Saying Yes to Opportunities: IPC’s Emerging Engineer Program Offers Career Growth for Electronics Industry Newcomers

What makes the IPC Emerging Engineer Program a premier networking and career enriching program? IPC staff spoke to Emerging Engineer Kate Stees, materials & process engineer, Lockheed Martin, about her experience in the program and why she recommends it to other engineers.

IPC: Why did you choose to enroll in IPC’s Emerging Engineer program?

Stees: I attended an IPC committee meeting for the first time in 2017. As a newcomer, it was challenging to follow what was happening in the meetings, as well as a little intimidating with so many industry experts in the room. Nonetheless, I knew I wanted to get involved in the IPC standards development process, so I volunteered for an action item. Shortly after, I was approached by the IPC liaison from that committee. She told me about the EE program, and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to learn about IPC standards development from experienced IPC members.

IPC: What have you learned about IPC standards and your role in creating/revising/ them?

Stees: I knew that IPC standards are created and updated by committee members, but I didn’t realize how much power each committee member has in the standards development, until I joined the EE program. All you have to do is get involved!

IPC: How has meeting and working with a mentor helped you in your career?

Stees: I was lucky enough to have two very knowledgeable mentors. My first year of the Emerging Engineer program, my assigned mentor was unable to make IPC APEX EXPO. I was concerned, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because another experienced IPC member volunteered to be my substitute mentor. Both mentors are very highly respected individuals both at the company I work for and in the IPC community, and it was an honor to learn from them. They were very proactive in helping me navigate the committee meetings and introducing me to the key individuals. I now have a better understanding of the IPC standards, as well as two great resources at work– one on the printed wiring board side and another on the circuit card assembly side.

IPC: What is the most valuable aspect of the Emerging Engineer program?

Stees: The most valuable aspect of the Emerging Engineer program is that it ‘forces’ you to network with anyone and everyone at the IPC events. For example, for our first year in the program one of the program tasks was to take selfies at different events. This included taking selfies with IPC members, IPC committee liaisons and other IPC employees, show floor vendors, technical presenters, etc. I do not like selfies, especially selfies with people I just met – how awkward is that! However, I am so glad I did it. The selfies forced me to break the ice — I now had an excuse to form valuable connections with others at the IPC events.

IPC: Having learned from the program, what advice would you give to engineers who are just starting their careers?

Stees: This is my third and final year of the Emerging Engineer program. I am currently a vice-chair and an A-Team lead for a large committee. I did not envision this three years ago; I just said yes to the opportunities that made me feel uncomfortable and challenged me. My advice to the engineers that are starting their careers is to take the opportunities that make you step out of your comfort zone because that is the only way one can grow.

IPC: What, if anything, would you change about the program?

Stees: The Emerging Engineer program is catered towards the individuals with less than five years of industry experience. I think it would be great to have a similar program for those individuals that are in the mid-career range but have not had an opportunity to get involved with the IPC until recently.

IPC: What opportunities does IPC’s Emerging Engineer program afford you that you could not have experienced on your own?

Stees: The opportunity to kick-start your participation in IPC standards development. In addition to all the valuable knowledge and connections, the program also provides you with a complimentary All-Access Package registration to IPC APEX EXPO for three years and complimentary IPC SummerCom registration. This gives an engineer early in their career valuable leverage when trying to justify the initial travel to such events.

Now accepting applications for the 2020 Emerging Engineer Program and a limited number of University Student positions are available! If you’re interested in applying for or learning more about the Emerging Engineer program, please email us at careerdevelopment@ipc.org. Deadline for applications is November 15, 2019.

Seven Highlights from IPC’s SummerCom from a Government Relations Perspective

By Chris Mitchell, Ken Schramko, and Kelly Scanlon, IPC government relations team

Last week, IPC hosted SummerCom, our semi-annual standards development committee meetings, in Raleigh, North Carolina. The event brought together thousands of technical experts from around the world to shape the product, manufacturing, and supply-chain standards that guide our industry.

The three of us – U.S.-based members of IPC’s Government Relations (GR) team – participated in some of the meetings and had seven top take-aways.

