their considerable PCB volume (primarily basic double- sided and four layer technology). Just a few weeks ago one of our suppliers told me that Whelen had indeed built a "spectacular" multidiscipline electronics manufacturing facility. This facility reportedly is highly automated; has all new equipment for - fabrication and assembly – all under one roof. While I have not personally seen this facility, the supplier who has seen it (as well as facilities throughout the world) believes that they are successfully building quality product less expensively than buying from “low cost” Asia, especially when factoring in the considerable "soft" costs such as in transit inventory, management travel, freight, etc. So, as in 1941 some companies are indeed out rethinking their manufacturing strategies and out performing the common prevailing wisdom! It is interesting that Whelen is not your typical “high tech electronics company” but rather an OEM – one that decided to take a fresh look at the true total costs of their products. They wound up effectively fabricating and assembling their electronics in the U.S." ----- Peter B.

"I was a Douglas ‘brat’ and caught the tail end of the gooney bird (C47 – {DC3}) as manufactured in the Santa Monica plant. I remember the streets around the plant under camouflage and a T-shirt that stated ‘Proud To Be An American’ ." ----- Roger B.

Your call for feedback on departed companies, and the lessons for the future, set in motion a long, long trip down memory lane (kept me up an entire night).
It began at age 8, 1930 was the year. My mother sent me on an errand to the A&P. I can still picture that little store…From there the story grew too long, including all the companies for which I worked, all gone --- Burroughs, Automatic Electric (pre-GTE, also gone). Lenkurt (same), and a couple of other goners. My fathers' furniture store featured radios (a big item) by Zenith, RCA, and Philco.
All their technologies are gone with them. ---- Harvey M.

"Yep - the USA's PCB industry no longer has the greatest engineering inventions for that business. We have also seem to have become very lax in protecting our patents.
Regarding company and national secrets, I remember meeting a very sharp young guy from France. He was sent to the U.S. as "trainee" by the French government. He worked in several companies to learn about PCBs, software, etc. He returned to France with lots of "confidential" technical information that was not supposed to leave the U.S. country. It seem that not much has changed." ----- Bob S.

"Coincidence---- both Circuit Foil (copper) and The Mica Corp. built plants on the airfield in Silloth, UK, where the unarmed Liberators from the USA landed for armament and servicing before they were used by the RAF in WWII. This was before Pearl Harbor, an event that had its genesis long before America's quarrel with Japan which was impacting the importation of rubber from Indonesia and of aluminum to help build those Liberators*. Speaking of old timers, had breakfast 1/1/14 with Dieter and Bob Neves. Stay well and continue making your talents available to industry ---- they're certainly needed." ----- Bernie K.

"I, too, like Resilience Through Innovation better as the theme for the next International Printed Circuit & APEX South China Fair to be held December 2014." ----- J. Hwang
Posted December 2013

"I read all of your publications This one (December 2013 Weiner's World) is probably the most spot on. You, especially you, are fully aware as to why the Chinese have "control" of the PCB market today. Reaching back into my own history, I recall my days of promoting OLEC in the early 90's. On one occasion I was pitching the CEO of a Chicago area printed circuit fabricator. At that time OLEC was new, innovative, and state-of-the-art. As I listened to him tell me that he did not need a state-of-the-art imaging system unless I was willing to "slash" my price (no surprise here) I looked out his window and saw a new Mercedes in his parking spot. Turning back to this CEO it was difficult not to notice all the heavy gold hanging around his neck. I remember that he was not willing to invest in his company's future but was quite willing to put on a display of conspicuous consumption. He and his company like so many others that really never gave a thought to their companies' futures are "long gone" from our industry.*

I recall telling another company owner about my frequent sales trips to Greater China and how rapidly the industry was progressing there. His only comment was, "Don't worry about the Chinese, they are too backward to ever be a threat." At that time there were 800-900 fabricators left in America. How many are there now?

