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The Rog Blog is contributed by John Coonrod and various other experts from Rogers Corporation, providing technical advice and information about RF/microwave materials.

People Help Turn Those Laminates into Perfect PCBs

November 14, 2016

Specifying the optimum circuit laminate for an electronic design project is often a case of reviewing the numbers. Those numbers include dielectric constant (Dk), dissipation factor, and coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) among others when sorting through the myriad of possible printed-circuit-board (PCB) choices for a high-frequency circuit design. Numbers must also be considered for the production side of a PCB, such as consistency of electrical and mechanical parameters from board to board. Once all these numbers have been analyzed and reviewed, the field of PCB material choices narrows until, finally, the optimum circuit material for a project can be selected. But what happens next?

If that circuit material happens to be from Rogers Corp., such as a popular RT/duroid® material or high-performance RO3000® or RO4000® laminates, selecting the material is just the start of developing a final product. From this point on, all those numbers are replaced by people—people who are ready and available to help with a circuit design and manufacturing project—the people of Rogers’ Technical Services Engineers (TSEs). They are members of Rogers’ comprehensive Technical Services Organization and they are ready and able to provide proactive and reactive support to customers of Rogers’ many circuit materials—in person, on line, and via telephone.

These talented and hard-working people add immeasurably to the value of the different circuit laminates, serving as an always-ready support staff for Rogers’ customers. And this is not just casual support, such as a few words of wisdom in an e-mail or telephone call; TSEs are well equipped with mechanical and electrical test equipment and supported by additional engineers and technicians with the knowledge of how to use the equipment to find answers.

A customer’s circuit-level issues may originate at the design stage or they may arise during the manufacturing process. Rogers’ TSEs can help at every step along the way. In some cases, solutions may stem from their experience gained from having seen different circuit materials being processed for different products. Their design-stage service capabilities are extensive, using modern test instruments such as microwave vector network analyzers (VNAs) to characterize different circuit material properties. Well-proven methods, such as clamped stripline tests, long-stripline (LSL) techniques, and full sheet resonance (FSR) methods, are used to evaluate such circuit material properties as Dk and dissipation factor. TSE’s can even provide insights into a particular circuit material’s contributions to the passive intermodulation (PIM) performance of a final design.

Mechanical test gear can analyze such circuit material characteristics as surface roughness, wettability, and surface energy. Mechanical test capabilities also include peel strength testing and surface characterization by means of noncontact profilometry. In addition, at a time when it seems the entire world, whether for commercial, industrial, or military applications, is asking for smaller packages and higher circuit densities, Rogers’ TSEs have ready access to the tools needed to evaluate the thermal characteristics of high-density circuits and the most compact multicircuit configurations. They can offer invaluable guidance on the proper thermal management of analog, digital, and mixed signal designs on a wide range of circuit materials, to ensure that Rogers’ customers “beat the heat” and achieve the longest lifetimes and highest reliabilities from their circuits. 

On the manufacturing side, Rogers’ TSEs can work with customers to optimize their manufacturing processes and even improve their final product yields for a particular circuit material. TSEs can work with fabricators or original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to coordinate trials and evaluations of different manufacturing approaches to discover the best manufacturing method for a particular circuit design and circuit material combination. TSEs can even provide guidance on preferred processes for a different combination, and provide insights into how to complete a multilayer circuit stackup for the best product performance and long-term reliability. Drawing from extensive experience and a healthy database of circuit material test data and statistics under many different operating conditions, TSEs can help customers with trouble-shooting and failure analysis to minimize or eliminate entirely any problems in the manufacturing process involving a particular Rogers’ circuit material.

Ready and Able To Help

For customers who feel this level of support must be too good to be true, Rogers’ TSEs are ready when they are, and ready wherever they are. Rogers’ Technical Service Organization and its TSEs are truly global, with support locations throughout North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Most customers will work with a primary TSE and have several backup TSEs, and they will have a chance to get to know their main TSE just as that TSE will get to know them and their particular issues and needs.

Rogers’ TSEs work with engineering and technical teams based on test and analysis laboratories at three different locations: the Chandler, AZ manufacturing site, the Research & Development Center in Rogers, CT, and the Suzhou-East Campus in Suzhou, China. The test and analysis capabilities are extensive and include x-ray metallography and optical microscopy and scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) for highly detailed imaging of surface defects. For customers concerned with long-term reliability, these test laboratories are well equipped, with a wide range of environmental chambers to control temperature, humidity, vacuum, and even solder-reflow conditions to perform accelerated aging testing on material samples.

The test laboratories can perform different types of material sample preparation for analysis, using imaging, etching, and oxide treatments. They can analyze the integrity of copper cladding and multilayer bonding on different material samples, using such approaches as autoclaves and methods involving hot oil and electric presses to apply tightly controlled amounts of stress on material samples for analysis.

For Rogers’ customers, reaching a TSE is as simple as visiting the Rogers’ website at www.rogerscorp.com to learn more about the customer support structure. These TSEs are essentially a “value-added” bonus for any customer of Rogers’ circuit materials.

Do you have a design or fabrication question? Rogers Corporation’s experts are available to help. Log in to the Rogers Technology Support Hub and “Ask an Engineer” today.

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