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Do you take x-ray with your coffee?

What better way to celebrate this Father’s Day then a good cup of coffee? And what better than a live x-ray of coffee being made? Here’s a cool video our team recorded with one of our x-ray machines. You can see the process that turns water into coffee. Want to learn a bit more? Keep reading…


How the coffee maker works?

Nobody really knows when coffee was discovered. Early records show tribes talking about coffee in Ethiopia in the 11th century. Whoever figure it out for the first time, we thank these early pioneers for developing the fuel to our imagination!

To take the video you see here, we used a horizontal TruView x-ray inspection system. That means that the x-ray beam was horizontal, otherwise the percolator we used (coffee maker) would have to sit flat on the stage – causing all the coffee to spill all over the x-ray machine! Horizontal machines are very popular in applications like this – where you have to inspect the sample sitting up. And no, we didn’t install an oven inside the machine. Instead, we used a hot plate to make the coffee you see in this video. The video was taken as a sequence of x-ray images using a large format and fast x-ray sensor and a 130kV x-ray source.

As for the coffee making process itself, it all starts when you pour water on the lower chamber of the percolator. Coffee grounds (from Brazil, of course), are placed in the funnel, as seen in the following figure. As the bottom of the percolator heats up, the boiling water doesn’t have where to expand to… except the cylinder that runs from the bottom of the funnel to the second (upper) chamber in the percolator. What you see in the video is that water boiling in the lower chamber, thus moving up through the coffee grounds at high pressure. The result is the “shower” of fresh coffee that fills the upper chamber.

Now that you’ve seen how coffee is made thanks to the magic of x-ray imaging, time to get yourself a nice fresh cup! For more information, don’t hesitate to contact us!

Where You Make Things Matter

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron, News Comments: 0

I run a high-tech company. Creative Electron, the company I started in my garage in 2008, develops and manufacturers x-ray inspection systems. As the company grew over the years, we had plenty of opportunities to outsource. We didn’t.

Instead, we developed a business model around the core belief that made in USA is the right thing to do. Part of this strategy is gratitude to a country that gave me a lot. I moved to the USA in 1998 to work for the US Department of Energy, at a place called Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). It was my first job after college, so I started as an entry-level engineer. I went to back to school nights and weekends to get a MS, PhD, and MBA while working full time at Fermilab. In a few years I was promoted to Department Head, leading an incredible team of scientists, engineers, and technicians in the development of complex electronic systems for nuclear and high-energy physics research. This country is one of the very few places in the world where hard work and grit are proportionally rewarded.

After almost a decade at Fermilab, it was time to move on. The entrepreneurial bug called me to San Diego to start Creative Electron. Our first customers were the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. Together with other US government agencies that joined us later on, funding was secured for the development of an incredible product line. We are very proud of the services and products we are able to deliver to these organizations.

But gratitude is part of the reason we still make our x-ray machines in California. It still makes a lot of business sense to make things in USA. Forget about the 30, 40, or 60% savings people talk about. Innovation is priceless!

Here are some other important reasons to keep manufacturing in America:

1. Quality Control: This one is easy. It is much easier to keep an eye on your manufacturing line when it’s a few feet from your office instead of thousands of miles away. If something goes wrong you can address it immediately. It also helps a lot if you don’t need to wait months before getting a new batch of parts.

2. Customer Service Model: From the inception of the company I’ve been a believer that we should not have a customer service department. Instead, we have a customer support manager who is also our director of engineering. He receives support requests and routes them to one of our developers. Yes, that makes hiring developers a bit more challenging, because not only do they have to be awesome technically, but they also need to be awesome with customers. Having customers talking to developers directly allows us to get things fixed fast – without any bureaucratic red tape. The added bonus is that developers think twice before releasing product that might bite them later.

3. Innovation Speed: We are the underdogs in the x-ray inspection market. We don’t have a huge marketing budget or an army of salespeople pushing our products. Instead, we do spend every penny available in innovation. The fact we can change things fast – and learn from our mistakes fast – has allowed us to quickly improve our product line. We are in a constant dialogue with our customers, both big and small, to understand their challenges today and tomorrow. This focus on product performance for ultimate customer satisfaction has landed us major worldwide accounts.

A lot has been said about outsourcing, offshoring, and reshoring. You know what is best for your company – Made in USA is what works for us.


TruView™ 10: A New Way to Think About X-Ray Inspection

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron, News Comments: 1

rev·o·lu·tion: ˌrevəˈlo͞oSH(ə)n/ a dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized or in people’s ideas about it.


To make something really revolutionary, it comes a time when you need destroy what you have and start from ground zero. For us that time came 18 months ago. To be more exact, it was a crisp Tuesday morning in Southern California when the kickoff meeting for Project Mosaic (which later became TruView™ 10) started. Our whole development team – hardware, software, firmware – stared at blank whiteboard. Clean slate. No more upgrades and patches. We needed a revolution.


The goal: to design the x-ray software our customers really want.


It quickly became apparent that this new software wasn’t going to be completed in a couple of weeks or months. This was a big endeavor. A big and expensive endeavor. As a small company we have be careful about big bets. Unlike large corporations, we can’t afford losing money on large R&D projects that go nowhere. But revolutions don’t start in vacuum. To focus our objectives, we talked to hundreds of customers prior to the start of Project Mosaic. We asked and we listened.


Thus the whiteboard wasn’t blank for long. Ideas started to flow, and slowly Project Mosaic took shape. To accomplish what we need in software, we realized we had to redesign our hardware and firmware. We needed an automation system that was faster and more accurate than what we had before. We needed a more responsive firmware. We needed more degrees of freedom in our actuators. So we did it.


Fast forward 18 months and we’re ready to unveil TruView™ 10 next week at IPC APEX. Built on a true 64-bit platform, TruView™ 10 has a set of features that I think will resonate with our customers. For example, it limits the role of the operator to load and unload boards from the machine. TruView™ 10 takes images, analyses, runs tests, and produces reports – all automatically. To minimize downtime in the machine, all the programming of the tests can be done offline at a separate workstation. Actually, tests can be programmed from a remote location. The reports automatically produced by this machine are incredible. Lot’s of useful information with all the details and trace-ability that you need.


I look forward to sharing TruView™ 10 with you. It’s the result of a lot of work from a very dedicated group of people – and TruView™ 10 shows it.

Free Webinar: Quality Control to Material Management – an Introduction to X-Ray Technology

by Bill Cardoso in Events Comments: 0

January 30, 2018 at 10AM PST

X-rays have been used in manufacturing activities for over 100 years. From the simple identification of missing parts inside a sealed box to the detailed inspection of a jet turbine, x-ray technology has become ubiquitous in several manufacturing activities. In this webinar we will focus on the uses on x-ray technology in the electronic assembly industry, from the inspection of ball grid arrays (BGA) and quad-flat no-leads (QFN), to counting components in reels, to complex computed tomography operations. It is not our objective to make you an expert in any of these areas, but instead to introduce you to these diverse topics. The ideal audience for this webinar are those in management positions in the SMT industry – who need to understand enough of each activity to know when to deploy them to solve everyday production problems. To accommodate your busy schedule, we’ve limited each topic to a 15 minute talk, presented live by Dr. Bill Cardoso and Dr. Glen Thomas, both experts in x-ray inspection with a combined 50 year experience in the field.  

The topics included in this 1 hour webinar include:

10:00AM – Why x-rays are used to inspect bottom-terminated components (BGA, LED, QFN, etc.)? How to interpret the results you get?

10:15AM – Material Management 4.0 – how to bring my inventory room to the 21st century?

10:30AM – When should I use Computed Tomography?

10:45AM – X-ray and rework – how to figure out what machines do I really need?

To register please email us at with your complete contact info. We’ll email you back the details on how to log in to attend this webinar.

2017 – Year in Review

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron, News Comments: 0

As we wrap up 2017, it’s safe to say this year will go down in history as the best year for Creative Electron since I started it in my garage in 2008. We strengthened our strategic partnerships, increased sales, acquired and moved to a new building, and launched new exciting products. And let’s not forget, we still had plenty of time to tear down several devices.

To look at the top events of 2017, here are the most popular posts from our blog.

1. Remember the Shoe-Fitting Machine?

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with x-ray technology. Something about the ability to see trough materials that fascinates me.

This fascination not only drives us to design the best x-ray machines in the world, but also drives our curiosity to learn from the past. For this reason, over the years we’ve been building a small museum with historical pieces we find here and there. Among the x-ray machines in our collection, we have a couple of Adrian Special Fluoroscopes.

With almost a century of age, these machines bring us back to the early days of the x-ray inspection. Days when x-ray machines were used as gimmicks in shoe stores to help customers fit new shoes. Yes, can you imagine taking an x-ray of your feet to check on the fitting of new shoes? Unbelievable!

2. TruView Parts Counter at Productronica

This last November we went to Munich to introduce our new TruView Parts Counter at Productronica. In a way, it was the big debut of this new x-ray parts counter to the world. The feedback we received was impressive, far beyond my expectations. We also met with our European partners, which are not only doing a great job selling our x-ray machines, but are also mastering customer service.

At Productronica I sat down with Philip Stoten from SCOOP tv to go over the key metrics that set Creative Electron apart from our competitors. Among these metrics are the 85% referral rate for our x-ray machines carried by a 99% satisfaction rate. These two numbers translate to a solid 98% repeat business. To take care of our customers, we keep our supply chain tight and close – at a short 600 miles. Put it all together: we work hard to get your business, and ever harder to keep it.

3. iPhone X Teardown

The iPhone X was with no doubt the most anticipated teardown of the year. After much speculation and antecipation, Apple started selling the new iPhone and we were there to take it apart with our good friends at ifixit. Double battery, stacked PCBs, laser sensors to read your face – quite a lot to go thru in a single teardown! Thankfully our hosts at Circuitwise in Sydney were ready to tackle any challenges. And we had plenty of challenges – specially when trying to pry the two boards apart.

The good folks from Motherboard were also there to document the whole adventure. From waiting in line at an Apple store near Sydney to racing to Circuitwise to teardown the iPhone X, their cameras were in place filming each step of the process. The result is an important insight on the world of repairs – a step away from a throw-away society.

4. Creative Electron in a New Home

It feels like yesterday when Creative Electron was nothing but an idea I started in my garage. I’m very proud of what our amazing team has accomplished over the past 10 years. That goes to show that manufacturing is still alive and well in the US and in California.

When we moved to our first building, I thought we’d be there for many years. Fortunately, I was wrong, and our growth required a larger facility to accommodate the manufacturing of our TruView x-ray machines. Staying in San Marcos was an easy choice. The city is awesome, they are genuine in their support of local business. If you’re looking for a new home for your business, I highly recommend San Marcos, California.


5. The Continuous Saga: Battery Inspection

The Samsung Note 7 debacle with batteries catching on fire, as extensively reported by the Wall Street Journal and others, triggered a wide range of inquires related to the safety and quality of the phones we carry in our pockets every day. Since then, we’ve seen a peak in interest for our TruView x-ray machines to inspect mobile device batteries. And just recently Apple joined the battery conversation when it admitted to slowing down iPhone with older batteries, as you can read more in this WSJ article.

One of the most popular x-ray machines for this application is the TruView Prime X, an inline system specifically designed to inspect batteries. The x-ray inspection for this application needs to produce high quality images and fast. Two requirements met perfectly by the TruView Prime X.


6. New Products: TruView Parts Counter

The new TruView Parts Counter is an x-ray based device that counts parts in trays and reels in just a few seconds. Despite the great progress in the development of the integrated SMT production line, a critical part of the manufacturing chain still offline. Inventory rooms around the world must still operate with a far reduced level of sophistication. It is not uncommon to find thousands of reels densely packed in hundreds of linear feet of shelving space.

The simple exercise of counting back reels as they come back from the production floor is not standard practice. And even when they are counted, the count is often made by hand. The lack of focus on the automation of our inventory rooms leads to an increasing loss of productivity due to line stoppages. When associated with the recent increase in lead times for electronic components, line stoppage has become a crippling problem that makes inventory accuracy a necessity.



7. Product Launch: TruView Fusion CT

The introduction of computed tomography (CT) to our product line with the TruView Fusion CT enabled us to offer our customers a whole new range of solutions. The ability to slice open an object is very impressive. From a mechanical device like a windshield wiper handle to a small electronic gadget like the new Apple AirPod, the TruView Fusion CT produces an incredible amount of details of the internal works of these objects.

To launch it, we brought the TruView Fusion CT to our friends at ifixit. There, we talked about the tomography of the AirPod, a device we were able to inspect with amazing detail using its volumetric information. After the data collection is completed and the CT reconstruction is done, we can 3D print the object, closing the loop for most failure analysis and reverse engineering applications.


8. Chatting about Counterfeit Detection at Productronica

The topic of counterfeit electronic components is a constant in every conference we go to nowadays. Productronica was no different, since over the past few years this problem has left the aerospace and military niche to now be a problem in the larger medical devices and automotive markets. The impact of counterfeit electronics in these markets can be catastrophic, and for this reason manufacturers take it very seriously.

Every company doing counterfeit detection needs an automated x-ray machine to keep up with the high volume of components that needs to be inspected. As we explain in “How to Use X-Rays to Find Counterfeit Components,” x-rays are very powerful in the identification and removal of counterfeit electronic parts from the supply chain.

Our first x-ray machine was designed for counterfeit detection. We called it the TruView 180, which evolved over the years and today is sold as the TruView Prime R. This benchtop unit does reel to reel automated inspection, and is considered the reference in x-ray inspection for counterfeit detection.


9. The All New TruView Cube

It’s been almost a year now that we launched the new TruView Cube. The TruView Cube is a benchtop system we designed for companies that need a small benchtop x-ray system that produces high quality images. This major upgrade gave the TruView Cube a high definition image intensifier with a field of view of 4” (10cm). When paired with an 80kV Microfocus source, the TruView Cube produces incredible x-ray images. This machine doesn’t have any automation, so it relies on an operator to move the XY table to capture images.

So who buys the TruView Cube? We’ve seen a wide range of customers for this small cabinet system. From large OEM companies looking for an x-ray system for their failure analysis laboratory, to new product inspection, to seed inspection, to medical device quality control. As a versatile x-ray inspection tool the TruView Cube was a winner in 2017.


10. Sharing the Knowledge: 2D, 2.5D, and 3D X-Ray Inspection – What’s a “D”

We see education as a big part of our job. X-ray inspection is not trivial. Unlike optical inspection, which is the same type of vision we humans have, x-rays penetrate materials. So, unless you’re Superman, you can’t relate to x-ray vision at all. We strongly believe that a well-informed customer will make the best decision on which x-ray machine is best for their application. In this process, we do recommend other vendors as much as we recommend our own machines. We value the long-term relationship with our customers more than we value making a quick buck selling them a machine that will not make them happy.

In this process to educate our customers on the different aspects of x-ray inspection technology, we developed a presentation called “2D, 2.5D, and 3D X-Ray Inspection – What’s a “D””. There’s a lot of confusion in the market today on what’s a 2D, 2.5D, and 3D x-ray machines. To clear the field and set the record straight, this presentation defines each technology while presenting examples of x-ray images from the different inspection modalities. That’s when you can truly understand why do we even have different x-ray modalities, when to use them, and how to calculate the proper cost benefit of each option.


TruView Parts Counter at NEPCON Japan – Jan. 17-19

It’s a brand new year and we’re heading to Japan to showcase our TruView Parts Counter at NEPCON Japan in Tokyo from January 17-19. If you haven’t been to NEPCON Japan yet, well, you must. NEPCON is Asia’s largest exhibition for electronics design, R&D and manufacturing technology Launched in 1972, NEPCON Japan has grown together with the Japanese & Asian electronics industry. Consisting of 7 shows specialised in essential areas for electronics manufacturing and R&D, the show has increased its value as an exhibition representing Asia’s leading one-stop venue for all those involved in electronics industry. Furthermore, adding exhibitions for promising applications such as Automobiles, Wearable devices, Robots, and Smart factories, NEPCON Japan attracts the huge attention as a venue where the latest technologies for “Future of Electronics” are showcased.

