Swiss Electronics Cluster (SEC): a Swiss response to the lack of clarity in international standards on the safety and security of electronics, not just for medical devices, but for machinery in general
A simple observations led to the creation of the SEC: the ISO and IEC international standards meant to ensure the quality and safety of electronic circuits present in countless applications are not sufficient. Which means it is necessary to create other standards, especially for industries where human lives are at stake (aeronautics, medical devices and so on) or to be able to simply guarantee buyers that the products they purchase – machinery, for instance – are reliable.
The relevant standards along with ISO 13485 and European Regulation (EU) 2017/745 require safe manufacturing as well as the ability to certify that personnel have been correctly trained. But how do you define ‘safe’ manufacturing when only destructive testing can guarantee good quality? How can you attest that personnel have been correctly trained when there is no recognised training benchmark in Switzerland?
All this is behind the creation of the SEC, which brings together electronics and medtech companies in Switzerland: CapQua Sàrl (the only Swiss company accredited by the IPC Training Center), FSRM (Swiss Foundation for Microtechnology Research) and the West Switzerland Electronics Group (GESO), an association in French-speaking Switzerland focusing on electronics. The SEC serves as a virtuous cycle of skills and certification around IPC standards and is strongly supported by the canton of Neuchâtel.
The IPC is an international association of more than 3,000 companies and organisations – including Cisco, Huawei, Intel and NASA – that publishes more than 300 international standards for processes ranging from the design to repair of printed circuit boards. Within member companies, IPC Specialists are responsible for quality control and production efficiency and must renew their certification every two years. Until April 2020, Switzerland did not have an IPC training centre. CapQua has now plugged that gap, enabling Switzerland to maintain jobs requiring this high-level qualification in electronics.
One of the objectives of IPC standards is to guarantee good quality control while avoiding excessive quality. Not only does good quality control have a direct impact on costs by limiting losses (scrap and time), but it prevents unnecessary part-exchanges degrade the long-term reliability of electronic assemblies.
IPC certifications also ensure that those involved in the processes of designing and manufacturing electronic assemblies have the knowledge and expertise needed to perform good quality control.
This has a direct impact on end customers: fewer breakdowns and therefore fewer machine stoppages, and ultimately less loss of production time, thus saving money. In this virtuous cycle, all stakeholders are thus winners.
In 2024, the SEC will organise the first IPC manual soldering competition in Switzerland, the winners of which will advance to the international finals. That will be a great opportunity to showcase the IPC specialists who work so hard to maintain their certification and the companies that employ them.