1. Industry volunteers are the heart of IPC. IPC standards are developed through the collaboration of thousands of industry volunteers. Their expertise, insights, and support are essential to the success of IPC’s standards, and it is always great to see IPC leaders come together, especially when we have the opportunity to honor those who have made significant contributions to the industry.

2. IPC standards are key to helping member stay on top of environmental and supply-chain regulations. IPC standards committees are on the front lines of understanding and complying with the dizzying array of ever-changing environmental regulations that affect global and domestic supply chains. The Supplier Declaration Subcommittee and the IPC-175x task groups are working to ensure that our members are able to comply with these regulations in the most efficient manner by building flexible frameworks and data exchange models.

3. Industry is tackling microvia reliability concerns. Industry representatives discussed concerns related to microvia reliability and agreed to share the work of understanding the scope of the issue and advancing solutions and standards. Interested in getting involved in this important work? IPC Contact: Chris Jorgensen

4. IPC task group moves closer to final conflict minerals data exchange standard. The IPC 2-18H task group addressed comments received on the standard’s final draft, and now it plans to vote on a final revision this summer. IPC will be working to see that this standard is recognized by the European Commission as an applicable “supply chain due diligence scheme.” Separately, IPC is in talks with the European Partnership for Responsible Minerals (EPRM) to promote collaboration on this issue.

5. The U.S. Executive Agent (EA) for PCBs affirmed the importance of “trusted supplier” programs. IPC, the EA, and the defense contractor community worked together to create a “trusted supplier” standard, known as IPC-1791. Based on this standard, IPC is now providing validation services for members of the IPC-1791 Qualified Manufacturers List (QML). The EA detailed efforts to grow the importance and value of the 1791 program, which coincides with wider efforts within the U.S. DoD to ensure reliable supply chains. To learn more about IPC-1791, contact our colleague Randy Cherry.

6. Workforce shortage remains top industry challenge. No matter where we travel, we hear the same refrain from industry colleagues: The shortage of workers is restraining growth and opportunity. IPC is working to address this issue through our jobs task analysis, credentialing, and STEM education programs. The IPC GR team is advocating for public-private career, technical and adult education (CTE) programs, as well as the expansion of industry-recognized apprenticeship programs. IPC members are also undertaking their own innovative programs. Be sure to tell us about your company’s efforts to bolster the workforce so that we can recognize and share them with the rest of industry. Also, don’t forget to mentor or be mentored in IPC’s Emerging Engineer Program.

7. IPC Government Relations poised to better support standards committees. IPC’s standards committees are taking on many daunting challenges, some of which are related directly or indirectly to public policy. For example, the Halogen-Free Materials Subcommittee is beginning the revision of a seminal white paper on halogen-free alternatives, which is related to EPA’s implementation of the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act. Halogenated, flame-retardant chemicals like decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE) and tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) are being considered for risk evaluations and risk-management strategies. IPC’s Government Relations team is working to provide policy expertise to this committee and others that are undertaking equally meaningful projects.

Check out the photos from this event, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to us about the interplay of IPC standards and public policy, or any government relations matter.

What Every Electronics Company Needs to Know about Environmental Product Requirements

By Kelly Scanlon, IPC Director of Environment, Health and Safety Policy and Research

The task of monitoring and complying with environmental, health and safety (EHS) rules that affect electronics companies and their products requires a watchful eye on all levels of government: local, state, national, and international. EHS policies typically carry significant penalties for non-compliance but great rewards for high performance and proactive leadership.

To help our members navigate this landscape, IPC recently partnered with the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) to offer three, day-long educational conferences in Massachusetts, Illinois, and California on “Critical and Emerging Environmental Product Requirements.”

The policies covered were an alphabet soup of those affecting chemicals, waste management, and enforcement, including:

• EU REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals Regulation);
• RoHS (Directive on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment)
• WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive);
• The Circular Economy action plan;
• Regulations affecting batteries; and
• California’s Proposition 65, officially known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, administered by the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA).

