South African Electronics Industry Going Strong


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EDA Technologies is a South African company that offers PCB design engineering services, mainly for the domestic electronics market, which makes up a surprising 12.5% of South Africa’s GDP. I recently spoke to founder Nechan Naicker about the benefits of outsourcing to South Africa, the market segments they service there, and any advice he had to offer from his 20+ years in the industry.

Barry Matties: First, tell our readers a little bit about your company and what you do?

Nechan Naicker: EDA Technologies is a concept-to-complete electronics solutions company founded over 20 years ago. We've always been involved with PC boards. Back in the day we sold and supported P-CAD, one of the earliest PCB design tools working on DOS, developed by IBM for their own use and later sold off. PCAD changed owners numerous times and evolved until what we have today in Altium Designer. Over the 20 years of selling and supporting PCB CAD tools, we’ve obviously done a lot of training.

Being at the bottom tip of Africa, people always imagine that we have lions running around in the streets. They do sometimes, but thankfully not where I live. What's interesting is that most of the people that I speak to have no idea how advanced South Africa’s electronics industry is. To give you an idea, a large part of SAAB’s electronics engineering is done in South Africa, employing a few hundred engineers. We have many hundreds of engineering contacts in our database, so I would say that South Africa has a thriving and advanced electronics industry.

Matties: Expand a little on EDA Technologies and the services you offer.

Naicker: Originally, we started as a PCB design house, but then we also started to sell and support PCB CAD tools. Today we offer turnkey electronics engineering and manufacturing services, using local and global manufacturers. Many companies don't have the expertise or the resources in-house to do full electronics development, so that's where we come in. We look after the full development and supply chain so that clients can focus on their core business.

Matties: And you're selling the tools as well?

Naicker: Yes, so we have been a reseller for Altium in South Africa for many years. Altium is the most widely used PCB tool in South Africa. Since we have also used Altium Designer to design exceptionally complex designs, our understanding of the tool is of the highest level so that we can quickly assist our customers with support.

Matties: My understanding is that the Chinese bring a lot of investment and infrastructure into this region as well, such as highways. Is that the case?

Naicker: Yes. Africa is rich in minerals, so copper is a big commodity along with other sought-after minerals. The Chinese investors have purchased entire mineral mines in parts of Africa, like Botswana. In exchange, they may build roads and put up some infrastructure.

Matties: You've been doing design for many years. What sort of design changes have you seen over the years that surprised you?

Naicker: EDA has been designing and manufacturing multilayer PCBs of 12 layers and above for over 15 years now, so this is nothing new. I would say that the technology that intrigued me most recently was the need for embedded copper coin technology. Due to high power demands in electronic systems like RF designs, there's a big need for embedded copper in the PCB to handle the heat distribution and large currents. So, manufacturers mill out a piece of the PCB, insert precisely crafted copper in the cavity, plate over it, and the result is one of the best thermal conductivity solution available on PCBs.

To read this entire interview, which appeared in the March 2018 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.

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