Addressing the Skills Gap – IPC Launches New Electronics Workforce Training Courses

John Mitchell, IPC president and CEO, shares how IPC Electronics Workforce Training courses will help IPC members overcome workforce skills gap challenges with essential and value-added coursework that is curated exclusively to address the most difficult-to-fill positions in the electronics industry.

Interested in Chemical and Electronics Product Regulations in Asia-Pacific Countries?

By Kelly Scanlon, IPC Director, EHS Policy and Research

The Asia-Pacific region is home to several of the world’s largest nations and many of its most dynamic economies. The governments in this region have generally established comprehensive environmental, health and safety policy frameworks, with a variety of approaches and enforcement mechanisms.

Because these policy frameworks have so much importance for our members, IPC monitors and engages in selected, high-priority environmental policy matters in the Asia-Pacific region. Most recently, we have focused on RoHS- and REACH-like regulations that may affect the chemicals and electronic products that are manufactured or imported into countries in the region.

To help our members, IPC has created six white papers, each of which highlights the history of chemical regulations, current regulatory systems, recent regulatory updates, and anticipated trends in the following countries:

In addition, we publish news on the latest developments in the weekly Global Advocacy Report and on IPC’s website. We welcome your review and feedback.

Power Your Potential with J-STD-001 for Operators

By Carlos Plaza, director, education development

The IPC Standard, J-STD-001G: Requirements for Soldered Electrical and Electronic Assemblies, is globally recognized for its criteria on soldering processes and materials for electrical and electronic assemblies. Because J-STD-001 is a critical standard for the industry, IPC Workforce Training created the course, J-STD-001 for Operators, to provide operators, technicians, and other assembly line staff with a practical introduction to the terms, concepts and acceptability criteria found in the standard.

IPC Workforce Training courses are specifically designed to help the electronics industry overcome gaps in workforce skills with essential and value-added coursework that addresses the most difficult-to-fill positions in the electronics industry.

The objective of J-STD-001 for Operators is to enable learners to effectively navigate, locate, and apply the criteria specified in the IPC J-STD-001 standard to the role of assembly line operator, technician, or supervisor. The J-STD-001 Workforce Training program provides engaging videos, activities and quizzes designed to help students learn, remember, and apply criteria to the electronics assembly process. Enrollment in the course is continuous.

Composed of four modules – General Standard Information and Requirements, General Materials, Soldering and Assembly and Produce Assurance Requirements, Wires, Terminals and Component Mounting, and Cleaning, PCB, and Conformal Coating Requirements – this course covers all the requirements assembly line operators, technicians and supervisors need to advance their careers and enrich their technical education. J-STD-001 for Operators takes approximately 6-8 hours to complete and is available in both self-paced and instructor-led versions. Students must complete Electronics Assembly for Operators as a prerequisite to J-STD-001 for Operators.

Details on J-STD-001 for Operators and other IPC Workforce Development Training Programs can be found at: https://training.ipc.org.

 

 

How You Can Get Involved in IPC’s E-Textiles Activities

By Chris Jorgensen, director, IPC technology transfer

ChrisJorgensen@ipc.org

Whether you are actively involved in developing e-textiles technologies for your own products, developing e-textiles products for customers or have a vested interest in e-textiles as part of your product roadmap, IPC has activities to meet your needs.

Participate in IPC E-Textiles Committee Standards Activities

The IPC E-Textiles Committee has many standards projects which you may find of interest. These activities are open to anyone for participation, and your level of participation is entirely up to you. Your involvement as a member of a working group could range from being a member of an A-Team that meets regularly to generate content for standards, to commenting on draft standards, to listening in on meetings as an educational and networking activity.

Committee activities are also a great way to network with others in the e-textiles industry.

Here is a breakdown of activities under the committee:

  • D-71 E-Textiles Joining and Interconnection Techniques Subcommittee

This subcommittee is working on IPC-8941, Guideline for Connectors for E-Textiles, which will be a guidance document for best practices for connecting devices to e-textiles.