Contact us today to schedule a time to meet us in Tokyo. And don’t forget to check out the all new TruView Parts Counter!

Silicon Valley Expo & Tech Forum

by Bill Cardoso in Events Comments: 0

Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Location: Bestronics, Inc.
2243 Lundy Avenue
San Jose, CA 95131

Time: 8AM to 3PM

Samsung Note 7 CT

Thanks to our good friends at ifixit, today we got the chance to slice and dice the infamous Note 7. Griffin takes us on the journey inside the Note 7 in this video, enjoy!

Samsung Galaxy S8+ Teardown with CT

How to make a perfect teardown better? Add CT to it! Here’s the CT teardown of the new Samsung S8+. For the complete teardown from ifixt please click here.

AAA Battery with TruView Fusion CT Scan

Nothing is more ubiquitous in the world today than batteries – and nothing more common amongst batteries than the good old AAA. Here’s how the battery look as we take it inside the TruView Fusion for a spin.




2D, 2.5D, and 3D X-Ray Inspection – What’s a “D”

The use of x-ray inspection in the electronics industry has gained wide adoption in the past 20 years, driven mainly by the development and use of bottom terminated components (BTC). The use of ball grid arrays (BGA), for example, allowed the development of standards and guidelines that dictate the maximum void size in each ball. In consequence, x-ray machine manufacturers developed solutions that address these requirements to became an integral part of the quality assurance function of modern electronic manufacturers.

However, as new x-ray technologies are introduced – from new algorithms to new hardware – users are faced with a growing range of options to choose from. Users need a solid technical background to understand these options to make an educated decision when acquiring x-ray inspection capabilities. Unfortunately, x-ray companies are not always clear about the pros and cons of each option. As a result, users end up buying too much or too little capabilities. In either situation, the user is left without the right x-ray inspection solution.

The goal of this presentation is to give the audience the tools needed to avoid making mistakes when acquiring x-ray inspection capabilities. We will set the record straight and clearly define critical concepts in x-ray inspection. The different x-ray modalities, 2D, 2.5D, and 3D x-ray inspection will be explained in details at the user level – no math involved. Most importantly, this presentation will cover when each modality must be utilized for a successful quality assurance program. A rich set of images and videos will be used to illustrate the advantages and disadvantages of each x-ray inspection modality.

Pacemaker Battery CT

Today Andrew shows us the CT of a pacemaker battery – and shows us what makes it tick.

iPad 5 Teardown

by Bill Cardoso in Applications, Technology, x-ray Comments: 0

Our friends from ifixit came by yesterday to teardown the new iPad 5. Check out the details here.

CT Scan of Automotive Part

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

The TruView Fusion CT is a powerful tomography system – specially when looking for porosity in automotive cast parts. Here’s an example on how to navigate inside a windshield wiper handle!

How to 3D print your 3D X-Ray Scan

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

Ever wondered how to turn your 3D x-ray scan into a great 3D print? Watch as our VP of Engineering, Griffin Lemaster, shows you how to get it done!


Chatting CT with ifixit

This week we head up to San Luis Obispo to chat with our good friends at ifixit. We had a great time talking technology, teardowns, and of course, x-rays! This was a great opportunity to show off the capabilities of our new tomography system, the TruView Fusion CT. Check it out as we took the 3D x-ray inspection of an Apple AirPod!

The All New TruView Cube

We’re excited to share with you the new generation of TruView Cube! What’s new? Well, let’s start by the major upgrade – the x-ray sensor. The new TruView Cube is now equipped with a high resolution image intensifier – a sensor that produces incredible images. Not only that, the 4″ field of view gives you enough coverage to image a large portion of the your sample. We also added a 10″ HD monitor mounted right on top of the door to mirror the image you get from the 24″ HD monitor. That means you can use the TruView Cube with or without the large monitor, allowing for a very small operating footprint – the smallest in the market! Perfect for your lab where every inch matters.

Enough said, give us a call today to learn more about the new TruView Cube!


Apple AirPods Teardown

The last teardown of the year goes to the Apple AirPods! Just in time to make your Christmas list – in case you’re one of us procrastinators – the AirPods went on sale yesterday! The AirPods’ repairability index of 0 (yes, basically impossible to fix without breaking it even further) may not matter if you loose them before they need repairs.
Our good friends at ifixit took the AirPods apart for our delight. Check the full teardown here and let us know what you think! Also enjoy the amazing details of the AirPod in this video:

Refurbished X-Ray Systems

by Bill Cardoso in Refurb Comments: 0

Creative Electron launched today a new division focused on the sale and rental of refurbished x-ray inspection systems. Led by industry veteran and Customer Service Manager David Phillips, this new division focuses on meeting the needs of customers looking for cost effective x-ray machines.
“The acquisition of FocalSpot gave us access to a large number of high quality x-ray machines we received as trade ins. These machines have been completely refurbished and are fully warranted by our technical team. We currently have the largest inventory of x-ray systems ready to ship. These systems are also available for rental to supply our customers with a temporary x-ray solution,” said David Phillips. You can check our current inventory of refurbished x-ray systems here.
All refurbished x-ray machines come with a factory 90-day warranty and are powered by Creative Electron’s TruView IP, a state of the art image processing unit running on the latest Microsoft OS. TruView IP can also include powerful apps – BGA Inspector, Dual Energy, WISE, Pad Voiding, 3D Rendering, Database Browser, Measurement, Annotation, Image Filters. These apps bring new life to any x-ray inspection system.
Contact us today for more information!

New MacBook Pro Teardown

It’s no secret I’ve been using MacBook Pros as my primary computer for over a decade now. I must admit that in the past couple of years I’ve found myself looking jealously at my colleagues who brag about their Surface Pros. The Surface Pro 4 is an amazing machine, one I’ve considered as my next laptop. However, when I think about all the apps I’d have to give up… well, I’m back to the MacBook Pro. Needless to say the launch of the new line of MacBook Pros last week was very exciting news – perhaps the excuse I need to upgrade my 2013 machine!
We received our 13″ MacBook Pro this morning, and the first stop was inside TruView Prime S with a 17″x17″ flat panel. We also took a few photos showing the 2013 MacBook Pro against its successor. For a more detailed teardown please visit our friends at ifixit and let us know what you think!

MacBook Pro 2013

MacBook Pro 2013

MacBook Pro 2016

MacBook Pro 2016

MacBook Pro 2016

MacBook Pro 2016

MacBook Pro 2016

Happy Halloween!

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

Last year we started imaging Halloween candy as part of a fun way to show kids (and their parents) how x-rays work. Perhaps a way to share our geekiness with similar geek-minded people. We had a lot of fun x-raying everything you can imagine – from candy to toys – and everything in between. And don’t forget to check out the super pumpkin teardown from our ifixit friends!
As we get ready to host our spooky guest for the evening, here’s our wishes of a happy and safe Halloween!

Pumpkin X-Ray

Google Pixel XL X-Ray Teardown

The launch of the new generation of Google phones, the Google Pixel, gained a much larger dimension since the debacle with the Samsung Note 7. In this post we share with you the x-ray teardown of the Google Pixel XL, the large form-factor device Google released today. As per usual, our friends at ifixit did a complete teardown, which you can find here.

Here’re the x-ray images of the new Google Pixel XL:

Google Pixel XL

We also got a cool video of the vibration motor in the Pixel XL:

If you were wondering how similar this vibration motor looks when compared to the taptic engine in the Apple iPhone 7 Plus, here’s a side-by-side video of both engines in action:

We used a high magnification x-ray machine (the TruView Prime) to check some of the details around the phone:

Google Pixel XL

Google Pixel XL

Google Pixel XL

Google Pixel XL

Google Pixel XL

Google Pixel XL

Google Pixel XL

Google Pixel XL

Google Pixel XL

And here’s the whole Google Pixel XL!
Google Pixel XL

The All New TruView™ Fusion

We are happy to announce the launch of our new x-ray inspection platform, the TruView™ Fusion! This platform replaces the Number Series (TruView™ 100, 200, 180, etc.). The TruView™ Fusion comes equipped with state of the art software that automatically takes an x-ray image of the whole stage so you can Point-and-Click navigate your inspection using the x-ray image of your entire board. You can also do the same using the optical image of the stage – via an automated vision system installed in the system. These inspection packages make automated batch inspection a simple and easy drag and drop operation!
The TruView™ Fusion also has a tilt compensation system for oblique view inspection. The stage rotation comes handy when inspecting complex components.
What’s even more exciting about the TruView™ Fusion is the wide range of configurations you can choose. The TruView™ Fusion X-Ray is a powerful platform that can be configured in 6 different ways to meet your cost and performance requirements:
TruView™ Fusion A: Load/unload samples using the system’s sliding front door.
TruView™ Fusion B: Load/unload samples using the system’s single side door via conveyor belt.
TruView™ Fusion C: Load samples using the system’s left side door and unload using right door via conveyor belt.
TruView™ Fusion S: Large field of view sensor, up to 17″x17″
TruView™ Fusion R: Reel-to-reel inspection
TruView™ Fusion X: Large format inspection to boards up to 48″x20″

Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information!

2016 Most Innovative New Product Awards Finalist

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

Today, CONNECT, a premier innovation company accelerator in San Diego that creates and scales great companies in the technology and life sciences sectors, announced the 30 finalists for the 29th annual Most Innovative New Product Awards. The prestigious awards ceremony is a CONNECT signature event, held annually in December, that honors San Diego’s stars of innovation along with their newly launched groundbreaking products.
Creative Electron’s TruView Cube S – Semiconductor Parts Counter was selected as a finalist in the Information Communications Technologies along with Qualcomm and Aira.
“As an organization born out of the desire to catalyze research from ideation to life-changing products and services and to accelerate the growth of San Diego’s presence on the national and international stage as a hub of successful life science and technology companies, we are honored to present the ‘29th Annual Most Innovative Product Awards’ to companies that are raising the bar and creating a flourishing innovation economy in San Diego,” said Greg McKee, CEO of CONNECT. “The Most Innovative New Product Awards event is our way of celebrating and recognizing the best new market entrants each year, and we are always incredibly impressed by the volume, and also the caliber and high impact of the innovative products and services being launched by San Diego based companies.”

Inside Apple’s New Audio Adapter

In another collaboration with ifixit, here’re the details of the new headphone adapter for the iPhone 7. We’re surprised how much electronics Apple was able to include inside this little cable. More details at ifixit!

Apple iPhone 7 audio adapter x-ray image

Industry Intelligence from Teardowns of IoT and Wearables

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

This is a paper we’re presenting at the upcoming SMTA International in Chicago, reproduced here so you can take a read prior to our presentation. Comments welcome!

The impulse to break a new gadget to “see what’s inside” is often the first sign someone will become an engineer. However, modern teardowns go far beyond pure curiosity: they provide us critical insights into the nature and construction of these devices. In this paper we will cover the teardown of several smartphone and wearable devices to understand how the SMT industry has changed. These findings will also help us forecast where we are going as a community by discussing miniaturization and packaging, automation and labor force location, device features, and other important topics. These are key issues we need to address to keep U.S. SMT manufacturing relevant.

Figure 1 shows the x-ray of all iPhones in history. This is an important snapshot of the history of SMT assembly for the past 9 years since the iPhone introduction in 2007. The major industry trends can be visualized in this single image: electronics are getting smaller, batteries are getting bigger, and the real estate allocated to the PCB is shrinking. Larger displays with higher resolution require more power. Thinner devices have become a requirement, which in the iPhone 4 led Apple to place the battery on the side of the PCB instead of on top of the PCB. In this paper we will discuss some of the market and technology forces behind these trends.

Apple iPhones from 2007 to 2016

Figure 1. X-ray images of all iPhones since its launch in 2007 to the iPhone 7 launched in September of 2016

We have been tearing down devices for several years now with the pure intent to discover how the devices around us work. However, we found that this process of finding how devices are built can give us incredible insights on how the major companies that make them operate.
This ‘under the cover’ knowledge can provide insights into design information, how the product works, innovative design features and even supply chain relationships. Teardowns may also include an in-depth estimate of the bill of materials (BOM).

Supply Chain Exposure
Once a complete teardown is completed, we can determine the exact BOM for the device. This BOM can be used to determine component selection and supplier relationships. It can also, from generation to generation of these devices, help us determine which of these relationships are flourishing and which are floundering.
This data also assists companies to determine the cost breakdown of different devices, as seen in Figure 2 [3].

Cost drivers for wearables

Figure 2. Wearable teardown landscape showing how different manufacturers are deploying resources in different devices. The top cost driver across platforms continues to be the displays, followed by processors, enclosures, and memory

Market Intelligence
The knowledge that a supplier was picked up as a supplier for a mainstream product can have an incredible positive impact on a supplier’s stock price. Similarly, being dropped from the BOM of an iPhone or Galaxy can negatively impact share value.
One recent example happened the day the new iPhone 7 went on sale worldwide. The first teardowns of these devices happened in Tokyo and Sydney, several hours ahead of the Friday launch date in the USA. The public release that a component by Lattice Semiconductor was present in the iPhone 7 caused shares of the Portland company to climb nearly 14 percent. That happened on Thursday on indications the Portland company has signed up Apple as a major client.

Reverse Engineering
Product managers, competitive intelligence professionals, and engineering leads for semiconductor and component suppliers use our product teardowns to identify [3]:
• What socket opportunities would best suit their products?
• What component integration opportunities are available?
• Which techniques their competitors are using for integrated circuit (IC) packaging?
• What their competition is doing that could be an external threat?
Product managers, procurement professionals, and competitive intelligence analysts in device original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) value product teardown reports for critical insights into:
• Who are the emerging electronic component suppliers?
• What are the best approaches to reducing bill of materials (BOM) and manufacturing costs?
• What emerging technologies are being developed in complementary devices that may be integrated?
• What are the best design, sourcing and manufacturing strategies to compete in the emerging low cost environment?
• What are the competitive strengths of new international market entrants?

The 3.5mm audio jack is gone. At the recent announcement of the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, when Apple executives revealed the end of the audio jack, “courage” was given as a motivation to remove this traditional interface from their new flock of iPhones.
A reasonable observer may also conclude that Apple’s recent acquisition of Beats (a leading headphone maker) also played an important role since iPhone 7 users will likely be in the market for new wireless headphones.
Therefore, we emphasize the importance to pay attention to the merger and acquisitions activities of the major players in the SMT market. These moves might not make immediate sense, but in the case of Apple’s acquisition of Beats, it was a very early signal of a major shift in the way devices are built.
Figure 3 shows an x-ray image of the now defunct audio jack in an iPhone 6S. Figure 4 shows an x-ray image on the same corner of the iPhone 7. The large rectangular object in this x-ray image is the improved Taptic Engine in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. This device is responsible for the haptic or kinesthetic communication that recreates the sense of touch by applying forces that react to the user’s touch. Thus we can say that very soon mechanical buttons will be a thing of the past. The ability to emulate the push of a button using haptic feedback greatly improves the reliability (plus water and dust proofing) of the iPhone by reducing the number of moving parts in the assembly.

Bottom left corner of the iPhone 6S showing the 3.5mm audio jack

Figure 3. Bottom left corner of the iPhone 6S showing the 3.5mm audio jack

Bottom left corner of the iPhone 7 showing the lack of a 3.5mm audio jack

Figure 4. Bottom left corner of the iPhone 7 showing the lack of a 3.5mm audio jack

The empty space found in place of the audio jack in the previous x-ray image initially got us thinking that the audio jack was removed for nothing. However, further investigations when opening the iPhone showed us a new plastic component in that location, as seen in Figure 5.
According to Apple, this plastic component is a barometric vent. With the added ingress protection afforded by the watertight seal, the iPhone uses this baffle to equalize the internal and atmospheric pressures in order to have an accurate altimeter.

