Circuit boards feel heat of media spotlight

Circuit boards are usually forgotten components, but they made national news not once but twice late last month. First, Garmin recalled 1.25 million personal navigation devices. A day later, Toyota recalled 1.13 million cars.

Garmin recalled its handheld products because models “with a specific circuit boards design” sometimes overheat and catch fire. Toyota blamed its problems on a crack may develop at certain solder points on the electronic control module’s circuit board. When the solder junction fails, the cars often don’t start.

These problems, unrelated unless you’re the unlucky Toyota owner who uses a Garmin system in your car, highlight the importance of good board designs and zero defect manufacturing. Recharging batteries is a complex issue that relies on board designers who know how to create boards with margins that overcome problems elsewhere in the design. When laptops, cell phones and now navigators are recalled, it opens doors for companies that have proven their ability to create boards that don’t burst into flames.

Similarly, there’s a huge demand for manufacturers who can meet the high reliability, high volume demands of the auto industry. When a tiny solder joint stops a $20,000 car, a few cents savings for manufacturing quickly go up in smoke.

There will always be recalls and failures, but those who build a track record of avoiding them could see steady increases in their business. Continuously educating employees and keeping them up to date are good ways to help reduce the chance that circuit board designers, fabricators and EMS companies will be on the hot seat the next time circuit boards make the news.

The IPC Conference at Electronics Midwest will focus on sustainable, reliable design and manufacture. Learn more at

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