Seven Takeaways from IPC APEX EXPO 2019

By Chris Mitchell, IPC Vice President of Global Government Relations

IPC’s most recent annual conference and trade show, IPC APEX EXPO 2019, took place in late January, and by all indications, it was among the best IPC shows ever! The overall success and quality of IPC APEX EXPO is a testament to the innovation and growth taking place in the electronics industry, as well as our members’ passion and commitment to standards development, learning opportunities, and pro-industry initiatives.

Here are my top seven take-aways from IPC APEX EXPO, from the perspective of someone whose job requires translating our highly technical industry into everyday language that policymakers and their aides can understand.

1. IPC Connected Factory Exchange (CFX) Takes Center Stage
IPC-CFX is an industry standard designed to serve as the digital backbone of electronics manufacturing companies. By simplifying and standardizing machine-to-machine communications, CFX is establishing a foundation for “Industry 4.0” applications. The surest sign of CFX’s success were the dozens of exhibitor booths sporting “CFX Supporter” placards. You couldn’t miss them on the showroom floor, nor could you miss the interest in the two full-scale CFX demonstration lines which hosted hourly tours throughout the week. To learn more, please visit www.ipc.org/cfx or contact IPC Vice President of Standards and Technology David Bergman.

2. Sector-Specific Initiatives Paving Way for New Innovation
In a sign of how critically important electronics are in supporting the growth and innovation of other industries, IPC APEX EXPO was the venue for a well-attended executive forum on the future of automotive electronics and a separate “buzz session” on e-textiles, as well as standards committee meetings related to both. As the automotive and textile industries integrate electronics into their products in ever more creative ways, they will rely on partners like IPC to establish the necessary standards to ensure high reliability and performance. Contact Sanjay Huprikar, IPC Vice President of Solutions to learn more about our work with the automotive industry, and Chris Jorgensen, Director of Technology Transfer, about our work with the textile industry.

3. IPC-1791 QML Program Poised for Significant Growth
Also at IPC APEX EXPO, the US Department of Defense’s Executive Agent for Printed Circuit Boards hosted its annual meeting, and IPC Director of Validation Services Randy Cherry was on hand to update participants on the development of IPC-1791, Trusted Electronic Designer, Manufacturer and Assembler Requirements and its associated Qualified Manufacturers List (QML) program. The IPC-1791 standard and QML program aim to establish a trusted supplier program focused around the design, fabrication and assembly of PCBs. The existing standard will get its first revision this month, and seven companies are now participating in the beta test audits. As DoD seeks to strengthen the security and reliability of its supply chain, the IPC-1791 standard and QML program will serve as a model for DoD-industry collaboration. To get involved, contact Randy Cherry.

4. IPC Launches Education Foundation and Inspires More Than 100 San Diego-Area Students
Perhaps the most fun event of the week came when IPC hosted more than 100 San-Diego-area high school students to APEX for panel discussions, hands-on training in soldering PCBs, and tours of the expo floor. These students were so inspiring—smart, curious, and attracted to careers in STEM fields. The IPC Education Foundation, which was launched during IPC APEX EXPO, will strive to help these students succeed. As two of its first initiatives, the foundation will be partnering with several organizations to distribute a basic electronics curriculum to hundreds of high schools, and it will be creating IPC student chapters at universities and community colleges across the country. Many thanks to the IPC member companies who helped make this event a huge success, including Calumet Electronics and Weller Apex Tool Group. To learn more and get more involved, contact Colette Buscemi, IPC senior director of education.

5. Tesla CTO and Co-Founder JB Straubel Offers Insights on Growth and Innovation
JB Straubel offered IPC APEX EXPO participants a captivating recounting of the Tesla story. Four big themes stood out. First, Tesla’s founding combined the profit motive with a desire to advance environmental sustainability. Second, developing its first roadster meant Tesla had to challenge every automotive norm, with little room for fallback options. Third, improving its cars today means weighing financial and technological trade-offs. And fourth, Tesla is focused on making smart strategic investments that leverage its technological leadership in markets that can be scaled up. All four of these points are relevant to IPC members who are looking to build upon their growth and technology leadership in a very competitive global economy.

6. 2019 Looks Good for the Electronics Industry
What’s the outlook for the electronics industry in 2019? A growing number of economists are voicing concerns about the possibility of major economies edging into recession as early as this year. Political turmoil in the U.S. and Europe, coupled with global trade disputes and a slowdown in China, are doing nothing to calm fears. However, the industry members I spoke to at IPC APEX EXPO felt pretty good about 2019. Sales remain strong, companies are hiring, and the supply chain is slowly adjusting to global uncertainty.

7. IPC Government Relations Expands its Global Reach and Grassroots Program
During our IPC Government Relations Committee meeting at IPC APEX EXPO, I shared that our public affairs program continues to expand in breadth, depth and geography. We are taking on new issues, including federal support for lead-free research, and we are doing so with greater support from industry experts and seasoned policy experts in the U.S. and Europe, with additional plans for long-term, strategic engagement in Asia in 2019. To get involved, contact me and/or sign up at the Advocacy Center on our website. You can also follow me on Twitter.

These were my top take-aways from my perch atop IPC Government Relations, but it cannot be said enough: The power of IPC APEX EXPO lies in the thousands of attendees who take part in standards committees, policy committees, executive forums, buzz sessions, and professional development. And of course, many thanks to the hundreds of companies who exhibited their goods and services and brought so much excitement to the show floor.

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