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AUGUST 2019 I DESIGN007 MAGAZINE 91 Flex Design Education Opportunities Growing–Slowly What the Flex? by Andy Shaughnessy, I-CONNECT007 Andy Shaughnessy is managing editor of Design007 Magazine. He has been covering PCB design for 19 years. He can be reached by clicking here. There are no summer doldrums this year. This is a great time to be a part of the elec- tronics manufacturing industry. A board shop owner at a recent conference summed up the last few years this way: "I've never seen it this good for this long." Yes, the PCB market is hotter than Georgia asphalt in August, and flexible circuits are one of the hottest segments in that market. Demand for flex and rigid-flex circuits continues to grow with some analysts predicting that the global flexible circuit market could reach nearly $25 billion by 2022 with a CAGR of about 12%. Automotive, healthcare, smartphones, and wearables continue to drive flex innovation. All of the new technologies coming online now fro- mIoT to 5G spell good news for the flex market. From a big-picture perspective, the economy is roaring along with slow but steady growth each quarter. The unemployment rate keeps breaking records with a jobless rate of 4% or less for the past 16 months. As many of your managers know, the unemployment rate is so low that it can be hard to find someone to fill a position, and some jobs are going unfilled for six months or more. One manager joked with me that it would take a lot for him to fire a PCB technologist with the labor market so tight. Try hiring a flex designer right now; you might be looking for quite some time. The flex designer group was always a small universe in the first place, and some of them are headed for retirement. You may have to do what other companies have done: Train your rigid board designers to lay out flex. There aren't that many flex design classes at trade shows and conferences, but you can find a number of flex design tutorials online. The consortium NextFlex offers a variety of educa- tional resources for flex designers and fabrica- tors. And most flex fabricators and flex mate- rial suppliers have a set of guidelines for flex designers, and they'll be more than happy to work with you. Speaking of material suppliers, we kick off this month's edition with a wide-ranging flex design roundtable. Designer Mike Creeden, the new technical director of design and educa- tion at Insulectro, interviews his Insulectro co- worker Chris Hunrath and DuPont Circuit Ap- plications Engineer Steven Bowles. The three discuss their work with customers who may be new to flex materials, the trends they see in the flex material market, and some flex design ed- ucation options, which could include a visit to the customer-centric DuPont Technology and Innovation Center in Sunnyvale, California. Next, we have an interview with John Mi- chael Pierobon, who developed the free online course Designing Flexible Circuits, available on the website of the flex fabricator All Flex. John Michael, who has been known to teach pro- gramming classes in Spanish and Portuguese, discusses his class, which is broken up into seven chapters and covers everything from flex design guidelines to material requirements. We also have columns by our regular con- tributors. Joe Fjelstad explains how flexible cir- cuit technology is slowly but surely making its way into the colleges and universities of the world. And Tara Dunn discusses the benefits of an SMTA pilot program for emerging engineers. Flex and rigid-flex are blowing up now, and Flex007 has the flex information you need. See you next month! FLEX007

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