Plastic component in the location of the audio jack in the iPhone 7

Figure 5. Plastic component in the location of the audio jack in the iPhone 7

The ability to rework wearable devices and smartphones is critical to the subsistence of a growing number of companies in the market of fixing these devices. As seen in Figure 6, the x-ray of the new iPhone 7 Plus shows it is a very complex device with thousands of parts and a complicated process to disassemble. These are expensive devices that can easily be damaged by a single drop on the floor.
The repair market is a $4B/year worldwide industry dedicated to bringing very expensive devices back into commission. The focus of these companies is on the repair and replacement of displays and screens, battery, button and headphone jack (no longer an issue in the iPhone 7), camera and sensor.
To assist in the assessment of the level of difficulty to repair these devices, ifixit [2] has rated several smartphones and wearables in the market today. Table 1 shows a small portion of this dataset.

Repairability scores of major smartphones launched since 2010. A score of 10 represents a device that is the easiest to repair

Table 1. Repairability scores of major smartphones launched since 2010. A score of 10 represents a device that is the easiest to repair

This data show that since 2010 the iPhones have been relatively easy to repair. That’s mostly given the fact that the first thing you remove from the iPhone is the screen – and because the screen is usually what you are trying to replace.

X-ray image of the iPhone 7 Plus showing the internal complexity of the device

Figure 6. X-ray image of the iPhone 7 Plus showing the internal complexity of the device

Once the screen is removed, the battery is easily accessible. The Samsung phones, on the other hand, have been decreasing in repairability score. The Galaxy S3 was assembled with a very easy to replace battery. The display was somewhat challenging, but nevertheless achievable. However, the new S7 was built with very high tolerance that make it very difficult to repair because [2]:
• The display needs to be removed (and likely destroyed) if you want to replace the USB port.
• Front and back glass make for double the crackability, and strong adhesive on the rear glass makes it very difficult to gain entry into the device.
• Replacing the glass without destroying the display is probably impossible.


Water Proofing
We foresee water proofing as a major trend that is driving the electronic design and manufacturing of most wearables and smartphones today. The new iPhone 7, for example, is water resistant to IP 67. However, it is not water proof. The distinction is significant, both from a user experience and manufacturability perspectives. The technologies associated with water proofing electronics such as conformal coating design, application, and inspection, will continue to be the focus of future manufacturing R&D.

Battery Technologies
As we can see in Figure 1, batteries still take at least 50% of the real estate inside all modern wearables and smartphones. For this reason, a great deal of R&D is focused on increasing the power density of batteries. A smaller battery directly impacts the amount of features – and sensors – that manufacturers can include in their devices. We foresee that super caps will make their debut in the world of smartdevices in the next 5 years.

Wireless Charging
Apple debuted wireless charging in 2015 with the first edition of the Apple Watch. Although wireless charging has gained mainstream status by other major OEMs – Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, Lenovo – it is still to be found in the iPhone.

Wafer Level Chip Scale Package (WLCSP)
The Apple Watch has one of the densest electronic packages we’ve encountered in our teardowns so far. The system in a package unit (S1 in the 2015 edition of Watch, and S2 for the second edition) is almost fully assembled using WLCSP. As seen in Figure 7, WLCSP is one of the densest packaging technologies available, to the point where the package does not exceed the size of the bare die by more than 20% and solder ball pitch is not larger than 1mm. Handling and assembling these WLCSP devices is a big challenge for SMT contract manufacturers, one that in most cases requires considerable investment in capital equipment for assembly and inspection of these assemblies.

Right: Example of Polymer-RDL WLCSP construction. Left: X-ray inspection of WLCSP package

Figure 7. Right: Example of Polymer-RDL WLCSP construction. Left: X-ray inspection of WLCSP package

The photograph overlaid onto the x-ray of the decapsulated S1 in Figure 8 exposes its array of WLCSP devices and a quick snapshot of the supply chain for the Apple Watch [4].

Apple Watch’s S1 system in a package

Figure 8. Apple Watch’s S1 system in a package

Full Wireless Interface
It is clear that the smartphone industry is leading to the consolidation of the wireless charging standard. Most wearables have already adopted the technology. When water and dust proofing a device, connectors are always the main weak points of the design. Thus, eliminating connectors all together is further incentivized by the need to fully seal the devices, as seen in Figure 9 [2].

Apple Watch 2 after complete teardown showing the full operation of the device via NFC

Figure 9. Apple Watch 2 after complete teardown showing the full operation of the device via NFC

It was surprising to see that the new iPhone doesn’t have a wireless charger, especially when considering that most high-end Android devices already do. However, Apple surprised some users by removing the 3.5mm audio jack. This was, we believe, the first step in the company’s strategy to converge towards a fully wireless architecture for its iPhone line. All battery charging and communications will be done wirelessly, thus removing the need to deploy any connectors in the device. This will further impact the water resistance or proofing rating of the next iPhones. It will also allow Apple to continue pursuing ever thinner devices. We may see such a revolutionary model as early as 2017, when the company is said to bring to market a groundbreaking device for the iPhone’s 10th anniversary.

The new iPhone 7 Plus is equipped with two 12 MP cameras (see Figure 10) – one wide-angle with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), just like in the iPhone 7, the second a telephoto – allow for optical zoom. The multiple camera trend will continue, as improvements in software and image processing will allow companies to leverage different lens modalities to deliver superior user experience. That also means that contract manufacturers ready to take on challenging mechanical assembly jobs will likely benefit from this trend.

Dual 12MP camera from the iPhone 7 Plus

Figure 10. Dual 12MP camera from the iPhone 7 Plus

The pursuit for the increasing storage space will continue. Albeit continuous efforts by all major OEMs to move our data to (paid) cloud storage services, local storage still a growing necessity. Some of this need has been driven by a steady improvement in camera resolution, which continues to require increasing levels of data storage.

The process of tearing down popular consumer electronics will continue as a means to gain some insights on how the large companies work and develop their products. In this paper we presented a few of the ideas we have collected on recent teardowns. The major forces in SMT manufacturing will continue pushing US manufactures toward miniaturization. The number of WLCSP devices we find in major devices continues to grow, which tells us they are on their way to becoming a standard.
The impact of this transformation may not be instantaneous. If you are a small or medium contract manufacturer in the US, for example, you can think that these trends don’t impact you. But they do, and here’s how. Even though your customers are not designing product with WLCSP, they will soon not have an option because the large volume players in the market – and the ones the component manufacturers cater to – will give preference to WLCSP. This is a continuous process, similar to what happened to the thru hole components. We still come across manufacturing companies that are now migrating to surface mount components. Progress is inevitable.

This work would not have been possible without the support from the dedicated team at Creative Electron. The authors would like to thank Creative Electron’s team who allowed us to pursue this work.
We had no contact we any employees of the companies mentioned in this paper to write this articles. All analysis is based on publicly available information.
Special thanks to our friends at ifixit who leads the way to keep us free to fix our gadgets.

[1] Creative Electron website:
[2] ifixit website:
[3] iHS website:
[4] Chipworks website:

Apple Watch 2 Teardown

The day is finally here, the new Apple Watch 2 is also here! Dave is in Australia taking x-rays of the Apple Watch 2 in Sydney while our friends from ifixit are in Tokyo taking the Apple Watch 2 apart. A big thanks to our mates from Circuitwise for letting us use their TruView Prime!


Here’re the x-ray images of the new Apple Watch 2:

Apple Watch 2

We’re running a live teardown of the Apple Watch 2 with ifixit, so check out these links to the amazing x-ray images:

Apple Watch 2

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus Teardowns

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

The day is finally here, the new iPhones are out! Dave is in Australia taking x-rays of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus in Sydney while our friends from ifixit are in Tokyo taking the iPhones apart. A big thanks to our mates from Circuitwise for letting us use their TruView Prime!


Here’re the x-ray images of the new iPhones :



Dave also got some cool videos of the new taptic engine:

iPhone 7 Plus

Our friends at ifixit are running the live teardowns of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Check them out at

We’re running a live teardown of these iPhones with ifixit, so check out these links to the amazing x-ray images:


Samsung Galaxy Charm X-Ray Teardown

The all new Samsung Galaxy Charm is the smallest wearable fitness band we’ve seen so far! That’s why we couldn’t wait to figure out what was inside it. Check out the video for more details:


Samsung Galaxy Charm – Transparent X-Ray
samsung Galaxy Charm x-ray teardown

X-Ray Specs History

German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen is usually credited as the discoverer of X-rays in 1895, because he was the first to systematically study them, though he is not the first to have observed their effects. Roentgen called it “X” to indicate it was an unknown type of radiation. The name stuck, although (over Roentgen’s objections), many of his colleagues suggested calling them Roentgen rays. They are still occasionally referred to as Roentgen rays in German-speaking countries.
The methodology used to create x-ray images is still a matter of confusion to many people. The fact you need an x-ray source and a special x-ray sensor to produce an image makes the fabrication of the infamous “X-Ray Specs” a matter of science fiction. That’s why Chris Baraniuk’s article titled “The Secret History of X-Ray Specs” caught my eyes. The single fact you need to ask the question shines some light on the confusion about the technology. Remember that in the early days some people made money riding the wave of mystery and confusion with “products” like these:

X-Ray Specs Ad

X-Ray Specs Ad

X-Ray Specs Ad

Unfortunately some x-ray companies still rely on these “smoke and mirrors” techniques to sell x-ray machines. That’s why we spend a lot of our time doing the best we can to educate our customers about x-ray inspection. What’s possible, and perhaps more importantly, what’s not possible.

For more information about x-ray specs, and how to get yours, check out Chris’ article here.

Learning at SMTA International

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

SMTA International is right around the corner! We look forward meeting you Sept. 25-29 in Chicago. We’ll be there with our partner Tharium Co. displaying the latest and greatest in x-ray and video inspection. Come to check out an ALL NEW X-Ray Machine in booth 713 and new video systems in booth 239!


X-Ray Inspection Applications Workshop

September 26, 1:30PM – 5:00PM

In this workshop we will cover the manufacturing of the most challenging surface mount parts to assemble and inspect today: LEDs, BGAs, and QFNs. The workshop will focus on the pitfalls of manufacturing and inspecting PCBs with these devices. 

  •   How LED material handling and storage impact assembly performance
  •   LED x-ray inspection: How voids cost you money
  •   Case study: How lack of quality killed a successful LED company
  •   Process design for BGA and QFN assembly and rework
  •   BGA and QFN x-ray inspection: How to see what often goes wrong
  •   X-Ray as a tool for quality process design and control

X-ray Inspection of Lead and Lead-free Solder Joints

September 27, 2:30PM

X-Rays are widely used to inspect solder joints in the electronics industry. As aerospace companies consider the shift to lead-free solder alloys and glues, concerns have been raised about whether their current x-ray inspection and quality-control procedures will still be valid. With lead solder, joints are easily interpreted by the operator or the system imaging software because lead provides excellent image contrasts due to relatively high X-ray absorption compared to that of PCB and component materials.

Industry Intelligence from Teardowns of IoT and Wearables Devices

September 27, 5:00PM

The impulse to break a new gadget to “see what’s inside” is often the first sign someone will become an engineer. However, modern teardowns go far beyond pure curiosity: they provide us critical insights into the nature and construction of these devices. In this talk we will cover the teardown of several IoT and wearable devices, from the early Blackberries to the Apple Watch, to understand how the SMT industry has changed. These findings will also help us forecast where we are going as a community by discussing miniaturization and packaging, automation and labor force location, device features, and other important topics. These are key issues we need to address to keep U.S. SMT manufacturing relevant.

Samsung Note 7 X-Ray Teardown

The all new Samsung Note 7 is an impressive super smartphone. Want to use it under water? No problems, the Note 7 is rated to IP68 water protection. Check the video for more details!


Samsung Note 7 – Transparent X-Ray

Samsung Note 7 – What can we see under X-Ray

Samsung Note 7 – Vibration motor

Samsung Note 7 – USB Type-C and Microphone

Samsung Note 7 – Tip of stylus

Samsung Note 7 – Rear camera

Samsung Note 7 – Loudspeaker

Samsung Note 7 – Dual Front Cameras

Samsung Note 7 – 3.5mm Audiojack

Misfit Ray Impressive X-Ray Teardown

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

The first thing that caught our attention to the new Misfit Ray is how small this activity tracker is. At 1.5″ in length and only 0.5″ in diameter, this little tube houses all the electronics plus the batteries to power the bluetooth radio, 3-axis accelerometer, multicolor LED display, and the piezoelectric vibration. What’s interesting is Misfit’s choice not to use rechargeable batteries. Instead, they opted for the standard 393 button cells you can find at most grocery stores in the US. That choice of battery means that you don’t ever need to recharge the Misfit Ray – thus no need for a connector (which makes sense for a water resistant device) or a recharging circuit (where to put it anyway?). The length is for the most part driven by the average size of a person’s wrist: make it a bit too long and the Misfit Ray will look awkward around your wrist. You can fix that by making the device curve to follow the line of your wrist, but that makes things much more complicated. The cylindric design choice makes to an easy to mechanically fabricated and assembly device – but makes the electronics very challenging! See it for yourself in the following video. Note how the talented engineers at Misfit had to fully utilize the roughy 1/2 inch allocated for the electronics in 3 dimensions. To accomplish that they designed a mezzanine card that sits right on top of the main board. Both boards are connected via a flexible circuit. We extracted the rotation video as a gif so you can appreciated the work of art done by our fellow engineers at Misfit!

Misfit Ray – 360 degree rotation x-ray

BLU R1 HD Teardown – and Some iPhone 7 Insights

The new BLU R1 HD is a very well built Android smartphone from the Florida company BLU. It’s an incredible deal at $50 for Amazon Prime members (if you don’t mind the ads). We got some insights on the new design of the iPhone from the BLU R1, check the video to learn more!
Here’s the complete video with the teardown and some extra x-ray images, enjoy!


Full X-Ray Image of the BLU R1 – Great to Use as Background!

What, Counterfeit Network Equipment?

The counterfeit detection community has spent the past several years developing techniques to determine if an electronic component is fake. Our team has done a lot of work developing x-ray machines and custom algorithms to find counterfeit electronic components. However, we have not been looking for counterfeit components already mounted on the PCB and sold as a finished piece of equipment. In this case the simple replacement of a component for a fake is not the worse case scenario. Things get really worrisome when you consider that this “fake” component can be used as a threat to our cybersecurity.

As an example, the following x-ray images show an authentic memory chip (left) and a counterfeited one (right). Note that externally, when inspecting these components under a microscope, these two devices look identical. Also, they were found in the same reel of components, sitting side by side in neighboring pockets.


Our recent work presented at the latest Symposium on Counterfeit Parts and Materials shows how a TruView x-ray inspection system in conjunction with ICARUS was used to find extra parts added to a network equipment. This work also shows how these devices – and any other – can be inspected inside the box (no need to void manufacturer’s’ warranty) to determine if the device inside the box is what you expect it to be.

Check out these x-ray images, can you tell the differences between them? It’s hard to see given the complexity of these images, so we added a small red box to call your attention to the corner of the image on the right. These two pieces of equipment should look identical on the x-ray, so what is that extra circuitry doing in that corner?


Since this topic is new and there has been a lot of interest from different agencies, we’ve been asked to keep this info under control. Therefore we decided to keep the presentation and white paper from our website. If you’d like a copy please email us at

Counterfeit Electronics Symposium

We’re looking forward to presenting and exhibiting at the upcoming Symposium on Counterfeit Parts and Materials. We’ll be in booth #1. Our paper “The Next Challenge For X-Ray Counterfeit Detection: Electronic Equipment” will show new challenges OEMs are facing with elaborate counterfeit schema.


For the past years our R&D team has presented new algorithms and technologies related to the use of x-ray inspection to identify counterfeit electronic components. Although a critical part of the electronic industry’s value chain, single components are not the only target of criminal enterprises. This year our presentation will focus on another equally important stage of the value chain: electronic equipment. The work presented reflects research and development of hardware, software, and algorithms needed to perform x-ray inspection of routers, switches, and other high monetary value equipment. In specific, we will focus on a case study where a number of routers and switches that were not only counterfeited, but also replaced with other electronics. X-ray images of these devices will be presented, as well as the algorithms utilized to assess the authenticity of these equipment.

