Winner, Name that Ware May 2019

June 20th, 2019

The Ware for May 2019 is a contact image sensor from an HP multifunction print/scanner. Congrats to jackw01 for nailing this one, email me for your prize! The array of tall, thin rectangles along the bottom of the die is the actual image sensing elements, and the circuitry immediately above it is fully covered with a metal shield to prevent misdirected incident light from affecting its operation.

Below is a slightly larger contextual image of the die, which clearly shows its unusual (long and thin) aspect ratio.

In addition to about a dozen of these image sensors, the same board is paired with a couple of other wirebonded chips. One is a pretty run-of-the-mill looking driver or deserializer chip, and the other is some TI chip codenamed “Dasher” which features a mesh structure in its top metal layer. The mesh looks similar to an anti-tamper mesh, so I’m guessing there is some magic inside that HP was looking to protect from would-be cloners. I thought about making the die shots below the feature for last month’s Name That Ware, but decided it would be a bit too hard to guess, as googling for SN67013 returns quite a red herring, a speech controller chip by an unrelated company.

Name that Ware May 2019

May 30th, 2019

The Ware for May 2019 is shown below.

It’s always tough to calibrate how much of a chip to show to make it identifiable, but not too easy to guess at the same time. Let’s see how this one goes…

Winner, Name that Ware April 2019

May 30th, 2019

The Ware for April 2019 is a roto-molding machine. I’ve seen these machines in various sizes, but this is by far the biggest one I’ve seen to date. It’s used to mold furniture-sized objects. One thing that you don’t get from just watching an animated GIF is feeling the sheer amount of heat coming from the machine. The whole assembly is shoved into a gas furnace and heated so that the plastic is molten, and then taken out to cool over a period of 30-45 minutes, so it can get quite hot around the molds as they cool. Adi guessed this one right away, congrats and email me for your prize!

Flex PCB Fabrication

May 22nd, 2019

I’ve gotten a few people asking me where I get my flex PCBs fabricated, so I figured I’d make a note here. I get my flex PCBs (and actually most of my PCBs, except laser-drilled microvia) done at a medium-sized shop in China called King Credie. Previously it was a bit hard to talk about them because they only took orders via e-mail and in Chinese, but they recently opened an English-friendly online website for quotation and order placement. There’s still a few wrinkles in the website, but for a company whose specialty is decidedly not “web services” and with English as a second language, it’s usable.

Knowing your PCB vendor is advantageous for a boutique hardware system integrators like me. It’s a bit like the whole farm-to-table movement — you get better results when you know where your materials are coming from. I’ve probably been working with King Credie for almost a decade now, and I try to visit their facility and have drinks with the owner on a regular basis. I really like their CEO, he’s been a circuit board fabrication nerd since college, and he’s living his dream of building his own factory and learning all he can about interesting and boutique PCB processes.

I like to say the shop is “just the right size” for someone like me — not so big I get lost in the system, not so small that it lacks capability. Their process offering is pretty diverse for a shop their size. In addition to flex PCB, they can do multi-layer flex, rigi-flex, metal cores (for applications that require built-in heatsinking like high power LEDs), RF laminates, and laminated EMI shielding films. They can also do a variety of post-processing, such as edge plating, depth-routing, press-fit holes, screen-printed carbon and custom soldermask and silkscreen colors.

If you’re new to flexible PCBs, check out their FPC stackup page for how to set up your design tool. Flexible and rigi-flex PCBs literally open a new dimension over traditional flat PCB designs — it’s a lot of fun to design in flex!

P.S. I was not paid to write this blog. It’s just that now that King Credie has an English website, I can finally answer the question of “where do you get your PCBs fabricated” with a better answer than “there’s this factory in China … but it’s all in Chinese, so never mind”.

Name that Ware, April 2019

May 1st, 2019

The ware for April 2019 is shown below:

May came up on me quick this year! Happy labour day to most of the world.