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Articles from 2006 In March

WEEE-like battery directive pops up on the EU radar

WEEE-like battery directive pops up on the EU radar

Now that RoHS is nearing its July 1 deadline, the new target for the European Union (EU) is batteries. EU member states are presently in discussions on the details of a battery directive. They’re expected to finalize restrictions this summer. Member states will then have two years to implement the directive’s rules.

The battery directive will resemble the WEEE take-back laws. Those producing batteries or incorporating batteries into their products will be responsible for taking back or recycling batteries at the product’s end-of-life. Some claim the WEEE law already covers much of this obligation, since batteries are already pulled out during WEEE dismantling.

The directive will also ban some content, specifically cadmium and mercury. The result will be a European ban on nickel cadmium batteries. Presently, manufacturers are trying to shape the final version of the directive, with particular concern over collection targets that are now drafted at a minimum 25 percent of sales and rising to 45 percent over 10 years.

New RoHS compliance offerings

As the July 1 RoHS deadline nears, vendors in the electronics industry keep rolling out services to help companies comply the European Union’s RoHS and WEEE directives. Within a week, Design Chain Associates, Agile Software Corp. and Papros Inc. have introduced programs to help OEMs, EMS providers and component suppliers cope with environmental compliance.

Design Chain Associates (DCA) of San Francisco has just introduced a service designed to help OEMs in the electronics industry ensure their products are RoHS compliant. DCA offers a suite of services that includes:

• Gap assessment – looking at the company’s design, product lifecycle management and resource planning tools to make sure there are sufficient to help the company get compliant and stay compliant.
• Gap closure – seeking the best way to close any deficiencies in processes in order to get compliant and stay compliant.
• Process/tool/audit – This assesses whether the company can meet any audit demands for compliance.
• Best practices – this portion of the suite helps the company adopt practices that will ensure continual compliance.

Michael Kirschner, DCA’s president notes that “while there are various EU RoHS self-audit programs and narrowly focused RoHS audit services (and even a proposed industry standard for business process compliance that was rejected by the IEC) out there, nothing we have seen shows the level of understanding, depth or breadth of scope required to identify all the nooks and crannies in an electronic OEM that could be impacted by RoHS.” Kirschner says DCA developed its suite to help OEMs close the compliance gap.

Agile Software Corp, a San Jose, Calif.-based product lifecycle management company, had developed compliance management tools specifically designed to help small- to medium-size enterprises (SMEs) manage regulatory requirements. The Agile Product Compliance Management solution was created to be an affordable solution for SMEs to manage compliance without increasing their IT overhead. In a statement, Agile notes, “For SMEs, regulatory compliance management imposes a disproportionate burden. With smaller IT staffs and leaner budgets, SMEs cannot afford the additional burden of compliance management solutions.” Agile’s SEM product is designed to link all product content into a single system that provides visibility, enhances productivity and facilitates audits.

Papros Inc. is a San Jose, Calif.-based software company that has introduced a product named MRPRO which is designed to help companies meet RoHS requirements by integrating material data from a variety of sources. The MRPRO tools is designed to do take material content data in both industry-specific formats such as IPC-1752, as well as other formats and create a uniform directory of material composition data. When complete, the data can be viewed in spreadsheet format. “With MRPRO, you can import industry standard compliant XML or inputs from hand-held composition scanning instruments, or typical desktop engineering data from other sources,” says N. Nagaraj, president of Papros. He notes the final collection can be used in spreadsheet format or it can be written into an XML format that supports IPC-1752.

Take Charge on Tooling

Design engineers need to remain firmly in charge of the mold maker selection process as many American companies, particularly in automotive, drive toward huge cost reductions and offshore outsourcing. Failure to pick the right supplier or to manage the mold development process well can lead to disastrous outcomes financially.  Significant project delays are possible and you may be stuck with a mold that fills poorly, is off-line frequently, or is not repeatable on critical tolerances. Cutting corners on tools through constant new purchase order cycles is not the road to success, especially when you consider that any additional upfront costs can be amortized over millions of pieces over the life of a tool and recovered hundreds of times over. High-Tech Molding talked about this subject recently with Nick Schommer, director of tooling services at Phillips Plastics, Hudson, WI.

Why should design engineers think more about a supplier’s mold making capabilities?

It’s important to think about the manufacturability of a tool right from the beginning of a project. Phillips Plastics internal designers are splitting the tool in their minds soon after they start. They are looking at the manufacturability of a mold, and that does a few things: it makes a mold easier and less expensive to manufacture.  It also makes the mold more robust when it’s all done. The other thing our internal designers benefit from is they are talking to manufacturing engineering all of the time. So when they are thinking about product design they are thinking about long-term manufacturability of that part and they are also thinking about how to make that mold at a value that our customers like. When our mold manufacturing teams get that geometry, we can really fly with it.

