FLEX007

Flex-Apr2018

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40 FLEX007 MAGAZINE I APRIL 2018 we all know what the printed circuit board industry likes about trace widths and spaces and drill hole sizes, annular rings, and solder mask clear - ance; all that kind of changes a little bit when it comes to the flex industry. So, 90% of what we get is people who are comfortable with circuit board standards but not so much with the flexible standards. Shaughnessy: Are flex stan- dards keeping up with the industry, John? Talbot: Not entirely—not for a company like ours anyway. We're still an etch company. We are still removing copper and I think that we are seeing a pattern for several years now, of things get- ting smaller and tighter—smaller holes, smaller traces, and that sort of thing. Stephen Las Marias: You mentioned earlier that some of the companies are still not comfort- able with the assembly of flexible circuits. Why do you think that is so? Talbot: It's probably two-fold, Stephen. One reason would be because they're very comfort- able with printed circuit board assembly, and two because you can't simply put a flexible cir- cuit through the SMT line the way you would a circuit board. There are more fixtures and more carriers; there's more planning and more tool- ing required to do it. Las Marias: Does that mean that you have to sort of customize your assembly line when you're working on flexible circuits? Talbot: Yes, on almost every product. Let me give you an example: If you panelize a circuit board, and you put the traditional mouse bites in that we use to hold the circuits into the panels, that panel will stay nice and rigid all the way through the screening process, the pick-and-place, and the oven. Now, if you panelize a flexible circuit, the tabs are not the same. We don't have mouse bites necessarily. We have lit - erally just a tab of material left open. So, handling that panel, even if you're using fixtures and carriers, sometimes just handling the panel out of the packaging will break the tabs, and now you've got floppy cir - cuits. You're trying to screen very small patterns into a paste, and then also trying to hit it with the pick-and-place machine as well. This causes a little more of a problem than the traditional circuit board would. Shaughnessy: What are some of the segments driving flex now? What about automotive? Talbot: We're seeing some automotive right now, and we're still seeing a lot of aerospace, and medical is very high. Another topic that I would add to this is very long circuits. Goldman: Which of the industries has the great- est influence on change or keeping you at the highest level of technology? Talbot: That's a hard question to answer. Medi- cal for sure, and I wouldn't even know after that. Medical are the customers who give us the most challenges. Goldman: I just wondered if it was automotive, but I wouldn't see that as quite the same kind of challenge, right? Talbot: No, automotive for the most part doesn't. They're not making things as small and tight as the medical industry does. Goldman: That's true. The medical industry makes everything tinier and tinier.

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