I had hoped to have a nice overall show recap. I had also hoped to do a little more writing from the show floor about new and exciting things on display. Well, our booth was too busy so I didn't really get to see much. Still, though, it was very valuable to speak with a large number of potential and even a few current customers.
In my prior post, I said there were two common themes. Really, it's three. It was surprising, the number of booth visitors that both have a current solid contract manufacturing relationship and also need help getting prototypes built up. The problem is that five to ten years ago, outsourcing became all the rage. The huge offshore contract manufacturers set them selves up to get as much of the NPI pie as possible - from design to assembly to final manufacturing - and so many US companies jumped in with both feet. They outsourced a whole lot and eliminated or cut back on internal capabilities.
Now with the economy heating up, they need more help but no longer have enough or any capacity to build up prototypes in house. To really stomp on the "greatness" of outsourcing / off shoring, many of those giant CMs decided that the small stuff is not profitable, so they have stopped accepting or have made it much more difficult to get the small volume work done.
The small companies can't get their low-volume work done because the big CMs won't even talk to them and the big companies can't because even though the big CMs or their internal manufacturing will talk to them, they have to wait and wait to squeeze the work in.
Second theme is that a few years ago, the parts involved were easy enough to hand solder so the boards could be handed to a technician to be built up quickly. Well, now, in many cases those technicians are either gone or already fully utilized, and many of the new packages are so small or so difficult to use that hand soldering is not even possible.
Doubly whammy. More complex parts and less available help.
The third comment I heard repeatedly has to do with lead-free and BGAs. There is still a lot of confusion about mixing leaded and unleaded parts. With a lot of parts, it doesn't matter so much, but with BGAs, you have to follow the BGA. Because it has those little solder balls underneath, if it's a lead-free BGA, you have to used lead-free solder and lead-free temperatures. If you don't you kill your reliability. If it's a leaded BGA, you have to use leaded solder and lead temperatures, or, again, you kill your reliability.