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106 PCB007 MAGAZINE I FEBRUARY 2022 IPC APEX-EXPO show and conference was safely back in full swing aer skipping 2021. Because my primary interest is printed circuit board and assembly processing, I ventured onto the show floor to review the evolution of some of the systems on exhibit that may con- tribute to process efficiency and end-product quality. A key benefit of attending a show like this one is that the board and assembly manu- facturers can view and compare similar prod- uct offerings in one place. One topic I was most interested in review- ing was the progress made on automated post- etch inspection of circuit board panels used for multilayer circuit boards. High-volume pro- duction environments rely on automated inspection to identify defects in the circuit pattern before the lamination process. Sev- eral automated inspection system manufac- turers on the show floor demonstrated their products' attributes and unique features. Auto- mated optical inspection (AOI) systems use data accessed directly from the circuit board's CAD file and rapidly checked the circuit image on each panel. e circuit board is the platform that sup- ports and interconnects all component ele- ments that enable the electronic assembly to function. To accommodate the current gen- erations of electronics, the high I/O and very fine-pitch semiconductors simultaneously minimize circuit board size, forcing designers to increase circuit layers and implement finer conductor lines and spaces for interconnect. Fabrication imperfections that occur during imaging and etching stages in the fabrication process, if not identified, may impact the cir- cuit board's functional integrity. A Lesson on Automated Optical Shaping Designers Notebook by Vern Solberg

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