Across the three conference locations, 120 attendees heard from industry-leading experts from ITI, Oracle, the U.K. Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and the European Commission’s Directorate General for Environment.

Attendees also had the chance to engage with colleagues from the event sponsors, including Assent Compliance, Compliance Map, Compliance & Risks, GreenSoft Technology, IHS Markit, iPoint, SiliconExpert, and Total Parts Plus.

Two major takeaways emerged:

• All jurisdictions need to work towards harmonized and simplified environmental regulations and the enforcement of those regulations, with a “stretch” goal of a globally harmonized approach to the life cycle management of chemicals and products, no matter what country, region, or state is involved.

• Industry leaders need to make proactive engagement with policy makers a routine and positive part of business; and in turn this cooperation and collaboration will promote good business and the protection of human health and the environment.

Giuseppina Luvarà, a policy officer with the Sustainable Chemicals Unit of the European DG for Environment, briefed attendees on the second REACH review, which was completed in 2018; as well as current efforts to harmonize REACH and RoHS implementation and enforcement across the EU. Luvarà highlighted new efforts to develop comprehensive frameworks on endocrine disruptors and the cumulative effects of chemicals.


How can you ensure you’re complying with the RoHS Directive? Paul Tennant, BEIS, educates attendees at the IPC and ITI Emerging & Critical Environmental Product Requirements Conference.

Paul Tennant, an enforcement manager from the Office for Product Safety and Standards within the U.K. Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), described how EU Member States are working together to address common compliance challenges for the RoHS and WEEE regulations. Tennant stressed the need for ongoing communications among Member States and between regulators and companies, with an emphasis on early consultations and dialogues.

Carl Magness, an enforcement team leader with BEIS, provided examples of how that office helps companies achieve compliance with RoHS, WEEE, and Batteries and Accumulators (Placing on the Market) regulations. He used examples of recent enforcement efforts to demonstrate how collaboration with regulators enabled the development of champions. Instead of compliance notices or prosecutions, the BEIS team favors business improvement plans to remedy problems and promote sustainable business practices.

Alexa Lee, Senior Manager for Policy from ITI, and Jennifer McLaughlin, Program Manager for Product Environmental Compliance from Oracle, highlighted changes in the RoHS, WEEE, and plastic waste management regulatory requirements and how they apply to companies who manufacture or place EEE on the market in China, Hong Kong, India, and Bangladesh. Varying equipment labels, reporting requirements, product categories, and concentration or threshold-volume “triggers” are creating an uneven and challenging landscape for companies to navigate.

Chris Cleet, Senior Director for Policy, Environment and Sustainability at ITI, took us on a tour of California’s unique requirements, specifically Proposition 65 and the Green Chemistry Initiative. He reviewed changes to Prop 65 warning labels and the increased issuance of Safe Use Determinations by OEHHA. In addition, Cleet reviewed several ecolabel and design standards that are intended to spur attention to potential life cycle impacts from EEE products, recognizing that consumer choices often drive change as much or more than regulations do.

It is the responsibility of every company to understand the EHS regulations that apply to them, but IPC will continue to be your educational resource and your advocate. To learn more about IPC’s EHS policy and research work, please e-mail me at KellyScanlon@ipc.org and/or subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter.

IPC Video Wins Five Awards in 2019

IPC’s award-winning library of training videos on electronics assembly has added five new industry awards during 2019:

• Omni Award for Convection Reflow Soldering (120) – Jonathan Vermillion, Ball Corporation/Technical Advisor
• Telly Award for Terminal Soldering (118) – Chris Barrett, Safari Circuits/Technical Advisor
• Communicator Award for How to Inspect Electronic Assemblies (190) – Floyd Bertagnolli, STM Training/Technical Advisor
• AVA Digital Award for Handling During Electronics Assembly (124) – Marg Drouin, Aved Electronics/Technical Advisor
• Omni Award for Component Identification (160) – Dave Stewart, Intervala LLC/Technical Advisor

According to Marg Drouin, training manager, Aved Electronics, “Contributing to the IPC Training Media has become a key part of my professional commitment to helping employees learn and improve their manufacturing skills and techniques. These videos are so effective because many of our employees are either visual learners or English is their second language. These videos overcome language barriers that are typical in manufacturing environments. With technology continuously evolving, I look forward to continuing to contribute to IPC in the coming years.”

