Screaming Circuits: March 2009

Hey - We Won Again

I know. I know. There's been a lot of self-serviing glurge here lately, but that's the way it goes sometimes.

We're here at ESC, but we made a quick stop in Las Vegas to stop by and pick up our 2009 Service Excellence Award for Manufacturing Quality - thats two years running! It's cool because it means we're making customers happy. They select the winners based on a customer survey they do. Our parent company, MEC Companies won too!

Hi Ed.

Sore Feet at ESC

I finally got a little time to walk part of the show. The only thing that caught my eye so far is the FreeScale air hockey robot. Supposedly, no one has managed to get a puck in past the robot. They didn't say if the robot has managed any goals thought. That would be a lot more impressive.

Pretty cool, none the less.

Duane Benson

ESC Rolling, Rolling

We're up and running here at ESC in San Jose. I haven't had a chance to walk the floor yet to see if there's anything interesting. We've been too busy. If you're around, stop in and say "hi". We'll give you a show discount code and a cool pen.

ESC 0409 004 (Medium) 

Duane Benson

Short-Run Production

Short-run banner top 

Announcing our NEW Screaming Circuits Short-Run Production!

  1. Quick and easy production electronic assembly
  2. From one to thousands
  3. No NRE. No contracts. No commitments
  4. Easy file and kit requirements

Is Screaming Circuits Short-run production for you?

Check it out here

ESC SV in Four Days

Esc_logo09_sm Hi all, (especially those on the West Coast). Just a reminder, we'll be at ESC next week. Stop by our booth to hear about our new service offering and get a show special discount code. It's at the McEnery convention center in San Jose.

And, while you're there, also have a chat with our partners from Sunstone Circuits. They'll be in our booth demonstrating the newest version of PCB123 schematic and layout CAD with libraries from NXP.

We are in booth 235. It's not the best location, but it's just behind the ESC Theater so at least it should be easy to find.

The show hours are:

  • Tuesday: Noon – 8:00 pm
  • Wednesday: 11:30am to 7:00pm
  • Thursday: 11:30am to 4:00pm

Here's a floor map showing where we are:

Floor map ESC SV09

RoHS temps may still kill RoHS parts

I've written about a few cases where alleged RoHS compliant components don't always hold up in the face of RoHS reality. Our friends over at ECD have been studying the problem and coming up with solutions to best eliminate the problem. They make thermal profilers for reflow ovens. We use their products here at Screaming Circuits and that's one of the reasons we have such good reliability with our assembly work.

If you're going to the APEX show in Vegas an the end of the month, you can drop in and see them in booth #1628. Until then, here's a bit they have to say on the issue:

EMS Alert: Would you rather be part of the problem, or part of the solution? Elevated Pb-free temperatures can cause hidden damage!

The new IPC standard released Dec 08, Classification of Non-IC Electronic Components for Assembly Processes, J-STD-075, calls for thermal classification of components, and recommends a marking system to help contract manufactures recognize component temperature limits during the soldering process. The release of the standard follows a comprehensive study by IBM on this issue, and substantiates what we at ECD have recognized from field reports.

The IBM study shows that these higher temperatures are dramatically shortening life expectancy of components, especially more sensitive passive components. Failures don’t show up during initial test, but much later on in the product’s life – often six months to two years later, and well below forecasts that drive pricing and warranty policies. ALL parts have temperature limits; and until we take the time to profile the process to which we subject these parts, we can’t know if we cause harm or not. The IBM study has done much to provide such characterization, so there is little excuse to proceed in the dark.

We have, over the past year, written several articles (see links below) pointing out that with increased solder process temperatures, specifically for lead free solder, it is more critical than ever to make thermal profiling a process that takes into consideration the most sensitive of components. A comprehensive program is needed, and ECD has moved in that direction with our Thermal Quality Management (ThQM™) Program. We think this will give the industry the knowledge and tools to look at ALL components in the comprehensive light necessary. Equally important, it introduces a program and method of dialog between OEM and EMS provider on soldering process issues. Finally, in keeping in the “standards” vein, the Thermal Quality Management Program suggests a process, with corresponding checklist, to assure both OEM and EMS provider that no damage was done during the soldering process.

An ECD representative will make an APEX presentation on Thermal Quality Management on Wednesday, April 1, at 12:30 at the combined Circuits Assembly/Global SMT & Packaging Booth # 1383/1385, and will be available for questions at our own ECD Booth #1628. You can also visit for more details on ThQM™ and to sign up for free online classes on this subject.

ECD Articles:
Thermal profiling optimizes printed circuit board assembly
Thermal profiling: A key element of process control
The IBM study

Embedded Systems Conference details

I've got a few more details on the show - and a discount code. Enter SATI2 when you register to recieve 50% off of your ticket price. The exhibit hall-only pass is still free. Check details and register at the ESC site.

Find us in booth 235. Check out the show floor map here. We're toward the back, right behind the ESC Theatre. When you enter the hall, turn left and go past Microchip and Atmel, then turn right. You'll find us on the left, just past the theater.

ESC SV 09Ask us about our new service offering that will help embedded entraprenuers get to market faster and easier.

Drop in and see us and our friends from Sunstone Circuits. It's March 31 - April 2 at the McHenery Convention Center in beautiful downtown San Jose.

Duane Benson
San Jose - I'ver heard the "fun" never stops.

Lets Get Small

I’ve been slowly working on this microcontroller board (very slowly) for a while. I’m using PCB123 and some new, very small components to put it together. I’m amazed at the changes that have happened recently in this industry. Change has been a constant in this industry since it’s been around, but it only seems to be accelerating. Or at least, it’s taken a big jump just recently.

DFN-8 I’ve made size an important constraint so I picked a low drop out MCP1726 regulator instead of the venerable LM7805 or equivalent. In the old days, if size was a concern, I’d skip the TO-220 package and instead use something in a TO-92 package. But that would limit me to around 150ma, and it's a thru-hole part. That’s fine if it’s only the microcontroller, but I want to drive a bunch of LEDs, and I2C bus and some other logic circuits.

The old TO-220 package was about 10mm X 20mm plus the area needed for a heat sink to deliver a full amp. What amazes me is that this new part comes in an 8-lead DFN (same thing as a QFN –Quad Flatpack No leads - but with leads on two sides instead of four). It’s 3mm X 3mm and, with proper PCB design, can supply the same 1-Amp that the TO-220 packaged part could deliver with something like 50 times the surface area, not even including the heat sink.

Duane Benson
The parts, they are a shrinking.

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