Contract Electronics Manufacturing and PCB Assembly Blog

Altium interviews Zentech's VP of Engineering Services, Mike Brown

Posted by Stephanie Weaver on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 @ 10:27 AM

Zentech's VP of Engineering Services, Mike Brown, was interviewed by Judy Warner, Director of Community Engagement of Altium, and offers this advice: Stay Hungry, Keep Growing, Nurture Relationships.

Below is an excerpt from the interview, or read the full interview here. 

Warner: I often say no one becomes a PCB Designer on purpose; people tend to “fall” into this line of work. How did you come to be a designer?

Mike_Brown-Zentech_001.jpgBrown: I aspired to be an architect when I was in high school. I was in a tech program, offered by my high school, and I excelled in drafting. There was a work study co-op opportunity I participated in when I was a senior...

That is where I met my first mentor, Mary Kerbe, who became my boss at a small telecom company called Commtex. She gave me the opportunity to learn simple circuit designs using a tool called P-CAD. I was a sponge – I was having fun learning a specialized skill, getting paid while at the same time earning class credits. I was 17 years old and just finishing high school when I had designed (replicated actually, lol.) my first circuit board.

Mary and I are still in touch and have worked together throughout my career--eventually, the student became the teacher, so to speak. After Commtex closed their doors, I followed Mary (as her protégé’) to several companies over the years: Entek, GE, Lockheed-Martin, and CTA Space Systems.

I grew tremendously over the years. I helped develop products for avionics space flight supporting customers such as NASA and Naval Research Labs. It’s an amazing sense of accomplishment knowing that you have had a part in developing something that will have a positive impact.

After this time I moved to Rochester, New York and did some contract work for Kodak designing boards for satellites. Who knew Kodak was involved with satellites? That is when I met my second mentor, Manny Marcano from EMA Design Automation. Through my relationship with Manny, I gained exposure to other EDA tools, such as ViewLogic (now DX-Designer), OrCAD / Allegro and my resource network started to grow...

I [eventually] went to work for Ciena Corp (specializing in DWDM - expanding bandwidth in the Datacom market developing optical networking systems) from 1997-2012. I started as a Sr. Designer, then became a Group Lead.

Next thing you know, I was responsible for leading various design teams on a global scale with 5 teams in three different countries and various time zones. We were developing state of the art equipment virtually around the clock. It was truly an amazing accomplishment not only in product development but in teamwork and collaboration like no other.

All of my fellow designers were truly skilled in their craft; whom I have a deep respect for. I remained an active designer, even though I was a manager--which I think was an important choice. I used many tools such as PADS, Allegro, Valor, CAM350, AutoCAD, ADIVA and Gerbtool.

In 2012 Ciena made some organizational changes where I as well as many of my colleagues were, unfortunately, let go. It was a business decision that many companies face, nothing personal. Buy hey – when one door closes, another opens. In hindsight, my tenure, experience, relationships and work ethic would pay off.

From late 2012 to early 2013 I started IDS (Interconnect Design Solutions) in Atlanta - it was a scary sink-or-swim chapter in my life! I pulled upon all my resources and relationships I had built over the years. The engineers that had disbursed from Ciena ended up at many different companies. However, we stayed connected and in communication, especially through LinkedIn.

Through these relationships, along with the help of Mary and Manny, I quickly had work from Orbital, EMA, Trilogic, and many others all because of a good reputation and strong relationships built over many years. I attended countless trade shows, fostered relationships via LinkedIn and made sure I didn’t stay invested in a single EDA tool.

Around 2014, I began getting job requests using Altium Designer and added that tool to my product offering in addition to an already established customer base using PADS & OrCAD / Allegro.

Within six months of being in business, I won a substantial contract through an independent rep with key customers in the mid-Atlantic region which enabled both his company and mine to experience major growth and to expand. I began doing a lot of work for Zentech Manufacturing between 2013 and 2016. Over time, I built a team of nine designers that worked with IDS.

