Trump’s COVID Relief Actions Are a Mixed Bag

By Chris Mitchell, vice president, global government relations

Over the weekend, responding to unsuccessful negotiations with Congress, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) and three memoranda aimed at extending relief to Americans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The executive actions stretch the bounds of constitutionality, and the size and speed of the aid is likely to be insufficient, keeping pressure on the President and Congress to strike a broader deal.  Look for negotiations to resume in August and a deal potentially in September.

Until then, the President’s executive actions will continue to provoke applause by some and criticism by others.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement, “These Executive Orders build upon on our ongoing implementation of the CARES Act, which is delivering meaningful results for the American people.”

However, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the President’s actions were “unworkable, weak, and far too narrow.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called the President’s actions “absurdly unconstitutional” and said the payroll tax cut that Trump seeks would undermine Social Security and Medicare.

Here’s our rundown of the President’s announcement on Saturday.

Payroll Taxes

One of Trump’s actions was a payroll tax deferral, not a cut as some media reports suggest. It defers the due date for the portion of those taxes paid by employees through December 31 and applies to workers whose gross wages are less than $4,000 on a biweekly basis, or about $104,000 a year.

The action is akin to the Treasury Department’s decisions earlier this year to defer the employer’s portion of the payroll tax and defer the income tax due date to July 15 from April 15. However, the White House cannot forgive taxes without congressional approval, as the Constitution vests the spending and taxing powers in the Congress.

President Trump has said that, if reelected, he will seek to forgive the levy and make permanent cuts to payroll taxes. But to do so, President Trump would need the support of Congress, and Republicans and Democrats both have opposed cutting payroll taxes for not helping the unemployed and compromising the solvency of the Social Security and Medicare programs.

Without the likelihood of a retroactive payroll tax cut, “it is highly questionable whether firms would actually pass the money along to their workers, because it is the businesses that are on the hook for the taxes,” MarketWatch reports.

Unemployment Benefits

President Trump also announced that he was extending “an additional or extra $400 a week” in expanded unemployment insurance benefits. The details are more nuanced.

The previous unemployment benefit passed by Congress provided an additional $600 a week federal bonus on top of state unemployment benefits. Under the President’s action, the federal government would require states to cover 25% of the up-to-$400 benefit. However, most states are in fiscal straits and have drained their unemployment trust funds given the historic number of claims. States are pushing Congress to give them $500 billion in aid to shore up their budgets, so it is unclear how many states could support the 25% match.

Trump also is seeking to use leftover or unspent FEMA funds to pay unemployment benefits. But to leverage those funds, states would need to set up entirely new benefit programs. Because Congress has not authorized an extension of extra federal unemployment assistance, states cannot use those administrative systems to pay the new benefit. Setting up new systems could take months yet getting the $100 in aid from the state is a pre-requisite for tapping the $300 federal benefit.

For these and other reasons, some experts are dubious that the unemployment benefits offered by President Trump will help many people, especially in the immediate future. IPC supports congressional extension of the federal unemployment insurance bonus but has urged policymakers to modify it to promote a return to work among those who safely can.

 Student Loans

President Trump also directed the Education Department to extend the student loan relief granted under the CARES Act through December 31. Currently, loan payments are paused, and interest is suspended on federally held student loans, until September 30.

The relief does not extend to private-sector loans, but there is no question that the President’s decision is squarely within his authority and will help millions of student loan borrowers.

 Evictions 

The President’s latest action does not reinstate the previous moratorium on evictions, which lapsed in July. The original ban covered mortgages backed by federal funds, or roughly 12 million households.

Instead, the executive action calls on the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of the Center for Disease Control to consider whether measures temporarily halting residential evictions for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. It calls on the HUD and Treasury Secretaries to try to identify “any and all Federal funds to provide temporary financial assistance to renters and homeowners” who have been affected by COVID.

Relief Package Outlook

Although the coronavirus relief talks are stalled for now, the Senate remains in session. The majority of senators are not in D.C., and they would have a 24-hour notice to return if a vote is scheduled. However, our sources on Capitol Hill and the White House are telling us it is unlikely that they will reach a deal within the next week and that a bill in late or September is more realistic.

As this situation unfolds, IPC will continue to advocate for your interests and keep you informed via our IPC communications channels. Stay tuned!