IPC training videos are produced in cooperation with our members to help insure technical accuracy and minimize commercialism.

Our sincere thanks to the technical advisors who help develop the contents and review the comments from IPC member circulations.

If you have an interest in working to help create new training videos for our industry, please contact Steve Donaldson, IPC assistant director, education.

All of these new videos are available through the new IPC EDGE learning portal.

IPC’s PCB Technology Trends Study Highlights Trends that Will Impact Board Fabricators

By Michael Carano, vice president, technology and business development, RBP Chemical Technology

The recent publication of IPC’s 2018 PCB Technology Trends study highlighted several significant trends that will impact the board fabricator going forward over the next five years.

Some of the most significant technology trends I see are in the materials segment. We all recognize that laminate materials are the substrates on which circuit boards are built. However, these materials perform critical multiple functions in an interconnect device. Important attributes such as signal integrity, impedance, frequency, ability to withstand high soldering and operating temperatures are just a few.

The 2018 survey results indicated the need for speed and low loss as critical functions of the materials chosen. This is the digital age, and with the Internet of Things, virtual and augmented reality, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, etc., the need for low-loss and ultra-low-loss materials continues to grow as a percentage of circuit boards fabricated. The OEMs’ responses suggested that applications for frequencies greater than 20 GHz will almost double by 2023 over 2018. Indeed, there is a small group of OEMs pushing 77 GHz currently. There is discussion that over the next 5-8 years we will see 100 GHz. The survey results also showed a significant uptick in the use and specification of liquid crystal polymer (LCP), PTFE and ceramic-filled materials in order to support the need for higher operating frequencies.

These materials must not only provide enhanced electrical properties, but must also provide higher reliability against thermal decomposition, operating temperature extremes and more operating cycles per day. These issues place significant pressure on the material performance. Temperature of decomposition (Td) has assuming more importance going into 2023. As major OEMs continue to push lead-free assembly and require improvements in long-term reliability, thermal decomposition of materials become a significant influence. There is a growing need for Td greater than 340 C.

These trends are significant and will require a change in the way PCB fabricators approach processes used to fabricate these circuit boards. Changes will be required in interlayer processing, lamination equipment and parameters, surface preparation and metalization. These higher performance materials become more difficult to process chemically. Thus, operating windows and the need for improved process controls becomes paramount moving into 2023 and beyond.

PCB Fabricators’ Technical Capabilities Exceed OEMs’ Needs in Many Areas, According to IPC Study

By Dennis Fritz, Fritz Consulting

Some interesting differences showed up in the board property data reported by the OEMs and PCB fabricators that participated in IPC’s PCB Technology Trends 2018 study. By and large, those differences indicate that PCB fabricators are well positioned to meet many of their OEM customers’ technical needs today, and their projections indicate their belief that they can stay ahead of the curve through 2023.

One example is the average maximum number of drilled holes per panel. The participating PCB fabricators are drilling more than twice as many holes as the participating OEMs reported specifying.

PCB fabricators reported minimum conductor line widths and spaces that averaged 25 to 30 percent smaller than those currently specified by the participating OEMs. Perhaps more significantly, the participating PCB fabricators predict the minimum line width and spacing in 5 years will approach 50 microns, while the OEMs in the survey said line/space requirements would not even get as small as 90 microns.

Fabricators reported that they are building boards to mount finer surface mount features than the participating OEMs are specifying. Fabricators reported a minimum pitch of 0.5 millimeters on average for surface-mount packages, while the participating OEMs averaged current minimum pitch above 1.0 millimeter. Board fabricators estimate that by 2023, they will have to make boards to mount 0.3-millimeter pitch on average. OEMs were much less demanding in their expected 2023 specifications.

