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Lots of work ahead.

You can bet that this will be a busy year for the PCB industry. Whether it's good or bad will depend on how you and your company deal with change.

Are you proactive? If not, can you at least react quickly, roll with the punches without taking all uppercut to the jaw?

There's a lot going on in '05. Let's start with a deadline: Aug. 13, 2005. That's the date that the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive goes into effect. If you work for a company that sells to countries in the European Union, this little doozy could directly affect you. WEEE requires companies that sell in the EU electrical and electronics equipment bearing their names to arrange and pay for the collection, treatment, recycling, recovery and disposal of that equipment. Your firm won't have to do the actual collecting of its old equipment, but you'll need to have end-of-life plans. Some OEMs may prefer an actual end of life to compliance.

You can read more about WEEE in this issue of PCD&M. This month we're debuting a NEMI lead-free column that will run through the next big deadline, July 1, 2006, when the EU's Restriction on Use of Certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS) takes effect. Rolls bans lead and five other substances from electronics sold in the EU. The move to lead-free isn't going to go away, and your company should have already developed a roadmap to lead-free. Whether you fabricate or design boards, by this time next year, you should be well on your way to working with lead-free processes.

NEMI reports that many major OEMs plan to convert to lead-free solder and components during the first three quarters of 2005 for their consumer products, and all major OEMs are requiring new part numbers for lead-free components, to make it easier to distinguish between leaded and lead-free.

In 2005, you can expect classes on lead-free processes to be standing room only. Classes and panels on lead-free will be among the highlights at PCB Design Conference West 2005, which will be held March 7-11 in the Santa Clara Convention Center.

PCD&M and Circuits Assembly will also be covering IPC Printed Circuits Expo/APEX/Designers Summit in Anaheim next month. You might want to stay through the last day of the exhibits to see Burt Rutan's keynote address. Any speaker who can design a spaceship and a plane the flies around the world without refueling is worth checking out.

This year, Asia will continue to be an archrival for some North American firms and a partner for others. IBM is selling its PC operations to the Lenovo Group in Suzhou, China. This will free up IBM to concentrate on higher-margin products like software and consulting services, and allow Lenovo to expand outside China. Because Sanmina-SCI owns the facilities where IBM PCs sold in North America are produced and Lenovo lacks the factory capacity, Sanmina should be able to negotiate a new deal with the two companies when its contract runs out this year.

Flex makers are likely to keep doing well. Innovative flex makers such as America's M-Flex will continue to give Japan's Nippon Mektron, Nitro Denko and Sumitomo a run for their money. Anchored by its relationship with Motorola, M-Flex hit $253 million in sales for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2004--a 96% increase over the previous year. Someone's doing something right.

So, is the industry out of the woods yet? It's too early to tell, but we seem to be getting there, slowly but surely. Maybe that's the best way to do it.

While you're reading, check out our annual PCD&M Buyers' Guide. Over 400 product and service providers are listed in the new guide. If your company is not listed, you can still register for the online edition, which is the Buyers' Guide in real time, at

I hope you all had a Happy New Year. Now the work--and hopefully the fun--begins.
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Title Annotation:Our Line
Author:Shaughnessy, Andy
Publication:Printed Circuit Design & Manufacture
Date:Jan 1, 2005
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