Transitioning from Rigid Fabricator to Flexible / Rigid-Flex PCB Fabrication


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Transitioning from rigid bare circuit board manufacturer to flexible / rigid-flex PCB fabricator

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Transitioning from Rigid Fabricator to Flexible / Rigid-Flex PCB Fabrication

  1. 1. Transitioning from Rigid to Flex / Rigid-Flex PCB Manufacturing
  2. 2. History of SEC Peak of North American PCB Industrymillions Trough of North American PCB Industry year
  3. 3. Keys to Recovery• Hold Production Quality Standards• Pursue additional certifications• Wide range of volume and technology • (layers, materials, blind/buried, etc.) • (proto through volume)• Continued investment reduces cost by: • Increasing operating efficiencies while reducing yield loss
  4. 4. Acquisition Details• Formerly known as Proto Circuits, established 1978• No investment since 1997 (or before)• No sales force• Few new customers within the last 10 years• All certs dropped over time
  5. 5. Acquisition Challenges• Customers designing around Proto’s weaknesses• Loose systems• Neglectful vendor base• High cost structure• Lack of management structure
  6. 6. Current Operating Results• Attained profitability within 14 months• Producing >10 layers rigid flex• 2 mil line / spacing outer layers• Complex blind / buried / sequential lamination builds• In process of reinstating ISO9000 and Mil-Prf-31032
  7. 7. Ease of TransitionDependent on Starting Point• Standard 2-6 layer rigid shop?• Blind / Buried; HDI; Advanced Technologies shop?Identifying transferrable skills• Drill development• Tooling for multi-Lam registration• Imaging Techniques
  8. 8. Myths• Black Magic• Materials difficult to handle• Materials difficult to register
  9. 9. Truths• Black Magic• Materials difficult to handle• Materials difficult to register
  10. 10. TruthsBlack Magic = Experience and Learning• Stackups • Various flexible materials (adhesive vs. adhesiveless) • Hybrid constructions • Coverlay vs. Soldermask• Sequential laminations• Laminating with Cavity cutouts
  11. 11. Truths (cont.)Materials difficult to handle• 1 to 3 mil cores of flex material are commonplace• Leaders are commonplace (increase labor content)• Automation is very different than in rigid shops
  12. 12. Truths (cont.)Materials difficult to register• Standard rigid tooling systems no longer apply• Multiple pins for each sequential lamination and drill cycleFlex material has no grain• Material behavior very different from FR-4• Often expands rather than contracts
  13. 13. Change ManagementExtract better parts of Rigid MFG system and apply to Flex• Automation• Quality Control verifications• Sales / Service• QTA offerings
  14. 14. EquipmentStandard Rigid Equipment can easily be used• Slight re-tooling may be required• Leaders for conveyorized processesAOI and Testers• Specialized for thin materialsAll in all, not so much work needed here… SO LONG AS YOU INVEST TIME TO ENGINEERING THE PROCESS
  15. 15. General Workforce• Rigid shop machine operators simply operators • Especially lower technology shops• Subsequent inspection steps for filtering out bad parts• With rigid-flex, however… • No such thing as “just an operator”
  16. 16. General WorkforceContinuous Training should be required• Engineering reviews for new part #’s• Discussion of yield loss • Root cause • Potential actions that could have corrected for this• Operators should be aware of selling prices and raw materials costs • Dramatically higher than rigid prices and costs
  17. 17. ManagementRigid Shops (especially lower tech) tend to minimize costs via:• Minimal Engineering• Reduced training initiatives • How to do the job vs. what the job means• Throughput is paramount
  18. 18. Management, cont.Demands of a Rigid-flex environmentMGT must provide financial/organizational support to the following:• Continuous Process Engineering• Promote Workmanship• Sacrifice Throughput for better yield
  19. 19. Management, cont.Continuous Process Engineering• Tremendous amount of upfront engineering (establish that baseline) • Drill Quality • Lamination control • Registration• Adjust to changing designs / stackups• Engineering on-the-fly is commonplace
  20. 20. Management, (cont.)Promote WorkmanshipSignificantly increased training at the operator level• Extra handling care• Extra process setup verification• More in-process testing• Every operator needs to become an inspector
  21. 21. Management, cont.Sacrifice Throughput for better yieldRigid Production• Based on number of panels per hourRigid-Flex• Focused on number of perfect panels per hour
  22. 22. Management, cont.Flex Customers are typically more scrutinizing• Medical• Military• High-End CommercialFlex’s scrupulous nature results in higher-reliability
  23. 23. Management, conclusionTransitioning effectively from Rigid toRigid-Flex requires a commitment fromManagement to absorb the educationalrequirements necessary to not onlycomprehending the Product but are alsovital to understanding Process Flows.