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20 The PCB Design Magazine • May 2014 chine format ready to load and run, all gener- ated from a single library. For Wang Electronics, all data received from potential customers goes straight into the Valor NPI tool, which makes the analysis of all of the data, exposing potential issues. As each issue is quantified, production resource and hence, cost can be accurately assessed. In some cases, a de- finitive report can be sent back to the customer to allow them to change the design to make a considerable cost saving and quality enhance- ment. This is quickly recognized by the sales team as being an additional service and value for the customer, another positive differentia- tion for the company. In production, once or- ders have been won, there is little additional work to get production up and running right the first time. The Result From a business standpoint, ABC Electronics now is able to move products from the design and product teams into the market faster than ever before. The company has been able to take on the expected increase of product variations, meeting all of the demands from the customer. Quality has been enhanced, reducing the cost associated with mistakes and building confi- dence with the brand. Production costs have actually decreased, even though the product mix has increased. A far greater degree of con- trol and flexibility has been achieved, without compromise to performance of either cost or quality. The expansion of the business has been a success, and the company has become a great role model in the industry. Business is also booming at Wang Electron- ics, where the turnaround times to customer re- quests for quotation have been slashed, while at the same time, profitability and quality perfor- mance levels have increased because unexpect- ed issues are now a thing of the past. The com- pany has also started to attracted higher value business opportunities, for higher quality more critical electronic products. Margins are much more controlled and predictable, giving confi- dence to top management. Growth is on-track. The best practice Lean NPI flow works for al- most all companies, across the whole industry. Opportunities continue to grow as OEMs work with CEMs using the Lean NPI flow as a stan- dard platform and communication ability, each company helping each other be in control, and successful. The Lean NPI flow is good for everyone. PCBDESIGN Michael Ford is senior market development manager, sDD valor Marketing, Mentor graphics. THE LEAN NPI FLOW continues feature by Real Time with... NEPCON South China nanoengineers at uC san Diego are asking what might be possible if semiconductor materials were flexible and stretchable without sacrificing electronic function. uC san Diego Jacobs school of engineering pro- fessor Darren lipomi compared the difference be- tween flexible and stretchable electronics to what would happen if you tried to wrap a basketball with either a sheet of paper or a thin sheet of rubber. The paper would wrinkle, while the rubber would conform to the surface of the ball. While flexible electronics based on thin-film semi- conductors are nearing commercialization, stretch- able electronic materials and devices are in their infan- cy. one of the chief applications envisioned by lipomi is a low-cost "solar tarp" that can be folded up for packaging and stretched back out to supply low-cost energy to rural villages, disaster relief operations and the military operating in remote locations. lipomi's team has also created a high-performance, "low-bandgap" elastic semiconducting polymer using a new synthetic strategy the team invented. solid poly- mers are partially crystalline, which gives them good electrical properties, but also makes the polymer mate- rial stiff and brittle. By introducing randomness in the molecular structure of the polymer, lipomi's lab in- creased its elasticity by a factor of two without decreas- ing the electronic performance of the material. Engineers Take "Flexible" to the Molecular Level

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