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MARCH 2023 I DESIGN007 MAGAZINE 43 design. Or they ask whoever is next in the sup- ply chain, usually the board shop, what they would recommend. at's where the tribal knowledge comes in. ere is nothing wrong with this approach, thankfully, as in my view this is common prac- tice. However, there can be disadvantages. It can mitigate against the use of new and untried materials, which may offer significant perfor- mance gains compared to estab- lished products. ere is also a real risk of over-specifying materials by erring "on the safe side." Over-specifying could poten- tially make a project uncompetitive, causing management to pull the plug before it reaches commercialization. is leads one to wonder if there is a better way that doesn't rely on tribal knowledge or the, "It worked okay last time," approach. e clue is that IPC- 4101 acknowledges that the specification requirements are defined not by the description, but by the specification values—in other words, the performance of the material. is is hardly a Eureka moment; what else would a designer care about? e question is why we don't offer the designer a practical guide to materials selec- tion based on their real requirements rather than an arcane system based on old and largely inad- equate descriptions of chemistry which don't even form part of the specification. Aer all, when most of us buy new tech, we don't describe our needs by the underlying chipset (well, most of us anyway), but focus rather on the function and performance based on our needs. Ventec has for some time been curating prod- ucts into groupings based on performance requirements in specific application areas. One example is the "autolam" portfolio, a base material set specifically curated for the diverse and oen extremely demanding requirements of automotive applications. Imagine being a designer in that space; consider how much more easily you could select the right materi- als for any given project if you could start with a subset containing those that are conceived for the application area, and then quickly find a handful of candidate material types matching your specific requirement. e hierarchy of such a material set may look something like this: automotive/infotainment, automotive/thermal management, and automo- tive/radar. If interested in thermal management, you may have an interior or exterior lighting application, or a power converter, inverter, or charger, for which several candidate materials may be positioned. Your final choice may then depend on spe- cific requirements such as power rat- ing, reliability, etc., that may direct you to a particular grade of insulated metal substrate, or various ceramic- filled materials, coming with the necessary automotive qual- ifications and documentation. Similarly, Ventec has created the "aerolam" portfolio, which adopts the same approach to make life easier for designers in the aerospace and defense sectors. It was interesting to observe at IPC APEX EXPO in San Diego that a number of materials suppliers have now followed suit in grouping their product offerings into application-specific areas. e famous quote from Oscar Wilde, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," comes to mind. e road to converting the old classification system to one based on performance in appli- cation-specific areas will likely not be smooth and will inevitably require a concerted effort by all stakeholders. However, the reward will be to put the real power of informed material selection in the hands of the designer—surely a worthy aim and one we should embrace as an industry. DESIGN007 Alun Morgan is technology ambassador for Ventec International Group. It worked okay last time.

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