 

 

PFAS Regulation in the Electronics Industry: Should We Be Concerned?

by Matthew Chalkley, Supply Chain Management and Operations Consultant; Kelly Scanlon, Director, Environment, Health and Safety Policy & Research, IPC 

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of 4,730 man-made chemicals (OECD, 2018), the two most well-known of which are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). PFAS are used in a wide variety of consumer products and industrial applications because of their unique chemical and physical properties, including oil and water repellence, temperature and chemical resistance, and surfactant properties.

There is evidence that certain PFAS can accumulate and stay in the environment and in the human body for long periods of time and lead to adverse human health outcomes.

In July, IPC completed a screening study to gain a better understanding of the evolving policies shaping the production and use of PFAS. The study examines how these policies may affect the electronics industry depending on which PFAS substances are involved and how they are used within the myriad of electronic equipment and electronics manufacturing processes.

The IPC study shows that the semiconductor industry, in particular, is very reliant on PFAS.  The study also indicates that fluoropolymers such as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a type of PFAS, are used for insulating cables in a variety of electrical and electronic applications. PTFE-insulated wires and cables can be used in harsh environments and in use cases where high-volume data transmission is required, such as automotive electronics, medical equipment, and data centers.

Additionally, PTFE and other fluoropolymers can be used in rigid, flexible, and hybrid printed circuit boards, especially those PCBs used for high frequency and microwave applications.

IPC needs you to review the preliminary findings from our screening study confirm whether we have accurately captured the uses of PFAS in electronics products and processes.  Also, we rely on your feedback to let us know whether the uses of PFAS we describe are unique to electronics, and how you would rank the criticality of PFAS to the performance of the electronics. Please send your feedback to Kelly Scanlon, IPC’s director of environment, health, and safety policy and research, by August 28.

The screening study has already provided IPC with the insights needed to respond to a Call for Evidence from the national authorities of Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The information they receive will aid those authorities as they prepare a joint REACH restriction proposal to limit the risks to the environment and human health from the manufacture and use of PFAS.

We ask that you review and confirm our screening study findings and recommendations. And please feel free to share any additional supporting data and information that would be beneficial as we continue our PFAS journey. IPC Contact: Kelly Scanlon.

 

 

IPC Electronics Workforce Training Courses: Closing the Gap Between Employee and Employer Needs

By Carlos Plaza, director of education development

Currently about 78 percent of electronics industry companies need to increase their work force but struggle to find skilled workers to take available jobs. Prospective employees are not necessarily aware of the available, well-paid, and stable jobs in the electronics industry. How do we close that gap?

Help upskill employeees

By launching the IPC Electronics Workforce Training courses to help upskill employees and address the most difficult-to-fill positions in the industry. Those positions include machine operators, general assemblers, inspection technicians, test technicians, failure analysis technicians, hand soldering technicians, quality control technicians, machine repair technicians and estimators.

Companies that proactively invest in professional development for their new and existing employees gain an advantage in the rapidly changing and evolving electronics manufacturing industry. By using IPC Electronics Workforce Training, employers can reduce employee turnover, attract new talent, improve customer satisfaction, and plan for an increase in work force with highly skilled employees.

IPC Electronics Workforce Training courses were created by industry experts and educational specialists to help provide real-world knowledge and skills that frontline employees need to accomplish their tasks the right way every time. Powered by the IPC EDGE online learning management system, IPC Electronics Workforce Training courses are available in both instructor-led and self-paced online formats. These programs can either be offered directly to employees or easily integrated into a more comprehensive company training program.

The courses currently available are: Electronics Assembly for Operators, IPC-A-610 for Operators, IPC-J-STD-001 for Operators, ESD Control for Electronics Assembly, and Soldering Fundamentals I. Look for Wire Harness Assembly for Operators, Soldering Fundamentals II, Electronics Assembly Inspection, and other new courses in 2021. For further information, visit https://training.ipc.org.

 

 

Evolving Policies Reframe Discussion about Flame Retardants in Electronics

By Ajay Persaud, IPC EHS Fellow and Master of Public Health Student at The George Washington University

Policy makers in Europe and North America are eyeing a variety of changes to environmental, health and safety regulations to encourage a “circular economy” and reduce the risks of using flame retardants in electronics products.

That was the main theme of a recent IPC/Chemical Watch event in which experts discussed important policy developments around flame retardants used in the electronics industry from both European and North American perspectives. More than 270 people participated online. The panelists represented standards development (ECOS and IPC) and industry (electronics and chemicals production):

  • Adrian Beard, Head of Market Segments, Clariant Corporation;
  • Ioana Popescu, Senior Program Manager, ECOS;
  • Kelly Scanlon, Director of Environment, Health, Safety Policy and Research, IPC (Moderator); and
  • Joel Tenney, Director of Advocacy, ICL.