Differences in the samples of participating companies could explain these differences in part. The data might also reflect differences between the roles of the respondents. More than half the OEM respondents work in product development, design or R&D, while the PCB fabricator respondents represented a balanced mix of top management, production, design, quality assurance and engineering.

In many cases, OEM and PCB fabricators’ data averages were close, such as in board thickness, maximum number of layers, percentages of boards by layer count, rigid-flex layers, and the use of blind and buried vias. Both segments predict increases in the maximum number of layers and in the use of blind and buried vias over the next five years.

Do you think OEMs and board fabricators are singing from the same song-book?

North American EMS Market Growth is Slowing, but First-Quarter IPC Report Indicates Growth Opportunities in Some Segments

By Sharon Starr, director, IPC market research

The North American electronics manufacturing services (EMS) industry continued to enjoy positive year-to-date growth in the first quarter of 2019, but growth rates for both sales and orders are slowing, according to IPC’s first-quarter 2019 North American EMS Market Report. Order growth contrasts sharply with last year’s business results. EMS orders in 2018 were 13.5 percent above the previous year. In Q1 2019, orders were up just 1.0 percent year over year.

Rapidly slowing growth is also in the forecasts for the industry in 2019 and 2020. The report contains IPC’s own four-quarter sales forecast and a North American market forecast from New Venture Research, and their prognoses as of Q1 2019 are consistent.

The first-quarter data showed some interesting differences between markets. First-quarter sales growth was strong for box build and other production, but modest for PCB assembly. Among the industry’s vertical markets, first-quarter sales to the military and aerospace market was up 25 percent this year to date. Sales growth to the lighting and medical/instrumentation markets was also strong.

This year the IPC North American EMS Statistical Program began collecting data on sales and orders of wire harness and cable assemblies by EMS companies. Although growth data from this new segment will not be available until next year, we noted with interest that this type of business is heavily concentrated in the smallest company size tier. Among the EMS companies in IPC’s survey sample, wire harness and cable assemblies accounted for nearly 14 percent of the quarter’s sales for companies with annual sales of less than $10 million. No revenue from this type of production was reported by the largest-company size tier in Q1 2019.

The quarterly North American EMS Market Report is available free to participants in IPC’s EMS Statistical Program. It is available to others by subscription in IPC’s online store.

We welcome your feedback and insights about what may be driving the industry’s business results. Is box-build becoming a larger part of your business? What about vertical markets? Last year, automotive grew the most. This year, mil/aero is off to a roaring start. Are more military equipment makers outsourcing assembly? There is always lots to discuss in this ever-changing industry.

For more information on IPC’s market research services, go to www.ipc.org/IndustryData,
or contact the market research team at MarketResearch@ipc.org or +1 847-597-2868.

IMPACT Washington, D.C. 2019 Recap: Industry Leaders Call for Action on USMCA Trade Deal, Other Pro-Manufacturing Policies

By Chris Mitchell, IPC vice president of global government relations

IPC member company executives gathered in DC last week for a round of advocacy meetings.

Top executives from electronics companies across the United States were in Washington, D.C., last week to call on the Trump administration and Congress to support policies that will drive the electronics industry’s future growth in North America and worldwide.

IPC’s government relations team works year-round to advance the industry’s interests in North America, Europe, and Asia. But policymakers are very interested in hearing directly from their constituents – the “real people” who are affected by their policy debates.

That is why IPC convenes events like IMPACT Washington, D.C. 2019 and IMPACT Europe, where industry leaders to come together and make our united voice heard in the halls of government.

One of the highlights of this year’s IMPACT Washington program was a new report – commissioned by IPC and written by noted economist Shawn DuBravac – which concluded that the USMCA would be a positive step for the electronics sector and should be approved by the U.S. Congress this year.

Attendees had a chance to hear directly from the USMCA study author and share their own thoughts on U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade with senior congressional staff who handle trade matters, as well as Daniel Watson, the Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for North America and one of the chief negotiators for the USMCA.

As a follow-up, the House Ways and Means Committee has asked that we recommend individuals from the business community who may want to participate in hearings on USMCA. If such an opportunity interests you, please contact me.

