The IPC Apex Expo 2017 got underway Feb. 14 in San Diego with a keynote address by the actor Mayim Bialik, who also earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA. Bialik plays a neurobiologist on the TV comedy The Big Bang Theory, where her character interacts with other scientists and an engineer. In her well received Apex keynote, she commented on how her roles have affected her and her family and offered advice on mixing science and art to audience members during an extended question-and-answer session.

In another keynote, Mary (Missy) Cummings described herself as not a typical professor—she spent time in the “real world” as a naval officer flying F-18 fighters off aircraft carriers. She now has a Ph.D. in systems engineering and teaches at Duke University, where her interests include human-unmanned vehicle interaction and the ethical and social impact of technology. She downplayed the role of pilots, although she is one herself. Arial drones, she suggested, are much more practical than self-driving cars.

TestStation Multi-Site test system
Courtesy of Teradyne

Industry 4.0 was a key buzzword at Apex, even if it’s not well defined. The term appeared often on banners on the exhibit floor. A “buzz session” on IPC’s Connected Factory Initiative added some context. The IPC’s 2-17 subcommittee is looking to establish the Connected Factory Exchange (with complying equipment identified by the “CFX” logo), an IoT-style protocol that won’t implement but can serve as a prerequisite for Industry 4.0.
A partner organization to IPC,

iNEMI, presented the 2017 iNEMI roadmap, which represents 10 man-years of effort, according to Bill Bader, iNEMI CEO, speaking at a buzz session. Approximately 500 individuals representing more than 350 corporations, consortia, universities, and government agencies cooperated on creating the roadmap. A new chapter this year covers IoT and wearables.
On the exhibit floor, companies exhibited various types of equipment. For example, ASM Assembly Systems brought what it calls “the shop floor of the future” to the IPC Apex Expo by presenting its full-scale Smart #1 Factory. The company’s booth was set up to represent the major workflows in an SMT production facility.

Other relevant exhibits covered electrical test systems, optical and X-ray inspection systems, rework systems plus spares and consumables, materials test, software, and other technologies.


Optimal+ highlighted its Global Ops for Electronics software, which complements the company’s original semiconductor capability. Optimal+ featured a recent initiative undertaken in conjunction with IBM to provide insight on how big-data product analytics can provide value-chain visibility and brand protection for electronics products. Optimal+ also announced it has joined the Industrial Internet Consortium.

Mentor Graphics highlighted its Valor IoT Manufacturing, which the company described as a robust, secure, plug-and-play device and data-acquisition solution that assists in implanting Industry 4.0.

Aegis Software demonstrated its FactoryLogix MES software. The company announced that sitronic GmbH & Co. KG, a German-based manufacturer of automotive electronics, had selected FactoryLogix to streamline operational efficiency and enhance quality and traceability for its automated assembly lines.

In addition, Aster Technologies presented board-viewing and testability-analysis software, and JTAG Technologies and XJTAG described their respective boundary-scan software tools.

Electrical test

Several companies exhibited in-circuit test systems, including Teradyne, which highlighted its TestStation system. Keysight Technologies exhibited an i3070 in-circuit test system along with a compact test system with automation from rethink robotics. And Konrad Technologies demonstrated its TinyCell, part of the LEON family of ICT/FCT test systems.

Checksum exhibited its MultiWriter programming system and Analyst ems in-circuit test system. Acculogic showcased its FLS 980 high-frequency functional test system and Scorpion BRiZ automated test and programming station, and Data I/O exhibited its PSV7000 programmer that programs up to 2,000 devices per hour.

Spea exhibited products including the 4080 flying-probe system, which the company said achieves bed-of-nails productivity at 3,600 boards per day. Takaya exhibited its ATP-1400F-SL flying prober, available from Texmac in the United States. Digitaltest exhibited systems such as its Condor MTS 505 flying prober.

In addition, Seica showcased a Pilot 4D flying prober. Seika Machinery demonstrated several systems, including an FA1240 flying-probe tester from Hioki. And for bare boards, atg Luther & Maelzer (a division of Xcerra) exhibited the A8a flying-probe system.


Optical, X-ray, and acoustic inspection products also were represented. Sonoscan highlighted its C-SAM acoustic imaging technology. Keyence featured products including the VHX-5000 digital microscope, Microscan presented MicroHAWK smart cameras, and O.C. White Co. highlighted its Super-Scope HD free-standing integrated inspection system.