Here is a summary of the discussion:

What are the emerging policies affecting flame retardants used in electronics in North America and Europe?

In the European Union, policy makers are developing an eco-design framework for consumer electronics, as well as new regulations to remove halogenated flame retardants within stands and enclosures of electronic displays starting in March 2021. New regulations regarding halogenated flame retardants may be placed on other electronic products, as well.

Also in Europe, the Circular Plastic Alliance, an industry-based group is working to promote greater production and use of recycled plastics. While the recycling of flame-retardant-containing plastics may be feasible for the foreseeable future, challenges lie ahead in terms of regulating the chemical make-up of consumer electronic products. Previous measures aimed at reducing the use of halogenated flame retardants, such as an electronics tax enacted in Sweden, have had limited success and spurred a negative public response.

In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is evaluating a petition to evaluate the use of non-polymeric halogenated flame retardants in electronic casings, focusing on the potentially hazardous chemical endpoints that could be present. On the state level, Washington State recently announced it is assessing the potential risk that flame retardants pose to consumers. Similarly, on the federal level, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this year launched a risk assessment of TBBPA and other flame retardants.

What are the industry standards that shape the definitions and descriptions of flame retardants used in electronics?

The representative from ECOS shared that basic flammability standards for electronics have not significantly changed, and the EU has not established any electronic product safety standards. Rather, flammability standards pertain more to product performance outcomes.

One important point was that there should be no health and safety compromise involved in meeting electronics safety standards by solely adding flame retardants. Instead, designers should consider fire safety standards while not compromising on the potential toxicological and environmental impacts that halogenated flame retardants may cause. The focus should be shifted from primarily utilizing flame retardants to meet safety standards to considering changes in materials choices, as well as performance-based approaches for electronics manufacturing.

Ideally, what data and information is needed to make better decisions about flame retardant chemicals and their use in electronics?

The ICL representative highlighted that industry decision-makers should shift their focus to consider the whole value chain rather than any particular components of electronic products. By utilizing new data tools that capture decision-making drivers, industry can improve their understanding of the value chain from a holistic viewpoint.

What innovations and technologies are needed to remove the need for flame retardants in electronics, or will we always need them?

Panelists stated that the conversation is moving away from the hazardous effects of flame retardants to focus more on the downstream impacts, such as recycling and reuse. In the context of the circular economy concept, industry must look at material streams from end-to-end if they are to increase the ability to recycle and reuse electronic components. Special attention must be placed on both conservation of electronic components and the reuse of materials through innovative methods such as label technologies so consumers and e-waste sites are better informed about what chemicals a product may contain and how it may be reused. Other environmental considerations such as a product’s carbon footprint are also coming to the fore.

How do you see the European Union’s Circular Economy Action Plan shaping future conversations about flame retardants used in electronics – and not just in the EU but elsewhere?

All panelists noted an ongoing, global shift in how we can use circularity to reframe discussions about chemicals and products. When considering how to recycle or reuse a product, a variety of specific choices and tradeoffs will have to be made. While a manufacturer may be able to increase a product’s recyclability, changes in materials or components may have to be implemented. In addition, the Circular Economy Action Plan will have to address not only the mechanical aspects of recycling but also the chemistry of recycling and reuse, given that consumer electronic products contain flame retardants, and the manufacturing processes can be energy-intensive. Innovative projects that enable circularization include markings on electronic products to indicate the presence of flame retardants as well as improving data and information sharing across the product value chain.

IPC will continue to collaborate with Chemical Watch to organize additional educational events on flame retardants in electronics. For more IPC information about this and other environment, health and safety topics, contact Kelly Scanlon, IPC’s director of EHS policy and research.

 

iNEMI Publishes Best Practices for Protecting the Reliability and Integrity of Electronic Equipment when Disinfecting for COVID-19

The International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (iNEMI)  announced publication of “Recommended Best Practices for Protecting the Reliability and Integrity of Electronic Products and Assemblies when Disinfecting for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).”

“With the COVID-19 crisis, several of our members have contacted iNEMI for guidance on how to mitigate the possible detrimental impact of disinfecting procedures on electronic equipment and assemblies,” said Marc Benowitz, iNEMI CEO. “There are guidelines from groups such as the U.S. EPA, CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding cleaning and disinfecting for COVID-19, but none of these address the impact of disinfectants and their application methods on electronic equipment and assemblies.”

