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E/CIT update: a program hopes to drive technology development and keep U.S. military contracts in the U.S.

I RECENTLY ATTENDED the kick-off meeting for the Emerging Critical Interconnect Technology (E/CIT) program. As you may recall, E/CIT was established in 2002 by IPC and NAVSEA Crane Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center, to support R&D for the military's PCB needs. It's no secret that North American PCB manufacturing R&D virtually disappeared in the last decade, due to the closure of the major OEM PCB facilities that were the drivers and leaders of PCB technology development.

E/CIT will provide the research of new methods and the refinement of current technology to enable North American PCB manufacturers to meet the requirements of the American military. Additionally, E/CIT facilitates solutions to current military problems and evaluates new cutting-edge design and manufacturing technologies for future military and commercial requirements, prior to adoption by PCB manufacturers. Recently, the Department of Defense (DoD) proposed $3 million for E/CIT in fiscal year 2005 to establish an Embedded Passive Manufacturing Research and Development Test Bed at the NAVSEA Crane facility in Crane, IN.

IPC has also submitted legislative language to the House and Senate Armed Services committees that would establish Crane as the official executive agent for electronic interconnection technology for the Tri-Services within the DoD. If approved, Crane will consult with DoD and non-DoD organizations and representatives of the PCB industry to maintain information on PCB acquisition requirements, manufacturability plans, programs and R&D plans. Further, Crane will monitor all major domestic PCB manufacturers to facilitate coordination among the services and other U.S. government agencies that use PCBs.

Back to the meeting, which took place at NAVSEA Crane. In addition to representatives of Crane, IPC and Wright Patterson AFB, PCB fabricators in attendance were Coretec and Sanmina-SCI. OEMs included Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman. Colleges represented were Auburn University, Penn State and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Suppliers to the PCB industry included 3M, Dupont, Electrapolymers, Electro Scientific Industries, Gould Electronics, MacDermid, Oak-Mitsui Technologies, Ohmega Industries and WISE Software.

Ron Thompson, branch manager of electronics manufacturing technology at NAVSEA Crane, is the facility's driving force behind E/CIT. He opened Day One with his concern that "we do not drive the electronics industry, we react to it." Thompson highlighted the fact that technology expertise within DoD is declining; Crane has the only Navy PCB manufacturing shop; PCB manufacturers are making significant commitments to offshore locations; and domestic PCB R&D has diminished drastically. These events directly affect the military and national security. With the industry's R&D capability gone, the military is limited to commercially available technology.

Although pleased with the progress made in establishing E/CIT and assembling a formidable military/industrial/ academic team, Thompson was concerned that high level policy-makers in Washington know nothing of the state of domestic PCB technology. To that end, he has commissioned the National Academy of Science to conduct a study of the state of our industry, in particular our domestic industry's technology and capacity to support current military requirements and to provide advanced technology for development of future military equipment. This study will be completed by the end of this year and reported ultimately to Congress by mid-2005.

Don Shulte, electronic development department manager of Crane, gave a fascinating overview of the operation. The facility was established in 1941 as a weapons depot and is the third-largest naval installation in the world, occupying 100 square miles of land. Although it has a capacity of 650,000 tons of ordnance storage, Crane has evolved into a high-tech electronics, ordnance and electronic warfare center, with 57% of its 3,400 Navy employees being scientists, engineers and technicians. It also supports 550 Army employees.

Jason Ferguson, E/CIT project manager, presented an embedded passives project overview, stressing the need to establish clear project objectives and goals including test vehicle designs, test and evaluation parameters and reporting mechanisms.

On Day Two, Thompson opened the meeting with a review of existing projects.

Design. Mentor Graphics' CAD software was the first project on the list. Mentor was not represented, so Thompson provided an overview of the status. Mentor is providing EDA tools for embedded passive technology applications and has committed to delivering specific tools for all EP materials. Mentor is currently several years into their EP development and will work on this project at Crane to further develop and demonstrate the software tool suite. Their current software is installed at Crane and designers have been trained, they're just waiting for a key to the system.

Resistor tooling. Jeff Miller of WISE Software described the embedded passive enhancements made to WISE CAM software. WISE will provide the link connecting the front-end design tool to manufacturing equipment and processes. WISE will look at a variety of manufacturing checks to assure that standard design and manufacturing rules are properly applied and not violated during manufacture. WISE has been working on this CAM tool development since 2003, and worked on it previously with Dupont. WISE will continue to extend this development. Miller planned to distribute additional information to the attendees regarding EP design rule checks and specifications.

Resistor trimming. Kim Fjeldsted of ESI presented a review of the laser trimming process and capability. He also reported on the development of a moving probe type of trimmer to eliminate the necessity of probe cards. WISE and ESI are working together to develop a smarter trimmer that knows what features to trim instead of having just splotches of data across the board. Also, polymer thick films require a longer trimming time because of the TCR inherent within the material. All pro-trim values must be below the target value, then trimmed up to an established pre-lamination value.

Test vehicles. Bill Payne led discussions on test vehicle design, test and evaluation definitions. It was conspicuous, since no disagreements surfaced, that all present agreed that the first order of business was to establish test vehicles to characterize materials and applications. Denny Fritz of MacDermid provided a brief on the Advanced Embedded Passives Technology AEPT program test vehicles. Two test vehicle teams were formed, one for resistors and one for capacitors. The initial goals/objectives include:

* Establishing/evolving a comprehensive test vehicle frequency interest range up to 100 GHz.

* Addressing/implementing "probe-ability" considerations in TV design.

* Including operational components on TV for capacitance verification.

* Incorporating manufacturing and assembly considerations, in addition to reliability and environmental considerations.

* Derating on power for resistor considerations.

Market discussions. Fritz led discussions identifying where the technology is located, with some ideas about publicizing E/CIT. Crane and IPC have adjoining booths at the Defense Manufacturing Conference in Las Vegas (Nov. 29-Dec. 2) and E/CIT members are encouraged to attend.

Roger Smith, Crane's engineering manager, led discussions on intellectual property and described the government's Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) process for industry/government cooperative activities. Participating OEMs are primarily interested in establishing a path for adoption of EPs into military products.

The pieces are coming together. Even though the focus of E/CIT seems to be military, I believe that the entire North American PCB industry will benefit from this effort in the end.

RICHARD SNOGREN is a member of the technical staff at Coretec Inc. (coretecinc.com), He can be reached at rsnogren@coretec-denver.com.
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Title Annotation:Getting Embedded
Author:Snogren, Richard
Publication:Printed Circuit Design & Manufacture
Date:Sep 1, 2004
Words:1207
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