Where the Light Is Always On Print E-mail
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Written by Mike Buetow   
Thursday, 31 January 2008 19:00
Caveat Lector This month’s issue includes an article on a process for embedding active components for “high-reliability” (think missiles) applications. The process is more than just a concept. It’s actually passed DoD testing and is in use today. A patent for the process has been issued as well.

The inventor? Jim Raby, 73 years young.

Raby has spent his entire career – covering more than 50 years – in electronics manufacturing. It’s hard to imagine anyone in assembly who hasn’t been impacted, directly or otherwise, by his work. The laundry list of his accomplishments runs the gamut from designing to building to training. He has patents for wave soldering, worked on the Saturn/Apollo Program, and initiated the Zero Defect Program for wave soldering. He is credited for developing the NASA and Navy (the famous China Lake) soldering schools, and was instrumental in developing the IPC soldering certification curriculum. He initiated the Electronics Manufacturing Productivity Facility (now known as the American Competitiveness Institute). All in all, he has trained tens of thousands of engineers and operators.

For more than 30 years, Raby has worked on industry standards, including DOD-STD-2000, MIL-STD-2000, J-STD-001 and IPC-A-610. He also helped write and implement standards for wire harnesses. He has been involved in the research for lead-free solder processes and materials.

Naturally, Raby’s standards background is intertwined with IPC’s. His relationship with the trade group dates to 1960, when his boss assigned him to provide technical support for government representatives. In 1976, he was named co-chair of a committee to write a specification that could be used for lesser level military hardware. That three-year project begat a soldering standard, IPC-815, and the term “solderability,” a major problem for industry. It also led to Raby’s full-fledged involvement in standards work, to which his lab contributed a large amount of test data in support of various requirements. “Dieter Bergman, IPC’s then technical director, led a group of engineers to China Lake many times to work on requirements, the best one being the contamination levels of solder in a wave pot,” Raby recalls. “I obtained all the Navy contractors’ previous years’ test results, and we took that very large amount of data and broke it down to requirements usable and acceptable by all industry (commercial and military).”

His seminal paper, “Standardization of Military Specifications,” was the roadmap for reducing some 219 specifications into a single four-document set known as MIL-STD-2000, the precursor to J-STD-001 and IPC-A-610. He has worked on more than a dozen standards and training programs, and chaired or vice-chaired four key committees, including ones for soldering, rework and repair, component mounting, and product assurance. He wrote the curriculum and conducted beta testing for IPC training programs for J-STD-001, IPC-A-610D, IPC/WHMA-A-620, and IPC-7711/7721A. In recognition of his work, Raby won IPC’s Presidents Award in 1984.

Yet, while Raby is probably best known for setting up the soldering programs that have trained three generations of engineers and operators, it would surprise many to learn he is also the person behind the Lights Out Factory concept that revolutionized the modern electronics manufacturing facility.

The Lights Out Factory was the result of the Circuit Cards Assembly and End Processing System (CCAPS), a Navy-funded program in the mid 1980s. Mel Scott, who worked on CCAPS with Raby, calls it “where automated manufacturing got its start.” The Navy invested about $60 million in CCAPS over a seven-year period, and IBM was the prime contractor. “We were able to develop a lights-out manufacturing facility, with plated through-hole and the beginnings of SMT, using robots to make assemblies, with a lot of vision and x-ray,” Scott says. “It was the beginning of automation. A lot of what came out is used today. At that time, equipment OEMs were going outside for software development. It launched SMEMA: the idea of making one piece of equipment communicate down the line with another. It was Jim’s idea. If we were to automate, and increase hardware reliability, the process equipment would have to talk. He sold the vision and idea and benefits to the Navy’s ManTech Program, which (ultimately) funded it.”

Today Raby is technical director and program manager at STI Electronics in Madison, AL, where he provides technical direction on all government and military contracts.

Last month, IPC issued its annual call for nominations for its Hall of Fame. Inductees are individuals who, in the trade group’s words, have reached “the highest level of achievement, extraordinary contributions and distinguished service to IPC and in the advancement of the industry…. This is the highest level of recognition … and is based on exceptional merit over a long-term basis, the operative imperative being long term [italics mine].”

Few have served the IPC and industry longer than Jim Raby. Even fewer have served it better. Do you support Jim’s nomination? Write IPC or drop me a line.


Eastern-US: China’s New Competitor?

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For the first time in years we see parity in the Eastern US among EMS factories from Asia, Mexico and the US. This EMS market condition will permit American OEMs (the EMS industry refers to OEMs as customers) to have more EMS pathways to choose from. Now more than ever, such EMS assignments will require deeper investigation relating to the OEMs’ evaluation of manufacturing strategies.

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For those who count on the electronics industry for big feats, it’s been a remarkable couple of years.



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Circuits Disassembly: Materials Characterization and Failure Analysis

A systematic approach to nonconventional methods of encapsulant removal.





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