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Mike Buetow

Hon Hai, better known as Foxconn, has been the largest EMS/ODM company in the world since 2005, when it catapulted Flextronics to gain the top spot. To be sure, Foxconn’s revenues then and now are enhanced by ample non-electronics manufacturing segments, but the depth and breadth of the company is by any measure staggering. In calendar 2019, it reached roughly $150 billion, a mark that is all the more impressive when you consider it doesn’t include sales from some of its largest subsidiaries, such as Innolux, Sharp, and its connector and cable units. Its quarterly revenue alone would make it the largest EMS/ODM in the world. And its annual output not only eclipses all its customers’ electronics sales, sans Apple, but also the next four largest competitors combined.

In pursuit of the almighty dollar, Foxconn is the almightiest. Nothing seems out of its reach. Its founder and erstwhile chairman ran for president of Taiwan. It also dabbled in American politics, putting a massive (if mostly empty) facility smack dab in the soy and corn fields of the district of the then-US House Speaker.

Never one to rest on its success, Foxconn is pushing further upstream into the semiconductor market. Having already snared Albit, three years ago it took a shot at the Toshiba memory business. And as we go to press, Foxconn is making a play for Silterra, the Malaysian maker of ICs, MEMs and sensors.

Hon Hai is on high. In mythical terms, toppling Foxconn would be like defeating Voldemort and Sauron. And then for good measure, maybe kicking the butt of that creepy emperor from Star Wars. Any company would be foolish to take that on, right?

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Read more: A New Fox in the EMS Henhouse?

Mike Buetow

More than 160 years ago, eons before Facebook and Twitter were conceived, a pair of candidates to represent Illinois in the US Senate engaged in a series of debates. As they barnstormed their way around the state, incumbent Democrat Stephen Douglas and his Republican challenger Abraham Lincoln faced off in the heat and rain in front of thousands of citizens.

Known today as The Great Debates of 1858, the respective candidates used the time to frame their positions on the leading issues of the day.

When this issue hits inboxes and mailboxes, this year’s US presidential election will (hopefully) be determined. Among the revelations of the just-ended race is that the format for the presidential debates is all wrong.

No one will mistake President Trump or his challenger, Joe Biden, for Douglas and Lincoln. Their predecessors had erudition and wide-ranging oratorical skills that seem quaint in today’s era of tweets and sound bites. But the format bears revival.

That’s because no matter who your preferred candidate is, the structure of the debates is inherently allergic to communicating the real issues.

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Read more: Resolved: A New Policy for Tech Planning is Needed

Mike Buetow

If there is one takeaway from the Symposium on Counterfeit Parts and Materials sponsored by SMTA and CALCE that took place in August, it is that the problem is getting worse. This should be alarming, given the amount of attention that has been paid to the presence of “fake” parts in the supply chain.

Discussion of counterfeits in the supply chain usually starts with the military. It’s the one sector that has both the budget and the concentration of sourcing to effect change.

It was less than a decade ago that the US found fake electronic parts in military aircraft. The discovery spurred a yearlong investigation resulting in bipartisan legislation (remember what that is?) establishing new policies and practices for counterfeit avoidance.

Today, the annual US defense budget bills contain language requiring the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and their contractors monitor supply-chain risks for counterfeit parts, although previous language requiring buyers to “detect and avoid counterfeit parts in the military supply chain” has been softened.

Still, we’ve been battling the problem for at least two decades now, yet most experts feel 1) the volume of fake parts has increased, and 2) the counterfeiters are better than ever.

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Read more: Fake Parts Still a Real Problem

Mike Buetow

Organic solderability preservatives, or, if you prefer, organic surface protectants, or OSPs, have been with us for decades. Did you know more than 60% of the world’s boards use OSPs? They are in everything from smartphones to tablets to medical devices, airbags, and engine controls.

Major OEMs like Intel, Apple, Cisco, Continental, Bosch, Denso, and Hitachi Automotive are known to use them. Yet when engineers discuss their preferred finishes, OSPs tend to be on the outside looking in.

A new IPC task group is trying to bring an added layer of credibility to OSPs for high-temperature soldering by developing a standard, along with a series of test methods.

At a glance, OSPs have ample potential. Compared to metallic finishes, they are low-cost and offer much-sought-after surface coplanarity on the coated copper pads. They emerged in the 1980s as a replacement for hot air solder leveling, which was an omnipresent but more expensive, higher maintenance process. Because of their ability to produce thin, even coatings, OSPs seemed superior for assemblers working with advanced packages, and in some cases OSPs cut the cost of the finish up to 50% over HASL and even more versus finishes containing gold or silver. Major OEMs like Lucent adopted OSPs for a large percentage of their boards.

Read more: Will OSP Spec Finally Be Finished?

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