Zero Failures at IBM
At first glance, the mock-up thermal-conduction module (TCM) Jim Stevens keeps on his desk seems relatively straightforward: a ceramic square and a metal casing to hold, interconnect, and cool an array of silvery microchips. But the TCM, designed and built by the Packaging Plant at IBM's sprawling manufacturing operation in East Fishkill, N.Y., is anything but simple.
A TCM is to a mainframe what a motherboard is to a PC--and the same TCM design has seen IBM through three generations of mainframes. "It gave IBM economies and growth capabilities no one else had," says one industry analyst.
The TCM consists of a ceramic substrate made of proprietary materials that house pathways for the 800 meters of hair-thin wires that connect the chips. A metal heat sink fitted with spring-loaded pins draws heat away. In October the TCM received the 1990 Corporate Innovation Recognition Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). For all its complexity, not one of the millions of TCMs put into service since 1980 …