Weiner International Associates
           Weiner International Associates

Posted January 2018

If people aren’t listening to what you have to say, they don’t belong in this industry. ----- Mike B.

Your column is an  easy to read wrap-up of important things going on. ----- Detlef S.


Posted December 2017


There are a number of people who are doing a great job in cramming more transistors into the same square milimeter of chip surfaces. The effect of this is not affecting PCB industry as much as those folks warn.  If you see what goes on in Asia where still billions of dollars are poured to increase their capacity of conventional PCB.   More than 90% of PCBs today still have line/space feature sizes of 75 microns or larger.  The only area of PCB where much finer lines are required are for smartphones and wearable products, which account for only less than 10% of the entire PCB area produced.


Maybe fewer than 25 makers out of the existing 2500 PCB makers in the world are affected immediately by continuing integration of IC. The square foot and number of IC substrates are still increasing and only Ibiden and Samsung have lost their substrate business to A10 and A11. 


Future FOWLP is not replacing existing substrates, but rather, creating a new market, which is more of a concern to assemblers than PCB makers.   You cannot implement hardware with FOWLP alone. You still need PCBs!


Some folks in the PCB industry should pay more attention to what is happening in the chips and packaging industry segments, but at the same time, those in the IC industry should also pay more attention to what goes on in the PCB industry before stating that PCBs and substrates will perish.


The world makes 400 million square meters a year of double-sided and multilayer boards plus 60 million square meter of single-sided PCBs a year.   Yes, less substrate in the future, maybe, but you cannot eliminate 460 million square meter per year of PCB overnight just be making denser ICs!


You know me.  I am 100% PCB to the bone.  When I lecture to my PCB friends about the possible influence of IC integration on PCBs, nobody pays any attention.  They still expand.   We have to coexist: higher integration of ICs and PCBs.


Having said this, we are at a turning point to do something about PCB structures after seeing the double PCB of iPhone X main boards. ----- Dr. Hayao N.



You have again well summed up the very busy events in Asia. By just walking through, and talking with familiar people and  many of the companies at HKPCA it was clear to me that China has matured not only as an electronics center of excellence, but as a developer of new materials and provider of quality capital equipment. If, and how that all trickles to the West will be interesting to see. However, I am always reenergized by visiting Asia and seeing that our industry is alive and well . . . . just no longer here in America! ----- Peter B.


One thought that I had after visiting this month's SEMICON show in Tokyo: The semiconductor industry in Japan no longer seems to have an interest in pursuing volume. It seems that the companies there are now chasing unique specialty devices with great margins. ----- Dominique N.


Forget the "good old days". They are all a figment of your imagination. I was there, and I can tell you that they weren't that good. You just remember them with those rose-colored glasses that we use to view the past. So, forget about them, and for heaven's sakes stop, please stop waiting for them to come back because first of all they won't, and second of all you wouldn't like it one bit if they did. ----- Dan B.


Posted November 2017


PCB employee shortages---- let's start dipping into the retired ranks and adjust the mindset of companies so that they can use part time --- ad hoc--- assistance on projects from elder employees with flex schedules.

The IPC once published a capability matrix for consultants.  Maybe a similar presentation would be good for retirees wanting to work on a reduced schedule. ----- Bernie K.

Isn’t it interesting that three major shows are all at the end of the year – in time for all to get ideas, input before they execute their 2018 business plans. Your last comment (Red Flag) about the possibility of double-ordering may be taking place also in the fabrication world. With Rogers pushing lead times way out -- @50 days for 3000/6000 material and up to 80 days for Duroid, etc., I am concerned that some customers are double-ordering with multiple companies with the hope that one, or another, will get laminate from Rogers sooner so to support their short-term needs. When suppliers lead times stretch out you never know how that translates through the procurement community at the OEM level. ----- Peter B.


Great insights and report---as usual.  A whole lot of people are going to miss you when you when you retire --- if and when.

That "double ordering" report in the component supply chain takes me back to '79-80 ----- when I started my full time brokering.  We're in far better shape today. ----- Bernie K.