TruView Image Processor

by Bill Cardoso in Applications, Technology, x-ray Comments: 0

It’s time to bring your x-ray machine to the 21st century. The all new TruView Image Processor (TruView IP) is here. Now you can use the state of the art TruView 6 software with your Nicolet, FocalSpot, Faxitron – or other brands – x-ray machines. Improve your ability to identify defects in your samples with the comprehensive set of Apps available in the TruView IP package. Contact us today for more details!TruView-Image-Processor

Looking for an Account Manager

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

x-ray Creative Electron designs and manufactures award winning x-ray systems that are used worldwide. We are looking for an account manager to help us with the sales of our x-ray inspection systems and services.
The major responsibilities of this position are:
— Managing a portfolio of accounts.
— Using an existing network of industry contacts to generate new business.
— Achieving sales targets.
— Delivering sales presentations to high-level executives.
— Attending client meetings.
— Maintaining and expanding relationships with existing clients.
— Completing administrative work, as required.
— Completing bookkeeping work related to AR and AP.
— Ability to multitask and thrive in a rapidly changing environment.
Recommended/Desired Qualification for this position include:
— Curiosity is highly valued.
— Degree in business or accounting is desirable, but not necessary.
— 1+ years of relevant experience.

We’re Looking for Talent!

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

TruView™ Flex X-Ray

TruView™ Flex X-Ray

Electro Mechanical Assembler – Tinkerers and Makers Please Apply!

Creative Electron designs and manufactures award winning x-ray systems that are used worldwide. We are looking for an electronics assembler to help us with the manufacturing of our x-ray inspection systems.

The major responsibilities of this position are:
– Electro-mechanical assembly and testing of x-ray system assemblies following detailed work instructions.
– Familiarity and comfort operating machine shop power tools.
– Check product appearance per standard work procedures while meeting all quality standards.
– Maintains a clean work area.
– Rotate throughout all positions on the production line.
– Other duties as assigned by supervisor or lead person.
– Contribute to continuous improvement of production processes.
– Debugs and repairs mechanical assemblies.
– Shipping, receiving, and inventory control tasks as required.
– Sporadic heavy lifting of mechanical parts.
– Ability to multitask and thrive in a rapidly changing environment.

Recommended/Desired Qualification for this position include:
– Curiosity is highly valued.
– EET, BS, or Associates degree in electronics is desirable, but not necessary.
– 1+ years experience testing, and troubleshooting in electronic assembly.
– Working expertise with multimeters, oscilloscopes, and basic test equipment.
– Experience soldering wires and other electronic components is required.
– Experience assembling mechanical parts is required.

TruView™ H – The Horizontal X-Ray Machine

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

There are several applications out there that require the x-ray inspection of vertical samples. For example, if you want to check the fill level in a vial of paint. In this case you can’t lay the sample flat on the stage – which is required in a vertical system (most x-ray machines out there). Instead, in the TruView™ H the x-ray source and sensor are placed in such a way that the beam is horizontal, thus allowing the sample to be inspected standing up. For more details please visit TruView™ H X-Ray Inspection System.

TruView™ XL – Big Boards, Great Solution

The TruView™ XL X-Ray Machine was designed to inspect large printed circuit boards – up to 20″x40″. If you have one of these large panels to inspect, options are limited. To meet these requirements we added side boxes to our Number Series cabinet to give you the extra room. You deserve it. Here’s more details about the TruView™ XL X-Ray Inspection System.

TruView XL

Industry Veteran Joins Creative Electron

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron, Sales, x-ray Comments: 0

San Marcos, CA – Creative Electron, Inc., a leading American manufacturer of x-ray inspection systems announced today that David Phillips joined the company as Customer Service Manager. A seasoned veteran in the x-ray inspection market, David brings to Creative Electron over 22 years of management and customer service experience fostering positive professional relationships with a variety of diversified clients.

A veteran in the x-ray market, David previously worked in similar roles at FocalSpot, SAIC, Teradyne, and Nicolet. “I’m excited to join this incredible team at Creative Electron. Since they design and fabricate all TruView x-ray machines out of our facility in California, customer service is easy since all software and hardware knowledge is in one place. And I’ll continue working to support the hundreds of customers who own Nicolet, FocalSpot, and Faxitron legacy systems – as I’ve been doing for the past 20 years.”

“Upon our acquisition of the legacy service business from Matrix-FocalSpot, Dave’s experience with the FocalSpot, Nicolet, and Faxitron customers is fundamental in establishing Creative Electron as the only authorized service provider for these legacy systems,” said Griffin Lemaster, Creative Electron’s VP of Engineering. “Dave will also be instrumental in servicing our TruView x-ray customers, especially as we keep up with the tremendous growth we had in the past two years.”

For more information and to learn how you can request service for your x-ray machine, please contact Creative Electron at 760.752.1192, email us at, or contact us online at

Amazon Tap Teardown

That Amazon Tap is Amazon’s latest step in its pursuit to fully connect us to information. This portable Alexa-enabled speaker is here to make your life easier. Need to know how hot is it going to be this weekend, or the score of the game – just ask Alexa. I’m not sure how quickly will people adapt this new technology, but I can see some of its merits. Anyway, what’s inside is what counts, so here’s ifixit’s teardown of the Amazon Tap with our x-ray images. Enjoy!


More About Wearables This Week!

This week we’ll cross the country giving presentations about wearables in San Diego on Tuesday (4/26) and Philadelphia on Wednesday and Thursday (4/27-28). We look forward to seeing you there!

IMAPS San Diego: “Teardowns of IoT and Wearable Devices”

Tuesday, April 26th at 12:00 PM.  Lunch will be provided.

Qualcomm Bldg. R

10185 McKellar Ct   San Diego, CA 92121-4233

Space is limited to 30 participants, please register asap.

ACI Tech Expo: “Apple Watch Teardown”

Wednesday, April 27th at 4:00 PM.

Thursday, April 28th at 9:30AM.

ACI Technologies, Inc.

1 International Plaza, Suite 600

Philadelphia, PA 19113

Apple Watch Teardown – SMTA San Diego and LA/OC

Join us this week as we discuss Apple’s latest wearable – the Apple Watch. We will see what makes the Apple Watch tick. We’ll also see the inside of many other devices.

We look forward to seeing you – register today!

Wednesday, April 20 at 5:30PM  – Creative Electron, San Marcos, CA

Thursday, April 21 at 6:00PM – JT Schmid’s Restaurant & Brewery, Anaheim, CA



The LG G5 Teardown

Today we had a chance to image the new LG G5. Our friends at ifixit did a great job tearing it down, as you can see here. The G5 got an amazing grade for repairability, so that’s the phone to have if you like to get your hands dirty.

Interested seeing inside the G5? Thought you’d never ask…

Battery in…


…battery out. Nice feature!


How does the LG G5 stack against iPhones? Right in the middle!


iPad Pro 9.7″ Teardown

The new iPad from Apple packs the same power of the larger iPad Pro in a much smaller footprint.



Here’s the complete video with the teardown and some extra x-ray images, enjoy!


iPhone SE Teardown: Small is the New Big

The new iPhone from Apple is an improved iPhone 5S. The 4″ device looks very similar to its predecessors – the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S, as the following video clearly shows:



Here’s the complete video with the teardown and some extra x-ray images, enjoy!


The All New TruView Prime S

We are happy to share with you that today we launched the all new TruView Prime S. Designed to x-ray larger objects – up to 17″x17″ – that require low magnification, the TruView Prime S is the ideal x-ray machine for applications including seed inspection, NDT, forensics, parts counting, counterfeit detection, animal imaging, and plenty more. For more information please click here and contact us if you’d like more information.

APEX 2016: The Making of

As we head back to California from another amazing IPC APEX show in Vegas, we thought it would be interesting to write a bit about all it takes to make a show like that happen. It all starts months prior to the show. Tom spends a lot of time figuring out the logistics so that everything is ready for our team when they land in Vegas. We drive our delivery trucks – good old F150’s – with the machines we will exhibit plus all the marketing materials we give away.

The exhibit started on Tuesday, so we loaded the trucks early Monday at 3AM. Here’s a shot of our team (Griffin and Jesse shown here) hard at work early that morning loading one of the trucks with a TruView 200.



Early Monday morning we started our journey to Las Vegas, which took us around 6 hours!


The work to assemble the booth starts as soon as we got there. As you can see, Brian and Griffin were diligently at work making sure everything is good to go.


Our friends from Tharium Corporation were there as well. Francisco Sanchez did a great job demonstrating the new image comparison features of the IRIS camera!


The show was very successful. It was a great opportunity to meet new people and to catch up face to face with our sales representatives from around the world. Thursday afternoon, after the show was over, it was time to pack it all up again and head back home. We were done packing the trucks around 5 that day; ready for another 6h drive to SoCal!

Things were going great until the GPS in one of the trucks stopped working around Barstow. It was not a bigger problem because the driver was very familiar with the way back from Vegas. The GPS unit is powered from the 12V power source inside the cabin, which for some reason stopped working – likely due to a faulty fuse. Needless to say the first thing when we arrived in the office was to x-ray that fuse!


There you have it! It was a 20A fuse that blew half way back home. Looking in the interwebs it seems that this is a common issue with the F150. But nothing that a quick visit to Pep Boys didn’t solve.

For those we only see at the IPC APEX shows, we are looking forward seeing you again next year here in San Diego. In the meantime, be well, do good work, and keep in touch!

Epinephrine Auto-Injector Teardown

For millions of people around the world, having an Epinephrine auto-injector can mean the difference between life and death. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Epinephrine injection is used along with emergency medical treatment to treat life-threatening allergic reactions caused by insect bites or stings, foods, medications, latex, and other causes. Epinephrine is in a class of medications called alpha- and beta-adrenergic agonists (sympathomimetic agents). It works by relaxing the muscles in the airways and tightening the blood vessels.

According to,  2.45 billion of these syringe units were sold in 2011 with an expected  3.59 billion to be sold in 2015. Pre-filled syringes form one of the fastest growing markets in healthcare.The devices contain a spring-loaded needle that exits the tip of the device (in some cases through a sterile membrane) and penetrates the recipient’s skin, to deliver the medication via intramuscular injection.

To show you how these incredible devices work, we did the teardown of one of the most Epinephrine Auto-Injectors in the market, the Epipen®. As you can see in the following x-ray image, there are 5 key parts of this auto-injector. Let’s start from the top of the Epipen® (5), which is the actuator (or button) you press to trigger the pen. This trigger releases a powerful spring (4) that can apply several pounds of force to release the medication inside the syringe (3). This force also causes the needle (2) to exit the auto-injector and penetrate the patient’s skin. To absorb some of that impact, the release spring (1) takes some of that shock to provide the patient with a smooth experience (similar to the shock absorbers in your car).



There’s a lot of information on this topic online. We found the Mayo Clinic website specially useful.



EpiPen® is a registered trademark owned by the Mylan companies

Meet the Doc in Dallas!

This Thursday you’ll have a chance to meet our own Dr. Glen Thomas in Dallas, TX during the SMTA Expo and Forum. Dr. Thomas will present the Apple Watch teardown and discuss how teardowns can help us figure out where the industry is going.

Here are the details:

Location: Plano Centre
2000 E. Spring Creek Pkwy
Plano, TX 75074

8:30AM – 9:15AM
Teardown: Why is it Important to See What’s Inside Our Gadgets?
Dr. Glenn Thomas, Creative Electron
The impulse to break a new gadget to “see what’s inside” is often the first sign someone will become an engineer. However, modern teardowns go far beyond pure curiosity: they provide us critical insights into the nature and construction of these devices. In this talk we will cover the teardown of several gadgets, from the early Blackberries to the Apple Watch, to understand how the SMT industry has changed. These findings will also help us forecast where we are going as a community by discussing miniaturization and packaging, automation and labor force location, device features, and other important topics. These are key issues we need to address to keep U.S. SMT manufacturing relevant.

Find Counterfeit Components with TruView X-Ray Inspection Reel-to-Reel

The success of our global economy relies on the free flow of information and products across multiple geographical boundaries. In a networked society, markets transcend political borders to reach every corner of the globe. With such connectivity come serious challenges to protect the homeland from foreign and domestic threats. The influx of counterfeit electronic components in our supply chain is an ever-increasing threat to our economy. The latest report issued by the US Department of Commerce states that the number of counterfeit incidents almost tripled between 2005 and 2008.

Radiography (or x-ray inspection) is a ubiquitous technique to all recent and upcoming counterfeit component detection standards, including IDEA 1010B, CCAP 101, AS5553, AS6081, and AS6171. X-ray inspection gives you the unique ability to “see” what is inside an electronic component without damaging it.

TruView X-Ray Inspection Reel-to-Reel System

TruView X-Ray inspection system with embedded Reel-to-Reel System

Our team has been working for several years to bring to market solutions that allow our customers to inspect 100% of parts in tape and reel, tubes, and trays. We are proud to share with you today that another major step in our patent-pending Reel-to-Reel (R2R) system was completed: it is faster than ever! Not long ago it took our R2R over 30 minutes to inspect 1,000 parts. That was a breakthrough at the time, but we were not satisfied. Continuous work on this technology have lead us to a new R2R system that can inspect up to 1,000 parts in 5 minutes. This performance allows our partners to drive up inspection of components, thus greatly reducing the chances counterfeit components will be inserted in the supply chain. For more details please take a look at the following video:

The Pencil X-Ray Teardown

by Bill Cardoso in Applications, Technology, x-ray Comments: 0

In a world of Apple Pencils and styluses, sometimes we forget the the old writing instruments that have almost been completely replaced by finger swipes and keyboards. Although I consider myself a geek at heart, I still carry around an old style paper notebook to write ideas and to do lists. Nothing better to share your ideas with than a clean sheet of paper. And the mechanical pencil is your best friend there! So today we will look in detail on how this nice mechanical pencil is built, starting with a couple of animations showing the action of pushing the lead out.



Now in more detail so you can observe the mechanism at the end of the pencil. Isn’t it incredible the fine mechanics in this piece?



Here are some other images of details around the pencil, starting with the clip at the end of the pencil:


And the eraser end and its attachment to the pencil:



Finally a close look at the lead and its control mechanism:


Your Life In X-Rays – New Book Release


We’re super excited to share with you that our new book, “Your Life in X-Rays”, will be out soon. We’ve received the first prototypes and they look great! The book has over 50 cool x-ray images of everyday items, from coffee makers to laptops to cellphones. This beautiful coffee table book is a great gift to give the geek in your life. It’s also a fantastic option for Valentine’s Day!

The production units will be available soon. The book is 12″x8″ and has 30 gorgeous glossy pages with over 50 x-ray images – including the x-ray images in our Gallery. “Your Life in X-Rays” is available for sale now for $39.99. Free shipping is available for orders in the US.

Contact us to order your copy.

We’re Hiring!


Creative Electron had a fantastic 2015, and we’re expecting an even better 2016. To keep us in this growth trajectory, we need more super talented people to join our team. If you’re passionate about developing and building the best x-ray machines in the world, Creative Electron is the place to be. With a pet friendly policy (Jesse and Harper in the photo) and unlimited vacation time, we do have a good time creating technology. Learn more about it at our Open Opportunities page.

X-Ray Image Gallery

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

The first blog of the year celebrates our new line of large panel detectors with a new TruView X-Ray Image Gallery! These large panels give us a huge field of view, which allow us to image pretty much anything you can imagine (and we’ve tried, check the gallery). These panels can be placed in any of our cabinets – from the TruView Cube to the TruView SRT – and are fantastic solutions to applications that need the large field of view. These applications include non-destructive evaluation, seed inspection, small animal imaging, industrial inspection, parts placement and presence, and many others.