  • D-72 – E-Textiles Materials Subcommittee

In October 2019, this subcommittee completed its work on IPC-8921, Requirements for Woven and Knitted Electronic Textiles (E-Textiles) Integrated with Conductive Fibers, Conductive Yarns and/or Wires. IPC-8921 is IPC’s first international standard for e-textiles, and this standard sets the groundwork for other e-textiles standards activities by the committee.

We expect the subcommittee to reconvene soon to revisit the standard for revision based on industry feedback as well as to reference a new IPC standard on conductive fiber, wire, and yarn.

In the meantime, we encourage you to check out IPC-8921, which you can obtain from the IPC online store.

  • D-73a E-Textiles Printed Electronics Design Standard Task Group

This task group is developing IPC-8952, Design Standard for Printed Electronics on Coated or Treated Textiles and E-Textiles. This standard will set design rules for printed electronics on textiles applications, focusing specifically on printing onto textiles or e-textiles which have a coating or treatment.

The task group began work on this standard earlier this year and is in the working draft stage. If  you design or print these technologies, or if you are a supplier of printed functional materials, treatments or coatings used for these technologies, this task group could use your involvement.

  • D-75a-EU E-Textiles Wearables Standard Task Group in Europe

This task group is developing IPC-8981, Quality and Reliability of E-Textiles Wearables, which will set test and reliability requirements for e-textiles wearables. Rather than focus on just one kind of wearable (fashion, military, medical, etc.), this group is establishing generic product classifications for e-textiles wearables so all product types could be covered under the same standard. Test requirements for the classifications will vary based on input from users and manufacturers in those product sectors. This standard will also address washability expectations for the different classes of product.

In addition to these established groups, the committee is also seeking volunteers to work on two new standards:

  • A specification for conductive fiber, yarn and wire for e-textiles applications
  • A specification for e-textiles for high-voltage applications

Propose New Standards Topics

The D-70 Committee is always looking for suggestions from industry for new standards topics. For instance:

  • Design, process guide or reliability for transferring printed electronics onto textiles using heat/pressure
  • Standard for braided e-textiles

New test methods – these could be to support an existing or under-development standard or to address a need in industry.

Attend IPC E-Textiles Virtual Summits

Due to COVID-19, IPC shifted both of our IPC E-Textiles events to virtual formats. Although we wished we could have everyone together in person as we did the past two years, where we saw so much energy and enthusiasm from attendees, going virtual also means there are some benefits to you.

  • We have scheduled U.S. and Europe Virtual Summits to be broken up into morning and afternoon workshops. U.S. workshops will take place on U.S. time, and Europe workshops will take place on local European time. This means we can provide the events as planned for those markets, but it also means that people from across the globe can still participate. For instance, people in Europe can participate in the morning U.S. sessions, and those in the U.S. can participate in the afternoon Europe sessions. Our colleagues in Asia can also participate in the morning European sessions.

    IPC will record all the sessions for registered attendees to watch on-demand after the event.

  • By going virtual, we have the unique opportunity to bring FIVE leading e-textiles laboratories in the US and Europe to your desktop. The Virtual Summits will include demonstrations by the
    • University of Minnesota Wearable Technology Lab
    • Empa – Switzerland
    • Centre for Textile Science and Engineering – Belgium
    • University of West Attica – Greece
    • ENSAIT GEMTEX Lab – France

Registration for each Virtual Summit is just $120 for IPC members and $150 for nonmembers, a fraction of what other groups are charging for their e-textiles virtual events this year.

To view the speakers for IPC E-Textiles 2020 (U.S.) and to register, go to: www.ipc.org/E-Textiles-NA.

The IPC E-Textiles Europe 2020 Virtual Summit Program Committee should announce the speakers for this event shortly. You can still register today at www.ipc.org/E-Textiles-EU20.