“Many commonly recommended disinfection substances and/or application methods could potentially cause failures in electronic equipment if the internal electronics were inadvertently exposed to them,” continued Benowitz. “This is an obvious concern for electronics manufacturers who are wanting to ensure the safety of their employees, supply chain partners and customers, while protecting the reliability and integrity of their products.”

Benowitz explains that, in response to this industry need, a team of experts from across iNEMI member organizations reviewed key industry, government and technical sources and assembled a best practices document. The team assessed the chemicals included in the U.S. EPA List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) and common application methods, identifying those substances that minimize the risk of negative impact on electronic equipment when applied in an appropriate manner.

iNEMI’s best practices are now available on the iNEMI website. Download the document:  https://www.inemi.org/disinfecting-best-practices-request

Problem Solving While Innovating: How Electronics Manufacturers are Coping with COVID-19

Those of us in the electronics manufacturing industry are no different than anyone else facing this pandemic – we are not sure of what will happen next, but we are working together to find solutions. IPC President and CEO John Mitchell shares his insights:

Delta Group Electronics Hosts IPC Training Video Production

Delta Group Electronics in Albuquerque, N.M. recently hosted the production of two new IPC training videos:  SMT Component Placement and Solder Paste Printing.

Tod Cummins, Delta Group’s director of corporate quality assurance, has been a major supporter of IPC’s educational effort providing technical support and practical guidance to the IPC video production team over a number of years. Tod has arranged/coordinated video shoots at three of the Delta Group sites including Albuquerque N.M.; Dallas, Texas; and Rockledge, Fla.

Delta Groups’ commitment to employee training, and the educational efforts of our industry reflects their excellence in leadership. Maintaining employees’ awareness is an ongoing challenge. The IPC video training series provides an quick and easy method to provide educational information to the employee base with very little administrative investment. IPC videos also provide an opportunity to preface/enhance company procedural training — adding variety to the media presented to employees.

Mark Pritchard, IPC video producer, noted the kindness of all of the employees at the Albuquerque facility. “Without exception, everyone was helpful and interested and perfectly willing to explain and perform every task needed to illustrate the video.  It was a real pleasure working with Delta Group; they are a fine group of people. We are deeply appreciative of their continued support.”

Solving the Surface Finish Selection Paradox

By Kunal Shah, Ph.D., LiloTree

Surface finish is applied on to copper (Cu) integration scheme on printed circuit boards (PCBs) and semiconductors wafers. Choice of surface finish is critical because the performance and reliability of the electronic assemblies depends on the right selection. There are several options available in the market and one (OEM, PCB manufacturers, PCB designers, EMS) needs to consider the following critical selection criteria,

  1. Insertion loss: Next generation electronic assemblies require HDI, high frequency PCBs. Right choice of surface finish is critical to attain optimum signal integrity with minimal insertion loss. Materials like Nickel (Ni) in ENIG/ENEPIG have lower conductivity and electromagnetism leading to high insertion loss. Immersion Sn, EPAG/EPIG also show insertion loss. It is critical to select a surface finish with insertion loss equivalent to copper substrate for superior performance.
  2. Solder joint reliability: Few surface finishes options (i.e. ENIG, etc.) tend to form brittle solder joints with lead-free solder. Also, Ni based surface finishes form Sn-Ni intermetallics/solder joints which are less strong to Sn-Cu intermetallics. Can the surface finish participate in ensuring smaller intermetallics and robust solder joints? The choice of the surface finish is critical in ensuring robust solder joints in your final assembly.
  3. Shelf life: Looking at the current pandemic situation going on around the world, longer shelf life is critical  due to supply chain disruptions across the world. Flexibility in assembly, shipping and other logistics is a critical need. Several surface finish options show concerns over longer shelf life, i.e. Immersion Silver (Ag), Immersion Tin (Sn), OSP, etc. However, ENIG, ENEPIG, soft Gold (Au), hard Au, etc. show longer shelf life due to Au as outer most layer in the final finish.
  4. Reflow cycles during assembly: With ever-increasing complexity of the electronic assemblies, it is paramount to have the surface finish that can withstand multiple reflow cycles (3+). There are few surface finishes options i.e. OSP, Immersion Ag, etc. which may compromise soon after couple reflow cycles. Usually surface finishes (ENIG, ENEPIG, etc.) with Au as outer most layer in the finish show good performance after multiple reflow cycles.
  5. Cost-effective: It is also critical to review cost during the selection of the surface finish. There are few options that involve use of precious metals, i.e. Ag, Au, Palladium (Pd). Some options use very thick Au layer (20-30+ micro inches in soft/hard gold) whereas others use multiple precious metals (Pd and Au in ENEPIG/EPIG). Thickness of these surface finishes are critical to ensure cost-effectiveness.

