Material Gains

Alun Morgan

If Southeast Asia has the lowest labor rates, why do they also have the best automation?

Compared to highly visible “mass” markets such as automotive electronics and smartphones, it’s easy to think of the market for industrial electronics as “niche.” However, in total, about 23% of PCBs produced worldwide are used in electronics equipment for manufacturing applications. If we include categories that are obviously non-consumer, such as telecom equipment, data-center computing, and solar/wind-power conversion, storage, and smart-grid control within our concept of industrial electronics, it’s clear this sector is extremely important to the world’s electronics producers.

As far as technology for manufacturing is concerned, we see organizations introducing digital transformation are profoundly changing the way they go about making, marketing, and supporting their products. Within this, smart manufacturing (aka Industry 4.0) leveraging cyber-physical systems, connected through the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), seamless linking of operational technology (OT) and IT infrastructures, intensive robotic process automation, and infusion of AI into edge devices and cloud services, is enabling companies to increase efficiency and agility, and improve standards of service delivery to customers.

Read more: Smart Manufacturing Technology Calls for Smart Investment

Alun MorganWhy PCB substrates are well-suited to lab-on-a-chip applications.

The semiconductor industry has pursued Moore’s Law for more than 50 years. Some now say it is dead: Progress has certainly become increasingly difficult in recent generations. On the other hand, chip design is only at the beginning of some very exciting avenues, two of which could revolutionize digital healthcare.

We know the world must deal with aging populations. Diabetes rates are increasing, particularly in North America, Europe and parts of Asia. As our transport networks shrink the globe, travelers can pick up viruses or diseases almost anywhere and present to their local practitioner, who likely has little or no experience of the exotic strain they are carrying. Our doctors are only human; we cannot expect them to know all the symptoms of all the ailments in the world and diagnose the right treatment in time, every time.

Read more: Medical Micro-Technologies Could Mean Better Healthcare for All

Alun MorganThe nature of ADAS could revive CAF fears.

In a previous column, I enthused about the prospects for 5G to transform lives for the better, supporting new services that take advantage of ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLLC) and capacity for massive machine-type communications, or mMTC. One place the impact of 5G will be felt is on the road, where machines will assume the entire decision-making from humans.

Leveraging 5G’s guaranteed latency below 1ms for effective real-time performance, the prospects for mission-critical V2X vehicle-to-everything communication can become real. Vehicle-to-infrastructure interactions with smart signs should result in smoother, safer journeys, and vehicle-to-vehicle connections that share information about presence and position should avert huge numbers of “sorry, I didn’t see you” accidents. Of course, it will take time for smart infrastructure to evolve and for V2X-equipped cars to enter the market. But it’s quite clear, even now, that cars are destined no longer to be islands. Ultimately, it’s a matter of when, not if, our road journeys come to be handled by fully self-driving vehicles.

Read more: Will Self-Driving Vehicles Sharpen Our Focus on Reliability?

Alun MorganAnd a plan for resolving the disconnect.

In any industry, standards provide a vital catalyst for market development by supporting a variety of assurances that are needed by product suppliers and buyers. Over time, however, the pace of technical development can outstrip standards-making processes, and a change of approach is needed.

Specifications for flammability or electrical safety such as those maintained by UL are unequivocal. Those that influence general performance, on the other hand, provide limits for parameters like dielectric constant (Dk) and dissipation factor (Df). These limits are now often simply too wide for designers to predict PCB behavior based on conformance to industry standards alone.

Today, we find that end-user demands across markets from consumer mobile and automotive to industrial automation and wireless infrastructure are pushing signal frequencies higher and higher in search of ever-faster data rates and lower latency. So, even some of the most humdrum devices we use every day must be designed within exacting parameters to meet demands for functionality, performance form factor and cost. When an accurate assessment is needed, such as knowing exactly how much signal attenuation to expect, simply knowing the substrate material conforms to a category of materials based on a broad definition of its chemistry will not provide the answers.

Read more: Industry Standards are Often Too Wide to Predict PCB Behavior
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