Manufacturing roadmaps help identify routes to standards

Several initiatives are underway to establish a framework for the standardization of optoelectronic manufacturing processes.

"There is large interest in the industry to get to a point where manufacturing processes can be verified to a standard," says Randy Heyler, vice president of business development, advanced packaging and automation systems division, Newport Corp. (Santa Ana, CA). "Does this machine clean that fiber to the standard, which is x particles per millimeter? None of that exists. Even if you don't want to quantify how you do it, you have to quantify the achieved results."

Last month, IPC—an international trade association comprising about 2,700 designers, board manufacturers, assembly companies, suppliers, and OEMs that also develops standards—released its "2002/2003 National Technology Roadmap for Electronic Interconnections." The roadmap, created with OEM input, provides a framework for standardizing the manufacturing processes used for printed circuit boards (PCBs) and related subsystems. Released every other year since IPC started publishing these technology roadmaps in 1993, the 2002/03 version will focus heavily on optoelectronics.

"Optoelectronics is getting a big play," states Dieter Bergman, director of technology transfer at IPC. New this year, IPC-0040 is an umbrella document that provides a roadmap for optoelectronic assembly and packaging technology. It describes four levels of optoelectronic packaging, from the uncased chip to the motherboard into the module. "From an assembly point of view, all of the processes fit in somewhere," says Bergman. "Some at the component level, some at the board level, and some at the subsystems level."

Today, assembly challenges arise from the mix of different processes, the use of a variety of different materials for attachment, the merging of different optical communications methods, the integration of electronic and optical elements, the order/sequence of assembly, and the temperature sensitivity of optical parts. Although standards already exist, more are required. The IPC-0040 document lists 23 standards initiatives, from fiber splicing to cleaning, testing, hermetic sealing, and attachment. If high-speed digital data is to take hold in areas like broadband, interconnection structures are going to have to change, according to Bergman. The high-density interconnect will involve optical fiber or optical polymer.

The IPC roadmap is free to IPC members and available for purchase by non-members. Another change underway this year is the implementation of a "living" roadmap, which will evolve as needed, rather than remaining static until it is updated at the end of the two-year period. For more information on IPC, visit www.ipc.org.

Despite these efforts, the percentage of PCBs that will involve optoelectronics may remain low, partly because of the industry downturn. While the components are ready, the interconnections and systems have yet to evolve, according to Bergman, who estimates it will take two to five years before 10-20% of PCBs take on optoelectronics.

The National Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (NEMI, www.nemi.org—Herndon, VA) is another organization issuing technology roadmaps for optoelectronics manufacturing processes—one of 19 different technology areas in which the consortium is working on technology and business issues. NEMI, which focuses on the concerns of the North American electronics manufacturing industry, comprises more than 65 electronics manufacturers, suppliers, associations, government agencies, and universities. "Their whole message is to try to look out over a five-year time horizon and map what critical technologies are going to emerge, and means for the United States and North America to remain competitive, so they try to instigate standards or legislative efforts that would help to achieve those roadmaps," says Heyler.

Out of the conversations involved in the 2002 optoelectronics roadmapping—a process that started in 2001—six technical working groups were formed to examine the technology and business issues that apply to processes in optoelectronics manufacturing. The working groups examine issues in six different areas: optical-fiber splicing, optical-fiber carriers and handling, automated selective soldering, connector quality and performance, optical adhesives, and optical substrates.

"One of the working groups had to do with handling fiber carriers through the factory, making the carriers compatible with automation equipment and trying to standardize some of the handling practices," recalls Heyler. "That group got together with some of the automation companies and the OEMs like JDS Uniphase, and basically we decided that we could put a standard together quite quickly to organize how a fiber would be oriented on a carrier in a factory setting, so that everybody's machine would be compatible with finding the fiber, grabbing the fiber, connecting the fiber, and terminating the fiber. That effort went all the way through to a standards draft, which is coming up for final issue this year."

The other five groups are investigating technologies or starting to develop draft standards in their areas of coverage, says Heyler. The efforts focus on both technical issues and reducing cost.

Heyler is the 2003 chairman of the Photonics Manufacturers Association (PMA), which is part of the IPC. PMA is organized as a council that works to further the efforts of the various industry standards bodies and enhance communication between suppliers to the photonics industry and their customers. This year, PMA is forming a steering committee to establish a standards subcommittee that will help to educate the industry about these standards efforts and try to prioritize all of the issues that come out of IEC, NEMI, or any other organizations that are doing standards work.

"We are just trying to use the IPC-0040 document as a roadmap to say, 'Here is a whole bunch of stuff we need to get done,'" explains Heyler. "Let's start talking about, 'What are the most important ones?' and start driving it."

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