PCB microelectronics technology responds to the digital medical revolution


NexLogic Technologies, a Silicon Valley PCB turnkey solution provider, founder and CEO Zulki Khan gave a unique insight into manufacturing trends. He outlined the additional requirements that must be understood in order to compete in different industries. The focus is on the medical field, which he said is preparing for a "digital revolution."

Nolan Johnson: Today, we will explore the industry from your perspective. Zulki, can you introduce yourself?

Zulki Khan: I have been in the industry for more than 25 years. I started with a Chicago-based company that provided me with the basic industry knowledge I needed. Then in 1995 I founded NexLogic. NexLogic is a company that includes Apple, Philips, Sony, Google, Facebook and Uber provide a one-stop package of PCB solutions and services.

We provide PCB design and layout, manufacturing, assembly and testing. Customers can provide us with a schematic of their hardware design. We use CAD software packages such as Mentor, a Siemens Business and Altium's Allegro or PADS for layout design. Next we complete the layout design and send data for bare board manufacturing. We then assemble these boards and components and test, debug, and analyze to ensure that they will perform as designed.

I have a degree in electrical engineering and an MBA. We have completed many projects for outstanding companies in each different market segment. Although the nature of manufacturing remains the same, different industries have different additional requirements. The medical and aerospace fields have their own standards, and their standards must be followed to ensure product success; for example, in the medical field, patient risk requirements must be considered when product recalls are made.

One of the most important things in medical and aerospace is the traceability of components. How many paper files do I need to keep in the archive and how long do I keep them? Depending on the traceability requirements of lot numbers, batches, and date codes, certain documents must be retained for up to 7 years in some cases. If something happens on-site, customers can retrospectively see who made the device, what the lot number is, and in which country it was made. This is necessary to better evaluate product recalls.

Johnson: What is happening in the manufacturing and healthcare sectors?

Khan: First, I will explain how manufacturing is changing, and then I will return to the medical field. Traditionally, some components come in standard packages, such as integrated circuits (ICs) purchased from companies such as Intel, AMD, or Nvidia. Surface mount technology and through-hole technology have been around for a long time. Since all nuances are well known, they are stable and time-proven technologies. What is imminent is that everything has shrunk from board-level to component-level, and everything has become portable, handheld, and wearable.

The space available for PCBs and components is becoming more and more valuable. Glass, ceramic or aluminum packages are constantly changing and disappearing. The industry is dismantling the package and placing the chip directly on the PCB or carrier board. This can save a lot of substrate space and provide precise connections, but it will also increase costs. For technologies such as stacked wire bonds (Figure 1), chip connections, flip-chips, etc., these are upcoming technologies that are commonly used in handheld devices.


Figure 1: Stacked wire bonding is more complex than conventional wire bonding and requires higher accuracy


Handheld and wearable devices such as watches include wire-bond and chip-connect packages. No matter what manufacturing area, fine microelectronic packaging is now needed. You can place the chip directly on the carrier board or PCB for wire bonding. Sometimes the chip must be potted with a spherical bump (Figure 2), as described in previous columns. In medical and consumer, aerospace, commercial, and almost every field, manufacturing is moving in the direction of the Internet of Things, wearables, and Bluetooth technology.


Figure 2: Spherical bump epoxy for potting and protecting bare chips


Second, technology is developing at an unprecedented rate, and it will become more powerful. In today's everyday devices (such as smartphones), sensors, cameras, MEMs (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems), etc. are getting better and better, and they have surpassed the traditional handheld cameras of a few years ago. In the field of healthcare, I see the coming "digital healthcare revolution". In the past you had to go to the hospital and wait for the opportunity to get medical device inspections and procedural diagnostics. Now with the changes of many medical devices, it is changing the overall situation of treatment, analysis and monitoring.

For example, ingestible smart pills and devices have tiny sensors or cameras that pass through the body and take pictures of different organs. Now it is very different from the future. In the past, if the patient's small intestine is uncomfortable, the doctor will take several steps to perform regular endoscopy to identify certain areas with lesions. In the future, with the intelligent device that can be ingested, advanced sensors can be used. And cameras quickly and effectively identify those areas of the gastrointestinal tract that have lesions. These sensors and cameras send vivid pictures to a wristband or device outside the patient's body, recording and displaying data in real time. Doctors and healthcare providers can view specific conditions and detect tumors, distortions and abnormalities in different organs.