Bottom Line: The Chinese (including the Taiwanese) did see the future. They had desire, resources, and capital. They were focused. Their governments were supported them. The U.S. board manufacturing industry did not stand a chance. I venture to say that OLEC was not the only American or European system manufacturing company that recognized that the future for equipment sales was in Greater China. One has to wonder why more of them did not move rapidly (before it was too late) to build their product at a lower cost where the market was situated.

Funny how that works. First the electronics world seemed to be centered in Europe, then the United States, and now China. Is that evolution?"* ----- Gordon Q.

* Editor's Notes: A number of major printed circuit board builders in the mid-west, and elsewhere, were driven out of business by continual pricing pressures from major OEMs such as Burroughs and Motorola. Some of these then deserted their suppliers in favor of "cheaper" sources in Asia.

Chinese history (civilization) goes back more than 4,000 years (Xia Dynasty), recorded (written) history more than 3,500 years (Shang Dynasty).

"Thanks for your wisdom." ----- Dr. Hayao N.

"We are entering the next phase of interconnect/packaging technology. 3D IC's, printed circuits with embedded components, etc. are the next enabling technologies. A few companies such as Apple, Samsung and some of the Japanese majors are jumping in with both feet. The functionality and innovative features of devices using these technologies will drive future applications. The next generation foundries can be counted on one hand today. It looks like Moore's Law will continue through at least 400mm wafers.
Is 3D IC buildable/affordable? Is KGD achievable for Japanese style embedding? Does the design base even understand how to use these tools? Sony is building hundreds of millions of CMOS camera sensors successfully. Can smaller companies achieve the necessary yields and costs to participate in the new markets? In 1,000,000 unit production runs? 500,000? 100,000? 5,000? 100?" ----- Matt H.

"Thank you for the well written information. You took it to the point. As I did not visit the HKPCA / Apex China show, I got a good feeling how the technology and the market will change and how China may impact the global PCB market. ----- Michael W.

"Here a few factoids not generally known about the APEX/IPC APEX event: Booths increased from 1,650 to 2,000 - 20% more than the prior event. The level of qualified contestants in the IPC hand soldering contest continued to increase, with representatives from National Space Electronics , Xian Aircraft and Shanxi Electronics in the "top three" this year. Five members of the IPC Board of Directors showed their commitment to supporting the show by attending the event (see Weiner's World for details)." ----- Philip C.

Posted November 2013

“Notwithstanding the frustration and political embarrassment caused by the ridiculous posturing in Washington, politicians on both sides of the aisle need to think harder about the real impact on manufacturers in their districts and the potential loss of revenue and jobs that may result from their irresponsible behavior”----- Trevor G.

"In line with our renewed mission of member success, the IPC took some exciting first steps this year in our quest to shine the spotlight on key enabling technologies. We believe that the positive feedback we have received from members that attended new events such as the Electronic System Technologies and the Chip to PCB Process indicate that these will serve as solid technical and management building blocks as we work to expand the competitiveness of our members in the electronic packaging industries and their supply chains in 2014 and beyond." ----- Sanjay H.

It is interesting to track all of the IBM spinoffs and how their fates vindicated that decision. IBM is fat and happy, selling apps and services, but keeping a foot in hardware and its future--- always a means, never an end." ----- Harvey M.

"The IMPACT session on sustainable manufacturing in which I participated at the TPCA was also interesting. There is an increasing amount of buzz on the topic sustainability but it seems that there is little solid understanding of what it really means or what one could be doing to make it happen. I admit to struggling with the subject myself. There is no generally agreed upon definition of sustainability given the wide range of products being developed and sold as well as the myriad of materials and processes used in their manufacture. As a result it appears we are still somewhat living the parable of the blind men describing an elephant. I registered my concern that most of the attention is focused on serving the needs of just half of the world's population - the top half. We have a long way still to go, but as the philosopher Edmund Burke observed: "The greatest mistake that one can make is to do nothing because one can only do a little". Still, the one big yet unanswered question is will we have enough fuel to get there." ----- Joe F.

