While other industry efforts at charting the future are losing steam, iNEMI’s is still going strong.

Industry leaders are fast at work on the iNEMI 2017 Roadmap, the biennial tome that serves as an answer to the ongoing question of what’s next for manufacturing technology.

Since developing its first Roadmap in 1994, iNEMI has fleshed out the document to more than 20 chapters spanning more than 1,900 pages. Along the way, the Roadmap has become widely accepted as the industry’s consensus on what’s state of the art and what’s coming in the next five to 10 years.

CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY’s Mike Buetow spoke with iNEMI CEO Bill Bader on June 2 about the latest effort.

MB: You just held the first in a series of meetings previewing the 2017 Roadmap. Can you share the highlights?

Well, I wasn’t actually at the Las Vegas workshop, so I can’t talk about that. But I can talk about the things we are putting focus on for 2017.

I think there are four to five things to touch on. One thing we added was the IoT (Internet of Things)/Wearables Product Emulator group. They are key since we really need to understand markets and where they are going so we can align the technology chapters that support them. The technology as outlined in the Roadmap chapters needs to meet the markets they support. [Ed: There are seven product emulators in the 2017 iNEMI Roadmap.]

In this new area the Internet of Things we needed to get clarity on the market, the products, the sub-segments and the critical needs. It will be an interesting addition. It’s an area of a lot of interest and focus and even investment around the globe. It’s a big buzzword, but not a compelling application yet.

An area that will be greatly improved from the last roadmap is device packaging. We struggled with it the last few years because of the redirection of the team that worked on the ITRS (International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors) document. There was no output from them during the transition, so there was no 2015 packaging chapter included in the iNEMI Roadmap. We now have a really good, solid, comprehensive packaging chapter that’s been pre-delivered, and we just need to update it. That’s a critical area moving forward. We also have contracted with Prismark Partners this cycle to provide 10-year forecasts of important packaging trends.

A couple other areas of significance to touch on: We were funded at the end of Q3/Q4 2014 by NIST to do a photonics roadmap. The initial work on that – the contract is essentially done – we have a lot of detail and great depth on where photonics is going, which we were able to do because of the funding that went with it. We will continue with it going forward. It will be funded by the AIM Institute (American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics), by the US government.

Some high level goals with this [Roadmap] are major changes and major updates in a minimum of 15 chapters. With roadmaps the temptation often is to tweak the last one. We have to make sure we aren’t doing that. It might be appropriate here or there, but there are many areas where that’s not appropriate. We also are driving changes to implement some restructuring of the technology chapters to get them more concise and consistent with critical gaps and critical issues. All chapter chairs were provided the new structure, and the feedback has been positive. The end will be a more useful document for the reader. Instead of having to maybe read 100 pages of the chapter, it will be more concise for the reader.

MB: How has the regional input evolved to this point? Are you seeing more widespread input from each region across all the chapters?

BB: I think it varies by technology area. I don’t think you could say definitively 30% from Asia, 15% for Europe, and the balance from North America. But we get a lot of input from Asia in particular in areas of fundamental manufacturing such as board assembly, PCBs, packaging, and organic substrates for example. We get a lot of input there because that’s the location where most of the manufacturing is done. For the product emulators, on the other hand, there’s a higher percentage of US input for product emulators because that’s where much of the R&D is done. We have a pretty solid set of input from Asia and Europe across the board, but all the team leaders for product emulators are from North America. (When I say North America, we have a fairly strong set of input from Canada, not just the US.)

MB: To what degree do the standalone projects – e.g., PCB/PCBA Material Characterization for Automotive Harsh Environments – inform the Roadmap?

BB: There’s a strong connection in both directions. The gap analysis performed for the Roadmap is what led to the highlighting of critical needs, and could be the initiator for the project. Sometimes it comes from workshops. Sometimes it comes from individual companies that are members who are dealing with the problem and want to run with it. Starting up projects then, there’s a direct tie to the Roadmap. And the work that comes out, there’s a direct tie as well. [Participants] talk to one another.

MB: Going back 20 to 25 years, every industry roadmap release was a big event. Have roadmaps lost their luster over time, or are they still highly anticipated by those who are working on them and using them?

BB: I think the answer is many roadmaps that existed have lost their momentum and their ability to effectively support them. I think iNEMI is one of the few remaining entities that continues to put a significant investment and support in the development of them. We stick with it. We continue to do it. There’s an ongoing recognition of it. One recognition is what came out of NIST with the funding for photonics. We know how to do this. Organizing an industry roadmap is not a trivial exercise. It is very challenging to do it on your own if you’ve never done it before. NIST and others understand that and look at us to help them. You need real clarity of critical areas to make the right investments. A lot of the competition is dying. IPC no longer does a printed circuit roadmap; ITRS no longer does a semiconductor roadmap.

MB: Is the 2017 Roadmap still scheduled for release around December?

BB: Yes, still the end of year for members; then we make it available to the rest of industry in April.

Mike Buetow is editor in chief of PCD&F/CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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