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56 PCB007 MAGAZINE I JANUARY 2019 New York that has installed an automated VCP line for their production using the panel-plate method. They manufacture all of their products on a single panel size, which means the batch size is much less relevant. The surface area for plating is basically the same each time, so the plating current does not need to be changed for different products to be run; this is ideal for the VCP process as there is no changeover loss between jobs. For them, the difference in the area due to variation in the numbers of through-holes is not enough to require a variation in the current. With robotic load and unload, they have a process that runs with very little operator intervention. If you are considering updating your plating process, it would be wrong not to look at how you may be able to apply the VCP process to meet your production requirements. The potential improvements in capability are hard to ignore. If you need to plate exceptional products, then VCP may be the only way to achieve the result you need. PCB007 Marc Ladle is a director at Viking Test Ltd. To read past columns or contact Ladle, click here. Figure 5: Robot loading. of small- to medium-size players that give priority to shipment volumes over technology development. At the end of 2015, the China government implemented regulations to reduce metal pollutions caused by plating process, and since 2016, it has been tightening its control to protec the environment. Most of the top players have already installed facilities in compliance with the environmental regulations, but many smaller ones, unable to afford the high costs of such facilities, have quit. Although over 50% of worldwide PCB manufacturing is conducted in China, only three of the global top-30 PCB makers were from China, according to research firm Prismark's figures for 2017. Without government support, most China-based small- to medium-size PCB makers are likely to have difficulties continuing their operations, which is expected to accelerate the consolidation of China's PCB industry. China will implement a new set of strict regulations on the operations of the PCB industry on February 1, which may threaten the survival of small- to medium-size makers, according to sources from the related upstream supply chain. In addition to having higher requirements concerning environmental matters, the new regulations will require makers to have technological patents for their products, to set aside at least 3% of their annual revenues for R&D, and to achieve annual utilization rates of over 50%. The regulations impose specific requirements on different type of applications, but makers of PCBs for aerospace and military applications will not be affected by the new regulations. The sources believe the China government is looking to strengthen the leading players' dominance in the industry as the new regulations will accelerate the elimination China Set to Impose Stricter Regulations on PCB Industry

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