How much can be added to the cost of a project by failing to pay attention to these areas?

That’s hard to answer. There are times when we get a geometry that is not manufacturable. What it does is add significantly to the leadtime. Not getting to market first or on time can  translate to millions of dollars.

Do you see a lot of simple design engineering mistakes, such as poor draft angles?

The majority of our customers do a good job. If our customers want, our design engineers will work with them to help them in advance to head off some of these problems and to ensure we have a robust design. It can vary dramatically if we aren’t involved. 

What effect are new manufacturing technologies in your mold manufacturing shop, such as high-speed machining, having on design?

The new technologies are driving us to hard machine as much as possible.  This drives us to use larger radii where ever possible.  It also changes how we approach our electrode design and what we want to burn.  While we may not be able to eliminate all burning, we can minimize it.  This speeds the mold manufacturing process.

Business problems at American mold makers get a lot of press because of pressures from Asian tool builders. Is Phillips making investments in its mold shops?


We have invested more than $3 million in the last two years.  These investments support our customer’s needs in the medical market, automotive, telecommunications and many other markets.  All three of our mold manufacturing locations now have a high-speed machining cell, with capabilities up to 42,000 rpm. The oldest machine is less than three years old, and we are planning to buy at least two more machines. Recent equipment purchases at Phillips Plastics include: three Roeders RFM 600 High Speed Machining Centers, two Mazak Nexus 510 Machining Centers, one  Haas VF3SS, three new Charmilles Sinker EDMs, two Charmilles Wire EDMs, and three System3R robotic systems.

How would you describe Phillips Plastics’ strengths in mold making to a design engineering audience?

Quality, speed and long term value.  These are our biggest strengths when competing against offshore sources. Most of our customers, particularly medical, are very concerned about quality. They have to make sure that tool is running well, not just for production start-up, but five years from now.

What is Phillips Plastics’ most important capability for its customers, from a mold manufacturing perspective?

It’s our ability to get customers to market faster than anybody else.  And that’s because of the services we have upfront and how well they are integrated into our production services. On our prototype side, the average lead for our prototype tool is 10-15 days. We use a combination of aluminum, P-20, and a proprietary process called RP Tech, or Rapid Process Technology.  What we try to do is verify the design while it’s still under development. And we want to get spec resins parts very quickly and at a fairly low cost compared to conventional prototype tooling.  We’re not wedded to any single process or type of tooling for prototypes.  We stand back and try to understand what our customers needs are and then match our product development capabilities to that.  We can supply a full model and go all the way to market. Our upfront capabilities are so integrated with our production capabilities; it gives us very great strength in getting our customers to market.

Agile adopts IPC 1752 for materials management

Agile adopts IPC 1752 for materials management

Agile Software Corporation, a product lifecycle management (PLM) company in of San Jose, Calif. has announced it will support the materials declaration management standard produced by the Association Connecting Electronics Industries (IPC), known as IPC-1752. The standard establishes electronic data formats and supporting standardized form to simplify the exchange of materials declaration information across a manufacturer's supply chain.

Prior to the adoption of IPC-1752, there was no standardized way for companies to exchange data on the materials content of components and assemblies, so the industry was communicating in a Tower of Babel data stream. Agile notes that IPC-1752 simplifies the reporting of materials content by providing a common data format for exchange on materials information. "This allows companies to address RoHS compliance while continuing to bring products to market quickly and maximize profitability," Agile says in a statement.

IPC-1752 was released in early March. The standard was circulated in draft form last May. Some companies, in hurry to standardize their data collection, started using the standard in draft form. Those companies will not find it easy to make the transition to the final form. "The form has changed dramatically, and not just the look and feel of it, but the XML," says Dries D'Hooghe, director of product strategy and marketing at Agile. "That's a big problem for those who used the unreleased version."

D'Hooghe notes that Agile started to work with companies to meet RoHS compliance more than two years ago. Agile developed compliance support to help put compliance activities into the business process of its customers. "For most companies, every time something changed in the BOM, we had to do an analysis of compliance because that was not part of a standard process," says D'Hooghe. Agile now works with companies to make compliance assessment part of a company's standard business process. "Compliance needs to be embedded in the process. I need the engineers to look at compliance as well as availability and cost."