Zentech (based in Maryland) was in need of design support. I spent the majority of my life in Maryland and was familiar with many of their customers, and had many existing relationships in the area. It was a natural fit! I began attending customer meetings with Zentech which cultivated trust and helped everyone to thrive and succeed. By 2016 IDS was experiencing 300-400% growth and Zentech made an offer to acquire IDS, which I accepted....

Read the full interview here. 


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5 Ways Digital Image Correlation Benefits Electronic Device Manufacturers

Posted by Stephanie Weaver on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 @ 10:41 AM

DfR Solutions Blog posted an interesting article recently regarding the significance of Digital Image Correlation and how this process benefits electronic device manufacturers.

Contract-Electronic-Manufacturers.jpgDIC is an optical method used to measure displacements and deformation. Specimens are prepared with a contrasting speckle pattern that can be tracked optically over time as the specimen rigidly moves and deforms.

This approach has several advantages over a strain gauge or extensometer. One advantage is that DIC does not require contact with the specimen, allowing for uses that might not be possible with other methods. Additionally, unlike other techniques that only measure localized strains, DIC is able to produce full field displacement and strain maps. DIC can be performed with a single camera if only in-plane measurements are required, or with multiple cameras for three-dimensional DIC if out of plane measurements are of interest. Specimen sizes can vary from the micro-scale all the way to tens of meters or larger depending on the cameras and setup.

  1.  Material characterization. DIC can be utilized to characterize material properties such as Young’s Modulus, Poisson's Ratio, glass transition temperature (Tg), and Coefficient of Thermal Expansion (CTE). This is valuable when trying to evaluate candidate materials such as PCB laminates. Solder fatigue is often driven by thermomechanical damage due to CTE mismatches between the package and PCB. Measuring the CTE of the PCB or components can help identify solder fatigue risks due to thermal cycling.
  2. Test Monitoring. DIC is a powerful tool for in-situ displacement and strain measurements for both monotonic and cyclic testing. The flexibility of the technique allows for monitoring of a wide range of test setups including tensile testing, bending testing and thermal cycling, among others.
  3. PCB and component warpage is often a concern during reflow soldering. Excessive warpage can lead to poor interconnect formation, solder joint bridging, or component cracking. Warpage measurements made via DIC can help identify warpage as an issue during reflow or compare candidate components and board laminates.
  4. Finite Element Analysis (FEA). DIC testing can be used to both characterize FEA inputs such as material properties, as well as validate simulation results. Strain gauging provides localized strain values and may potentially miss problematic strain regions that occur in complex assemblies or loading conditions. Full field displacement and strain maps allow for more comprehensive comparisons to FEA results.
  5. Dynamic Applications. DIC is most commonly employed in static or quasi-static applications. With appropriate setup, DIC can also be used in high speed or dynamic applications such as vibration testing. Cameras with sufficiently high frame rates are typically required, though low speed cameras can be used for certain periodic events with a stroboscopic setup.

Click here to read the full article


Learn More About Zentech

Zentech is one of the very few electronics contract manufacturers in the United States that hold the ultimate set of certifications relating to the manufacture of mission-critical printed circuit card assemblies, including ISO:9001, AS9100, DD2345, ISO 13485, IPC 610 Trusted Source QML status, JSTD-001 with Space certification and is ITAR registered. 



Matt Turpin Named GWDB Taskforce Chair of Advanced Manufacturing 

Posted by Stephanie Weaver on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 @ 09:15 AM

matt1.jpgThe Governor's Workforce Development Board (GWDB) has named Zentech's President and CEO, Matt Turpin, as its Taskforce Chair of Advanced Manufacturing. 

The GWDB Taskforce Groups are essential catalysts to Maryland’s job creation and economic recovery at the local, regional, and state levels. The Taskforce Groups are comprised of stakeholders from business, workforce, education, non-profit, and union leadership representing: Advanced Manufacturing, Changing Demographics, Cybersecurity, Information Technology, Healthcare and Life Sciences, Marketing and Branding, and Skilled Trades.

