Driven by Technology

Streamline Circuits

Streamline Circuits is a leading edge, technology-focused manufacturer of rigid, rigid flex, and multilayer flex type printed circuit boards for a wide range of industries including communications, military and aerospace, and medical equipment, among others. The company specializes in high-mix low-volume orders of advanced printed circuit board solutions.
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Streamline was founded in 1982 under the name Excel Circuits in Santa Clara, California. At the time, the printed circuit board industry was beginning to incorporate the use of surface mount components, which were much smaller than the traditional through-hole components that had been used almost exclusively prior. These components took up much less space, which resulted in much smaller boards, but the manufacturing processes used to install them required new equipment, new procedures, and a high level of precision. Excel Circuits was established to fill that need for complex printed circuit board manufacturing in the United States marketplace.

In September of 2003, Streamline CEO Chuck Dimick left his position at a competing technology company to establish Streamline Circuits. He purchased Excel and began manufacturing circuit boards with a small team of engineers who believed in his vision enough to follow him from the company he left. “A lot of people came over with him when he decided to start his own company,” says Streamline’s Marketing Manager Danielle Dimick. “They respected him and his knowledge of the industry and wanted to follow him. He bought out Excel Circuits on Martin Avenue in Santa Clara and we’ve been here ever since.”

From its very foundation, Streamline was built on a commitment to continuous improvement by investing in the latest advances in technology.

Since that time, the company has grown from its original team of twelve to a family of nearly three hundred employees that Dimick refers to as the “rock stars of the printed circuit board industry.” The company’s focus is on leading the industry by building the most advanced printed circuit board technology in the world. “We’re ready for the future,” she says. “We invest in leading edge technology and the best people because we know our customers need to be at the forefront of whatever they’re doing and we want to assist them in whatever way we can. On a monthly basis we have customers bringing us projects that they’ve been told nobody can build, and our rock stars put their heads together and figure out how to make it happen.”

Over the course of its existence, Streamline Circuits has evolved its offering alongside the leading edge of technological innovation in the electronics space. In this way, it has always been able to meet the needs of customers operating at the very forefront of high technology. This approach is as demanding as it is rewarding. Founder and CEO Chuck Dimick has been able to maintain this constant growth by making the effort to engage. “You don’t see a lot of CEOs that actually know how to do everything all the way through the manufacturing process,” says Dimick. “That’s what we do. That’s our gig.”

The company’s focus on technology has enabled it to consistently meet the ever-changing needs of the industry. At the start it primarily manufactured rigid circuit boards, the green or orange panel etched with copper pathways and cluttered with components most people picture when thinking about the internals of an electronic device. As the demands of customers shifted from rigid boards toward flexible circuits, Streamline invested in the necessary technology and equipment to keep pace. Today, roughly forty percent of the company’s production is in flex and rigid flex products.

A flexible circuit board is made of a flexible material that can bend around corners and fit into tight spaces, allowing for much more compact devices, and rigid flex boards combine both rigid and flexible components. The company still manufactures rigid boards, but the technology has advanced significantly, often incorporating multiple layers of circuitry into a single board. While the industry average for multi-layered boards is around eight layers, Streamline’s boards are frequently higher, at eight layers and above.

Streamline designs printed circuit boards for a wide range of industries. The majority of the company’s products are developed for advanced military and aerospace applications, but it has also designed boards for high-reliability medical devices like pacemakers, communications products like high-resolution radios, a number of consumer product prototypes, and much more. In fact, Streamline specializes in taking on the most challenging projects. “Compared to other printed circuit board manufacturers, we have the highest percentage of engineers to employees in the United States,” says Dimick. “That enables us to fast-path all the information needed by customers in order to make their products functional. With our technology we probably only have a few competitors in the United States. Not many companies can do what we do, or invest the way we do.”

In order to develop products for so many critical applications, Streamline Circuits has acquired a number of key quality certifications. The ISO 9001:2015 designation indicates that the company’s quality management system meets industry recognized standards, and the AS9100:2016 standard builds on that by expanding those requirements to a level suitable for aerospace applications. Further, the ISO13485 designation certifies the team to develop devices for the medical industry, by ensuring that its practices hold to all the necessary regulatory requirements. Underwriters Laboratories has performed specialized testing on Streamline’s products to ensure that the materials used in them comply with the safety standards of both domestic and foreign markets, and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) certification enables the company to work with defense-specific items related to equipment on the United States Munitions List.

These represent some of the many industry and regulatory qualifications that Streamline Circuits has achieved in order to best serve customers whose needs are critical, and who depend on high quality, high reliability products. The company is continually reinvesting into the advancement of its equipment and technology, its manufacturing processes, and its certifications, an approach that has helped it to build a long-standing partnership with the United States military. The MIL-PRF-31032 certification designates Streamline products as being compliant with the very rigorous operating standards outlined by the United States Department of Defense. This certification demonstrates the high level of confidence that the military places in Streamline circuit boards to run flight controls, defense systems, and a wide range of other critical applications.

Streamline’s approach to leadership is unique. “Our management team is not like a typical management team,” says Dimick. “They don’t sit in their offices all day long; they’re on the manufacturing floor, getting their hands in acid and everything. They’re dedicated… They’re very much a part of the process.” The company’s leadership and its workforce operate collaboratively as an outstanding high-performance team with an unrivaled level of expertise. Many of the company’s employees have worked with each other for more than twenty years, creating a propensity for teamwork and a collective drive for constant improvement. Having the right people in place is a key component to being able to meet the very challenging needs of customers, and the company has been very successful in building out a team that works well together.

Streamline Circuits’ primary challenge at present is finding new people to suited to joining that team. “Recently we’ve been focusing on hiring initiatives that leverage our current employees,” says Dimick. “They know our structure, they know what we do, so they can recommend the people they know and they are given an incentive for it.” The company has also been operating booths at various career fairs to promote itself in the job market. Hardware engineers are particularly in short supply currently, and Streamline has focused a great deal of this push toward that specialization. Operating in such a highly competitive, highly challenging industry demands that the company has the best of the best on staff, and Streamline is working to grow with that requirement in mind.

After 36 years Streamline Circuits has evolved significantly. Still operating out of its original location on Martin Avenue in Santa Clara, California, the company has grown into a leader in the American printed circuit board market. “We invest in people and equipment to bring you the most technology driven company in the printed circuit board industry,” says Dimick. “We’re constantly investing in new hardware and software technology to maintain our position at the forefront of high technology. We’re consistently told by customers that they have a problem that nobody can solve and our people – the rock stars of the industry – bring it together. That’s the secret to our success.”

Making Meticulous Metal Parts

Precision metalwork centers on tight tolerances, strict specifications, and repeatability to create parts or entire assemblies out of metal. In machining, material is removed through milling, turning, grinding, or drilling. Another common method of metalworking is forming, in which the material is reshaped through bending, cold-forging, rolling, or stamping.

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December 11, 2018, 4:37 AM EST