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Tara Dunn, president of Omni PCB and I-Connect007 columnist, and Lenora Clark, director of autonomous driving and safety technology at MacDermid Alpha Automotive, discuss what can be expected from the upcoming Additive Electronics Conference in San Jose, California, the impetus and motivation behind the conference, and who can benefit the most from attending.
Nolan Johnson: Please tell us about the upcoming Additive Electronics Conference for which I-Connect007 is also a sponsor.
Tara Dunn: The Additive Electronics Conference is going to be held in San Jose, California, on October 24 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. We have an exciting conference planned. The idea behind the conference is to address the gap from 3-mil line space down to the integrated circuit (IC) level. As electronics have been driving the need for smaller, lighter-weight packaging, it’s starting to push the limits of the traditional subtractive etch processing for PCBs.
Locally and nationally, we have been getting a lot of feedback from people looking to investigate what options were available to them and what was emerging into the market. We decided to pull this together as an opportunity to bring together end users with their market need as well as materials, suppliers, fabricators, and alternative processes to the traditional subtractive etch.
Lenora Clark: The other thing that differentiates this conference is the fact that we’re speaking solely to electronics. As Tara said, we’re looking at techniques to bridge a gap that’s experienced in the industry right now. When we researched this topic, there was a lot of discussion on stamping and forming. There was also a lot of work being done on prototype levels. We want to offer the audience options they can use today in mass production, which is going to differentiate this conference.
Johnson: What motivated you to put together this conference?
Dunn: We had so many different conversations with people searching for alternatives to respond to market needs for lighter weight, smaller packaging.
Clark: And we’re also in a period of time where, because miniaturization has reached a critical point, the industry is trying to understand our options. Are we going to have to move away from chip subtractive? The handheld market is an obvious example, which recently moved from subtractive to a more additive style of fabrication to reach the miniaturization that they want. If you look into the medical sector, it makes a lot of sense there too, and we even see a number of instances now in military applications. It's a combination of understanding where the industry is right now as well as listening to the present and future needs of our audiences. We received this request through our SMTA International meeting. There was a strong desire to learn more about additive processing.
Dunn: You bring up a good point because the additive processing that we hear about with our handheld devices is primarily high volume and being done offshore. People are also searching for domestic, low-volume, and development options.
Clark: I completely agree. As we started to look for speakers and gather interest in this conference, there was a lot of feedback saying, “Where can this be done in the U.S.?”
Dunn: We should also point out that the International Wafer-Level Packaging Conference is happening three days before the Additive Electronics Conference in the same location.
Johnson: So, this is a one-two punch for people who are interested.
Clark: Right; it’s a bigger bang for your buck. Stay one more day and learn about additive.
Johnson: Who should be at the conference? Who do you see as your target audience?
Clark: It would be good for designers, purchasing people, materials suppliers, applicators, manufacturing engineers, and end users who are trying to understand what options are out there and what companies are doing this. The conference will speak to a wide range of engineers and job functions because of the way that we’ve structured it.
We’ve made a specific effort to talk about potential applications, and users will speak about where they’re using it now and what it has enabled. I also think it’s important because right now, no one knows everything that additive can do. But if a creative individual in the audience says, “I can see how it’s being applied here. We could use similar materials to do something in our application,” it speaks to a wide range of individuals.
Johnson: It sounds like we’re at an inflection point on subtractive versus additive for some key functions going forward. As this situation becomes much more apparent in the form of increased demand, it’s starting to touch job functions at all levels of our industry. Consequently, anybody who feels that they need to be on top of additive processes for upcoming projects or products needs to be there to see what everybody else is doing.
Clark: Yes, you stated that well. Even if they don’t fully understand what is meant by additive, because it’s such a broad term, this conference will introduce materials that could be used, and it offers a resolution or multiple resolutions for challenges that may be experienced today in fabrication and design.
Johnson: Let’s talk a bit about what’s on the agenda. Tell me about your keynote speaker.
Clark: We’re excited about having Rich Brooks as our keynote speaker. He is a senior engineering manager at Jabil Circuit Inc. and will address “Miniaturization: Driving the Advances in PCB Technology and Assembly.” And Jabil fits so well within this particular conference because they’ve been doing additive technology for a number of years, and they look at additive within different segments.
Rich will be able to explain to us how additive fits in different functions and industry segments because of his experience. He’ll be able to speak to the pros and cons of the technology, which is important for people to understand what hurdles or limitations they will experience. We think that Rich will speak from a place of experience and that will set the tone for the rest of the conference.