The GWDB is bringing these important leaders together in order to better understand what skills employers need today and how they predict their future workforce needs in Maryland. The goal is to develop strategies and investments that are targeted to the specific recommendations of our in-demand industries in the state.

The Advanced Manufacturing Task Force seeks to accelerate the rapid transfer of science and technology into products and processes. This integration of technology based systems and processes in the production allows for greater diversity in the skill set of the workforce. Under Matt's leadership, the goal is to"put as many Marylanders to work as possible." 

"I am honored to lead the Advanced Manufacturing Task Force and to make a positive impact on job creation and the economy," says Turpin.

The GWDB Taskforce Groups will advise and make recommendations to the administration on workforce development programs, as well as long term impactful goals that will shift the states workforce in a positive way for the future. The GWDB staff supports the Taskforce Groups by providing guidance, technical assistance, and research.


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Choose the CM Partner That Exceeds Expectations 

Posted by Stephanie Weaver on Thu, Apr 13, 2017 @ 10:16 AM

Contract-Manufacturer-54.jpgIn contract manufacturing, the status quo is no longer an option. If your product requires high complexity/high-reliability circuit card assemblies, making sure your CM partner is going "above and beyond" to mitigate your risks at the highest levels possible is crucial. There's far too much at stake--such as time, money, market share and, in the case of mil/aero applications, even human lives. At Zentech, that drives us to maintain the highest levels of certification available and to practice strict adherence to industry standards...and then we take it up a notch.

How do we do that? We start by continually measuring our performance with proprietary custom-designed software to monitor our processes and workmanship in real-time. But, we don’t stop there--we exceed what our customers expect and require of us. Our team fully understands that we must continually find new ways to mitigate risks for our partners.

One tangible way we make sure we remain at the top of our game has been to acquire IPC QML (Qualified Manufacturer Listed certification--which you may or may not know about since IPC Validation Services has just begun it's third year of operations. This certification adds a significant layer of accountability and excellence that ensures quality and reduces risk for customers.

While broader-scope certifications such as ISO-9000 and AS-9100 measure quality management systems and compliance with regulatory and statutory requirements, the IPC QML certification confirms that we specifically comply with IPC sanctioned PCBA standards, practices and workmanship as established by IPC.


Zentech was the second EMS company in the nation to become an IPC-QML listed supplier for J-STD-001/IPC-A-610 during the program’s inaugural year in 2014.

Colonial Assembly and Design, a fully owned subsidiary of Zentech, earned the trusted source status, IPC J-STD-001 and IPC-A-610 in January 2017.

Additionally, we remain one of only two EMS companies to hold the J-STD-001/IPC-A-610 Space-Addenum which demonstrates our ability to aptly respond to the needs of highly complex Space applications.

So, why do we keep pushing well beyond the extra mile? Because both of our facilities are located just outside of the Washington DC / Pentagon region, we are privileged to work with the most highly sophisticated and demanding customers on the globe--technology giants such as the DoD, The US Army, The US Navy, DARPA and all of the major Prime Defense contractors. As you might imagine, the status quo has never been an option for us at Zentech. We strive every day to excel at what we do and look for ways to always stay well ahead of the “curve” by continually finding measurable ways to help mitigate risk and improve quality to support our customer's success. Now that’s the kind of proactive partnership you can put in the bank. 

Learn more about IPC Validation Services

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Zentech Implements Mid-Board Copper Solutions

Posted by Stephanie Weaver on Wed, Apr 05, 2017 @ 03:36 PM

iStock_000019521781_Small.jpgZentech continues to strive to meet the electronics industry's ever changing technological demands by implementing mid-board copper solutions. A recent article on outlines these challenges. 

