It’s 2010: Do you know where your circuit boards are?

Denny McGuirk’s April Editorial from IPC member newsletter, Intouch

Printed boards are no longer “flying under radar,” at the Department of Defense (DoD). IPC lobbying efforts over the past several years led to a National Research Council panel and a Congressional mandate requiring DoD to appoint an Executive Agent (EA) for printed circuit boards. The PCB EA is tasked with addressing how the DoD can maintain access to advanced printed board technology.

Now, IPC and our Executive Agent Task Force are actively engaged with DoD policy makers to ensure the safety and security of the printed board supply chain. In a recent analysis from the Department of Commerce (DoC), nearly 400 surveyed companies reported encountering more than 9,000 counterfeit parts, including printed boards, in 2008.

The report says that in 2007, “Naval Air Systems Command suspected that an increasing number of counterfeit/defective electronics were infiltrating the DoD supply chain and affecting weapon system reliability. Counterfeits could complicate the Navy’s ability to sustain platforms with extended life-cycles and maintain weapon systems in combat operations.”

The risks to the U.S. defense system if counterfeiting continues unabated are clear. At the December 2009 IPC technology interchange on the North American PCB industry and the military market, we had a lot of discussion about the future of the printed board industry in North America and the importance of a secure supply chain. Many military OEMs, driven by the bid process and the expectations of Wall Street, are purchasing boards in Asia. The DoD must be able to ensure that the printed boards used in military electronics are built to specified design and performance requirements and not subject to sabotage, tampering or intellectual property theft.

When the members of the IPC EA Task Force met with Sydney Pope of the Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense to discuss the Executive Agent program, one of the topics was the Congressional mandate for DoD to create trust requirements for printed boards. Pope suggested that the industry develop a standard that would protect the intellectual property of printed boards that could serve as the basis of a DoD program for verifying trust in printed boards.

I’m proud to say that our industry rose to the challenge. In just a few short months, the IPC Intellectual Property Committee drafted a standard for the protection of intellectual property (IP) designed into printed circuit boards. The standard, Best Industry Practices for Intellectual Property Protection, will assist printed board manufacturers in protecting customer IP in commercial, industrial and military/high reliability markets. The standard addresses not just the design of printed boards, but also physical and information security, employee data access, computer networks, destruction of scrap material and other important issues.

The draft will be reviewed at an open meeting (committee code IP) on Tuesday, April 6, 2010, at IPC APEX EXPO in Las Vegas. Industry members from all segments of our industry are invited to attend the meeting to review the draft standard and provide input. If you can’t make the meeting and would like to get involved, please contact Fern Abrams, director of government relations and environmental policy.

With your input, our industry can develop a standard that will make sure the supply chain can ensure the integrity of printed boards — wherever they’re made, whenever they’re used.

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