Lee Ritchey Returns to AltiumLive with 32 Gbps Design Class

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Shaughnessy: So you taught a class at AltiumLive last year. What did you think of that event? I heard they had more than 200 designers attending, and we never see that many designers even at designer events. Plus many of the courses had nothing to do with Altium tools.

Ritchey: You know, I encouraged them to do that. There isn't enough of that being offered to designers, and I said, “You’ve got all of these people together, so offer them something besides how they use your tool.” I got that from working with engineers in Europe; the engineers complain all the time that they don't have access to good information to keep up with the state of the art. And that's why I'm still working. That's why Rick Hartley is still working. We're both sold out!

Shaughnessy: It’s as if Altium is trying to facilitate or take the place of organizations like IPC, because sometimes IPC doesn't really seem to know what to do with designers, and they are a hard segment to monetize.

Ritchey: Well, right. IPC used to be good at it. I used to do classes at IPC. I don't know why, but it’s not that way anymore. I have some theories but I'm going to keep them to myself. But whoever is running Altium now is actually adding a lot of value. I just taught a class at Sandia and about half of them are switching to Altium. And they are switching because they don't have big complex designs, and so to spend $100,000 a year on a big complex tool is not a bargain. And the big guys won't accommodate that.

Shaughnessy: Did the “big three” EDA companies give up on that market?

Ritchey: Yes they have. I have a good idea why. For a very long time, if you wanted a complex product you had to have a complex boards and you needed a tool to go with it. Think about how much stuff you get in one integrated circuit now. I have a graphic I use in my class. I show a terabit router we did in 2002. It weighed 350 pounds, with 61 circuit boards. In 2007 we did that with one board weighing 22 pounds. So you don't need the monster tools anymore to make most products.

Shaughnessy: That’s nuts…in just five years. 

Ritchey: It’s the same problem with SI tools. You don't use them every day and if you have to drop 100 grand for something you use every six months, that's hard to do.

Shaughnessy: Are you teaching at both AltiumLive events this year?

Ritchey: Yes, San Diego and then Munich in January. I’m doing the same course in both places. Within a week of opening, the class sold out. They are paying attention more, but they don't really have a choice. We are designing 56 gigabits in the next line of products.

Shaughnessy: Are you seeing anything related to 5G yet?

Ritchey: Supporting 5G is what we have to do in the routers, and the switches, and the Internet. And the boxes we've done with 28 gigabits per second are doing 5G. Which really means just hellishly higher bandwidths. My partner John Zasio and I have decided that when they ask us for 100 gigabits per second, we're retiring! That’s damn microwave.

Shaughnessy: Right. Yeah, that's something else. So, any thoughts on the long lead times on these components, and some laminates? Some of these EMS companies are having to stockpile certain components.

Ritchey: Well here's a piece of news we got about a month ago, and I don't know what we're going to do about it. The suppliers of our ceramic capacitor packages will no longer make the 0603 package. Because the cell phone industry is buying so many 0402s they can't change their line over. How many thousands of boards are designed with 0603s on them? Most of mine.

Shaughnessy: Never a dull moment. Lee, is there anything else you want to talk about that we might have missed?

Ritchey: The big deal is, of course, running up the speed curve and that is why I'm doing this course. It’s all about different signaling at high data rates which are invading everyone's products. Pretty much every level you want to look at, this is showing up. The HDMI cable on your TV, the USB connection, all that stuff.

Shaughnessy: That's great. Well, thanks for your time, Lee. I’ll see you in San Diego.

Ritchey: Thanks for the opportunity, Andy.


Further reading:

The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... DFM, by Dave Marrakchi, Altium

Full Coverage of AltiumLive 2017 

AltiumLive 2017 Attracts Hundreds of Designers 

AltiumLive Summit—Munich, Germany, Part 1 

AltiumLive Summit—Munich, Germany, Part 2 




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