Specifying Mid-Board Copper Solutions

In a bid to satisfy continually increasing demands for higher performance, communications-equipment providers are moving to higher speeds on their internal printed-circuit boards (PCBs). Currently, 28-Gb/s signal rates are in design phases, with 56- and 112-Gb/s rates in the future.

The challenge is that PCBs aren’t well-suited to handling these higher speeds—they have issues with signal integrity (noise, insertion loss, amplitude, etc.), and that limits the distance PCB traces can reliably carry a high-speed signal. As a result, PCB designers must cope with board-layout limitations or move to higher-performing but more expensive PCB materials.

Mid-board copper (MBCu) solutions use connectors and cable assemblies to address this challenge. By bypassing the PCB, an MBCu solution delivers greater design flexibility, lower costs, and much better signal-integrity performance. With a cable that can extend to any component inside the box or even to external devices outside the box, an MBCu connectivity solution turns a two-dimensional circuit-board design into a 3D space where far more configurations are possible.

Read's full article here.

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Zentech, a FDA Certified Medical Device and ISO 13485 Facility

Posted by Stephanie Weaver on Tue, Mar 28, 2017 @ 03:51 PM

SMT-soldering.jpgZentech Manufacturing has provided life critical, advanced technology medical devices and high-reliability and high-complexity electronics contract manufacturing to the U.S. medical industry for nineteen years.

Recently recognized as one of the Top Ten Electronics Contract Manufacturing (CM) organizations in the Northeastern United States, Zentech is also one of less than ten CM’s in the United States that has been IPC Validation Services Certified as an IPC-610 Class 3 Trusted Source for medical and military circuit card assembly. Zentech is also a FDA Certified Medical Device Manufacturing Facility and ISO 13485 certified.

In recognition of Zentech’s outstanding performance supporting all printed circuit assembly, unit level integration and testing requirements, Zentech was recently recognized by several of their medical industry clients as their Supplier of the Year. 

As Zentech has supported some medical device programs for more than a decade, the evolution of the customer’s platform during this period has been supported on a sustaining engineering basis by Zentech’s engineering team

Turn-key solutions for your medical device include:

  • Participation in core design activities
  • Review and drive solutions to compliance test failures.
  • Manage entire sustaining engineering process  
  • Implement design changes
  • Test fixture design and development
  • Full Turnkey Production and Test
  • Repair and Refurbishment Depot 

Zentech is a premier electronics contract manufacturer in the medical device industry. Do you manufacture life critical, highly complex medical devices? Contact Zentech today to learn more about our turn-key solutions.


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In-House Talent Makes All The Difference In Electronic Board Design

Posted by Stephanie Weaver on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 @ 01:31 PM

PCB-ServicesNo matter what market you're looking to enter, your electronics design needs to be rock-solid if it's going to succeed.  

Companies still using "fire and forget" style of outsourced electronic manufacturing services, which simply build to order, are taking big gambles with their product. Electronics today need to be more thoroughly tested, better-built, and better targeted to consumers if they're going to succeed.  

When you partner with manufacturers who also have in-house electronic board design specialists, you can get a far superior product without adding much to the costs of production. In many cases, their expertise
can pay off with better ROI in the long run than a more limited service can save you up-front.

Have Talent On Your Side When Introducing New Electronics

An all-in-one solution can provide additional end-to-end value, when compared to pure build-to-order companies. There are numerous options for leveraging their expertise:

1 - Board optimization

Every electronics factory is a little different, thanks to the wide range of machinery that's available.  A good manufacturer will know the exact tolerances of their manufacturing processes, as well as its strongest points. When they have engineers on-staff, they can very often re-tool and optimize the electronic board design to best-fit their processes, saving money and even reducing component usage.

2 - Prototyping and testing

The more complicated a piece of electronics is, the more likely it's going to need to go through several revisions before it's ready for public release. A manufacturer with in-house testing services can speed you through this entire process. Prototypes can be rapidly assembled, tested, and then refined based on the testing results.

Even when starting from scratch, the best electronics manufacturers today can create new prototypes in just days.This can significantly reduce your time-to-market all the while releasing a superior product.