Posted October 2013

"I wonder if the next serious conference should be directed towards the investment community with presentations of each emerging technology in its explanation, impact on current markets ---- commercial, industrial and military, timelines and potential players------ individual and partnerships, where we are and where we're going." ----- Bernie K.

"A wonderful idea. With all the attention to Twitter and social networking, where is the needed investment in the electronics industry infrastructure that makes it all possible?" -----Harvey M.

"It is challenging for small or start-up companies to compete, and most will partner with established suppliers." ----- Dr. Alan R.

"The exhibitors at CEATEC Japan 2013 included Japanese automobile manufacturers, large electronic companies, and device manufacturers. The automobile and device manufacturers have developed new electronics that should carry them into the future. Japanese electronic companies have no clear visions for either long term or short term markets. Some hope that the 4K TV is their lottery ticket." ----- Dr. Dominique N.

"The PCB West 2013 conference in Santa Clara last month was so good it blew my mind." ----- Gary F.

Posted September 2013

 "I haven't yet studied the circuit resolution density increases detailed in roadmaps cited in Amkor and Intel presentations (at the IPC Components Conference in Chandler). They make the case for necessity of embedded die. It's the "before and after" that no-one is talking about-- for good reason. Before embedding die can be practical, "Known Good Die" have to be really available without premium cost. That need will be met by proprietary solutions that people are not yet ready to fully disclose. The after results of embedding passive and active components are threatening to the domination of SMT. It's 1980 again! I believe that it will lead to convergence of OSATs, EMS assemblers, and PCB fabricators. The after includes the prospect of eliminating IC packages, solder paste, and.... There will be winners, losers, or, better put, there will be survivors and casualties. There will be opportunities for new players." ----- Harvey M.

"Technology does NOT come for free." ----- Raj K.

Posted August 28-30, 2013

"If price were the sole determinant the Yugo would have been a huge success." ----- Gene W.

"One of the things I find interesting is what I call the upstairs/downstairs system of buying. By that I mean all of the significant board shops with all of the qualifications and registrations who have been surveyed and put on an AVL are upstairs waiting in the buyers lobby at - name the company (L3, Raytheon, Mitre) - for a chance to submit a formal quote. While in the basement the product engineers are using credit cards to go online and buy their boards from completely unqualified suppliers like Advanced Circuits, Sunstone, and Imagineering. And then the final irony is that these companies are now using the approved companies (not that they have to) to build the boards for them to sell to the Raytheons! It is one screwed up world. The people upstairs are telling jus that we need all of the registrations and qualifications, while those downstairs are buying with a credit card anywhere they want, registrations be damned!" ----- Dan B.

Posted August 7-10 , 2013

“…it is unquestionable that while we exported obsoleted technologies, we also exported the ability to obsolete our OWN technologies. It's not just the processes that went offshore; we lost a generation of technical talent. That's much harder to recapture.” ----- Mike B.

 "A unique new perspective on the North American PCB industry, past and future. The context: Technology advances proceed unevenly across geographies ultimately incentivizing the most backward locations. In 1962, Charlie Sporck, operations chief at Fairchild, inaugurated a wire bonding operation in Hong Kong. That began a 60 year process that has entrenched electronic industry supply chains in China. That was after turning on a lot of light bulbs in a lot of minds, including Chairman Deng's. Volumes have been written about offshoring and the "loss" of U.S. PCB fabrication and assembly to Asia. But when the history is compiled around 2026, how will that "loss" be defined? I'm going to take a great big leap--- "We exported obsoleting technologies!" Why did I pick 2026? Because that is the target year for the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductor attainment of sub-10 nanometer lithography (along with 450 mm wafers) The role of the ITRS is to extend Moore's Law. The premise is that when the Law stops so does the electronics industry. That is UNTHINKABLE!!!! And it will not happen! I am still studying the implications for the interconnection complex, including PCBs. They will be extremely disruptive of all incumbent technologies. ----- Harvey M.