Here’s a little taste of what these machines can show you… every single iPhone ever made in one single shot!

Click here for the whole gallery. Enjoy, and contact us if you have any questions.

TruView SRT: Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication


As it is true with most technology companies, our R&D team works tirelessly in the development of algorithms, software, and hardware that improves our products. In this continues – and perhaps limitless –  pursuit of a “better” product, we must be careful not to loose touch with the end user. We live in a very pragmatic world populated by educated users who come to us with deep knowledge of their needs. For that reason, sometimes the biggest technological advances come in the simplicity of the machines we make.

We designed the TruView SRT with a “less is more” motto. An interface with a few discrete push buttons replaces the traditional keyboard/mouse user interface. A minimalist software design replaces the app driven environment of TruView 6. We recognize that some users need a Swiss Army knife and some only need a good screwdriver. The TruView SRT is a plugin system ready for action!

Check the introductory video for more information, and as usual, contact us if you have any questions.

TruView™ SRT Introduction Video

Apple Pencil Teardown with X-Rays

It’s finally here, the all new Apple Pencil! The perfect companion for your iPad Pro. What’s inside the Apple Pencil you ask? Well, check it out!


Apple Pencil – The Tip




Cool Animation Showing the X-Ray of the tip


Apple Pencil – Control Board



Apple Pencil – The End


iPad Pro Teardown with X-Rays

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

It’s finally here, the iPad Pro is ready to be taken apart. Check out the guts of the iPad Pro with x-rays – and check the size of those batteries! For more details, check out


Tharium Selling TruView X-Ray in Mexico

We’re really excited to share with you that Tharium Corporation started selling our TruView X-Ray inspection systems in Mexico. This is an exclusive deal that will allow Tharium to not only provide Mexico with a local sales team, but more importantly, a competent local technical team. Here’s a word from our friend Francisco Sanchez, Tharium’s General Manager: “We are thrilled with the opportunity to offer and service the award winning TruView X-Ray inspection systems in Mexico. I’ve been working in the manufacturing industry in Mexico for 20 years, and the TruView equipment by far offers the highest price to performance ratio in the market. What’s more exciting is our ability to tap into Creative Electron’s R&D team in California to customize solutions to our customers.”

Tharium offers other products as well, including rework stations, vision products, magnifying lenses, and AOI machines. For more information please visit their website at

Francisco can be reached at

Fun with X-Rays!

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

We had a great time having fun with x-rays this last weekend. As advertised, we offered free Halloween x-ray inspection in our facility in San Marcos, CA. The main purpose of this activity was to show kids (and their parents) the joy and beauty of x-ray inspection. Dozens of kids were able to see, for the first time, x-rays in action! If one of the them decides to follow a STEM career because of this experience – mission accomplished!

Of course candy wasn’t the only thing we x-rayed, after all it was time to experiment. Several toys were inspected in the process, including Thomas the train, BB8, and Hot Wheels cars, and much more. Check out some of the images we got. We look forward to another Halloween x-ray inspection session next year!

Airplane Toy




Thomas the Train


Free Halloween Candy X-Ray

Over the years we’ve seen several reports of criminals inserting foreign objects in Halloween candy. For that reason we use x-rays to make sure the candy our kids collect is safe for consumption. This year we decided to offer this service to the whole community. If you’d like to have you kid’s candy inspected with x-rays, please come by our facility in San Marcos this Sunday, November 1, from 9AM to 11AM. We’re located at 253 Pawnee St., San Marcos, CA. If you like more information, feel free to contact us here. This is not only an opportunity to check candy for foreign objects, but also a chance to show your kids how x-rays work. We look forward to seeing you this Sunday!

To give you an idea of what we can see if x-rays, check these images of what an innocent Snickers or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup can hide!


Halloween candy x-ray: Snickers bar with needle


Halloween candy x-ray: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup with razor blade

Although both examples are simulated, I can’t imagine finding these objects in my kids’ bowl of candy like other parents have! Here’s an example of the x-ray of the whole bowl showing the needle and the razor blade.


What can we find inside Halloween candy using x-rays?

Before we get into the details of what we can and cannot see inside our kids’ candy, let’s review how x-ray imaging works. A special source located underneath the candy produces x-ray photons (x-rays photons are similar to visible light photons, but they vibrate at different frequencies) that travel thru the candy and reach a special sensor located on top of the candy. Unlike visible light, these x-ray photons travel go thru matter. However, we can tune the energy of the x-rays so they stop at some heavy materials (like metals), thus creating a shadow on the sensor. Now imagine we collect a bunch of these x-rays and create a image based on the density of the material they are travelling thru. Like you can see in the above image, the heavy parts of the candy are darker than the light parts of the candy. The metal foreign objects can be seen because they stop almost all x-rays, thus creating a very dark profile of the object (see the needle and the razor blade). What’s really cool is that we can also see the peanuts inside the Snickers bar and little air bubbles inside the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup! What we can’t see, however, include materials that don’t cast a shadow with the x-ray light. That includes poisons, paper, aluminum, plastic, and other light materials. Like everything in life, technology can’t replace good judgement. X-rays can help us some things, but not absolutely everything a criminal might decide to insert in a candy.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Teardown

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

Microsoft, we’re ready to be impressed! The Surface Pro 4 has impressive specs, and with the high end devices going for over $2,600, we’re ready not to be disappointed. What better way to figure out what the Surface is made of then tearing it down?! And that’s what we did with our good friends at ifixit!

Check the teardown here.


Apple Watch Teardown with X-Rays

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

X-ray Inspection Tutorial at SMTA International

As we prepare to head back to California after a great week in Chicago, we thought it would be nice to share with you the slides we presented at the SMTA International Conference. Our thanks to the SMTA team for organizing another fantastic conference and expo.


Dr. Thomas and Dr. Cardoso presented our tutorial this year. A total of 6 presentations were covered, and slides you can find in the following links. For those who were able to join us this year, our sincere appreciation! We hope to see you again soon!

X-Ray Inspection and Applications

Apple Watch Teardown and More!

How to Find Defects in SMT Electronics Manufacturing

LED, BGA, and QFN Assembly and Inspection: Case Studies

New Algorithms to Improve X-Ray Inspection

Statistical Process Control for SMT Electronic Manufacturing

iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus Teardown!

The day is finally here, the new iPhones are out! Jesse is in Australia taking x-rays of the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus in Sydney while our friends from ifixit are in Melbourne taking the iPhones apart. A big thanks to our mates from Circuitwise for letting us use their TruView Prime!


Here’re the x-ray images of the new iPhones near their predecessors:

iPhone6-and-iPhone6S iPhone6Plus-and-iPhone6SPlus

Jesse also got some cool videos of the new taptic engines:

iPhone 6S

iPhone 6S Plus

We’re running a live teardown of these iPhones with ifixit, so check out these links to the amazing x-ray images:



Radiation Damage on Electronic Components

by Bill Cardoso in Applications, Technology, x-ray Comments: 0

Electronic components can survive a high amount of radiation exposure. We get asked from time to time if their x-ray inspection system will in any way negatively change the parts they’re inspecting.  The answer is no, but to better qualify it, we put together some slides to go over the details.

Presentation at SMTA Capital Chapter

Sony A7R II Teardown with X-Rays

The ifixit team pulled another incredible teardown. The Sony a7R II is the second generation of professional mirrorless interchangeable lens camera from the japanese manufacturer. It’s definitely not cheap: the $3,199 price tag will likely scare away the casual photographer. Check out the complete teardown here.



The All New TruView Flex is Here!

It took us a while, but the TruView Flex is finally here! For those who have not been part of this development, the TruView Flex is a unique x-ray inspection system because it can be used as an offline  or as an inline machine. It has shutters on both sides of the machine and a conveyor belt inside, so that we insert a sample from one side, perform a full automated inspection of the sample, and spill it out from the other side. In offline mode, the system automatically closes the shutters so that you can run a manual or automated inspection using the joystick in front of the system. We also added a pass through mode so that the TruView Flex behaves like a standard conveyor belt to move the samples from one side to the other.


Let us know if you have any questions about the TruView Flex. You can call us at 760.751.1192, emails us here, or chat live with us right here –>.

OnePlus 2 = Awesome Teardown

Here’s another awesome teardown with our great friends at iFixit.  The OnePlus 2 is the OnePlus’ newest venture in the world of smartphones. The self proclaimed “Flagship Killer”, the OnePlus 2 (can we call it 3?) has very competitive specs. Starting at $329, this is an interesting option to those looking for an Android experience.

Here’s one of the x-ray images you’ll find in the teardown. One of the highly publicized items of the OnePlus 2 is its 13MP camera. Wonder what OnePlus has to say about it?

“Despite being a go-to measure for smartphone cameras, megapixels fail to tell the whole story. The true test of a camera is the quality of its image sensor and optics. Our sensor contains large 1.3µm light-collecting pixels—the biggest ever in a 13MP smartphone camera—for unmatched low-light performance. A six-element lens prevents distortion, making sure that photos are clear and crisp. Day or night, make every shot beautiful.”

And here it is from the inside out!



Guess what the OnePlus 2 looks when taken apart? No need to guess, here it is.



For these and much more, check out the complete teardown here. And don’t miss the amazing video:

Inside the Amazon Dash Button – X-Ray Teardown

The new Amazon Dash Button – now available to Prime members – is the ultimate step in convenience shopping. If you haven’t seen it yet, the Amazon Dash Button allows you to buy a specific product – in this case Huggies diapers – at the click of a button. This little device communicates to your Amazon Prime account using the local WIFI network. The setup of the device is easy, all you need is a smartphone (iPhone or Android) with the Amazon App. Follow a few steps, and your account settings are sent to the Dash Button using the speaker of your phone to the microphone in the Dash. You can actually hear as your data is sent to the Dash!

Now let’s look inside this new Amazon device, starting with a 360 rotation of the Dash and the animated overlay:




1. Negative side of AAA battery – note 2 of the 3 screws used to keep the Dash together


2. Detail profile of the push button, and a profile of the PCB showing its many copper layers 



3. A side view of the complex electronics that drive the Amazon Dash Button


4. Side view of the positive side of the battery. 

5. Top view of the positive side of the Dash’s AAA battery. At the edge is the microphone used to receive the configuration data from your smartphone



6. Top view of the negative side of the AAA battery

7. Detailed electronics – WIFI radio, power supply module, and the dedicated microprocessor that turns a push button into a buying machine


Creative Electron Granted Patent for Acoustic Mirror Array

We’re happy to report that we’ve been granted patent US 9084057 titled “Compact acoustic mirror array system and method”.  Microphone or sound detecting systems typically comprise a single microphone physically encased in an isotropic material (e.g., wood or plastic) with an open aperture for omnidirectional or for hemispherical sensitivity. Consequently, the bulk of improvements in modern microphoning technology have primarily been directed to developing better microphonic circuits (e.g., amplifiers, signal processing) or to better microphonic hardware (e.g., piezoelectrics or electromagnetic microphones). Accordingly, there has not been any significant advancement in the use and configuration of specialized materials for the microphone casing or for lensing/amplifying effects.

Therefore, there has been a long-standing need in the sound and microphoning community for new methods and systems that address these and other deficiencies, as further detailed below.

The following presents a simplified summary in order to provide a basic understanding of some aspects of the claimed subject matter. This summary is not an extensive overview, and is not intended to identify key/critical elements or to delineate the scope of the claimed subject matter. Its purpose is to present some concepts in a simplified form as a prelude to the more detailed description that is presented later.

In one aspect of the disclosed embodiments, a microphoning assembly is provided, comprising: a sound directing structure having an acoustic focus, a portion of the structure having a sound-affecting physical property that that directs a wave front of incoming sound to the focus; and a microphone situated substantially proximate to the focus to pick up the directed sound, wherein an increase of at least 10 dB is experienced at the microphone as compared to non-directed sound.

In another aspect of the disclosed embodiments, a method of enhancing the detection of sound is provided, comprising: forming a sound directing structure having an acoustic focus, a portion of the structure having a sound-affecting physical property that that directs a wave front of incoming sound to the focus; and situating a microphone substantially proximate to the focus to pick up the directed sound, wherein an increase of at least 10 dB is experienced at the microphone as compared to non-directed sound.

Time Magazine and the GoPro Teardown

iPod Touch 6th Generation Teardown

by Bill Cardoso in Applications, Technology, x-ray Comments: 0

Did you think one teardown a week is much? Not to our friends at ifixit! With warping speed they were able to fit another incredible teardown this week – the all new iPod Touch 6th generation. Some say this is the first glance at a new iPhone form factor coming out in September. This 4″ display iPhone would join the lineup with the larger 4.7″ and 5.5″. Will they call it the new 5S? Or the brand new iPhone 6 minus? Until we find out, don’t miss the teardown here.


Full rotation of the iPod Touch 6th generation in x-rays!

GoPro Hero4 Session Teardown

This week our good friends at ifixit ran an awesome teardown of the new GoPro Hero4 Session camera. Don’t miss this incredible teardown. You won’t believe what it took to open this camera. Here’s the link to the full teardown.

 GoPro-x-rayFull rotation of the GoPro Hero4 Session camera in x-rays!

What’s Inside Your Wallet?

This week we will take a look at an item ubiquitous to all of us: credit cards. Not sure if you noticed, but the old credit card that you used to swipe at the store is slowly being replaced by Smart Cards that you instead insert in the payment machine. Perhaps Smart Cards will be obsolete before taking over if the electronic wallets of Apple, Google, PayPal, and others take off fast enough. Since the adoption rate of electronic payment system (e.g. Apple Watch) is reasonably slow, the Smart Card has a fighting chance. After all, the Smart Card Alliance estimates 600 million Smart Cards will be in use by the end of 2015 in the US alone.


The “smarts” in the Smart Card come from the tiny microchip embedded in the card, as you can see on the left top corner of the following image. As usual, we give you the photo of the card overlaid with the x-ray of the card.


Smart Card x-ray image and photo

So why bother putting a tiny microchip in your credit card? Other than being super cool to we geeks out there, this microchip was designed to reduce the ability of criminals to steal your credit card. How? Simple: the old credit card has a magnetic strip with all your data (remember old cassette tapes – similar technology). Well, to copy or clone your credit card all the criminal needs to do is to read the data in the magnetic strip and record it into a blank card. Voila, your card has now a twin sister!

To make criminals’ life harder, the microchip in the Smart Card generates a new code each time you use it. Once used, the code is no longer valid. This code is specially generated so that the credit card companies know it’s your card being used. It’s useless for the thief to steal the code, since it changes with every use. Pretty cool, right?! Here are more details of the chip itself, and the little wires that connect the chip to the pads on the credit card. These are the golden looking areas on the corner of the card. They are used to complete the electrical contact between the payment machine at the cashier and the microchip inside the card.


X-Ray image of microchip inside Smart Card


X-Ray image of wirebond connecting parts of the Smart Card to microchip pads


I’m sure you won’t see your credit cards the same way again. And please use your card responsibly!


Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of the Perfect X-Ray Machine

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

liberty-bell-xray-labelX-ray of the Liberty Bell – Courtesy of National Parks Service

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Jefferson’s phrase in the 1776 Declaration of Independence is undeniably one of the key pillars of the American project. Strangely enough, that was the first time in history that anyone had bothered to write it down. This phrase also explains the key driving force of this nation: meritocracy.

Meritocracy is the idea that your age, gender, race, education, and your job history don’t determine who you are or what you can do. Instead, your destiny is driven by your creativity and work ethic. The ability to recognize an opportunity, and to act on it efficiently, trumps all other factors. If you can get the job done, people don’t really care where you come from. Meritocracy is the core driving force in the company I founded a few years ago, Creative Electron. I’ve found meritocracy to be an effective guiding principle to keep us focused on what’s important: our customers.

