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54 SMT007 MAGAZINE I FEBRUARY 2020 Though with less fanfare, perhaps, the reduc- ing size of electronics has been a continuous pursuit. It is not just a matter of being stylish and easy to carry. Sophisticated electronic con- trollers are now being integrated and embed- ded into the majority of everything that we own or use, including phones, energy meters, automotive intelligence, and military and space technology. There are many other factors apart from size itself that are important, including the weight; the space required for storage and transportation related to packaging; the amount of material consumption, especially for key materials for which there is a finite supply; the energy consumption of the device, including the safety of power supplies—especially batter- ies; and the physical strength of the device in terms of protection for example of an automo- tive module involved in a collision. Size matters are clearly not a new challenge, but we do appear to have reached the point of diminishing return where the refinement of existing processes for the manufacturing and assembly of electronics-based devices— as well as integration of electronic assemblies into more mechanical products—when dealing with the practical aspects of size. Rather than further incremental change, the industry needs to take a step forward. It Starts With Design In the design world, the issue of reducing the size of designs is really not an issue of their domain. In any design work being performed, the designer can simply zoom in, and everything looks the same as before. The physical world does not allow such luxury, as there are some very specific constraints, which the designer later experiences as they run their design for manufacturing (DFM) tests. Many assumptions and decisions are typically made in the virtual world of design that either need extensive re- evaluation or could be missed, the ramifications of which come to light only during the phys- ical realization of the product. The problems then translate into production issues, where test points cannot be physically accessed, for exam- ple, such that assembly confirmation cannot be done completely, representing a risk of defects appearing in the market. There are so many well-known examples of challenges within manufacturing as the size of products decreases, and hence the density of components increases, including stencil cre- ation, component placement, soldering, as well as test and inspection. Most issues in manufac- turing are size-related. Though automation has been developed to follow the trend of miniatur- ization, unfortunately, with humans, the trend has, if anything, been the reverse. More and more traditional assembly tasks have become impossible to execute through manual assem- bly, such that they become the target of spe- cialist robotic assembly or require the need for specialist tools and equipment. The effect of all of these challenges is simply an increase in the cost and lead-time for assembly, which is not good news in a highly competitive industry. Beyond manufacturing, the reliability of prod- ucts in the market is also affected, as smaller product sizes make it more difficult to dissi- pate heat effectively, for instance. The smaller sizes of components also means less tolerance to unusual conditions, such as overvoltage. Life expectancy may be limited in many cases. The Role of the Digital Twin The development of digital tools for design, together with the subsequent flow of data to manufacturing and the many tools that are then required to execute manufacturing, have been quite removed from the world in which they work, with no concept of evaluating the physi- cal result of what they are doing. This connec- tion is vital. Without it, it is on a par with a media company creating television programs without understanding what audiences like. The definition of the digital twin goes beyond the simple gathering of data related to product Rather than further incremental change, the industry needs to take a step forward.

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