Porsche Engineering…by Design


Reading time ( words)

Thomas Wischnack of Porsche Engineering is currently designing the high-power charging infrastructure that will go inside the next generation of automobiles. Thomas was a keynote speaker at AltiumLive 2017 in Munich, Germany. I met with him to learn more about Porsche’s hardware and circuit development and what Porsche does to continually bring new designers into the fold.   

Barry Matties: Thomas, before we discuss the keynote you delivered here at AltiumLive 2017, please give our readers a little on your background.

Wischnack: Since 1993, I’ve dealt with electronics development, hardware and software development, which at that time meant 8-bit microcontrollers—everybody did it. During those years, speed has gone up, so frequencies are higher. Systems are getting more complicated. I started by developing multimedia systems and high-end audio systems, and now, it's high-power charging infrastructure.

Matties: How many years now have you been at Porsche Engineering?

Wischnack: Fifteen years.

Matties: Automobiles are arguably one of the harshest environment for boards to function in, correct?

Wischnack: That's true. The automotive environment is hard. Especially if you're dealing with these infotainment systems, because they are mounted in the dashboard and just 50 centimeters away is the antenna, which is giving the RF signal to the ECU unit and for a clean radio reception, there needs to be a very, very clean design not to disturb your cell phone. And this is very hard stuff.

Matties: And more and more with all the wireless technology onboard…

Wischnack: The wireless technology is not the big issue because normally you get a quite clean spectrum from this and frequencies are not disturbing each other. The bigger problem is if you have these high-speed systems, display systems, they give you this EMC fog, which is very broadband, and you cannot control it, and this gives a bad interference. Nowadays we have the new modulation technologies, DAD, and so on, so if you just have one peak from one system it doesn't hurt you. It just gets filtered out, but on the analog side it's very bad.

Matties: Now when you look at automobiles today, they're just rolling computers. The amount of electronics they contain is incredible.

Wischnack: Yeah, I think you can say it's a computing center with four wheels.

Matties: And our phone is no longer a phone.

Wischnack: Right, that's the same. And people always try to get more comfort electronics, everything they're used to having at home they try to have in the car. I remember very well when the iPod came along. Everybody wanted to have it in the car and needed a special iPod connector. And now, no one's talking anymore about this iPod connector, but in cars they're still present. So maybe sometimes it's good to think: What is the valuable part? Is it the iPod or the car in the end?

Matties: When you're designing for the automobile industry, what's your greatest challenge?

Porsche_Mission-e-Cross-Turismo.jpg

Wischnack: I think it’s the automobile industry itself because it's sometimes blocked by non-dynamic processes; everything must be approved and validated and so on, and the creativity is missing. If you want to do something the right way, sometimes you must leave the processes and go a little bit next off the beaten path. And to convince people just to leave the beaten path and do something that's not very common. That's a very challenging thing. It's not the technological side, that is straightforward, but getting things done is sometimes very hard.

Matties: In terms of the actual manufacturing onboard electronics that you had some references to, more fabricators and expectations and what you would look for, why don’t you just share some of your thoughts about that?

Wischnack: That’s a very interesting thing. Many of the things that developers do, they are required by these fabricators because they have done it the last 20 years, and there are only a few fabricators that really moved forward and accepted to get new technologies and get rid of old stuff they have done all along. You carefully must choose. So if you have a fabricator who says, “No, you can’t do this because I cannot do it. I cannot fabricate it,” you need a different fabricator. This morning we had a good session by Lee Ritchey and there was this question about the 15%. His answer was, “You need a different supplier. It’s the wrong supplier for you.” And that’s true. Give up your old suppliers if they don’t follow. If you’re faster than your supplier, you need a different supplier.

Matties: The other issue that we see in the design community is an aging population, and there aren’t a lot of young people moving into the design community. How does Porsche address that issue and attract young people to the industry?

Wischnack: We have a lot of trainees and a lot of students. We have a good relationship with many universities to get the students into our company. We try to get them very early so that they get familiar with the way we are working, so we can do some basic education. Not just teaching all the formulas and all this stuff at university, but also getting to, “What is real life? What can I do with all the stuff they teach me at the university?” And after they have been a trainee in our company, very often they get their final grade with some things they do in our company, and at the end they get employed. So many of my colleagues have been trainees around my laboratory, and meanwhile I know six or eight people just come from my department, who are now employees in the company. And there are many others who started as trainees. Getting young people in the company is the most beneficial thing you can do.

To read the rest of this interview, which appeared in the April 2018 issue of The PCB Design Magazine, click here or download the PDF of this issue here.

Share

Print


Suggested Items

TUM Hyperloop Team Learns PCB Design on Way to Setting World Speed Record

02/14/2019 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
At AltiumLive Munich, I met with Tobias Bobrzik, a Technical University of Munich student and member of the TUM Hyperloop team. In 2018, the TUM Hyperloop team’s prototype pod set the world speed record of 290 miles per hour, which lead to their meeting with Musk. Tobias designed some of the PCBs used in that vehicle, so I asked him to tell us more about this experience, and what he hopes to do after graduation.

AltiumLive Munich: Day 1 Keynotes

01/28/2019 | Pete Starkey, I-Connect007
The weather forecast was wrong! Despite my apprehension and winter clothes, there was very little snow at the Hilton Munich Airport. It could have been any season of the year inside the splendid convention facility, which was also the venue for the second European AltiumLive design summit. AltiumLive brought together a family of over 220 electronics engineers and designers eager to learn from top industry experts and applications specialists who were equally eager to share their knowledge and experience freely.

AltiumLive Munich Draws Designers from Around Europe

01/24/2019 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
I’m finally unpacked after last week’s AltiumLive PCB design summit in Munich. Much like the AltiumLive event I attended in San Diego last October, the conference drew hundreds of PCB designers. This marked the second AltiumLive PCB design summit held in Munich, and Altium seems to have it down to a science. I spoke with designers from Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and Belgium, just to name a few countries. Many of them were involved in the automotive segment but some were in medical and industrial controls as well. It’s great to be at an event that is full of PCB designers, because designers are few and far between at most PCB industry events.



Copyright © 2019 I-Connect007. All rights reserved.