It was with these principles of freedom and meritocracy in mind that a few months ago we set to develop the next generation of x-ray software to power our TruView X-Ray Inspection Systems. The main change we made was to open the TruView Software to the scientific community. TruView 6 X-Ray Software has the capacity to harness the invaluable amount of untapped talent because it serves as a core software platform (similar to the iOS or Android operational systems in your smartphone). TruView 6 builds on these experiences to leverage crowdsourcing so that scientists can write Apps and share them in our TruView App Store (once approved by our team to assure the quality and security of the code).

To think about crowdsourcing as a creative source to your company can be scary at first. But going back to what I said about customer centricity, our goal is to provide our customers with the best possible x-ray machine. Thus, why not allow our TruView software to be a development platform for talented scientists and researchers? Why not leverage the immense power of the scientific community to bring these ideas to our customers? In his “Crowdsourcing” book, Jeff Howe writes, “crowdsourcing has the potential to correct a long-standing human conundrum. The amount of knowledge and talent dispersed among the numerous members of our species has always vastly outstripped our capacity to harness those invaluable quantities”.

In the first few days since its launch, the requests from top universities and research laboratories to develop Apps for the TruView platform is a fantastic validation that crowdsourcing works. It’s also validation that all the efforts and investments to develop TruView 6 will pay off. In the end, what really matters is that our customers will greatly benefit from the creation of new apps that will meet their every x-ray inspection need.

A small team in Southern California develops every TruView product. We all share the same office. We also share an obsession for building the best x-ray machines in the world. TruView 6 is allowing us to meet like-minded passionate people with incredible ideas, and we welcome them to our team! I love the fact that our small team can now harness the creative power of the crowd to deliver amazing products to our customers. I love the fact we can share the principles of freedom and meritocracy worldwide, and to continue to brand every one of our TruView X-Ray Inspection systems “Proudly Designed and Made in USA”.

What are your experiences with crowdsourcing? Please comment and share your thoughts on the matter.

The All New TruView 6

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

This week we start a new phase in the history of x-ray inspection. For the first time ever, TruView 6 X-Ray will allow researchers and developers to create new apps and sell them at the TruView App Store. For the first time ever, you will be able to design the x-ray machine you need – not what we think you do. Read on at TruView 6 X-Ray Software and TruView App Store.


Fitbit Charge HR Teardown with X-Rays

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0


Today we get to teardown the super popular Fitbit Charge HR. This is an elegant and simple smartwatch/fitness band – a major contrast to the exuberance of the Apple Watch. Of course, the tiny display in the Fitbit is no comparison to the gorgeous display of the Apple Watch. Albeit its simplicity, the Fitbit Charge HR packs a lot of technology: full time heart rate monitoring, caller ID, exercise tracking, and wireless syncing. All that with an incredible battery that lasts almost 6 days. I specially like how thin the Fitbit Charge HR, making it an easy accessory to use everyday.

Let’s start by checking out these animations that overlay the x-ray image of the Fitbit Charge HR with its photos:

Top View



Side View


The first x-ray image we took of the Fitbit Charge HR, looking from the top of the device, shows the two large mounting screws on the top of the image. The “G” like structure you see on the center looks like the antenna used to wirelessly sync data. The large IC right below it seems to be communication IC in a QFN package, which by the way has a fair amount of voiding… as you can see in our X-Ray University,  large amount of voids underneath a QFN can lead to excessive running temperatures and shorter IC lifespans.


The Fitbit Charge HR uses a traditional rotary vibration motor, as seen in the following x-ray image. The darker area around the shaft is the weight used to vibrate when the motor is turned on.


This nice image of the heart of the Fitbit Charge HR shows the complex electronics packaged in the device. The larger BGA in the top left of the image shows the main control IC. Those horizontal lines on the center of the image are nothing but the connector used to interface the main board to the display.



Here’s a nice detail of the pushbutton on the side of the Fitbit Charge HR. Note the mechanical reinforcement soldered to the board. That large dark circle on the bottom left is one of the two charging pins. More about that later.


This beautiful image shows a side view of the Fitbit Charge HR, in the exact place where the battery connects to the main board. The battery is the large object on the right of the x-ray with the several horizontal layers. The vibration motor can be seen on the left of the image.


Here’s a very nice image showing the charging pins of the Fitbit Charge HR. Look carefully and you can see the little springs inside the pins, which provide mechanical compliance to the device when Fitbit Charge HR is connected to the charging cable. The heart rate monitor can be seen on the top of the image, while the bottom of the image shows the OLED display.


Hope you enjoyed it, let us know what else would you like to see us teardown.

LG G4 Teardown with X-Rays

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0


Last week we spent some quality time with our friends at tearing down the new LG G4.  Other than the genuine leather finish, the G4 packs an incredible set of specs that include a beautiful 5.5” display with 2560 x 1440 of resolution (Quad HD – 538 ppi), a removable battery, and up to 2TB in the microSD card. It’s clear LG designed the G4 to cater to the users who complained about Samsung’s decision to drop the replaceable battery and microSD card on the new Galaxy S6. To make the point clear, LG is offering a free 32GB microSD card and an extra battery pack, if you buy your G4 by the end of the month.

The G4 looks great on the outside – let’s see how does it look inside!



Rear and Front Facing Cameras


Vibration Motor


For more details about the LG G4 teardown please visit


How does WISE improve x-ray inspection?

X-ray inspections need good quality images so that features in the material can be observed. The Wavelet Image Spectra Enhancement (WISE) technique was developed as a set of powerful filters designed to improve the quality of x-ray images. The overall quality of these images is critical to a successful  x-ray inspection. In this paper we describe…

How Radiation Detectors Work?


In today’s post we’ll review how radiation detectors work – from Geiger counters to spectrometers. Enjoy!RadiationSign-sm


For more educational videos please visit the X-Ray University.

Jawbone UP24 X-Ray Teardown

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

As we wait for the release of the Apple Watch later this month, in today’s teardown we take a look at the new Jawbone 24UP “lifestyle tracking” wristband. This device is a very interesting example of electronic packaging. All electronics are mounted on a flexible circuit wrapped around a carbon-steel spring. Here’s a photo of the UP24 and its x-ray image.


For more information, check our video at X-Ray University:





 The Main Parts of the Jawbone UP24JawboneUp24-X-Ray1

 3 Axis Accelerometer


3.5mm Audio Plug




Battery Charger




Vibration Motor


Push Button and Status Light


Serial Flash Memory


RF Connectors in Low Temperature

by Bill Cardoso in Applications, Technology, x-ray Comments: 0

In the world of superconductivity, it is true that “the colder the better”. Although electrons enjoy the freedom of cryogenic temperatures, the same cannot be said to connectors. Dr. Marcos Turqueti, from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL) has to deal with the challenges of interfacing to very cold electronics. In recent work with Griffin Lemaster, Creative Electron’s VP of Engineering, Dr. Turqueti is exploring x-ray inspection as a means to “see” inside the connectors at cryogenic temperatures. “Our objective is to determine if the cold temperature will create any disruption in the utilization of these RF connectors,” said Griffin. “For this reason we take images of the connectors at room temperature and compare to the x-ray images takes at lower temperatures”. As seen in the following image (taken using the Dual Energy Software), it is clear when the connection inside the couple connectors break.


For more information about this study and all other ongoing research at Creative Electron, please contacts us at or call us at 760.752.1192.

Statistical Analysis to Improve Manufacturing Process

You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure: How Statistical Analysis Help Improve Your Manufacturing Process

We recently launched a new automated x-ray inspection system called the TruView AXI. This machine, other than able to take beautiful x-ray images, was also designed to collect important data about your manufacturing process. In this video we go over the details on how to collect relevant metrics on your product. We also describe how to build a set of important metrics on a dashboard that is critical in diagnosing problems with your SMT line.

Free Webinar: LED, BGA, and QFN Assembly and X-Ray Inspection

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

LED, BGA, and QFN Assembly and Inspection Tutorial

LED, BGA, and QFN Assembly and Inspection Webinar

WEDNESDAY | APRIL 8, 2015 | 10AM PST | 30MIN

It’s time for another session of our popular free webinar “LED, BGA, and QFN Assembly and X-Ray Inspection”. For this edition we have added a couple of new topics, including a case study on counterfeit components and examples of statistical analysis to improve your manufacturing process.

Seats are limited, so please register today! This is a great opportunity to learn more about SMT assembly and inspection – with the added benefit it’s free!

More information and registration here, or call us at +1.760.752.1192. We look forward to hearing from you!

Creative Electron launches new TruView AXI

Creative Electron launched its new line of automated x-ray inspection (AXI) equipment at the 2015 IPC APEX EXPO in San Diego. At the show, the company demonstrated the unique capabilities of the new TruView AXI.


The all new TruView AXI

“We spent the past two years working with our customers to develop an automated solution platform that meets and exceeds the x-ray inspection requirements of the surface mount industry, with emphasis in LED, BGA, QFN, and CSP analysis and diagnostics,” said Dr. Glen Thomas, Creative Electron’s VP of Marketing. Dr. Thomas added, “One of the key benefits of the Creative Electron TruView AXI’s performance is the flexibility – a major advantage for customers that are inspecting batteries and other mechanical assemblies.”
The new TruView AXI platform automatically captures and analyses x-ray images from PCBAs, providing consistent inspection results and eliminating operator error. What differentiates the TruView AXI from other systems in the market is a set of exclusive algorithms used to determine sample is defective or not. To further improve the operator’s ability to diagnose a PCBA, the TruView AXI includes ICARUS, Creative Electron’s image analysis software package. “The layering of image processing algorithms – AXI and ICARUS – gives the TruView AXI unique capabilities that will help our customers find defects in their assemblies with higher confidence than ever before,” said Griffin Lemaster, Creative Electron’s VP of Engineering.

For more information about the company:
For more information about TruView AXI:

TruView Dual Energy: a New Way to See X-Ray Inspection

Since the first x-ray images were created, operators of radiography systems have been challenged by a fundamental shortcoming of x-ray inspection: material density variation. While inspecting a sample of any sort, it is usual to find materials of different densities sitting side-by-side. Examples of this situation include dense electronic components (transformers, power amplifiers, etc.) mounted on boards, BGA balls, heat sinks, bones, and metal casings.

The challenge is that operators have to turn down the power of their x-ray system to image the low density materials. However, the low energy x-rays do not penetrate the high density materials, which will not create an image (under-expose). As a result, the power of the x-ray source must be increased to expose the dense parts of the sample at the expense of over-exposing the low density parts.

With the Dual Energy toolbox in your TruView X-Ray system this is finally no longer a problem! The patent-pending algorithm allows you to first take the low energy image of your sample. The next step is to take a high energy image to expose the high density parts of the sample. The Dual Energy toolbox automatically blends both images – low and high energies – to produce incredible images that show you what you’ve never seen before: high and low density materials beautifully exposed side by side!

The first example is a wire crimped connector. The connector has a low density plastic casing that houses the high density metal crimps and wires. As seen in Figure 1, the attempt to image the high density material completely washes away the low density plastic housing. Au contraire, the image in Figure 2 shows that the low energy image perfectly displays the plastic housing of the connector while completely masking the wires and crimps.


Figure 1 – High energy x-ray image of wire connector showing crimped wire and high density material


Figure 2 – Low energy x-ray image of wire connector showing plastic case and low density material

The patent-pending Dual Energy toolbox in TruView 5 Software was used to image both low and high energy parts of the connector and show them simultaneously, as seen in Figure 3.


Figure 3 – Dual energy of the crimped wire connector using TruView patent-pending Dual Energy toolbox

The second example we will analyse is the classical ball grid array (BGA). The solder balls in the BGA are very dense, thus a high energy setting of the x-ray source is needed to produce a good image as seen in Figure 4. However, the low density parts around the BGA are over exposed, and therefore cannot be seen. Figure 5 reveals all low energy details of the low density parts of the PCB to expose traces and other features and devices in the board.


Figure 4 – High energy image of a ball grid array (BGA) component showing the high density details. The voids in each ball are clearly visible.


Figure 5 – Low energy image of a ball grid array (BGA) component showing the low density details. The details around each ball are clearly visible.

Once again the Dual Energy toolbox in the TruView 5 Software was used to merge both images in Figure 6. This figure shows how the Dual Energy image can show both high and low density materials with high resolution.


Figure 6 – Dual Energy image of a ball grid array (BGA) component showing the high and low density details. The voids in each ball – and the pads, components, traces, and vias – are also are clearly visible.

The last example we’d like to share with you is of a transformer mounted onto a PCB. As seen in Figure 7, the high energy image shows all the details in the of the transformer. The individual wires are visible in this image. The low energy image in Figure 8 shows all the details of the PCB.


Figure 7 – High energy image of transformer. Individual wires are visible around the magnetic core.


Figure 8 – Low energy image of transformer. All traces on the PCB are clearly visible.

The video in Figure 9 shows the Dual Energy process in action. Please feel free to leave a comment and to contact us for more information.

Figure 9 – Dual Energy toolbox for x-ray inspection in action

X-Ray Seed Inspection

We recently started a study with the Dairy Focus Laboratory at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Under the guidance of Dr. Phil Cardoso, Dr. Glen Thomas (our VP of Marketing) is studying the feasibility of determining the digestive properties of different types of corn. The idea is to develop a method that uses x-ray inspection to effectively assess how the dairy herd will react to a wide range of corn feed. As seen in the following image, preliminary studies have shown that x-ray inspection can effectively determine the variety and density of different types of corn feed.



“A total of 12 varieties of corn were tested using the x-ray inspection methodology we developed. Although preliminary, results so far are very promising,” said Dr. Thomas. “The end goal is to connect the characteristics of the corn x-ray image to milk output. Once we establish this link, we will be able to give researchers a powerful tool to create new feed varieties.” For more information about this study and all other ongoing research at Creative Electron, please contacts us at or call us at 760.752.1192.

Stencil issues: How X-rays can find what’s wrong

The proper application of solder paste onto a printed circuit board is critical to the success of PCB manufacturing process. Stencils are widely used in SMT applications. In this presentation, we will explore examples of how x-ray inspection can be used to diagnose problems with your stencils.

X-Ray Phone Cases

As you know we’ve been x-raying phones for a while now. As a tribute to the uber geek, we decided to customized cell phone cases with the x-ray image of the phone. We have cases for the iPhone 5/5S, 6, 6 Plus, and also for the Samsung S5.

Ever wondered where the vibration motor of your phone is located? Now you can! Check the video for more details.

We will have these cases at the various trade shows we go to around the world. Click here to figure out where to find us.

iPhone 5/5S Slim Case


iPhone 5/5S Protective Case



iPhone 6 Slim Case



iPhone 6 Plus Slim Case


Galaxy S5 Protective Case




New vs Old: X-Ray Teardown of MacBooks from 2007 and 2014

In today’s post we compare the x-ray teardown of two popular Apple laptops: 2007 black MacBook and 2014 MacBook Air. Don’t forget to check out the video with the whole process:

2007 Black MacBook

The 2007 version of the MacBook came in two colors, black and white. At the time, the black MacBook was the top of the line in terms of price and performance. This laptop came with a wide range of interface ports – from composite video (later replaced by Thunderbolt in modern Apple laptops) to a real Ethernet connector. The MacBook also had a DVD player, one of the many media made obsolete by Apple. Here’s an animation showing the MacBook and its x-ray image.


2014 MacBook Air

We move forward in time 7 years to show you the latest MacBook Air. The MacBook Air is thinner, lighter, and smaller than its predecessors. However, these gains came at a cost: a small number of interface ports. The DVD player is long gone, and we’re left with 2 USB ports and a single Thunderbolt port. It can be difficult at times to work with the MacBook Air with such limited interfaces. But its size and weight make it a perfect travel laptop. For users who need more interfaces and horsepower, the answer is the Retina MacBook Pro.


The Battery Revolution

The following x-ray images show that batteries grew considerably over the years – as the electronics shrunk. We’ve seen a similar trend in the cell phones from previous teardowns – see “A Brief History of Cell Phones“. It is clear that these devices can be made much smaller, however at a sacrifice of battery life.

For the next generation of smaller electronics we need a breakthrough in battery technology!

