Look inside a cell phone or other sophisticated electronic device and prepare to be amazed. The number of things happening in a small space will boggle your mind.
Making the printed circuit boards (PCBs) on which the magical dance of electronics takes place is a delicate process. And, as with any multi-step process involving miniscule parts, different materials and sometimes extreme temperatures, a lot can go wrong.
That’s where Foresite Inc.’s newest invention comes into the picture. The Kokomo, Indiana-based electronics consulting and testing firm is working with Rose-Hulman Ventures to create a way for PCB makers to efficiently test their manufacturing process or new materials before gearing up for mass production.
Foresite’s device, known as “Umpire®41,” is a system consisting of two parts. First, a ‘test vehicle PCB that a manufacturer will build on their own process line. This assembly includes active circuits that include commonly used components and circuit designs. This vehicle then interfaces with the second part, a test fixture, which powers the vehicle and records data that will tell the user where problems, such as corrosive residues or failing solder joints, may be occurring. This allows the customer to optimize their process or assembly materials to avoid these issues at a cost far less than if they were to use their actual products for qualification.
“I think it’s a really interesting project because I’ve learned a lot of things about what can go wrong in the manufacturing process that I hadn’t paid attention to before,” says Erik Bothe, a senior electrical engineering major and the principle Rose-Hulman Ventures intern working on the Foresite project.
Once completed, Foresite is hopeful Umpire®41 will be picked up and used by the high-reliability and harsh environment electronics sectors, such as aerospace and automotive companies. Foresite is already heavily involved in serving these, the medical device, and cloud server industries, so it is well versed in the importance of rigorous testing and quality assurance.
Jim Gryga, engineering manager for Foresite and a 1981 Rose-Hulman alumnus, says phase 1 of the Umpire®41 project – the creation of the test vehicle companies will run through their manufacturing process – has gone well. He expects Foresite will employ Ventures to produce phase 2, which will be the hardware and software system to interpret and report the results from the test vehicle.
“Working with Ventures is more like a partnership than a business relationship” – similar to Foresite’s experience in 2004 when it worked with Ventures on a different project, Gryga says. As for Bothe, Gryga says: “He has been fantastic resource for our team.”
For more information about Foresite, visit their website at www.foresiteinc.com.