Posted July 28-30, 2013

Several good points have been made in this discussion. We have seen this issue take a quantum jump since PCBs were defined as an commodity and the decision making was moved to the Purchasing Department. Often, I have seen the purchasing people wave drawing requirements that I viewed essential to insure a quality product. Then when issues arose we would meet with the engineers and purchasing organization. The entire blame would be placed on the PCB manufacturer for misleading the customer. The engineers were never involved in the initial negotiations and the PCB manufacturers were told that all of our contacts with engineering must go through purchasing. This issue will remain firmly in place until the OEM engineering organizations regain their past authority. ----- Dr. Lee P.

I believe there is a fundamental difference between Western and Asian thinking that is also in play here. Due to the fact that the "bean counters" now run Western Business, and Western Companies are therefore responsible only for the bottom line in 3 months' increments, there is no real planning for the future. Most USA based companies do not look for the future, 2 - 10 years out. ASIAN COMPANIES GENERALLY DO! They are willing to see minimal returns for a year or two if they can foresee market control and growth for the future. On top of this, many Asian Governments (e. g, China, Korea, Japan) provide major financial benefits either directly or indirectly to cultivate growth businesses. ----- Lionel F.

Finally there are quite a few PCB operations in Asia that are supported by other Corporate segments, and are therefore not necessarily required to be profitable; just ensure that the Corporation as a whole is profitable. How can USA based companies compete in a world market where all these things are in play, and where the USA Government really just does not care? I’m seeing more and more rumbles about re-shoring but really it will only work if it makes economic sense. We can wring our hands about lack of trusting relationships and the way it used to be but realistically buyers will go to the least expensive supplier of a good-enough product. That’s why Walmart has been such a success displacing other vendors – and now they are being end-run by the smaller dollar stores! Maybe there is a lesson for us here? ----- Dr. Alan R.

At the roundtable discussion at APEX/Expo in San Diego a few months back, the topic of a trend to on-shoring was discussed. One of the other roundtable participants disagreed with my view stating, (and I paraphrase) that we must take a global view and not try to be protectionist. After all, he stated, a global view was best for our industry. At that time I chose to not reply but my thoughts were, "If I have to choose what is best for my industry, and what is best for my country, my country wins every time." Let me add, I do not think that a global view, where price is all that matters is even best for the global industry. Every segment will get its turn in the barrel - eventually. ----- Dan F.

Unfortunately, the truth hurts and no one is willing to heal the wounds. ----- Gary F.

We here in Europe have the same issues to deal with every day. Companies making PCBs are under pressure. The successful companies supply customised solutions to the electronics industry and not only just for PCBs. I believe innovation and service are some of the keys for success. In addition when series are getting to large, the big boys will try to get the business what ever it takes. However, the Big Boys are not so innovative and flexible to supply customised solutions. It is a very fine line that the PCB fabricators have to walk these days. ----- Michael W.

One of the greatest mistakes I think we have seen in our lifetimes is how the West allowed Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc. business ethics dominate with the promise of lower prices. Cost down usually means no R&D or stolen R&D. The U.S. /UK model really was the best, and we chucked it out for cheap TV’s and gadgets. Now the Japanese have seen the full effect of China/Taiwan on their manufacturing base. It was only a matter of time.

How does one re-shore then without the infrastructure? Take it from any point; regulatory, litigation, manufacturing base, etc. We have the highest energy prices (artificially so) in our history. We have a government that is anti-conventional energy at all costs. Yet we are sitting on a massive new oil and gas industry that can be a game changer. It is perverse. Graphene really does have some amazing potential. One of them is a new process out of MIT for desalination that could change the entire balance of one of the biggest problems facing the world; clean water. But you can bet that the environmentalists will do their best to stymie all of these innovations.