Johnson: What risks do you think this technology has?

Khan: Since these ingestible smart devices are new technology, the related risks are currently uncertain. What if the pills get stuck in a small part of the intestine? What if the patient feels pain or has to undergo surgery? In particular, because these devices are intended to enter the human body, it is necessary to ensure that the materials used (such as metal or plastic) and their shape and form are not harmful to the human body. Once this technology becomes more standardized, the industry needs to address these issues.

Johnson: Do you think this technological revolution has begun?

Khan: It's started, but I think it will grow stronger and grow faster in the next three to five years. Patients now need many time-consuming examinations in a large hospital (must wait for the machine), and in the near future they can be examined in the clinic in a more cost-effective manner.

We are working with a local company that is developing a device comparable to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which requires patients to lie in the device to get good images of body organs, which is expensive and time consuming, The company is developing and producing similar products the size of bricks.

With this product, patients can sit or lie down, which will be a small and simple examination procedure. Medical staff can then move the device to different parts of the body for examination. This small device has the same functions as a large million-dollar device, and the price is between $ 50,000 and $ 70,000. This disruptive technology is still in its infancy Stage, once successful, then these are the changes I expect to see with the digital healthcare revolution, there are already some similar products on the market, and ongoing betas, so I think the medical field will explode in the next few years increase.

Johnson: Based on your market predictions, you might innovate with some of these companies. How will the technology you describe change existing "daily production" of contract manufacturers or EMS companies?

Khan: This type of smart device will use PCB microelectronics technology, including wire bonding, chip connection, flip chip, chip-on-board (CoB) and related technologies. These innovative medical electronic devices are changing traditional manufacturing technologies.

SMT machines can work at room temperature, so no special environment is required. However, when it comes to all these new and very small installations, Class 100 or Class 1000 clean rooms are needed (Figure 3), and a certain air pressure must be maintained in these areas. Millions of particles must be considered to keep them clean Clean room. Then you need kits, equipment and machines, other infrastructure inside the clean room; professionals in the field of microelectronics, including operators, process engineers and supervisors.


Figure 3: Class 100 or 1000 clean room is required to achieve effective PCB microelectronic assembly


Professionals in the field of microelectronics and traditional manufacturing usually have their own responsibilities, and in some cases there is overlap. So some components are based on microelectronics, while others are based on traditional SMT. This kind of intersection occurs when you carry out SMT production in a conventional workshop, and then bring these products into a clean room and complete production through wire bonding and chip connection. Some products are between traditional production and microelectronic production Some are not, depending on what the client wants to achieve.

Johnson: In my opinion, EMS and assembly technology are more and more like the semiconductor industry 20 years ago.

Khan: Yes, it's a fusion from conventional PCBs to semiconductors because we are talking about wafers, chips and dicing.

Johnson: In order for EMS companies and contract manufacturers to move to new technologies, they need to re-examine the methods and facilities that semiconductor companies have adopted over the years as an example of their future development.

Khan: If you want to retain your technology and services for future products, you must integrate it into your company or form an alliance, because this change will happen sooner or later, it is only a matter of time. Unless you want to be a traditional manufacturer and do not need to produce products that require the ultimate microelectronics technology, you must ensure that you can provide these new technology services.

Johnson: What are these changes that make you sleepless all night?

Khan: How to retain customers, especially top big customers, has always been my focus. A good clean room and equipment requires a lot of resources. If there is not enough strength for microelectronic packaging, customers will be lost.

Johnson: Let's consider the Tier 1 OEM you mentioned. When we move away from more traditional manufacturing methods and technologies (such as direct connection to chips, etc.), will different companies choose different approaches? Of course, is there a risk when companies adopt new technologies and divide their customers into different areas of expertise? When we are researching new technologies, is this a concern for EMS service providers?

Khan: Tier 1 EMS companies almost have the technology in their new product introduction or sample department, but there are also risk factors. How many people have seen the technological changes happening? How many people are willing to invest capital in this type of infrastructure? And, if you don't plan to solve this problem, then this will pose a risk to you, and customers may go to other companies that can provide these PCB microelectronics technology.