As the domino effect of electronics industry event cancellations continued in response to the global threat of a potential Coronavirus pandemic, one industry association, the International Microelectronics, and Packaging Society is committed to carrying on this year’s event agenda, at least in the United States.

The IMAPS International Device Packaging Conference (IMAPS DPC 2020), which took place March 2-5, 2020, was the first event on this year’s roster, and if its success is anything to go by, the rest of the IMAPS conferences should provide us with at least one venue to continue business as usual, or almost, with a few adjustments to networking protocol – such as the “handshake-free” policy and an abundance of available hand sanitizer.

Leave it to a committee of engineers to MacGyver the situation so that Doug Yu, TSMC, and Max Min, Samsung could deliver their keynotes and Kevin Yee, Samsung and Ravi Mahajan, Intel could participate in the panel discussion via WebEx. While the quality of the audio was questionable at times, for a last-minute hack, it went remarkably well. With some tweaks to the technology, it could be a viable alternative to the cancellation for future events or even a way to hold events that have already been canceled.

Participation Coronavirus-style

 Rather than talking about his preferred topic, advanced packaging, ASE’s Rich Rice, and IMAPS President opened this year’s event with a 20-minute talk about what was on everyone’s mind: The Coronavirus.

“The Coronavirus is dynamically affecting our countries and communities around the globe. It’s claiming lives, impacting economies and business, and affecting our own businesses and lives.” said “But we have a strong ecosystem.  We can’t let something like this set us back. Innovation is alive and kicking, especially advanced packaging. The industry is relying on us to deliver solutions that are critical to the success of our companies. We need to continue to collaborate, innovate, highlight achievements and solutions. This stimulates ideas and fuels the full cycle of innovation.”

Rice went on to rally the troops, noting that while the virus is going to limit our activity for the next few months, it will pass, as other things have. “We will need to get back on planes and get back to business,” he said. “We have lots to do. We are working on lots of really cool applications. We were looking at a fantastic year. We’ll have a setback in Q2, but there are too many things that need us that we won’t be set back for long.”

In the meantime, Rice recommended that those in attendance at IMAPS DPC be diligent about taking precautions. “This is a no-hand shake conference. Bump fists, elbows, or even your feet. Follow the CDC guidelines and practice good hygiene. If you’re not feeling well, contact IMAPS or the hotel staff and get treatment.”

Rice said that while the IMAPS committee will continue to monitor the Coronavirus situation closely, currently the plan is to continue business as usual. Exhibitors and speakers for the upcoming Thermal Power event at the end of April in Albuquerque, NM, the SiP Conference in Sonoma in June, and the IMAPS Symposium in October are at this time, still going forward and speakers and participants should plan on participating. “The nature of our events isn’t totally international,” he said. “We’ve had a few cancellations, and we’ll see what the makeup of the conferences are going forward. For example, for SiP in June, we will recruit mostly local speakers, unless there is a dramatic reduction of the virus.”

Attendee Reaction

I never realized how much physical contact is a part of networking culture until this conference. Adhering to the handshake-free policy was hard! Greeting colleagues with a handshake – or if you are a touchy-feely person like I am, a light hug and a kiss on the cheek (both cheeks if you’re French) – is an automatic response. Holding back and sticking to a light elbow or fist bump felt strange. And I knew things were getting serious when the traditional bowl of peanut M&Ms at the SETNA booth was replaced with fully wrapped Lindt truffles. But if it helps to keep Coronavirus at bay and allows the show to go on, then I’m all in.

Was holding the IMAPS DPC a good idea? As one attendee half-joked, we’ll know in two weeks.

Overall attendance was slightly down from last year. Attendance was estimated at 500 (vs 600 from last year), and 120 rooms were canceled at the last minute, mostly from Korea, Taiwan, Japan, China, and Ital. But sessions were full. Those hearty souls who did attend did not seem to be concerned about possible infection.

In fact, many think the situation is being overhyped, based on early reports that the COVID-19 mortality rate isn’t much higher than the flu. However, as more data comes in, those numbers have been adjusted up from a mortality rate of around 2% to 3.4%, according to an article published today in Time Magazine. The reality is that until we have complete data, nobody can predict with absolute certainty the outcome of this disease. The best we can do is follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Wash your hands. Keep your distance. If you think you might be sick, get tested, stay home, and if you have to go out, wear a face mask so that you don’t infect others. For those who attended be on alert for the following symptoms for the next 14 days:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

If you experience these, contact your doctor for testing. Learn more about preventing the spread of COVID-19 here.

Francoise von Trapp

They call me the “Queen of 3D” because I have been following the course of…

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