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Tarja Rapala-Virtanen is the newest technical director for the EIPC. I-Connect007’s Nolan Johnson and long-time EIPC conference attendee Pete Starkey discuss her new role, the upcoming summer conference in Leoben, Austria, and the program in place for the June conference.
Nolan Johnson: Can you start by updating our readers on your role with the EIPC?
Tarja Rapala-Virtanen: As the newest EIPC technical director, I’m following the footsteps of Michael Weinhold, which, of course, puts me under high pressure because he's well known around the world. I’m still on the learning curve to find out what's happening in Europe and what is required from me. And I hope my extensive knowledge and network, work experience for 10 years in Asia, will benefit my EIPC work. One key part of my new role is to support Kirsten Smit-Westenberg and Alun Morgan put together the summer and winter conferences as well as arrange some other technical workshops in Europe, depending on topics of interest for the European supply chain. I’m also representing the EIPC in WECC meetings and events such as the CPCA and IPC show. EIPC is also working on standardization through IPC, IEC, and WECC. This work is done in collaboration with member companies to avoid double work; we share responsibilities within our European team.
Johnson: Congratulations on the new role. You may be following behind Michael, who did a great job, but you obviously do a fantastic job yourself. For the readers who may not be familiar with the EIPC, can you give a short history and describe the mission?
Rapala-Virtanen: Thank you. The EIPC is an institute for the European PCB community made up of electronic industry professionals from Europe. We support and provide our members’ platforms to exchange business and technical information. One of our primary goals is making the European industry visible globally and spreading the news about what’s going on in Europe. Germany has a very strong position in the European PCB industry, so we try to arrange gatherings on a regular basis there. We are arranging some workshops in the German language in cooperation with the German FED association. We are also planning more workshops in a different location in Europe.
Johnson: To the casual observer, the EIPC has IPC in the initials. Is there an affiliation or not?
Rapala-Virtanen: We are completely independent. We belong to the World Electronic Circuits Council (WECC). Our organization belongs to the World Electronic Circuits Council (WECC) and organizers of the Electronic Circuit World Convention (ECWC). We are a group of eight industry-related trade associations globally: one from the USA (IPC), one from Europe (EIPC ), and the remaining from Asia (JPCA, CPCA, HKPCA, KPCA, TPCA, and IPCA).
Johnson: The EIPC conference seems to be very deep. As I read about the upcoming EIPC conference in Leoben, Austria, I was knocked back by some of the names and credentials that you have onboard. Can you tell us about the two-day program?
Rapala-Virtanen: Yes, the EIPC team and I have been putting the program together for June 13 and 14. If you’ve seen the invitations, there’s also a short introduction of what we see as key highlights in Europe. Although our production of PCBs is very low, maybe only 3% from the global PCB market, the impact of European electronics industry is still more than 30%. Many new innovations and technologies have come and are coming from Europe. Many global European OEMs have their product design, and also prototyping in Europe, and then mass production in Asia.
European OEMs are in numerous industries, including automotive, aerospace and space, defense, and medical, which all have an impact on the product designs and products in Europe. These industries also require very high traceability, reliability, and testing with their products. And if you look at what is coming in electronics today, we see that on the networking side, we have 5G requirements, digitalization, and AI, requiring higher and higher speeds. It’s affecting material selection processes, how we test products, and reliability requirements. Then, we have to select the correct, optimized technology solutions and partners so that we have a successful product launch - time to market.
These topics have been leading our conference planning. In the sessions, we’re also covering the supply chain. We want to find out how we can support traceability and reliability and how we can measure and test higher speed and cleanliness, which are critical for higher-speed applications (e.g., in next-generation 5G applications). You will see the presentations covering these topics in our agenda from companies, including Ucamco, Polar Instruments, Gen3 Systems, Picosun, and Gardien. Further, we’ll address how to protect the product in the end-use environment.
We’ve also had great innovations in Europe, so we always try to incorporate new ideas and developments coming from Europe into our program; this time, it will include companies, such as Indubond, Lackwerke Peters, Frauenhofer IZM, Meyer Burger NV, Tactotek, and Agfa-Gevaert. As a bonus, there has always been an opportunity to visit some of our member companies’ facilities and manufacturing at the EIPC conferences. This time, we will visit the AT&S factory. Every participant in the conference can get an idea of how successful PCB manufacturer from Europe has grown from a local to a global technology leader.