Whether you join one of our active working groups, propose an idea for a new standard or participate in one or both of our Virtual Summits, we are certain you will find the education, technical and networking activities to support your e-textiles plans.

 

IPC, Helping You Assess and Manage COVID-19 Risks at Your Workplace

By David Krause, Senior Toxicologist at Healthcare Consulting & Contracting (HC3), and Kelly Scanlon, IPC director of environment, health, and safety policy and research

As the COVID-19 pandemic has persisted, we’ve learned a lot of surprising things about the virus and the disease, as well as how to prevent potential exposures. IPC is alert to the evolving science and government policies, and today we are releasing new information aimed at helping our members assess and manage risks in their workplaces.

In April, IPC hosted a webinar to share the best practices known at that time for worker health protection in the electronics manufacturing industry. We produced a report to address questions regarding screening, physical distancing, and response plans. In May, IPC produced a framework for employers and employees to use when selecting face coverings and masks.

This week, we released a new guidance document aimed at dispelling myths related to COVID-19 infection. Workplace Measures to Manage COVID-19 Risk: Dispelling Myths with Effective Methods answers questions we have received, including those related to cleaning, disinfecting, and contact tracing. We provide answers grounded in science and supported with evidence.

We have also made updates to Face Coverings and Masks: Protecting Each Other on the Job. The update includes new information how different types of face coverings and masks are tested to determine their effectiveness. It also delves into the efficacy of face coverings, masks, and respirators with exhalation valves, which do provide some protection but do not capture as much virus in exhaled breath, resulting in less protection of nearby workers.

If your company is concerned about COVID-19 risk issues, please join us for a free, members-only webinar, COVID-19: Best Practices for Assessing Workplace Risk, on Wednesday, September 9 from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm Eastern time. This webinar will answer some of the most challenging questions employers and employees are facing right now. IPC will share best practices for assessing workplace risks, as well as resources and tools you can use to navigate the dynamic science and government policies.

What pandemic-related issues are you struggling with? We welcome your questions and will take them into consideration as we prepare the webinar. Please contact Kelly Scanlon with your concerns.

 

Need Training in the Fundamentals of Electronics Assembly?

Look no further than IPC Workforce Development Programs – a series of courses designed to facilitate the long-term retention of practical, job-specific knowledge and skills

By Carlos Plaza, IPC director of education development

IPC Workforce Development courses help IPC members overcome the challenges posed by the skills gap while simultaneously providing opportunities for employees to build skills and enhance their careers.

For example, the Electronics Assembly for Operators course is ideal for students and operators new to the electronics industry as well as current operators and technicians that need to learn or refamiliarize themselves with the fundamental aspects of electronics assembly.

Available online, Electronics Assembly for Operators introduces the key concepts, tools, materials, and processes that operators require for building printed circuit board assemblies (PCAs). Participants can complete the core set of nine modules to receive their certificate of qualification, then select among nine voluntary modules for process-specific training. The nine required and optional modules cover the following topics:

Required Modules

  1. Intro to Electronics Industry
  2. Introduction to Printed Circuit Board Assembly
  3. Overview of the Electronics Assembly & Soldering Processes
  4. Safety
  5. ESD & Product Handling
  6. Component Identification
  7. Drawings, Specifications, and Measurements
  8. Basic PCA/PCB Defects
  9. IPC Standards

Optional Modules

  1. Hand Soldering
  2. SMT Technology
  3. TH Technology
  4. Wire and Cable Preparation
  5. Wires & Terminals Technology
  6. Cables and Harness Technology
  7. Hardware
  8. Conformal Coating
  9. Press Fit

Electronics Assembly for Operators is just one of several current and upcoming IPC Workforce Development courses offered 24/7 through the IPC EDGE Learning Management System. Each course is developed by industry experts and educational specialists to help electronics companies and their employees close the skills gap.

For further information on courses offered, visit: https://training.ipc.org.

 

 

 

 

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.