Overall performance and reliability of electronic assemblies depends on the right material selection of every component involved. The surface finishes on the PCBs are critical piece to ensure the optimum performance and reliability of the electronic assemblies. Pay attention which selecting surface finishes for PCBs and wafers.

Please reach out to us if you have any questions or need any additional information.

IPC Creates Two New Videos in Cooperation with PACE Worldwide

IPC has released two award winning videos this year in cooperation with PACE Worldwide: 115C – Soldering Iron Tip Care (Communicator Award)  and 194C – SMT Component Removal (Telly Award).

According to Mark Pritchard, IPC Video producer,  “IPC has a long history of cooperation with PACE dating back to the 1990s.  PACE has been a major sponsor of IPC videos, providing soldering tools and technical expertise on 18 different productions.  Eric Siegel, president of PACE, understood the advantage of working together with IPC to help create a library of solder training videos for our industry, from through-hole soldering to BGA rework.  PACE has also produced their own instructional/promotional videos, designed to educate customers on their product line.  Working with PACE over the years has been instrumental in improving the quality of IPC videos.  There was always some element of friendly competition between us to continually produce better videos, to everyone’s benefit.”

In addition to providing equipment for video shoots, PACE has also provided the technical knowledge from some of the most knowledgeable and experienced trainers in the industry, Marshall Canaday, Chris Barrett and Aaron Caplan.

The following videos were developed in cooperation with PACE.  Our sincere thanks to Eric Siegel for his continued support of IPC Video.

  • 14 – Hand Soldering Terminals
  • 41 – Through Hole Rework
  • 91 – Intro to SMT Rework
  • 92 – Rework of Chip Components
  • 93 – Gull Wing Rework
  • 94 – Rework of J-Lead Components
  • 96 – BGA Rework
  • 97ab – Land and Conductor Repair
  • 97c – Plated Through Hole Repair
  • 115 – Soldering Iron Tip Care
  • 118 – Terminal Soldering Remake
  • 141 – PTH Rework and Component Removal
  • 142 – Introduction to Hand Soldering
  • 143 – PTH Preparation and Hand Soldering
  • 144 – SMT Hand Soldering Component Installation
  • 145 – Basic SMT Rework without Component Removal
  • 194 – SMT Component Removal
  • 196 – Area Array Rework

USMCA is Just the Start

By Shawn DuBravac, IPC Chief Economist

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) went into effect on July 1, replacing and modernizing the 26-year-old North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In many ways, the USMCA reinforces our continent-wide commitment to some $1.3 trillion in trilateral trade flows, while adding key provisions to bring the agreement into the 21st century.

The pact will be a net positive for America increasing both the size of the economy and U.S. employment. Diverse industries are likely to benefit, while manufacturing is expected to see the largest percent gains in production, wages, employment and exports.

The USMCA comes at a time when many companies are rethinking thin, globally dispersed supply chains amid rising trade tensions and COVID-19-induced disruptions. Both ongoing trade wars and COVID-19 have revealed the fragility embedded in modern manufacturing philosophies.

The USMCA also comes at a time when regional trade agreements are taking a larger role in defining the course of global commerce and the cost of doing business in the years to come. There are 303 regional trade agreements in place today, and that number is likely to rise in the aftermath of COVID-19.

The USMCA and other regional trade agreements are strengthening the economics of regionalization, and COVID-19 is accelerating the move towards a new equilibrium. Strengthening domestic production capabilities in the 21st century requires strengthening regional supply chains. It isn’t enough to focus solely on domestic capacity. COVID-19 revealed life-or-death shortcomings in our supply chains. If we are serious about revitalizing U.S. manufacturing, we must also be serious about manufacturing in Canada and Mexico.

This commitment requires a North American Manufacturing Initiative to focus on coordinating pandemic response and strengthening the region’s manufacturing competitiveness. Specifically, the three North American governments should grow regional capacity for manufacturing and create systems to measure and monitor industrial base resiliency. They also should determine a regional definition of “essential activity,” which would help drive the production of crucial materials, parts or products across multiple borders.

Now is the time for all nations to work with their neighbors to ensure the strength and resiliency of regional supply chains for critical industries, and in so doing, to strengthen each country individually. Greater coordination across regions will help ensure our supply lines can bounce back from further disruptions in the decades to come.