New product development (NPD) is often driven by cost and schedule. In the electronics industry, being first to market with a new technology or product is crucial to its success, and enhanced speed to market is what differentiates world class companies from the rest.
Dr. Natalie Hernandez has been a Product Engineer at DfR Solutions since November 2016. Before, she completed her PhD in Physics at Lehigh University and served as a graduate research assistant working on spectroscopic studies of rare-earth doped wide bandgap semiconductor materials, and has since made the jump to electronics reliability engineering. After 7 months in her new role, here are some of the key takeaways she’s learned about the industry.
Over the past year at DfR Solutions, we’ve continued our commitment to providing advanced solutions and expertise to our customers. From our enhanced in-house testing capabilities to adding new team members who bring unprecedented skills to our team, we are focused on providing the best insights in electronics reliability and quality.
With today’s rapid product development cycles and time-to-market pressures, there’s not always time to perform reliability testing. This situation leaves many manufacturers with the question of how to ensure their products will be dependable when reliability testing and the possible resulting re-engineering are too time consuming or expensive.
Electronic systems may often fail, not because of poorly designed chips, substrates or other components, but because of the failure of the solder joints that link them all together. The mismatch between PCB solder materials can result in thermal expansion problems including excessive strain, cracking and open circuits. The impact of thermal fatigue, soldering defects, vibration and residual strains must be considered when analyzing solder reliability. These and other issues are often exposed in accelerated stress tests.
In today’s high-tech world, we heavily depend on electronics for our health, safety, mobility and economic welfare. When they fail, the results can be as minor as consumer annoyance to as severe as loss of life. For these reasons, it’s necessary for all electronics manufacturers provide product warranty. A warranty, in its simplest form, means the manufacturer of the product guarantees that the product will function as expected without failure for a given period of time in a specified environment.
When considering recent advances in technology like autonomous vehicles or cloud computing, it’s easy to forget that as little as 20 years ago, most people didn’t have a home computer. The internet wasn’t fully functioning until the late 1990s and mobile access wasn’t commonplace until the dawn of the 21st century.
The electronics industry continues to experience setbacks caused by conformal coatings and potting materials. Failures modes are wide-ranging, but mitigation is possible by selecting the right materials, using new tools and techniques in modeling and accurately predicting potential failures.
NASA and the aerospace industry tenaciously pursue safety measures. The effect of various environmental factors on electronics components poses a reliability challenge for many engineers here on earth, let alone at 40,000 feet or in deep space. Components in development undergo rigorous qualification processes and extended test cycles, often repeated at extreme parametric limits and under harsh environmental conditions, and the price can be excessive.