In case you didn’t get the opportunity to go to PCB West 2012 in September, my favorite moment was the fabrication capability update from StreamLine circuits. Overall, the crowd was already noticeably more upbeat and energetic than the last couple years. But in a room of over a hundred nerds wearing jeans and button-down shirts, there were outbreaks of murmuring excitement when the latest board cross-sections were shown overhead.
We paused on the picture of a board with 1 mil trace thickness and 1 mil separation while plenty of questions came up about the whole fabrication process. What caught my attention was that the new limiting factor is hole to different-net-copper, not traces or drill annular rings. Starting with the assumption that you are using the latest equipment, and you run all types of boards through it to keep it busy, laser drilling and automated optical alignment become features you get without paying extra. High-density-interconnect designed boards may now quote for less. Using a couple of outer layers as build-up layers with blind and buried vias means a couple less plane layers in the whole stack-up, which saves money. Yeah! I get to finally use HDI without looking extravagant. The thinnest 4 layer board cross-section shown was 5.4 mils thick. It is OK if you are as unabashedly tech-nerd as I and you just said “Wow.”
It was a great time and I recommend PCB West especially for the design sessions. Hope to see you there next year.