Agile offers a number services to help companies meet environmental compliance, including setting up a management system for meeting environmental regulations. In a statement, Agile lists the functions a company needs to develop in order to meet compliance effectively:

  • Collaborate with suppliers to collect material data for supplier material declarations

  • Manage bill of substances information and rollup compliance information using a variety of scenarios

  • Generate an environmental view of the product to analyze it for environmental risk.

  • Manage regulatory documentation and specifications.

  • Track recovery manifests and disposal certificates of destruction.

  • Manage compliance of outsourced recovery partners through proactive audits and closed-loop actions.

Design firm aligns with compliance company for RoHS solution

Design firm aligns with compliance company for RoHS solution

EMA Design Automation, which provides electronic design automation, as teamed with Ageus solutions, a firm that helps companies solve compliance issues, to offer RoHS and WEEE compliance services that begin with the design process. The solution lets product development teams record, manage and report RoHS and WEEE data beginning at the design stage. “Aligning forces with Ageus allows us to expand our engineering data management solution to cover the entire manufactured product, which supports the entire RoHS/WEEE directive,” says Manny Marcano, president and CEO of EMA. “We’re . . . adding the ability to supply the mechanical portion of RoHS/WEEE compliance.”

The combined solution provided by EMA and Ageus would apparently automate the RoHS compliance data at the beginning of the design process and keep the required data integrated with product data through the design, development and manufacturing process.

New Transducer With Local Indication

The new Ashcroft® Xmitr™ combines the advantages of the Ashcroft® PowerFlex™ pressure gauge with transducer technology to create a single, convenient, dual-function instrument. With only half the number of instruments to install, the Xmitr™ saves instrumentation and installation costs, time and space. The Xmitr™ provides traditional transducer features including 4-20 mA and voltage outputs, CE ratings, and 1 percent BFSL accuracy with electronic temperature compensation from -20 to 85C. Pressure ranges from 30 to 5000 psi are available in 3 configurations - Type X1005 with a 2" dial and Type X2001 with a 2.5" or 3.5" dial.
Booth 12055

Gadget Freak is A Hot Attraction

Timothy Beck is racing to connect wires under the watchful eye of a his co-workers. He's taken on the challenge of Design News' Gadget Freak, hoping to win prizes for his party of four.

The Equistar Chemicals engineer finds this year's challenge, figuring out how to get a light to come on given the proper sequences, far more challenging than last year's Gadget Freak test.  "Last year, they had a diagram and you basically followed it. This time you're on your own," he says. The four drove about an hour to attend National Manufacturing Week conference. Beck spent about 10 minutes at the table before the group decided it was time to hit some other booths. Contest managers note that some engineers completed the test in a matter of minutes. But one started before they left for lunch, and he was still plugging along when they returned.

Though Beck didn't complete the challenge, the group got their prize for participating -- a handheld game system with blackjack, poker and other games. "It's a pretty cool gift, I'm addicted to blackjack," says one of the booth managers.

To view the Gadget Freak Files, click here.

  Timothy Beck takes the challenge

New Enclosure System

The BOS-Ecoline enclosure system from Rose+Bopla combines custom sizing advantages of aluminium profiles with the cost- effectiveness of ABS plastic end caps to create a robust enclosure. Available in three different versions—closed, open on one side, or split profiles— these clear anodized aluminium profiles come in four profile width sizes from 57.5 to 120 mm, and are equipped with integral guide grooves for PC boards. Two different ABS plastic end caps are available, with or without wall brackets. Profiles feature recessed areas for membrane keypads. IP 40 rating is standard, but can be increased to IP 54 on ELP and ELPH profiles with seals and end caps.
Rose+Bopla Enclosures
Booth 15077


Low Profile Pushbutton Switches

APEM Components Inc. is showcasing its new IA Series of low profile pushbutton switches at National Manufacturing Week. The IA Series is ideally suited for applications requiring protection from dust, sand, water and other contaminants. Specifications include power ratings of 2A maximum at 24V dc resistive load, an electrical life of 1 million cycles at full load, and operating temperatures ranging from -40 to +85C. The IA Series pushbuttons also feature wire lead terminals and have a bushing size of 16 mm. They also feature a polyurethane membrane, providing an IP67 front-of-panel seal which ensures high resistance to frost, sand and hydrocarbons, that depresses when the switch is actuated. Potential applications include: off-road vehicles, farm equipment, marine, machine tools, food processing equipment, and medical instrumentation.
APEM Components
Booth 14037


Mini Orifice and Filter Connectors

Bird Precision introduces its 1/16 inline barbed orifice connectors and 3-56 thread to 1/16 barb connectors, available in orifice sizes from .0004 to .035. These miniature products come with standard filtration offerings, 5, 25 and 43 microns filtration levels.
Bird Precision
Booth 11013