Macbook Air



1989 Game Boy Teardown by TruView™ X-Ray

by Bill Cardoso in Applications, Technology, x-ray Comments: 0


Not long ago my 3-year old son found this antique 1989 Game Boy. Against all odds the Game Boy survived the hands of a super active boy. To rescue the Game Boy, I brought it to the office and made it the theme for this week’s teardown. Here’s the YouTube video, enjoy it!



8-bit DMG-01 Processor


Power Inductor


8K Memory

Volume Control Switch



January 21 Open House

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron, Sales, x-ray Comments: 0

Our open house in San Marcos, CA is an informal opportunity for you to learn more about x-ray inspection and rework. We are very interested in learning more about your application, so please bring your boards. We will take the time to understand what’s going on and give you some pointers on how to proceed. If you’re in the market for an x-ray machine or a rework station, this is the perfect opportunity to “kick the tires” without the pressure of a sales pitch.

To better help you, please register at so we can schedule a 30-minute session exclusively with you.

The Best of 2014

As we close another successful year, it’s time to remember the 10 most popular posts of 2014. This year we saw new technologies introduced, products inspected, and the X-Ray University launched.


1. Good Vibrations: A Look at iPhone Vibration Motors

2. LED Assembly and Inspection: A Case Study

3. TITANN – TruView Infrared Tracking with Artificial Neural Networks

4. How to find defects in SMT manufacturing

5. When Counterfeit Components Explode

6. Solder Paste Selection

7. X-Ray Inspection of PCB

8. iPhone 6 Plus Teardown

9. How is the X-Ray Image Created?

10. How to Use X-Rays to Find Counterfeit Components

Holiday Special: Full iPhone 6 Plus Teardown

No matter if you were good or naughty this year, the iPhone 6 Plus is on the top of many of our wish lists. Even if you’re not getting one, the new iPhone is massive. It is also an impressive piece of technology and electronics packaging. Learn more what’s the iPhone 6 Plus made of in this Holiday Special product teardown!


Here’s the full video:


For more educational videos please visit the X-Ray University.

Solder Paste Selection

In this video Kathy Palumbo from PA&LS and Amtech presents the options available when selecting a solder paste for your SMT application. This presentation also covers the selection of solder alloys and solder flux. The impact of solder selection in different applications is critical to the success of the SMT applications.

For more educational videos please visit the X-Ray University.

Good Vibrations: A Look at iPhone Vibration Motors

In this week’s teardown we take a close look at the vibration motor of the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 6 Plus. Check out the video showing these devices working in real time inside a x-ray machine*!

* No iPhones were harmed in the making of this video.

Visit from the mayor of San Marcos

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

This past Monday Mayor Jim Desmond and stopped by our offices in San Marcos to visit our manufacturing and R&D operation. Jim has been the mayor of San Marcos ( since 2006, and has recently been reelected for another 4-year term. The video is part of the city council meeting that same day.

San Marcos is a great place to host a business. The city management is super friendly, and they are always ready to help whenever needed. As a business owner you can’t ask for more. We look forward to many more productive years here in San Marcos as we continue to expand our business!

10 Reasons to Live in San Marcos

  1. Strong Local and Regional Economy
    San Marcos enjoys a low unemployment rate and is one of the fastest growing cities in San Diego County. Its low crime rate and strong commitment to promote economic development also add to the community’s value.
  2. Excellent Transportation Network
    Located along the SPRINTER commuter rail line with excellent bus service, San Marcos has a solid transportation network. The City is located along Highway 78 and has six interchanges along that route, with easy access to Interstates 5 and 15. Several airports are also close by, including Carlsbad/Palomar Airport (6 miles), San Diego Airport (35 miles) and Orange County Airport (60 miles).
  3. Availability of Land for Development
    Approximately 72 percent of the City is built-out.
  4. Central North County Location
    San Marcos has an excellent urban (rural) interface setting with small town informality plus easy access to San Diego and southern Riverside and Orange County markets via Interstates 5 and 15.
  5. Exceptional Educational Opportunities
    San Marcos is quickly becoming known as the educational hub of San Diego North with its award-winning school district, Palomar Community College and California State University San Marcos. Easy commutes are also available to other nearby colleges/universities as well as several employee skills training opportunities.
  6. Diversified Housing Market
    Home to award-winning San Elijo Hills and other master planned communities, San Marcos is the leader in providing quality housing with a wide range of prices and designs.
  7. Quality Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Programs
    A master parks and trails program, exceptional community recreation programs, City/school district cooperative programs, access to lakes, beaches and cultural programs enhance the quality of life that residents enjoy in San Marcos.
  8. Hospitable Climate
    It’s hard to beat the mild, year-round climate that San Marcos enjoys. An average of nine to 11 inches of rain falls annually and average summer temperature hover around 72 degrees.
  9. Environmental Awareness
    San Marcos takes environmental awareness to heart, and is working hard to preserve the San Marcos Creek, ridgelines and sensitive habitat. It actively participates in state, federal and regional conservation programs as well as progressive local air and water quality programs.
  10. Quality Medical Care
    Local and regional hospitals and clinics, community outreach programs, expanding private and community hospital facilities ensure that residents have quick and quality access to medical care.


The Most Advanced Image Comparison Software: ICARUS

It has been several years since we started developing image comparison algorithms for a wide range of x-ray applications. Working on a Homeland Security program, the first application of these algorithms was the automated detection of counterfeit components, where we compared x-ray images of components in reels or trays looking for lot discrepancies. Since then, we have deployed image comparison algorithms for quality control in a variety of applications. A very popular use of image comparison algorithms, for example, is with our x-ray rental and custom units, where these algorithms serve to assist operators in finding defects. For this reason, an algorithm that can tell you what’s different from sample to sample is very powerful.

Although applications change, the premise is the same: a reference image is compared against a set of images that must look identical. Discrepancies must be carefully documented, as they likely signal defects.

The Image Comparison Algorithms for Radiography Unified SoftwareICARUS – is the convergence of over a decade of algorithm development into a unified software platform. ICARUS combines several image comparison algorithms under one umbrella to give you the exact location in the x-ray images that differ from the reference image. ICARUS is a standalone software that works independently of other programs. However, when working in tandem with TruView 5 applications, it allows the user to stop automated acquisitions upon discovery of a fail.

ICARUS can find microscopic differences in the shape, size, and location of features, like broken or bent wire bonds.

To illustrate the power of ICARUS, the following example shows two images with small differences between them. The reference image on the left shows a module without any defects. The acquired image on the center presents a couple of subtle defects: a broken wire bond and a damaged solder ball. These defects were all correctly identified by ICARUS in the right image.


To improve the effectiveness of its algorithms, ICARUS allows you to select a comparison mask to focus analysis on regions of the image. For example, if you are interested in looking at the wire bonds only, all you need to do is to use the drawing tool in ICARUS to highlight the regions on the image that are of interest. ICARUS also has a powerful registration algorithm used to rotate and translate the acquired image to optimally match the reference image. ICARUS also outputs a complete report of all findings, including a PASS/FAIL result based on image similarity and a programmable threshold. ICARUS is currently in pre-release, and it is scheduled to start shipping November 1.

Please contact us today to see how ICARUS can improve the efficiency of your quality control program.


When Counterfeit Components Attack

I know you’re probably expecting another teardown post, but we have something really interesting to share with you today. It’s another post in the series “how counterfeit components can complicate your life”. In the last post on this theme we were lucky to get a video of an electrolytic capacitor exploding. This time we did not get the video, but a photo to share with you – and the x-ray of the damaged part, of course.

There is a lot of talk nowadays on the problems caused by counterfeit components. The problem we see is that the conversation tends to stay at a very high level. The lack of real life examples of counterfeit components creating havoc weakens the discussion. For this reason we will share with you real life counterfeit examples anytime we can to better illustrate the conversation about counterfeit electronic components.

The board in question was supplied to us from a customer – who will need to remain nameless as per their request. We can share that the board is a power supply controller. We can also share with you that this customer uses our x-ray system for overall quality inspection of the PCB they manufacture (BGA, QFN, POP, etc.). However, they currently do not have a counterfeit component mitigation program in place. As a medium size contract manufacturer, they rely on their component distributors to provide them good parts.

The post mortem in this case is straightforward: a component with a lower power rating was remarked with a higher power rating. For most applications that have a large design tolerance, these counterfeited parts might have worked. This application, however, resulted in a nasty RMA. The very first batch of boards tested by the customer led to the flash and smoke shown in the following photo.



The x-ray image of this component clearly shows that the power wire bonds, on the same top-right border of the component, have been destroyed.


The consequences for the contract manufacturer and their customer in this case, fortunately, were only financial. The CM lost the cost of raw materials and labor to manufacture hundreds of these boards. Their customer is receiving product delayed. As a result of this experience the CM is implementing a counterfeit mitigation program as part of their incoming inspection process. They have also decided to perform periodic audits to distributors in their approved vendors list (AVL) – which, by the way, is rapidly shrinking.







Broken iPhone Power Button? Here’s the problem

by Bill Cardoso in Applications, Technology, x-ray Comments: 1

The issue with broken or stuck power buttons in the iPhone 4, 4S, 5, and 5S are well known. A lot of people have complained about them over the years. This issue has also been the subject of at least 2 lawsuits filed against Apple. Some good news is available if you’re using an iPhone 5. Apple offers a replacement program because of the power button. On 25 April 2014, the company confirmed that some iPhone 5 smartphones have defective power buttons and has offered a free replacement. However, do keep in mind that means being without a phone for a few days (read the fine print…).

“Apple has determined that the sleep/wake button mechanism on a small percentage of iPhone 5 models may stop working or work intermittently,” Apple said in an online support document.

If your iPhone is still under warranty, Apple may be able to repair the hardware for free. Check out your iPhone warranty to see what your rights are. You can make an appointment with Apple to find out if you’re covered. If it turns out you’re not covered, a Genius from the Apple Store will be able to tell you how much it’ll cost to get it repaired.

One of our engineers, Carlos, has an iPhone 5 with the broken power button. Surprise, surprise… To figure out exactly what was going on we decided to x-ray the heck out of it. Here’s an image of the broken power button:


In this same image you can see the small MEMS microphone (bottom) located near the iSight camera (right). You can also see the bright LED (center)  used for flash photography. The power button is located on top of the image. It is much easier to figure out the problem with this image if we have a good iPhone 5 to compare to. And we do, so here’s how a good power button should look like.


The issue here, as you can see, is that the membrane under the tactile switch – the part that makes electrical contact to power the iPhone – is bent upwards. The dislodging of this membrane does not allow the button to properly travel to close the contact. For that reason you get that “stuck” feeling that a lot of people reported on the issue.

For a better view of the problem, here are some detail images of the power button.


X-ray image of the broken iPhone 5 power button


X-ray image of the good iPhone 5 power button

If you are not planning to upgrade to another phone and prefer to fix it yourself, there are several guides online showing you how to repair this switch yourself. Keep in mind opening an iPhone is not trivial, and you can break it in the process. There are also software fixes to this problem. The idea is to route the function of the power button to the screen of your iPhone, so you can turn it off by clicking on an icon. You will need to connect it to the power USB to turn it back on. Best of luck, we hope this was useful!

Apple iPhone 5S Teardown by TruView™ X-Ray … next: iPhone 6!

The iPhone 6 launched last week – and is already out of stock! In preparation to the iPhone 6 teardown, we went ahead with the teardown by TruView™ X-Ray of the Apple iPhone 5S.

Before we begin, let’s take a look at the 5s specs.

  • Apple A7 processor with 64-bit architecture.
  • M7 motion co-processor.
  • 16, 32, or 64 GB Storage.
  • 4-inch retina display with 326 ppi.
  • 8 MP iSight camera (with larger 1.5µ pixels) and a 1.2MP FaceTime camera.
  • Fingerprint identity sensor built into the home button.
  • Available in three different colors: space gray, silver, and gold.

Looks good on the outside, now let’s take a look inside. 

Follow our Guide at iFixIt



The Renaissance of Made in USA at Maker Faire

It’s 6AM in New York City, and my Southwest flight back to San Diego is ready for takeoff. We spent the weekend here to exhibit our x-ray systems at the 2014 International Maker Faire. If you’re not familiar with the Maker Faire, imagine a combination of a tech show, craft show, and Comic-Con. It’s a place where people come together to share their creative drive – and to air the gadgets they build in their basements. Other than a geek fest, Maker Faire is a place where it is cool to be smart.

Over the weekend we had the chance to meet people like Nigell Dennis, an 18-year-old from Brooklyn who developed and built NAVI, his own Arduino-based smartwatch. Next door to our booth we met a group of rocket scientists who got together to design and manufacture APOLLO, a datalogger that packs 11 sensors in a tiny package. And of course, we also met Richard Carter and his Sashimi Tabernacle Choir. Why do you ask… why not they answer!

The unifying factor in the Make movement is a common drive to innovate. For fun or for business, what united us is the simple desire to push the envelope. Nigell didn’t wait for the Apple Watch, he developed his own in his garage. The same way Steve Jobs didn’t wait for IBM to develop a personal computer, he made his own in his garage. What better way to define us as a people than those not satisfied by the status quo? Those who braved the west, put men in the moon, cured diseases, and challenged every concept of stagnation. Innovation is the fabric of our society.

Much has been said about America’s continued motion towards outsourcing. Some go as far as saying that all hope is lost, and that the USA is deemed to a lesser role in history as a country of customers. These critics claim that manufacturing in America is prohibitively expensive and regulated. Some empirical evidence tends to favor these claims – it seems that more things everyday are made somewhere else.

A few weeks ago I wrote the post Made in USA: So What?! to describe a few of the reasons why Creative Electron manufactures x-ray machines in USA. This weekend we met with similar minded inventors and entrepreneurs committed to reclaiming America’s leadership in manufacturing. Needless to say the conversations were more about “how can we make this better” then “how can we cut 2 cents in the manufacturing cost of this unit”.  It was comforting to realize we’re not alone.

The trip to the Maker Faire renewed my hope in the American experiment – a place where innovation and ingenuity meet to create sustainable economies.


10 Basic Principles of X-Ray Inspection

Safety is our first priority when building our cabinets. For this reason, our systems exceed domestic and international safety standards. In the USA the Food and Drug Administration regulates all

TITANN: Rethink X-Ray Sample Manipulation

The determination of where the sample is located inside the x-ray chamber is critical to automated applications where several sample locations are inspected continuously and without operator intervention. The ability to go to the same location in the stage reliably and accurately is highly desirable. The state of the art in sample manipulation for x-ray inspections relies on the use of step motors connected to actuators that move a stage inside the x-ray chamber. The main problem with the use of step motors is that a number of steps is sent to motor so it can move, but there is no certainty the motor shaft turned the correct amount of times. Thus it is impossible to determine by how much the sample moved. Modern manipulation systems utilize encoders connected to the shaft of the step motor to count the number of turns of the motor. This feedback method improves the repeatability of the system and reduces the overall error. However, it is still prone to deviations between the number of turns of the motor and the actual movement of the sample. Another major shortcoming of this tracking method is that the error is cumulative. As the system is used the motion error compounds. As a result, these systems need to be regularly calibrated.

The TruView Infrared Tracking with Artificial Neural Networks (TITANN) is a patent pending technology that utilizes an optical target to locate the stage inside the x-ray chamber. These targets are infrared LEDs used to minimize noise in the image caused by visible light. By tracking the location of the infrared LED, the TruView software can determine the location of the stage/sample within 500um without the need for calibration. Better resolutions have been achieved for applications that require better sample control, including computed tomography (CT), laminography, and tomosynthesis.

We’ve also designed a custom infrared camera to track the location of the infrared LED on the stage. This megapixel camera is specially suited to operate inside the x-ray chamber.


Artificial neural networks are ideal for repetitive applications – thus a perfect fit for an x-ray sample tracking control. The artificial neural networks utilized in TITANN greatly reduce system errors and optimize travel of the stage. The custom artificial neural network algorithms in TITANN keep track of the location errors at each stage movement and automatically adjust the control system to the motors to minimize the distance between desired and achieved location.


