Features

Essential for mmWave applications, phase accuracy is affected by a host of variables.

Applications for millimeter-wave (mmWave) circuits are growing rapidly, from collision-avoidance radar systems in autonomous vehicles to high-data-rate fifth generation (g5G) new radio (NR) cellular wireless networks. Many such applications are driving higher frequencies, above 24GHz, where wavelengths are smaller and the smallest attention to circuit design and fabrication can make the biggest differences in electronic product performance. Understanding the differences between PCBs at mmWave frequencies and lower frequencies can help avoid circuit manufacturing mishaps for many applications that are soon to require millions of double-sided and multilayer PCBs at those higher frequencies.

RF PCB Technologies Overview

Compared to lower frequency circuits, high-frequency RF/microwave circuits are sensitive to circuit materials and fabrication processes. Whereas some electrical circuit functions such as power lines and digital control may be well-supported with low-cost FR-4 circuit materials, RF, microwave and mmWave circuits require much higher performance circuit materials to minimize signal losses and distortion. Many multilayer mixed-signal PCBs with many different electrical functions are a blend of different types of circuit substrate materials, with materials selected according to behavior best suited for the types of circuit functions fabricated on that layer.

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The new data transfer format provides comprehensive support for embedded components.

Board designers today must provide fabricators files beyond those containing the design data in order to describe what is needed for embedded components. It’s a nonstandard process, different for each designer-fabricator relationship, so every fabricator must contend with multiple, disparate, nonintelligent formats and communications. Sometimes the additional files get out of sync with the design data, thus requiring phone calls or more revisions of the files to sync up what is intended. This is a slow, manual and error-prone process, which is still used even with other intelligent data transfer formats.

An additional challenge is that while some ECAD tools may now support state-of-the-art embedded components – e.g., face-up (flipped), pins on both top and bottom, formed (etched, printed) – the handoff to manufacturing formats has not evolved to support them at the same pace.

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One year in, Covid-19 has shifted priorities in the industry – or has it?

One year in, has Covid-19 shifted priorities in the industry? To find out, CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY reached out in January to experts for insights on how the pandemic has impacted everything from inside the factory to the business decisions we make. Then, for good measure, we asked how the semiconductor industry might change in the wake of Intel’s proposed sale of some manufacturing assets, a move that could have lasting impacts on the IC. We spoke with a range of leaders covering various segments of the electronics manufacturing supply chain. Their responses, lightly edited for clarity and length, follow. After reading their thoughts, share your own on our LinkedIn page (https://www.linkedin.com/groups/2847418).

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Updates in silicon and electronics technology.

Ed.: This is a special feature courtesy of Binghamton University.

Breakthrough quantum-dot transistors create a flexible alternative to conventional electronics. Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have created fundamental electronic building blocks out of tiny structures known as quantum dots and used them to assemble functional logic circuits. This development provides a low-cost and manufacturing-friendly approach to complex electronic devices. The building blocks can be fabricated in a laboratory with simple, solution-based techniques, and provide these components for a host of innovative devices. Potential applications of the new approach to electronic devices based on non-toxic quantum dots include printable circuits, flexible displays, lab-on-a-chip, wearable devices, medical testing, smart implants, and biometrics. (IEEC file #11971, Science Daily, 10/29/20)

This flexible and rechargeable battery is 10 times more powerful than state-of-the-art. University of California researchers working with ZPower have developed a flexible, rechargeable silver oxide-zinc battery that provides five to 10 times greater energy density than current state-of-the-art. The battery also is easier to manufacture, as it can be screen-printed in normal lab conditions. The areal capacity for this innovative battery is 50ma/cm2 at room temperature, which is 10 to 20 times greater than the areal capacity of a typical lithium-ion battery. The device can be used in flexible, stretchable electronics for wearables as well as soft robotics. (IEEC file #12027, Science Daily, 12/7/20)

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Last Saturday, my family and I reminisced about the Great East Japan Earthquake that happened almost 10 years ago.

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How a new trade group is aiding the DoD’s desire for a trusted supply chain.

For decades the printed circuit industry has asserted the lack of government support has a deleterious effect on the supply chain’s ability to properly supply the US military. Attempts to correct this over the years have been numerous but largely unsuccessful.

Led by IPC, industry has lobbied the US Congress since the early 1990s to reduce barriers to winning military contracts, and, as margins were slashed beginning in the early 2000s, to fund research and development that could be shared among Defense Department suppliers to help their competitiveness.

IPC, for its part, has threaded the needle in terms of trying to support its domestic constituents and meet the needs of the DoD while not alienating other members that are foreign-based. It has provided support and advocacy to the Executive Agent for Printed Circuit Boards and Interconnect Technology, a position funded by Congress in the annual National Defense Authorization Act and assigned to the Navy. The EA’s role is to help the DoD access reliable, trusted and affordable PCB fabrication and assembly products, and facilitate R&D collaboration. In practice, it’s a politically intense position that comes with unwritten but very real limits on how hard the EA can push for funding and priorities. The results are clear: The US industry remains behind several geographical competitors in terms of capabilities and capacity. Moreover, as new edicts were handed down to promote greater security of IP, smaller companies, especially fabricators, have found it financially treacherous to remain on the DoD’s acquisition list.

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