3 - Going greenSMT-Production-Method

Buyers in many fields are increasingly concerned about the eco-friendliness of the products they buy, and will in many cases discriminate against products that don't meet accepted guidelines for pollution and recyclability.

Companies with in house-talent will know of alternative sources for parts, and different manufacturing processes, which can bring a product into RoHs compliance or even stricter standards.  In the months and years ahead, this is almost certain to become an ever more important factor in purchasing decisions.

4 - Repair services

When everything else is under one roof, actual circuit board repair services become an option. In the long run, this can be an enormous cost-cutter, because the alternative to repair services is simply sending out full replacement units for any warranty claim. It's fairly obvious how such a practice, especially on expensive equipment, can quickly destroy a product's profitability.

When your manufacturer can receive defective units, repair them, and ship them back in the same time as it would take to ship a replacement, that can greatly decrease your post-sale expenditures.

Integrated Services Bring Better Services

When it comes to engineering and electronic board design, a single source is going to be far more cost-efficient and effective at creating a superior product.  Contact Zentech today for more information on how far a single-source manufacturer can take you.


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Topics: electronic board design, Electronic Board Design Services

Curtiss-Wright Selects Zentech in an Effort to Expand Secure Manufacturing

Posted by Stephanie Weaver on Fri, Mar 17, 2017 @ 11:18 AM

Curtiss-Wright Selects Zentech and Expands Secure Manufacturing Capabilities for Sensitive U.S. DoD Aerospace & Defense Programs

Curtiss-Wright’s Defense Solutions Division today announced that it has expanded its secure manufacturing capabilities for sensitive U.S. DoD aerospace and defense programs by contracting with Zentech Manufacturing, a premier electronics contract manufacturing company. The addition of Zentech to Defense Solutions’ existing breadth of captive manufacturing capabilities and roster of U.S.-based contract manufacturers further strengthens Curtiss-Wright’s ability to address sensitive program requirements and U.S. Government programmatics. Curtiss-Wright’s TrustedCOTS™ capabilities satisfy the most demanding U.S. DoD Information Assurance requirements with the latest technologies supporting cybersecurity, critical program data, and intellectual property protection for critical deployed applications.

“We’ve heard the military systems user community and embedded system integrators communicate loudly and clearly that they want cost-effective open architecture electronic solutions,” said Lynn Bamford, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Defense Solutions division. “As the premier and largest supplier of rugged COTS electronic solutions to the U.S. DoD, Curtiss-Wright supports and endorses the aerospace and defense market’s strong push towards the use of truly open standards for both hardware and software. To that end, we are currently making very strategic investments with our customers to address the growing inventory of DoD programs and MoD programs around the world.” 

american-based-electronics.jpg“We are very pleased to have been selected by Curtiss-Wright to support them in their strategic USA Eyes Only manufacturing following their very comprehensive evaluation of our capabilities, processes and personnel,” remarked Matt Turpin, CEO and President of Zentech Manufacturing. “As one of the very few U.S. electronics contract manufacturers that is IPC Validation Certified as a Class 3 Trusted Source, and with a long legacy of high-performance in the military C5ISR sector, we are confident that Zentech will meet the technological and manufacturing challenges of Curtiss-Wright’s advanced product architecture.”


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Tips For Cutting Costs On PCB Assemblage

Posted by Stephanie Weaver on Fri, Mar 10, 2017 @ 11:00 AM


pc board assemblyIt really doesn't matter what type of business you're in - money is a common stressor for all of us. The majority of American industries are constantly looking for ways to scale back their costs and improve profit margins without sacrificing the quality or integrity of their work. Still, this is often much easier said than done. Finding areas where you can safely and effectively reduce spending while still keeping your customers happy with excellent products and services isn't as simple as it may seem, and it can be especially problematic in the electronics sector.

