Does IPC Task Force Have Enough Competence, Values And Morals To Succeed?

Perhaps many of you are like me, I see ‘Government’ or ‘Government Relations’  in the title and I usually don’t even skim the article. The article: “IPC Prepares Policy Recommendations to Department of Defense Printed Circuit Board Executive Agent—Emphasis on Strengthening North American PCB Industry” in the April 2009 issue of the IPC Review is a prime example. Until very recently, I was not even aware that such an IPC Task Force even existed. And if I am not aware of this, I would bet a lot of other IPC members are not either–and it might be our fault.

I became aware of this issue with a query on LikedIn asking what the title asks.

I answered: “I cannot answer the question without knowing who is on the Task Force. Generally speaking, the people involved with the IPC are competent and have the interest of the industry at heart,’ to which I got the following response (which seems to have been taken from the IPC report — I took the liberty of editing it for brevity. The original is posted at www.ipc.org/PCB-competitiveness):

 “For more than 50 years, the U.S. domestic printed circuit board industry has supported both the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the consumer electronics market. But several trends have resulted in a dramatic reduction of domestic electronics manufacturing. The effect of these trends result in DoD’s susceptibility to counterfeit parts, unreliable components, and potential for a lack of technological expertise to meet future DoD needs.

DoD’s substantially increased use of commercial off-the-shelf electronics (COTS) has resulted in a shift from DoD’s dependence on domestic defense electronics suppliers to dependence on the global consumer market….”

IPC assembled the IPC DoD PCB Executive Agent Task Force composed of executives from leading North American PCB manufacturers who have extensive knowledge of DoD trends, tactics and procedures. The purpose of the task force is to advise IPC of industry concerns regarding PCBs manufactured for use by DoD. Based on its discussions, the task force created in-depth policy recommendations for DoD to implement that will aid in assuring a PCB industry capable of supporting future DoD needs. The IPC task force, composed of executives from Colonial Circuits, DDi, EIT, Hunter Technology, IMI, Sanmina-SCI, TTM and Vulcan Flex Circuits Corp., was founded to identify industry concerns applied to PCBs manufactured for use by the DoD.

DoD does not fully comprehend the ramifications of a dwindling number of domestic PCB manufacturers capable of supporting DoD requirements for innovative technology. North America still has a competent, competitive and organized supply base. However, IPC is gravely concerned with the loss of high technology manufacturing capabilities of the PCB supply chain that, if not immediately addressed and reversed, will result in a North American PCB industry unable to support DoD requirements. ..”

Well this is commendable, but inadequate. I responded with: “What you outlined addresses one issue of great concern, the DoD supply chain, however, it does not address other concerns of a more technical nature. A lot of the technical issues are driven by the changes forced by the EU RoHS directive of June 1, 2006. While the DoD is exempt, this exemption has little practical value since the rest of the industry, making up the bulk of electronics production, is not exempt and your COTS products need to meet RoHS requirements and capabilities.

This has caused material changes in both components and PCBs, some of which have significantly increased concerns like tin whiskers or significant changes in the PCB base materials affecting thermal, mechanical and electrical properties. One only needs to look at the papers on these issues during IPC APEX EXPO 2009.

So while the Task Force may be able to address the supply chain concerns, typically, these executives may not be fully conversant with the technical issues.”

Those of you working for defense contractors may be able to think of a good avenue to address these issues.

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