Multiple Markets Merge for PCBs at H&T Global
While at the SMTA-Ohio expo I met Rob DiGiovanni, VP of sales and marketing with H&T Global, a printed circuit manufacturer based in Florida. I was attracted to the H&T booth by a large photo of an Army jeep. I wanted to learn what this particular photo had to do with PCBs, and Rob had a ready answer.
Patty Goldman: Hi, Rob. It’s great to see you here in Cleveland. We've already been talking a few minutes here, but one of the things I really want to hear about is this army vehicle which has LED lighting in it. You said it was bringing two worlds together.
Rob DiGiovanni: In printed circuit board manufacturing, two of our strongest market places are military applications and LED lighting. We supply low-to-high volume production of PCBs to these markets. You notice the picture that I've got on our display here and it happens to be a military vehicle with LED lighting. The LED lighting applications are just extraordinary across the marketplace in commercial applications, industrial applications, automotive applications and so on.
Goldman: Someone else also told me that.
DiGiovanni: It is an exploding market. We are heavily invested in the PCB manufacturing for LED lighting as well as military applications. We now manufacture up to 4-foot long metal and fiberglass PCBs. We are Mil-P-55110 certified and ITAR-registered.
Goldman: You literally combined them.
DiGiovanni: Correct. This manufacturer, if you would, is bringing two worlds together.
Goldman: Very disparate worlds. Also automotive, I guess.
DiGiovanni: It is. Even though it's a military vehicle, it is an automotive application, which is a third category, in essence. Automotive is another marketplace that we are heavily invested in. Our facilities are all TS16949 certified. We're automotive certified. Interestingly enough, we talked about LED exploding, but automotive in North America has made a huge surge. Numbers are climbing back to record levels where anybody in the automotive industry is experiencing phenomenal growth right now and are reaping the rewards of a robust economy in that market.
Goldman: Now, you're talking not just automotive, but automotive electronics? The applications continue to almost snowball in the automotive industry.
DiGiovanni: Years ago, the car was just a big piece of metal with some rubber tires on it.
Goldman: And a radio.
DiGiovanni: And a radio. I remember reading a report when I was younger that at some point 60% of the price of the vehicle was going to be electronic related. That's where we are today. Sixty percent of the cost of the car that you buy to drive to work every day, you're paying for the electronics in the vehicle.
Goldman: Amazing, isn’t it? And everything else in there has become a commodity, right?
Goldman: Then again like you said for LED lighting, whoever thought there would be a circuit board in a light bulb?
DiGiovanni: It's a necessity right now. That's just where the technology is today. High output LEDs require proper heat sinking, heat management, and it starts with the circuit board. You just cannot get the outputs that are required to replace your standard incandescent light bulbs without heat management. So metal circuit boards, insulated metal printed circuit boards (IMPCBs), insulated metal substrate (IMS), there's a number of different acronyms for the technology. It’s very interesting. A common misconception is that the technology is the aluminum on the backside of the circuit board, when in fact all it is a heat sink. The technology lies in the dielectric material. It moves heat away from the components. It takes a little bit in getting to know the product and the technology and understanding what it does. Different dielectrics will perform differently. It's application-specific or whether it's a class driven product. We have access to and can recommend a best fit material for those applications.
Goldman: Yeah, that's a whole area I'm not very familiar with, I have to say.
DiGiovanni: Think of it this way. You can drive a Chevrolet Cruze to work and put six people in the car, and the car will get you to work. It'll struggle a little bit but it will get you there. You can go out and buy a fully loaded Chevrolet Impala and it's going to get all six of you to work a little bit more comfortably and a lot less effort on the vehicle.
Or the six of you can climb into a great big Cadillac limousine and just cruise to work with no effort and no cares whatsoever. Now, the dielectric materials are exactly the same way. There are some materials that move you and struggle. There are some materials that move you comfortably. Then there are some materials that move you with ease. Now translate that into moving heat. Some materials will move heat better, faster, and more efficiently. That's the technology between metal back circuit board.
Goldman: There's always all this heat, especially with LED lighting, you say?
Goldman: I didn't realize that.
DiGiovanni: As you walk around, here at the SMTA event in Ohio there are a few LED products out and about. Some are on displays. Some are on a table, whatnot. A great example is you can walk into a Home Depot and buy an LED light bulb to screw into any standard A19 fixture in your bedroom. If you ever open one up, you'll realize that the technology that went into that light bulb that now costs ten dollars is remarkable. Because it's replacing a dollar light bulb, the technology has been around for a hundred years. The incandescent light bulb, if you put your hand up close to it, you'll burn your hands. It gets hot if it's on all day. The LED light bulbs, they can't do that. They're electronic. Just like any electronics, heat is its enemy. If the LED continues to get hotter and hotter throughout the day, it'll burn up. Heat management can keep it operating at a standard operating temperature, which has been designed for its most efficient output, so that it can give you hours and hours and hours of consistent light.
Goldman: Then the heat has to be pulled away.
DiGiovanni: In order to do that, heat has to be pulled away and it’s done through metal circuit boards, one of our core products, as they are the foundation of the electronic side of the unit. In a lot of cases it'll use heat sink housing or heat sink assemblies in addition to it. It's all designed by engineers who know a lot more about that than I do.
Goldman: In one product we covered military, automotive, and LED metal back boards. Can you tell me more about metal circuit boards?
DiGiovanni: Insulated metal substrate are your metal circuit boards, and there are several acronyms for it, like I stated above. Now, IMS happens to be a patented acronym from a North American manufacturer of a specific brand. They went off and patented the phrase IMS. We work with all the top brands, you'll also hear IMPCB, insulated metal printed circuit board. Aluminum backed. A very common acronym is metal core, although it's actually inappropriately used.
Goldman: It's incorrect. It's not really a core, it's just on the back.
DiGiovanni: That's right. However, it is possible to make a metal core part.
Goldman: You could laminate to both sides of it.
Goldman: Then it seems like the heat wouldn't come out so easily.
DiGiovanni: Again, that’s depending on the application. Years ago I did a blinking light for an F-35 wing tip. A completely sealed unit, nowhere for the heat to go. The board had to be completely self-sustained and heat-dissipating by itself. There was nowhere to put the heat except internally so we created acopper core circuit board. What it did is it pulled the heat away from the components into the center of the board using a 0.060 copper core, and the copper just melted the heat away. A very interesting design. Not completely uncommon, but very small applications now due to cost.
Goldman: I can imagine with a copper core. Nice.
Goldman: Anything else you’d like to talk about?
DiGiovanni: Are you a hockey fan?
Goldman: You asked me that because I live in the Pittsburgh area. I'm not really a hockey fan but I did pay attention and know the Penguins won the Stanley Cup! We beat the San Jose Sharks, but my colleagues from California are not really hockey fans either. There was a cute comic in the Post-Gazette but it was lost on them, darn it.
DiGiovanni: All right, good enough.
Goldman: Well, Rob, thank you very much for your time.
DiGiovanni: You're very welcome.