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Mike Buetow

Remember 2010?

That year, a massive earthquake in the Pacific Ocean led to a tsunami of biblical proportions. Much of Japan’s semiconductor and electronics manufacturing industry was taken offline for nearly two months.

About 12 months later, it was Thailand’s turn in the wringer. The so-called 100-year floods swamped most of the country, causing nearly $50 billion in damage. In doing so, they took out major assembly operations at Fabrinet, Benchmark Electronics, Kimball and SVI, among others, upsetting a major link in the auto electronics and optical component supply chains.

Covid-19 has hit the electronics supply chain with all the force of those two natural disasters. The industry response will be fascinating.

This is the ultimate stress test. Coming on the heels of the Chinese New Year, where employees had not yet returned to work, the shutdown lasted four to six weeks in China. It’s a double whammy.

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Mike Buetow

In 2018 the US Department of Commerce conducted an industrywide survey of all the nation’s printed circuit board manufacturers. Fabricators groused about the scale of the paperwork, which was massive, as well as the focus of the questions, which in many cases required extraordinary data mining to provide the sought-after information. Still, the rationale for the Bare Printed Circuit Board Supply Chain Assessment was sound: That American PCB capacity issues extend beyond military needs into the medical, automotive and telecom sectors, and that Washington was largely unaware of the degree the nation’s supply base has degraded relative to the rest of the world over the past two decades.

The findings made it into an interagency report titled “Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States” and was provided to President Trump that same year, showing bureaucracy is still capable of moving at times. Even better, they correctly summarized the situation:

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Mike Buetow

The Designers Council is dead. Long live the Designers Council!

As the calendar turned to January, IPC and the entity formerly known as the Designers Council amicably parted ways.

The event, which happened quietly after months of discussions, ended a long and productive chapter in the printed circuit design industry history.

As detailed in our 25-year retrospective on the organization in 2017 (https://pcdandf.com/pcdesign/index.php/editorial/menu-features/12246-designer-council-1712), the Designers Council began as an independent grassroots movement in locales across the US and Europe. Originally a confederacy of like-minded individuals who somehow found the energy and time to commit to bringing their colleagues together, it quickly spun into a top-down organization under the auspices of IPC.

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Mike Buetow

This year marks the start of my fourth decade in the electronics industry, and if you find that hard to believe, well, so do I.

I was reminiscing with a couple of other “old-timers” in recent weeks over the changes that have occurred since I first stepped foot in a factory. I was a graduate of the University of Illinois, and recently relocated to Chicago, when I joined a few others on a tour of the just-revamped Allen-Bradley plant on Second St. in Milwaukee.

Who remembers any of these names: deHaart. HTI. Conceptronic. Dynapert. Sensbey. Celmacs. Those were some of the bigger names in assembly equipment at the time. Many key suppliers then were subsidiaries of end-product OEMs. Kester was owned by Litton. Dynapert was a unit of Black & Decker.

Forget “lights-out” manufacturing. Even “hands-free” was more theory than reality. Semiautomatic machines, including printers and even placement, were common. DEK had just launched the programmable automatic printer it called the 265. What we now call solder paste was in some circles referred to as solder cream. In those days, as many equipment vendors made IR reflow as forced convention.

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