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January 2015 • SMT Magazine 11 Ray Rasmussen is the publisher and chief editor for i-Connect007 publications. He has worked in the industry since 1978 and is the former publisher and chief editor of circuiTree Magazine. To read past columns, or to contact Rasmussen, click here. getting really good along with the inks and sub- strates. But again, you can't just look at the PE capabilities and match them up to a PCB. I be- lieve there will only be a very short span of time when they actually intersect. We're seeing some of that, now. Structural Electronics As I mentioned earlier, there is something new, currently being called structural electron- ics. It has been talked about in theory for years and in the past, been done in the form of mold- ed circuits, but this specialty market segment is poised for growth, soon. The marriage of 3D (also not new, but now taking off) and printed electronics can provide distinct advantages to those OEMs willing to take the plunge. It seems inevitable that all products will incorporate structural electronics at some point. That's the way it's all headed. You won't build a product by integrating the electronics into it. We may see structural electronics added to the IDtechEx conference next year, as a standalone, as more companies seek to meld electronics into every- thing. This is bigger than most of us can get our minds around. Here's an excerpt from a news item we pub- lished back in November: Structural electronics involves electronic and/ or electrical components and circuits that act as load-bearing, protective structures, replacing dumb structures such as vehicle bodies, or conformally placed upon them. It is of huge interest to the aero- space industry which is usually the first adopter, the automotive and civil engineering industries, both with compelling needs, but its reach is much broader even than this. Electric cars badly need lon- ger range and more space for the money, and in civil engineering, corrosion of reinforced concrete struc- tures and tighter requirements for all structures, in- cluding early warning of problems, are among the market drivers for structural electronics. You can read more about this rapidly evolv- ing market here. If you do some digging you'll find much more on this topic. The Internet of Things, which promises to connect everything with very inexpensive (or, not so inexpensive) elec- tronics built into and onto just about every- thing you can imagine, is changing the game. A crude example is the integration of sensors into the pillars, surfaces and joints of a bridge. Before the bridge even shows a sign of a prob- lem, the sensors have detected an anomaly and that information is transmitted to the builder, the architect, the engineers, and more. In this scenario, the surface sensors could weigh trucks as they pass and give a real-time traffic count and even collect solar energy, the joints would track ground tremors, etc. The sky's the limit on what's possible. Now, think of everything out there where failure is not an option and you can see what's driving this. The military/aerospace and medical, along with transportation compa- nies are driving this hard. They have the most to gain, initially. IDTechEx said this recently: Nonetheless, the big picture is structural elec- tronics taking over from a century of joining com- ponents together and putting them in a box. Now is the century of electronic and electrical structures with a very different value chain. Read more here. When we talk about electronic products today, they are usually in a class by themselves, as add-ons bringing intelligence to some piece of equipment, as mentioned above. Soon, ev- erything will be an electronic product to some degree, which will have a structural compo- nent, or vise versa: roads, bridges, walls, floors, ceilings, tires, pots for plants (as I look around my office), fireplaces, lamps, desks, water and sewer pipes—you name it. That's where this is heading. I hope you enjoy this month's topic. SMT THE TIPPInG POInT continues the way i see it

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