It seems that it is now down to little niches. Even with the billions spent on drug development the pipeline is drying up. One of the causes appears to be government intervention. It is as if they are out there willfully monkey wrenching anything that makes our lives better in favor of getting back to nature and equality of outcome. Perhaps they view the day of the Neanderthal as “the good old days.”

In follow up to the above conversation, I found the attached link today. It is a fascinating story on the changes in Silicon Valley since the 80’s - from the heart of creativity and burgeoning productivity to nearly barren storage facilities.


http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/07/not-even-silicon-valley-escapes-history/277824/ ----- Matt H.

Posted July 24-27, 2013

My take: Lowest price is almost never lowest cost. Unfortunately, most companies that buy PCBs don’t understand total cost. This is not a function of business size or sophistication. Fortunately for us, we have many customers of all sizes, from small mom & pops to multi-billion dollar international conglomerates, that do understand true total cost. The most common error we see in companies that don’t understand total cost is their compensation system. Most US companies still incentivize Buyers and Material Managers on a simple PPV (Purchase Price Variance) plan. The Buyers bonus is primarily based on how much they can reduce the BOM line item cost of a PCB with no consideration for quality, delivery or service/support. To factor in quality, delivery and service requires accurate data capture.

No matter how good a company’s software and data collection systems are, serious discipline is the key to making all work. Big company or small, that comes down to the people and corporate culture. While it may seem that it would be easier to get a small group of people to focus on total cost, the most impressive company that I have seen regarding total cost is a 15 billion dollar global conglomerate. They are obsessed with total cost. They almost never pay “lowest price” and they are incredibly successful, leading most of the markets they compete in, generating high profit margins, and growing year after year. They don’t relentlessly beat their suppliers to death. They work with them to help make better and more profitable (yes, they actually want their suppliers to be profitable). ----- David W.

"I'm following this discussion because of its obvious value to present and future management generations. All of the penny-first thinking and decisions aren't yet done by robotized computers---- there are human managers involved and final decisions are still being made in some conference room with the elephant sitting there ---- the competition. The answer doesn't require some new formulae for success----- it requires a search for a common purpose as we attempt to join all generic groups ------- from supplier to end user ---- in trying to answer the question------ how really important is it to us and our industry and our nation to regain a position of self-dependency??? That's a challenge that I'd enjoy undertaking----------- not to be funny. We're not buried yet!!"! ----- Bernie K.

"There is definitely need to get the wheels of the engine of U.S. innovation and industry back on the rails. and pointed in the right direction. Government can sponsor some R&D but not everything. Many OEMs are sitting on large capital reserves which management seems to be holding on to for their retirement. No stomach for risk it appears but they need to realize that risk is a traveling companion of progress. Others have made investments funding R&D by smaller supplier companies but I am aware of at least two companies recently that had the rug pulled out from under their feet by allowing a very well known company to get too deep into their operations and then were cut off with little notice. They are not alone, many "big boys" have more than their share of blood on their hands. They are much too self serving and fickle it seems.

I agree that regulations are an impediment in some areas but we have seen what havoc unregulated industries (notably banking and real estate) can do to the economy of not just the US but the world. I have been reading Robert Frank's past columns in the NY Times. He seems to me a very clear headed economist (and one of those rare economists without "the other hand" ;-) He offers up for consideration what appear to be a number of workable solutions but the question is can we muster the will to implement them? Probably not but we can hope.

If the current generation can't pick up the scent of reason perhaps a future one will...I am reminded of Oscar Wilde's observation that, "A cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing." Unfortunately, presently and for the last several years, the term "purchasing agent" could be substituted for "cynic" and ring just as true. Buyers are rewarded by their companies for getting the lowest price yet they largely have little to no understanding of the impact of their actions throughout the system (it is not their job, I suppose). Again, unfortunately, the lowest price too often results in the greatest cost when tracked through the system.

The appearances are that too many US corporate leaders have opted to gut the US manufacturing base to fill their pockets (and presumably their shareholders as well) with no evident long term consideration of the impact of their decisions on either their company or their country, which is a great pity. ----- Joe F.