Johnson: I noticed that there were some presentations on the day-one agenda from AT&S as well.
Rapala-Virtanen: Yes, that will be an interesting paper on the importance of the PCB design of high technology product. AT&S has even asked the mayor of Leoben to give the welcome speech at the start of the conference Leoben is not a very big city, so it will be interesting to hear the perspective and background of Leoben and how AT&S found a place there.
Johnson: You have topics that run from global dynamics all the way down to technical issues. And you have companies represented, such as AT&S, Polar Instruments, Ucamco, Elmatica, Gen3, Meyer Burger, Taiyo, and Nano Dimension. Those companies are very active in the industry, so it should be very compelling for anybody attending.
Rapala-Virtanen: I agree. Generally, the presentations are well prepared, and the only challenge we have is how do we activate the audience for open discussion? After each session, we have a panel where we want an open discussion on the session topics. Sometimes, it is difficult to activate the audience. However, there are usually a few active participants, but I think it would be nice to get more people involved in panel discussions. It allows everyone to have more takeaways from the conference.
Johnson: It looks like you have five panel discussions scheduled over the two days.
Rapala-Virtanen: Yes, after each session, there is a panel discussion where we have all the people who presented on the session together, and the audience can ask questions. There isn’t a time for questions directly after the presentation, so all questions are consolidated into one panel discussion. As I said, one of the goals of all EIPC conferences has always been networking and discussion. We take breaks, and that’s why aim to have the panel discussion somewhere near lunch or a break so that you could continue the discussion if there was not enough time.
Johnson: If an organization is considering sending someone to attend, who’s the right person to send?
Rapala-Virtanen: Anyone in technical sales, engineering, or on a quality or design team would be suitable to join. PCB technical salespersons must have a technical understanding of PCB design, including the technology behind it. In most companies, there are field application engineers or salespeople who are technically oriented. Those people will receive updated information on new technology solutions and technical challenges from manufacturing to reliability. They can network and meet new people and gain a wider understanding of what is happening in the PCB technology arena. The content isn't purely technical; the first session of the conference includes business and market outlooks, which has always been well received by participants.
Johnson: While there’s something in this agenda for pretty much anyone in the industry, if the attendee is a customer facing technical decisions, then this is an ideal agenda for them.
Rapala-Virtanen: It is ideal. Also, one of my long-term goals is to get more OEMs in the arena to describe their requirements and what they see as the challenges in next-level design. For example, in this conference, Ericsson is presenting on how they prepared for higher data rates in mobile systems, so some of the OEMs will share their views.
Johnson: And it’s a great opportunity for OEMs to communicate about where they see themselves going and what they’re going to need from this industry.
Rapala-Virtanen: Yes, there are participants from the whole PCB supply chain starting from the materials, processes, equipment, testing, etc. If you are coming with your new product or requirement, you can get in touch with the representatives of the entire supply chain and discuss your future product requirements. They have the right materials, processes, equipment, and testing to offer, which will fulfill the requirements, tolerances, etc. In Europe, we have multiple OEMs, and with their guidance, the industry can go in the direction they want. The supply chain can make the development work of the PCB processes and capabilities so that the end product can be in the market on time.
Johnson: It sounds like this is going to be a great program. Congratulations in advance for putting it together.
Rapala-Virtanen: You never know before it has happened, but we hope it will be well received by the attendees. As we’ve discussed, there’s a lot of strong content and presenters lined up.
Pete Starkey: I’ve been extremely impressed by the way you’ve covered the conference so comprehensively. I never fail to be impressed by the quality of the presentations. I have always looked at the conferences as great learning and networking opportunities where you can share your experiences and challenges with your counterparts in the industry.
Johnson: Tarja, thanks so much for your time today.
Rapala-Virtanen: Thank you, Nolan.
For more information on the 2019 EIPC Summer Conference, visit www.eipc.org/eipcevent/2019-summer-conference/.