IPC Class 3 has already been with us for quite some time, but officially now only since September

There are situations when the printed circuit boards need to perform its best in extremely difficult conditions. Usually in those when there is zero room for the smallest flaw or failure - typically in industries such as aviation, astronautics, medicine or automobile industry. That is why customers from such industries already today require practically exclusively PCBs qualifying for the IPC class 3 certification – a standard of a board undergoing in its entire production process several inspections and testing procedures. His industry expertise is shared with us by Mr. Zdenek Capal, a chairman of Gatema PCB a.s. company that is one of the top European leaders in the area of printed circuit boards production and thanks to its January acquisition of a German company Kubatronik it also frequently delivers highly advanced circuit boards for top global players in the industry.

It is just the Kubatronik Leiterplatten that has been active in the market since 1980 and that has been profiling itself as a specialist on the production of high frequency circuit boards and ever more popular rigid flex circuit boards that create nearly half of its entire portfolio of orders. Simultaneously right before the January acquisition the company has executed 44% of all orders for customers from the fields of aviation or defense and furthermore it executed additional 26% for medical and pharmaceutical companies. Amongst its customers are, amongst others, the following top corporations such as Rohde & Schwarz, Siemens, EADS, Fujistu or Fraunhofer.

However, Gatema’s headquarters in Boskovice he has been receiving a continuously increasing demand for the solutions from the IPC Class 3 field. Hence the company is preparing to officially include the solutions for its customers into its standard offers and is going to do so right from September. „Our boards have been technologically meeting the standards required within the IPC class III for a long time but until now have not had to undergo such a large number of mandatory inspections within the entire production process. Currently we are finishing training our staff and additional necessary processes to be able to be ready to offer everything officially and according to the norms from September,“  as Mr. Zdenek Capal adds.

Three Classes

So what differs the IPC Class 3 from other lower classes? IPC class 1 is considered to be a usual standard form boards with limited lifespan and simple features. Class 2 is then designed for electronica products for servicing purposes and is required to have an extended lifespan. And then with the IPC Class 3 products range, higher durability and strength of the entire board is then required. „Generally speaking, it is about boards that cannot fail and need to work even in demanding conditions. Whether it is an extremely clean medical environment or on the contrary extreme conditions that are required on airplanes satellites or in military technology, as Zdeněk Cápal comments. Such boards must prove maximal reliability and perform in critical systems.


Besides this talks are beginning about a class bearing a 3/A indication which includes exclusively space and military avionics. In this field printed circuit boards meet even stricter production criteria and need to remain functional even in highly critical conditions such as Outerspace. „I must admit that this is not completely where we are headed now as such printed circuit boards production is extremely costly and it practically does not pay off much to produce them in regular common series. We need to bear in mind at the same time that the basis of our company is high quality connected with the speed of the entire production process. This particular bet has paid off nicely during the course of spring months when the coronavirus pandemic started and put several Asian suppliers out of the game. We were one of the few suppliers who succeeded in meeting the tight deadlines because in Europe we do you belong to the top class with regards to speed, as Zdeněk Cápal then adds.

And as he then goes on - even he is alongside Gatema having an extremely turbulent year. „In January we announced the acquisition of Kubatronik. It is not that frequent when a Czech company buys a well-established German brand – and obviously this has cost us a lot of energy and efforts to wrap it all up, finish it off and process it efficiently and completely. In May then we were working on restructuring our company into a holding structure which was also not very easy. And suddenly starting March there was a global pandemic emerging and our production had to take maximum speed to its full capacity because the number of orders grew significantly. This may seem brilliant from a business perspective however it was insanely demanding for internal processes. And in the meantime, of course we were planning many more business trips to be made into a German town of Geislingen where the acquired Kubatronik’s headquarters but we also had to deal with numerous issues online. Now we are slowly coming up with the IPC class 3, a rigid-flex and another new services for our clients. This year really is one of those years where there is zero room for resting,as smiling Zdeněk Cápal closes up.  

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