“No one values “value” – considering most people who are in positions of control (customers, bankers, government, etc.) have never stepped into or worked in a manufacturing plant it is easy to see why they do not value what it takes to make anything! Living in the bastion of hedge funds I can tell stories for hours about conversations (or being lectured) I have had about manufacturing by fund managers. It’s not just this (or the last) President – all of Congress is clueless and should be voted out, they all are contributing to our collective demise.

We have been profitable year in and year out. We don’t make much but by sticking to our knitting and delivering something to the bottom line we have access to capital through our bank when needed. That said, for every dollar we can spend on “new” capability we need to spend $1.50 on replacement – not a good ratio for cash flow. We avoid commodity situations and niche in to high mix/low-volumes, technologies, materials, etc., that lend themselves to small batch process manufacturing. Yes, we do craft projects, no we don’t sell zillions of panels via state of the art automation, and so we tend to avoid EMS whenever possible – but we are still here when many are not.

However, as nice or quaint a story as that is it will not work if scaled up. Our industry needs to have some players who have the scale and resources to invest in R&D and process improvements or else all of us will perish. What the hedge fund manager does not understand is that the future depends on investment now.

What government does not understand is that to produce anything business needs competent people, competitively paid, and in an environment that enables as much revenue as possible to be reinvested in the business – not sunk into the cost of regulation no matter how well intended the regulation may be. So, maybe, just maybe, I fear, we may be the poster child of what the future of our industry will look like: a hand full of micro-brewers catering to the few who need something other than the generic Budweiser they can get from more progressive areas of the world! – I know, dream on .

 . . . Like you, Gene, I will be writing about the Endicott chapter 11 and Rockwell-Collins closing and it’s impact on the domestic industry’s reputation if not capability. That said, our customers, I fear, don’t give a damned about where they buy “commodities” or “relationship”. Yes we get an occasional “thank you” but strategically we – all pcb suppliers – don’t count. In the past year six of our customers have dictated terms of Net 60 (vs. Net 30) and two have demanded discounts or we would be paid in Net 90! So, 50% of our sales are now being paid 30+ days later – while we simultaneously get slammed to reduce our “quick-turn” turn-around times while holding “standard” pricing. Considering we sell predominately to DOD related companies I guess they are confused and think we are really a bank! So what to do? All we can do is smile, attempt to differentiate our capability and make a decision: either double down to supply customers or fold.

So, maybe Rockwell is smart and Endicott is just ahead of the curve for what lies ahead for the rest of us! I started in connectors 35 years ago when relationship meant suppliers and customers relying on each other to create a better product.

Regrettably I believe that North America’s technological demise may be less because of cost issues but be directly attributable to the fact we have forgotten that only by working together can we all succeed! So, maybe, just maybe, I fear, we may be the poster child of what the future of our industry will look like: a hand full of micro-brewers catering to the few who need something other than the generic Budweiser they can get from more progressive areas of the world! – I know, dream on . . . . Then again, it’s been a long day . ----- Peter B.

Comments about January's "Weiner's World"

Your comments, as always, is very insightful and your inputs are still a "must-read" for execs in our and related industries. ----- Bernie K

It's well thought out. ----- Mike B

This is a great summary of the industry and where we go from here. I have often noticed there is a great deal of R&D support for industry in the EU, China and Japan. The attitude in this country is that government support is unnecessary because industry will do whatever is necessary. In my mind this is a Pollyanna attitude. If it had been followed in WWII we would have lost. I would suggest setting up a government agency much like NASA for the electronics industry. In the past this would not have been necessary because Bell Laboratories was around and shared all of its work with the industry. We no longer have Bell Laboratories and we will remain at a technology disadvantage until we re-invent such an agency. Like everything else, we need to do our homework and pay our dues to stay ahead. ----- Dr. Lee P

Your article is accurate. Seems simple, but no one has been able to solve it yet. ----- David W
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