Posted October 2017


Absolutely correct. It IS getting more complicated! In fact what we see are multiple routes to how businesses will look and disruption to so many, if not all, verticals. ----- Robert L.


With the impending challenges created by AI,  IOT, and digital platforms everything will be impacted by the available talent pool or lack thereof, so we need to grow it - including from our existing workforce. HR will need a digital recruiting strategy and a digital training plan. ----- Val S.


Interesting on a couple of fronts. Yes, large successful companies can be destroyed by ego-centric management who want to beat the street’s expectation and/or their predecessor’s record (read, GE) which results in a massive restructuring which may work. Other companies see an opportunity in an emerging or reshaping market and buy up the pieces of other companies so they can add what they need to be a player (read Delphi). Such has been the case for generations and for some reason it still seems to happen in spurts rather than consistently.


Today the opportunity market is truly automotive. Automobiles are the only “consumer” product with the volume and value of electronics growing exponentially. The computer is becoming the engine of vehicles and with self-driving technologies, new applications for what should be a mature industry are developing.  As Asia and other “emerging” markets are the fastest growing geographic markets the growth in automotive and opportunity both technologically and in volume is in automotive. Add to that the it is far easier to deal with automotive companies than with defense, who on top of costly quality requirements (which automotive also has) have added the layered and costly hurdles of security and nationalism for their supply base to jump over.


I would expect more mergers and divestitures as traditional companies jettison software, and chemical and materials operations where they are marginal players, and emerging or re-positioning companies piece together what they need to be globally competitive in automotive. And . . . .  I fully expect the most successful at this will be Asian companies. ----- Peter B.


Posted August 2017


An independent industry certification organization would first have to understand the physical characteristics related to a unique application. HDI for example has hundreds of material/process combinations that substantially impact the performance. Back drill, a relatively simple mechanical process has taken 6+ years just to build out a reliability test vehicle. I believe PCB's will eventually mature to certify structures instead of attributes. It's just becoming too expensive to characterize all aspects of process applications for all materials and applications. For new technologies like VeCS from NextGin Technologies the strategy is to seek out key structures that are challenging for the OEM's and focus testing on those. IPC type collaborations worked well when the basic application for each technology was similar, but that's not the case today. ----- Joe D.


Nice, but there are some quality controls needs that are possibly outside a “standard” certification process.  In Automotive, there are quality processes that require variation to be measured and be within a certain limit.  The important thing is to have required specifications, methodology to test to the specs, and methodology to measure variation to the spec allowing for failed parts to be screened out.  There are also requirements to incorporate stress testing to simulate changes happening over the lifetime of the product.   

Certification is not required, but processes to ensure quality and good self-reporting are.   Audits should occur to insure that processes are being followed as specified, but that’s the limit of a certification. 

It’s an interesting perspective to state that the amount of business is proof of quality.  I’m not sure that is entirely true.  It depends on the priority of quality.  There are consumer products, which operate at less extreme temperatures, have a shorter lifespan, and where failure will not cause a catastrophic life-threatening accident. In these cases quality is less important than in Automotive electronics. ----- Merril S.


Posted July 2017


I wonder how the new Presidential Executive Order on Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States will translate down to the printed circuit board (PCB) fabrication industry. Aren't PCBs (both rigid and flexible) a critical platform and interconnect component for many of the military's electronic devices, control systems, weapon systems? Isn't the supply chain to build these (e.g., copper foil, copper clad laminates) important enough to protect? Or are these just too small for anyone in Washington or the Pentagon to pay attention to the viability of this capability in the United States or with trusted non-American sources? I wonder. Do you? ----- GHW


Gene, you are perfectly right ! I am telling this since many years. One of our customers in Europe, lost the supply of PCBs for an important company making electronic devices for the military ( aiming systems, radars, etc,..) in favour of a Chinese supplier. The order was lost for a ridiculous difference of few tenths of Euros for a device that will cost milllions. Greed and incompetence have no boundaries. ----- Gaetano Dall Ora


Posted June 2017


This is a remarkable report and must reading for our IPC Community.


For the astute executive today, your report is the road map to tomorrow.

Congrats ---- and enjoy.  ----- Bernie K.

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