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During AltiumLive 2018, the I-Connect007 editorial team asked some of the attendees to answer one question: What advice would you offer to a brand-new PCB designer?
Here are just a few of the replies:
Russell Steiner, Casco
Understand what you’re designing, not just how to run the tool. Often, newer designers know what a 2D board should look like, but not why.
Staci Elaan, Valve
Learn Altium. That’s what I tell people I mentor. This is the tool that will enable you to set yourself apart from others in the industry. The sooner you can master it and its ability to work seamlessly with programmable parts, the more you’re going to be ahead of the competition.
Randy Burcham, IOTA Engineering
Try to understand the parasitics in traces, planes, pads, and such, to design a better board. Designers need to balance these effects. RF, for example, is an art because of the parasitic effects. You may know the best practices but be sure you know why that’s the best practice.
Daniel Arvelund, Gamechange Solar
Find someone experienced and ask them questions. And go to conferences; bring three key questions to ask specifically to advance your skill set.
Ben McMillan, Biofire Defense
I would recommend finding a good mentor that you can work with, preferably within your company, who can train you and review your designs and point you in the right direction. I was assigned a person to mentor me, but he wasn’t really interested in teaching. Later on in my career, I found mentors, but I wish I could have had a mentor at the very beginning.
Robert Khaleel, Biofire Defense
I agree with Ben about having a mentor. The only thing I would possibly add to that is to find a field that you love within this profession and dedicate yourself to that, whether it’s FPGAs, analog, digital, etc.
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Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
Jim van den Hogen has been teaching PCB designers and design engineers about fabrication processes for decades. Twenty years ago, I had the opportunity to see a class of his at PCB West; even back then, the room was jammed with designers eager to learn more about DFM techniques. Now Jim is bringing his teaching expertise to IPC APEX EXPO 2023 this January with a similar class directed at PCB designers. I asked Jim to give us a sneak peek into his curriculum and to share what he hopes attendees will take away from his class, as well as his thoughts on how to best bridge the gap between design and fabrication.
Tamara Jovanovic, Happiest Baby
When I was a sophomore in college, I had an amazing professor for Physics II: Electricity and Magnetism. He made a series of complex topics fun to learn, and his personality and way of teaching were almost tailor-made for the way I like to learn. He explained new concepts through practical examples, and always kept students engaged throughout the class, making sure everyone understood the lectures. Physics II was an engineering prerequisite, and I didn’t mind taking the class since I really enjoyed the material. However, I did find myself wondering a few times, “Will I ever use any physics in real life?” It turns out that the answer to the question was yes.
Nolan Johnson, I-Connect007
There’s designing the “perfect” circuit board and then there’s designing a board that is “perfect for manufacturing.” While seasoned designers and design engineers understand many of the nuances, PCB fabricator Sunstone Circuits has just published a new book specifically for new designers who have the knowledge of design but are still learning what it means to get the board manufactured. Sunstone’s Matt Stevenson takes the reader through a series of situations that should help clarify what’s happening in the fabrication process and how to adjust a board design to be better suited for manufacturing.