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Got pressing questions about future PCB technologies? Check out DOEs!

Major changes are occurring in PCB design, fabrication, assembly, and manufacturing. In effect, there is virtually no more status quo. Traditional boards have basically been the same size with about the same components as other PCBs. That meant design, fabrication, assembly, and manufacturing basically followed the same steps and procedures.

But in the last few years, new packaging technologies and highly advanced new products have taken center stage to create a disconnect in the EMS provider and contract manufacturing (CM) arena. Moreover, traditional assembly and manufacturing practices cannot be used due to smaller PCBs and limited board areas. Such is the case with thieving or ground pour, Fig. 1, which is the traditional copper overlay on boards to help dissipate heat. There is no space left on those small board to perform ground pouring.

Now, OEMs are taking a hard look at future products their customers are demanding and the new technologies needed to determine how they’ll fare in the market to maintain their competitive edge.

However, against a backdrop of newer, more advanced device packaging technologies and ever-shrinking board real estate, growing numbers of OEMs are intent on conducting experiments to see how those future products and technologies will perform. Here, design of experiments or DOEs are growing in demand to sort out these issues for OEMs.

Check out our article in EE Times/embedded.com to learn more about DOEs and how you can proceed when you’re confronted with these issues.

In the meantime, when time comes for your company to look to the future to investigate new product opportunities to serve your markets, here are some tips and guidelines that’ll help you get started with DOEs.

  • Any particular PCB technology R&D project you are seeking answers for is a DOE candidate.
  • Equally as important is seeking and acquiring an outside experienced R&D-like environment for your DOEs to assure newer and different technologies will or won’t prove valid in your next generation PCBs.
  • Keep in mind that DOEs range far and wide as far as specific OEM requirements, and most often they are highly specialized projects.
  • Product aging and its effects can be a DOE to determine levels of failure over an extended time period such as 10 or 20 years.
  • Another cut at product reliability is investigating how certain solder pastes and fluxes will perform in the future with increasing more advanced device packaging.
  • With chip technologies constantly changing, you may want to determine how your devices perform under certain conditions when chipmakers use a new alloy for lead or pin terminations.

Each DOE is unique in the sense it is characterized by an OEM’s special requirements. However, all DOEs share a variety of different PCB design and assembly aspects and stages such as board finishes, temperature cycles, thermal profiles, solder pastes, different fluxes, chemical agents, and so on.

DOEs also extend beyond and into the extensive nature of PCB cleaning. OEMs are taking an even closer look at today’s board cleanliness and demanding ultra-clean boards due to newer and smaller packaging and ever-shrinking PCBs.