That’s just one example of how IPC works with our members to bring our advocacy efforts to life and have a real impact; and there are many more.

During the D.C. event, attendees also met with other leading policymakers to discuss the electronics supply chain, EPA regulations, and workforce education. As a group, the executives met with:

Eric Ueland, Deputy Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and Scott Stump, Assistant Secretary for Technical, Career and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education, both of whom are interested in IPC’s growing workforce education programs;
Mike Molnar, Director of the Office of Advanced Manufacturing (OAM) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), who briefed us on the Trump administration’s Strategy for American Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing and our industry’s role in it;
Henry Darwin, Acting Deputy Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who is working to reduce regulatory burdens and implement leaner, more efficient operations at the EPA;
• Majority and Minority staff of both the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee, who will oversee congressional consideration of the USMCA;
• Former Indiana senator Joe Donnelly, who has worked with IPC and DOD on defense supply chain issues; and
• Former Virginia congressman Tom Davis, a consummate Washington insider.

On Capitol Hill, members met with their own elected officials including Reps. Jack Bergman (R-MI) and Lance Gooden (R-TX), as well as influential staff members in the offices of Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA); Gary Peters (D-MI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Pat Toomey (D-PA), and Reps. Lou Correa (D-CA); John Larson (D-CT), and Eric Swalwell (D-CA).

Member executives also had the opportunity to hear from Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly, who praised electronics companies for helping to ensure the safety and success of U.S. military service members; and from former Virginia congressman Tom Davis, a consummate Washington insider, who delved into the forces shaping the politics of 2019 and 2020.

Participating member companies included Calumet Electronics of Calumet, Mich.; Chemcut of State College, Penn.; Eagle Circuits of Dallas, Tex.; Juki Automation Systems of Fremont, Calif.; Heller Industries of Florham, N.J.; Lockheed Martin of Orlando, Fla.; Summit Interconnect of Anaheim, Calif.; STI Electronics of Madison, Ala.; TTM Technologies of Sterling, Va.; Uyemura International of Ontario, Calif.; VirTex Enterprises of Austin, Tex.; and Zentech Manufacturing of Windsor Mill, Md.

To all who participated, thank you! Your active engagement has made a huge difference in advancing our industry’s future success. We’ll be in touch with follow-up activities.

To those of you who missed this opportunity but want to be in the loop on IPC’s government relations efforts going forward, please check out these options and let us know your interests. We have a robust, year-round agenda of advocacy activities, and your participation in those efforts would be welcomed and valuable.

VIEW PHOTO GALLERY

Help Build Industry’s Future: Be a Part of IPC’s Emerging Engineer Program

IPC’s Emerging Engineer program provides mentoring and training to assist engineers early in their careers. John Mitchell, IPC president and CEO, explains the benefits in this new video.

Are Regional Differences in PCB Technology as Great as We Think?

By Denny Fritz, Fritz Consulting

We keep hearing that Asia is all consumer and automotive electronics and North America and Europe are all high reliability/long life. The findings in IPC’s PCB Technology Trends 2018 study show that these regions are not as different as expected, and the differences we do see are interesting.

There are small differences in rigid board layers, line widths and materials. A bigger difference shows up in flexible circuits where there is more low-layer count flex going into consumer electronics. True, North America and Europe have more rigid construction boards going into long-life (11 to 25+ years) products, pushing reliability. HDI construction is larger in Asia, as expected, but certainly not unknown in North America and Europe.

North American and European OEMs specified significantly more buried vias than Asia. This could reflect either better acceptance of sub-laminations or more “any layer via” construction(not needing sub-laminations) in Asia. But, as Asia produces eight times as many boards as North America and Europe, Asian fabrication is quite capable of meeting the buried via needs of the other regions.

The study also shows that investment in direct imaging and AOI are the top two capital equipment investment priorities of the industry in both regions for the next two years. Likewise, reliability and cost were the top two technical challenges for the industry in both regions.

Are these findings consistent with your experiences of making or specifying PCBs in different regions? Do you think the regional differences are getting smaller? We welcome your comments.