The issue that many electronics companies have in cutting expenses is that technology never remains the same for very long. The consumer marketplace refuses to be satisfied with the status quo, and, as a result, our electronic devices continue to evolve into increasingly complex products. Technological companies, then, must evolve along with these devices, finding new processes for developing the products that end-users are demanding. Despite this, though, there's one thing that continues to remain a constant in the world of electronics: PC boards. These remarkable boards are essential to our world's technology. Shouldn't it naturally go to follow that by cutting costs to PC boards, electronics companies could start saving more money?

Although this may be the case, businesses like your own must be careful and smart about any changes made to the assemblage of PCBs. Finding savvy ways to make boards more price-efficient and cut costs is a far cry from "cutting corners". Still, it can be done. In an effort to help you start raising your profit margins and enjoying a higher level of success, we've put together the following tips for saving money without sacrificing the quality of PCB assemblage.

#1: Smart Design

The design and planning that goes into assembling PCBs is one of the smartest and most effective ways to scale back spending. The strategic engineering of these boards can result in the need to utilize fewer parts and components which will immediately begin to lower the cost per PCB. In the long run, this can begin to add up to significant savings.

#2: Develop Relationships

Developing a strong and ongoing relationship with one or two parts suppliers is much more cost-efficient than spreading your business out amongst a wider range of businesses. When you develop a rapport with your parts supplier, you'll often be given the opportunity to enjoy better deals and savings, and you may also be entitled to discounts for prompt payments, amongst other things. 

#3: Avoid Fines - Stay Americanpcb assemblage

Thinking about taking your PCB assemblage offshore? You might want to re-consider. Overseas contract manufacturers often appeal to smaller businesses because of their cheap services, but if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Many times, these companies make use of counterfeit parts that don't comply with American industry standards. The use of these parts in your boards could result in your being fined, or being dragged into a lawsuit should the part(s) cause serious problems or malfunctions. 

#4: Repair vs. Replace

If something goes wrong with one of your boards, it can be tempting to offer a customer a warranty replacement rather than taking the time to troubleshoot for the problem and repair it. In reality, though, the latter is the much more affordable and cost-efficient option.

#5: Consider Hiring a Contract Manufacturer

Although hiring a contract manufacturer may initially seem more expensive, a partnership can give you access to a team of experts without having to pay their salary, and to advanced equipment without having to purchase or maintain it.

Saving money on PCB assemblage doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice the quality of your product to your end users. By following these tips, you can cut your own costs while keeping your customers happy with your boards and services.


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Topics: pcb assemblage

Highly Certified Matters

Posted by Stephanie Weaver on Wed, Mar 08, 2017 @ 10:09 AM

Certs.jpgMost electronics contract manufacturers are highly certified in their fields. Certifications such as AS9100, DD2345 and ISO13485 demonstrate the commitment to excellence that a potential contract manufacturer has. Certifications provide a level of (objective) accountability that, first and foremost, protects you the customer. Certifications ensure that the contract manufacturer remains compliant with current industry standards, regulations, and best-practices which directly impact the quality and reliability of the products and services the electronics contract manufacturer builds.


Zentech Certifiations:

- AS9100:2009C  (Aerospace Specification)

- IPC 610 Class 3 Mission Critical Trusted Source (Qualified Manufacturers Listed) – one of six CM’s certified

- IPC 620 Certified (Wire Harness and Cable Assemblies)

- IPC J-STD-001 with Space Certification – one of two CM’s certified

- ITAR registered

- Joint Certification Program (DD2345) for access to militarily sensitive Technical Data Packages

- ISO 9001:2008

- ISO 13485:2003

- FDA Certified Device Manufacturing Facility

- AS5553 Counterfeit Mitigation Compliant

- J-STD-004 Compliant (Solder Paste Technology) + Inline 3D SPI (Solder Paste Inspection)

- AOI Systems (Automated Optical Inspection)

- 3D Automated X-Ray Inspection – AXI

 - Seica Pilot 4D V8 Flying Probe Testing


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