Several companies demonstrated AOI and SPI systems. For example, Pemtron exhibited its TROI 7700 Series solder-paste inspection systems and Pemtron Eagle 3D AOI systems. AOI Systems exhibited its ScanSpection system for low- to medium-volume PCB assemblies; the system compares a known-good (gold) board and a sample board.

ASC International demonstrated SPI and AOI offerings such as the LineMaster FUSion inline high-speed SPI system. Camtek demonstrated its Phoenix family of AOI systems for PCB inspection. CyberOptics exhibited its SQ3000 3D AOI system, which, the company said, maximizes ROI and line utilization with 3D sensors.

Koh Young Technology exhibited its 3D AOI and SPI systems as well as its KSMART engine, which provides intelligent diagnosis and analysis based on centralized information. MEK highlighted systems including its PowerSpector inline AOI system and SpectorBOX modular AOI system for simultaneous top and bottom PCB inspection.

Mirtec presented its MS-11E 3D SPI machine and its MV-6 OMNI 3D AOI machine. MVP exhibited inspection systems including its Selecta II AOI system, designed to complement both wave-solder and selective-solder processes.

Omron exhibited its VP5200-V 3D SPI system, VT-S730 3D AOI system, and IP3000 automated review system. And Vi Technology presented its PI Series 3D solder-paste inspection systems and K Series AOI systems.

Several companies included X-ray systems in their booths. For example, Nordson exhibited its DAGE, MATRIX, and YESTECH lines of AOI, bond test, materials test, and X-ray inspection equipment for the PCB and semiconductor industries.

A8a automatic bare-board flying-probe test system
Courtesy of atg Luther & Maelzer GmbH

Test Research exhibited a variety of optical and X-ray inspection systems as well as testers, including the TR5001 SII inline in-circuit test system. And Viscom displayed its S3088 Ultra high-speed 3D AOI system and its X7056RS combined AXI/AOI system. In addition, ViTrox demonstrated its V810i 3D AXI system and V510i 2D + 3D optical inspection system.
Yxlon brought its Y.Cheeta X-ray inspection system for PCBAs and semiconductors to the show. Zeiss exhibited its new Metrotom 800 computed tomography system as well as its Smartzoom 5 smart digital microscope.

Nikon exhibited its XT V 160 X-ray PCB inspection systems designed for use in production lines and failure analysis laboratories. North Star Imaging presented its digital X-ray and 3D computed tomography systems for electronics applications. And Pacific X-ray Imaging highlighted its GenX-90P compact X-ray system.

Other products on display

In addition, Oxford Instruments demonstrated its MAXXI 6 coating thickness analyzer, which performs nondestructive test using X-ray fluorescence.

Orbotech presented the Precise 800 Automated Optical Shaping system. And Nano Dimension highlighted its Dragonfly 2020 3D printing platform, which the company described as a rapid prototyping tool that combines a precise inkjet deposition printer, silver nanoparticle conductive and dielectric inks, and dedicated software to produce multilayer PCBs.

U.K.-based SMT Xtra took the opportunity to highlight the recent launch of its sister corporation, SMT Xtra USA. The company specializes in SMT production machines, spares, and consumables.

VJ Electronix presented its new SRT Micra mobile device rework system. QA Technology highlighted its test and interconnect products, including Razor and X probes.
Instron showcased its Bluehill materials-testing software for lab managers and test technicians; it is compatible with Instron 5900, 3300, 8800, ElectroPuls, and 5500 testing systems.

Cincinnati Sub-Zero exhibited a benchtop environmental chamber. Cirris highlighted its line of cable testers.

Fluke Process Instruments featured its Raytek noncontact fixed infrared sensors, process imagers, and portable IR thermometers; Ircon rugged online and standalone IR pyrometers, line-scanners, and handheld thermometers; and Datapaq in-process temperature profiling systems for industrial-heating applications.

Kulicke & Soffa exhibited the Asterion wedge bonder, which includes an expanded bond area, new robust pattern recognition capabilities, and tight process controls.
And finally, AI Technology highlighted its new CC7130-PR sprayable conformal coating for critical electronics. The company reported that in side-by-side testing in accordance with IPC
standards, CC7130-PR exceeds the required 65°C and 90 to 98% humidity test at 100 VDC.

Test, inspection drive Industry 4.0 at IPC Apex Expo
Rick Nelson
Rick became Executive Editor for EE in 2011. Previously he served on several publications, including EDN and Vision Systems Design, and has received awards for signed editorials from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He began as a design engineer at General Electric and Litton Industries and earned a BSEE degree from Penn State.