All branches of the industry gathered in San Diego, California, for a three-day event that was complete with workshops, professional development seminars, competitions, live tutorials, committee meetings, and networking opportunities. Special events also occurred, which made this year even more significant than the previous ones. The theme, “Technology’s future comes together”, was a perfect fit for the 440 exhibitors to display exclusive products, applications, and services. 5,292 attendees from 56 countries participated in what this show had to offer. This amounted to a total of 9,796 visitors on the show floor, coming together to network and exchange ideas. The Chief Technical Officer of Tesla, JB Straubel, marked the opening of the show. As the keynote speaker, he discussed the story of the company, including their history, challenges that they faced, and their motives to become more innovative. He also highlighted planned initiatives for the future.
The importance of education
The Apex Expo’s organizers have always emphasized education as a big part of this North American expo, believing that learning and training is key for the success of the future. Finding employees with the right skillset and correct education is getting more difficult. Therefore, numerous opportunities were given to the attendees, in order to gain information and acquire further knowledge on today’s most important topics. This year, visitors had access to 75 technical papers that were submitted, detailing research and developments for the challenges faced today. This included research on Industry 4.0, smart manufacturing, and miniaturization. Buzz sessions also took place, covering topics such as, the fourth industrial revolution, pb-free applications, warpage on SMT process, solder materials, and more. Professional development courses occurred that was targeted for all levels of experience and knowledge, as well as, a variety of subjects and best practices. This included, advanced rework, ionic residue testing, defect prevention, thermal management solutions, selective soldering, and much more.
Live production lines
Last year’s virtual demo of the Connected Factory eXchange (CFX) standard was so successful that it was decided to put it into practice this year. As a collaboration between CFX and Hermes, two live production lines ran boards and manufactured assemblies, throughout the week. The first line contained the Hermes and CFX IoT messaging standards and the second line focused on assembly production. These comprised of the participation of several equipment, software, and manufacturing vendors and suppliers, including Aegis Software, ASM Assembly Systems, Asys, Cogiscan, Creative Electron, FlexLink, Fuji, Heller, Keysight, KIC, Koh Young, Kulicke & Soffa, Nutek, OK International, Pemtron, Saki, Test Research, Inc., and Vayo.
These lines showed what the capabilities are for automated machine-to-machine communication and the value of a connected setting. With multiple demonstrations per day, visitors were able to see live data and information in real time. Different sized boards were used to emphasize the flexibility and simplicity of the standard. The standard was approved in the beginning of this year. “The demos that we did last year were tremendous. It has brought us to this point, where we can now do it for real and truly realize the protocol. The ability for data to be transferred from machine to machine as parts and boards are being processed is great,” says Sanjay Huprikar, Vice President, Solutions, IPC.
Influential reoccurring events
The world championship hand soldering and rework competition also took place. A total of 13 certified competitors from across the world, including France, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, competed in this year’s tournament. It was quite challenging, as competitors needed to remove specific components, as well as, old solder, then clean the area, and finally place new parts back on, all within 75 minutes. Out of a maximum of 634 points, they were judged by an expert, based on standardized regulations, best practices, and techniques. Functional tests were also completed at the end. After four sessions, the first-place winner was announced and received a perfect score as he did not make any mistakes, second place received 628 points, and the third place received 625 points. All exclaimed that the competition was harder than they would have thought.
Another reoccurring event that took place was the Innovation awards, which acknowledged the efforts made by the innovators of today. Five winners had ingenious products or services that benefits the electronic manufacturing industry and its customers. The winning solutions included an automated and green fabrication facility (Greensource Fabrication LLC), an inkjet printed solder mask solution (Meyer Burger (Netherlands) BV), a manual X-ray inspection system (Nordson Dage), an underfill that can handle high operating temperatures (Henkel Corporation), and a 3D DFA/DFM solution (Vayo (Shanghai) Technology). These winners showed what the industry is capable of, and the direction the market is going.
Every year, IPC Apex Expo brings much more than just an exhibition of products and services. Technical experts, industry leaders, engineers, and others get together to discuss ideas and challenges, as well as, to find answers to their questions. Through forums, live demonstrations, and special events, it sets a certain tone for the year to come. In 2020, the Apex expo will take place on February 4–6 at the San Diego Convention Center, with the theme “Elevate the excellence of electronics”. (ch)