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May 2016 • The PCB Magazine 51 powders should be kept out of the factory area including the non-controlled rooms. The clean- er the entire factory is, the easier it is to keep the cleanrooms up to specification. Epoxy coatings on floors, frequently cleaned and painted walls, and ceiling tiles will not only help keep the fac- tory cleaner, but will influence attitudes and perceptions of the employees and visitors, mak- ing them more vigilant in adhering to clean- room practices. While the processing required for semiconductor fabrication takes cleanliness discipline to an entirely new level, the increas- ing high-density demands in the world of flex- ible circuits requires cleanroom processing to produce circuits at high yields. PCB Dave Becker is the V.P. of sales and marketing at All Flex Flexible Circuits llC. To contact Becker, or read past columns, click here. flexible CirCuit fabriCation and Cleanroom manufaCturinG area is how the material is handled as it comes out of process machinery. Parts should be im- mediately placed in a clean container, covered, and transported to a clean area to avoid con- tamination. • Once the circuit pattern is defined and a dielectric layer or coating is bonded, foreign particles will have less of an impact on circuit yields. However it is still sound manufacturing practice to maintain some level of cleanliness control. Finishing steps include automated op- tical inspection (AOI), excising, electrical test- ing and assembly. Excess particles on the sur- face can create issues at AOI by creating false readings for shorts. If the part is being electri- cally tested to very tight tolerances, then fibers and human hair cause false readings. Hair, fi- bers and dirt can also create poor solder joints during component assembly. Keeping the entire facility clean is a good manufacturing practice and will make it easier to keep the controlled areas clean. Materials such as cardboard, paper, wood, open cell foam and No doubt about it, there's a strong interest in automation. In fact, it is almost the new buzzword. Everyone is automating. Some are even claiming, "Automate or die!" To help us better understand our readers' views on automation, we conducted a survey titled "Au- tomation vs. Reducing Process Steps." As always, results are never what one would have predicted. here is a sampling: Nearly 50% of the respondents were PCB fabri- cators with 90–95% classifying themselves as high mix/low volume and the remaining as high volume. A question on automating a process versus elimi- nating process steps was split nearly 50-50, with several comments stating that both are important. one added, "We have islands of automation rather than real process automation." Perhaps a fine line? In a multiple choice question on the goal of automation in a facility, it seemed obvious that all the given reasons were important (see chart). "We want it all!" *Generally, these comments mentioned more consistent results, quality, reduce opportunities for operator error, etc. Regarding the most important areas to auto- mate, answers included everything from innerlayer processing and the lamination area to wet process- ing and test/inspect, and especially handling, at all of these steps. Didn't take our survey? you still can: click here. This Just In: Handling Errors Survey Results

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