The TITANN technology is currently available on a selected number of TruView inspection systems. Contact us today for more information.

Made in USA: So What?!

A few weeks ago I had lunch with one of our competitors. He and I have an amicable relationship, and we get together occasionally. I share this with you because that meeting motivated me to write this post. During lunch he bragged how his Chinese-made cabinets are at least 30% cheaper than our USA made ones (he swears these savings already account for all logistics issues). He went further to brag about his software team in India, and the kind of skill set he can hire for $20k per year. Finally, he was proud that his US based team was mostly sales and marketing with a few people “operating screwdrivers”.

I don’t have anything against outsourcing to China, India, or any other country. I enjoy as much as anyone else buying $0.99 Hot Wheels cars at Walmart for my kids. That’s not the point. I run a high-tech company. Creative Electron, the company I started in my garage in 2008, develops and manufacturers x-ray inspection systems. As the company grew over the years, we had plenty of opportunities to outsource. We didn’t.


Creative Electron team in one of our production lines in San Marcos, CA – 2014

Instead, we developed a business model around the core belief that made in USA is the right thing to do. Part of this strategy is gratitude to a country that gave me a lot. I moved to the USA in 1998 to work for the Department of Energy, at a place called Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). It was my first job after college, so I started as an entry-level engineer. I went to back to school nights and weekends to get a MS, PhD, and MBA while working full time at Fermilab. In a few years I was promoted to Department Head, leading an incredible team of scientists, engineers, and technicians in the development of complex electronic systems for nuclear and high-energy physics research. This country is one of the very few places in the world where hard work and perseverance are proportionally rewarded.

After almost a decade at Fermilab, it was time to move on. The entrepreneurial bug called me to San Diego to start Creative Electron. Our first customers were the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. Together with other US government agencies that joined us later on, funding was secured for the development of an incredible product line. We are very proud of the services and products we are able to deliver to these organizations.

But gratitude is part of the reason we still make our x-ray machines in California. It still makes a lot of business sense to make things in USA. Forget about the 30, 40, or 60% savings people talk about. Innovation is priceless!

Here are some other important reasons to keep manufacturing in America:

1. Quality Control: This one is easy. It is much easier to keep an eye on your manufacturing line when it’s a few feet from your office instead of thousands of miles away. If something goes wrong you can address it immediately. It also helps a lot if you don’t need to wait months before getting a new batch of parts.

2. Customer Service Model: From the inception of the company I’ve been a believer that we should not have a customer service department. Instead, we have a customer support manager who is also our director of engineering. He receives support requests and routes them to one of our developers. Yes, that makes hiring developers a bit more challenging, because not only do they have to be awesome technically, but they also need to be awesome with customers. Having customers talking to developers directly allows us to get things fixed fast – without any bureaucratic red tape. The added bonus is that developers think twice before releasing product that might bite them later.

3. Innovation Speed: We are the underdogs in the x-ray inspection market. We don’t have a huge marketing budget or an army of salespeople pushing our products. Instead, we do spend every penny available in innovation. The fact we can change things fast – and learn from our mistakes fast – has allowed us to quickly improve our product line. We are in a constant dialogue with our customers, both big and small, to understand their challenges today and tomorrow. This focus on product performance for ultimate customer satisfaction has landed us major worldwide accounts.

A lot has been said about outsourcing, offshoring, and reshoring. You know what is best for your company – Made in USA is what works for us.


LED Assembly: How Excessive Voiding Costs You Money

One of largest obstacles to the widespread utilization of high brightness light emitting diodes (LED) for general illumination is thermal management. Localized heat generation is characteristic of the semiconductors utilized in these devices. For maximum lumen output, color consistency and device lifetime, this heat must be removed efficiently to allow the LED junction temperature (TJ) to remain stable. Maintaining a stable junction temperature over long periods of operation is the main goal of LED thermal management.

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure: Each 1% increase in void area can decrease the lifespan of an LED by up to 2,000 hours”

The rate at which an LED module will age is highly dependent on the temperature at the p-n junction and will accelerate over time. As a result, service life values are only valid provided that certain p-n junction temperatures (Tj) are not exceeded. Service life values are statistical values determined during test runs undertaken by LED manufacturers and do not reflect the precise behavior of individual LEDs.

The same applies to LED brightness values. The heat generated at the p-n junction impairs the efficiency of the light generation process and results in a measurable drop in brightness.

Case Study

To better illustrate the economics of LED die attach voiding, we analyzed a real life scenario. One of our customers is a large contract manufacturer new to the LED luminaires market. They offer two warranty options to their customers: a standard 38,000-hour warranty for free or an extended 50,000-hour warranty for extra cost. It is understood that a single LED failure results in a luminaire fail.

For this analysis we will assume the following pricing model:

–       Price of a single luminaire: $100

–       Price of 50,000-hour extended warranty: $20

–       Production and distribution costs: $35

–       Warranty cost: $5

The pricing model is based on the expectation that within the standard warranty period the company will receive up to 5% in returns, and up to 20% in returns within the extended warranty period. This LED manufacturer wanted to better understand if the amount allocated to warranty costs was enough. As an entrant in the LED market they understand the sensitivity of price competitiveness. They can currently fabricate LED luminaires at a reasonable profit margin, but fear that these margins will be destroyed by return of product within warranty.

Photo of LED with respective x-ray inspection

Figure 1 – a) Photo of LED assembled onto substrate, b) x-ray inspection image of LED, c) x-ray inspection image with identified and measured voids using TruView 5 software, d) 3D rendering of die attach voids

100% X-Ray Inspection

The first step in this research was to understand the quality parameters of the customer’s production line. The need to set a benchmark is critical in this analysis so that we can understand what is working and what needs to be improved. The key metric we measured was the void area between the LED die and the substrate. We selected void area as a key metric because it can be measured in a non-destructive way by using an x-ray inspection system. Furthermore, the size and shape of void, combined with its location in the luminaire, provided us with important insight on the type of manufacturing issue we may be dealing with.

The Experiment

For this analysis we inspected a total of 1,000 LEDs and measured the die attach voiding of each of these devices. To accomplish this task we utilized a TruView 200 X-Ray inspection system, as seen in Figure 4. This is an x-ray inspection system capable of collecting the data and processing the void measurements automatically. The automated process was paramount to the processing of the daunting task of inspecting 1,000 LEDs.

TruView X-Ray 200 used in the inspection of LEDs

Figure 2 – TruView X-Ray 200 used in the inspection of LEDs


The results of this analysis showed that this customer far underestimated the expected cost of return-products. Not only the pricing model utilized by the company had a deficit within the standard warranty; it had an even larger deficit within the extended warranty period. In consequence, the company had to temporarily change its pricing structure to compensate for product shipped with the deficient manufacturing process. Furthermore, a complete overhaul of the manufacturing process was done to bring it to tighter standards. The void area is now utilized as the key metric to measure process control quality. The TruView 200 X-Ray is used daily to measure the void of sample luminaires. Current data shows that the mean void area dropped to 35% with a standard deviation of 4.5. Thus, they were able to reduce the pricing for their luminaries. This reduction greatly increased their competitiveness in the market.

The Complete White Paper

Please feel free to download this white paper for the complete analysis here.

Creative Electron Granted Patent for Long Lasting X-Ray Tube

The technology is called APOLLO, and the patent is titled “Long-Lasting Pulseable Compact X-Ray Tube with Optically Illuminated Photocathode”. As you can probably figure out from the title, APOLLO does not rely on a heated filament to generate the electrons needed to make x-rays. Instead, APOLLO uses a special laser to shine a region of the cathode to create free electrons. The material you need to deposit on the cathode can be ytterbium (Yb), gallane-arsenide (Ga-As), cesium-antimony (Cs-Sb), or any variation of all these and other materials. We use a fiber optic to bring the laser into the vacuum-sealed tube, which makes it easy to focus on the cathode target. Some of the things that APOLLO enables us to do is to build an x-ray tube that can produce multiple x-ray beams, to change the focus of the x-ray beam as needed, and to pulse the x-ray beam as much and as fast as needed. And what’s going to make our customers very happy is that no heated filament means there are no parts to break inside the tube. In other words: we can make an x-ray tube that lasts for generations!


Why is APOLLO a breakthrough? The general idea behind the construction of an x-ray tube has not changed significantly in the last 100 years: an electron source is placed in an electric field that accelerates electrons towards a target (anode). If the electrons have enough energy, they will generate x-rays when they hit the target. Commercial x-ray tubes utilize a heated filament – which has a limited lifespan – as the electron source. This heated filament is not much different from the filament in the old light bulbs (remember them?). Refurbishing the filament in an x-ray tube is a very expensive process. Other than cost, other major limitations of the heated filament technology are the creation of pulsed x-rays or the changing of the focus of the electron beam. Both properties are highly desirable in a number of scientific and industrial applications.

APOLLO will change how x-ray tubes are made! For more information do not hesitate to contact us.

When Counterfeit Components Explode

When discussing the issue of counterfeit electronic components, we often rely on results from incoming inspections or results from failed systems upon deployment. We seldom have the opportunity to see the counterfeit component fail. One of our customers, a large military original equipment manufacturer (OEM) that shall remain nameless, recently sent us this case study. They can’t publish it, but we can.
What you see in this incredible video is an electrolytic capacitor exploding a few moments after power up. This video was captured after some of these boards failed during burn-in. For this reason one of their engineers decided to document the event by filming the explosion.

So how could they determine this was not some other issue, and that indeed it was a counterfeit problem? First, this was not the first time they made this board, which rules out a design defect. Second, they were able to correlate the explosion problem to a batch of capacitors they bought from an independent distributor (ID). It was the first (and likely the last) time the OEM bought parts from this ID. Third, they were able to compare the counterfeit capacitors with good capacitors previously used in this design.

Visual inspection

The following photo shows the electrolytic capacitor in question. A careful visual inspection of 100% of the parts in the lot in question did not present any inconsistencies. A further comparison to the good parts used previously also did not show any issues. Based on this data they were not able to determine the legitimacy of this component using visual inspection.



TruView X-ray inspection

The next step taken by the OEM was to perform a 100% x-ray inspection using their TruView 280 x-ray inspection system. Here are some of the images they’ve shared with us. On the left you can see the reference component capacitor – a component from the previous known good lot they bought from a large authorized distributor. The x-ray image on the right shows a capacitor from the new lot they bought from the ID. There are significant structural differences between the two parts.



They also found solder residue on the leads of the counterfeit capacitors. The following high magnification images show the location of the solder residue. This residue was not detected during the visual inspection because it is too close to package of the capacitor, and in some instances inside the plastic package.



Why were they lucky?

The cost of repairing the boards that failed during burn in is minimal when compared to the cost of replacing the boards in the field. Unfortunately, the cost of replacing deployed boards usually comes with other associated costs. These costs go beyond monetary liability – they damage reputation and can cost lives. Those can lead to the demise of an otherwise reputable corporation.

To better illustrate this point, the following chart shows data collected by the U.S. Department of Commerce’ Counterfeit Electronics Survey. Published in August of 2009, the report shows that most companies learn of counterfeit parts when they return from the field as defective. As we already established, that is the most costly way to find about a counterfeit component.



Only expensive parts are counterfeited

This OEM has a good quality inspection program and counterfeit mitigation strategy. However, it is incomplete. They have a policy of inspecting IC’s only – thus neglecting the risk of counterfeit passive components. Needless to say they’ve learned a very expensive lesson. The explosion of these capacitors damaged several parts around it. Henceforth passive components have been added to their counterfeit mitigation program.

The following data shows the number of counterfeit incidents as a function of the price of the component. Components between $0.10 and $500 are the most commonly counterfeited. It is not a surprise that the electrolytic capacitors reviewed in this post are well inside this range.


Buying from good vendors

Some companies erroneously believe that a counterfeit mitigation program can be limited to buying from a selected number of suppliers. This OEM only buys components from qualified companies in their approved vendors list (AVL). That works until they really need a component that leads the OEM to have to buy it from whoever has a part to sell. It’s either that or missing a delivery deadline. That’s exactly what happened here. It is very challenging to keep the AVL discipline when the production line is stopped and parts are desperately needed. The following data shows the probability of buying a counterfeit component from different source in the supply chain.


Typical behavior that contributes to the counterfeit problem

  1. Tiered Supply Chains
  2. Bargain Hunting
  3. Reduced Inventory Levels
  4. Part Scarcity, Out of Production
  5. Assumption of Quality Control By Others
  6. Limited Inspection and Testing

Top Ten Reasons For Counterfeits Entering the Supply Chain

  1. Less Stringent Inventory Management by Parts Brokers
  2. Greater Reliance on Gray Market Parts by Brokers
  3. Greater Reliance on Gray Market Parts by Independent Distributors
  4. Insufficient Chain of Accountability
  5. Less Stringent Inventory Management by Independent Distributors
  6. Insufficient Buying Procedures
  7. Inadequate Purchase Planning by OEMs
  8. Purchase of Excess Inventory on Open Market
  9. Greater Reliance on Gray Market by Contract Manufacturers
  10. Inadequate Production by OCM

TruView Cube: the Mighty X-Ray System

by Bill Cardoso in Creative Electron Comments: 0

We are very excited to share with you that the TruView X-Ray inspection family of products has a new member: the TruView Cube. Over the past few years we noticed that quality inspectors, researchers, and engineers looking for a benchtop x-ray machine were limited to entry-level systems that produced entry-level images. That means limited features and limited image quality. Here’s our message to those looking for great image quality in a small cabinet: Look no further, we heard your call!

The TruView Cube, in its 16″x16″x16″ profile, sits comfortably in any laboratory bench. I actually have one in my office (the TruView Cube fits nicely between the printer and my Nespresso!). The idea is that you no longer have to compromise price, quality, and size. If you need to inspect samples smaller than 6″x6″, why would you have to buy a system that takes a whole room to get good quality images? The TruView Cube fills a huge gap for technical people who have been debating for years if they should or should not buy an x-ray system. We made that decision easy for you to make in the form of a Cube!

As usual, contact us to learn more about the TruView Cube. Since an x-ray picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll leave you with a few shots from the TruView Cube!

LED, BGA, and QFN Assembly and Inspection Tutorial

Date: August 6, 2014, 9AM to 5PM

Location: 253 Pawnee St., San Marcos, CA 92078

In this one-day tutorial we will cover the manufacturing of the most challenging surface mount parts to assemble and inspect today: LEDs, BGAs, and QFNs. The tutorial will focus on the pitfalls of manufacturing and inspecting PCBs with these devices. Presentations will provide content to solve many of the technical challenges encountered by luminaire integrators and contract manufacturers. This tutorial is targeted at manufacturing, process, and quality personnel responsible for designing, implementing and/or controlling the surface mount device application and inspection process. Those personnel responsible for training operators and technicians to perform assembly inspection or control the manufacturing process would also benefit from this tutorial.

The event will be divided in two sessions. In the morning session we will cover basic and advanced topics in surface mount device assembly and inspection. Among the topics covered in the morning session are:

–       How LED material handling and storage impact assembly performance

–       LED x-ray inspection: How voids cost you money

–       Case study: How lack of quality killed a successful LED company

–       Process design for BGA and QFN assembly and rework

–       BGA and QFN x-ray inspection: How to see what often goes wrong

–       X-Ray as a tool for quality process design and control

In the afternoon session we will use a library of assemblies for a hands-on session at Creative Electron’s Advanced Solutions Lab, which is fully equipped with multiple x-ray inspection systems and rework stations. Attendees are welcome to bring their own assemblies for a live inspection with industry experts.

Hours: 9AM to 5PM.

Cost: $150; lunch and appetizers included. All major credit cards accepted

Early bird registration: $100 if registered before 7/30.

This tutorial is limited to 10 attendees. Send an email today to or call us at 760.752.1197 to reserve your seat.