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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 we received.
John Watson, Legrand
I have about 50 designers working for me, and one thing I always request is, “Don’t give me an EE.” Give me somebody who is the test technician or the electronic technician or a test person of some kind. They seem to want to learn, and they have a thirst for knowledge, a thirst to learn this stuff. And that would be the best advice I could give them: Always keep learning. I consider myself an intermediate level PCB designer. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and I probably know very little. Every time I think I’ve learned PCB design, it either changes, or I realize just how much more I have to learn. So that’s my advice. Always keep learning.
Cherie Litson, EPTAC
Go to the manufacturing sites. Go to the fabricators and take a tour. Go to the assembly sites and take a tour. See how things get built. It will make a big difference in how you conceptualize how they will build this when you’re in the design phase. And learning how they build it will make a huge difference in your capabilities in creating a design that will work for them, and you won’t get hung up on crazy questions. “What do you mean you’re stopping production because I did something stupid?” They won’t say you did something stupid, but that’s what goes through your head!
That’s one thing I wish I had known more about when I first started—how things got built, as well as learning the software packages. You’ve already got the electronics knowledge, but you have to add in the mechanical and the manufacturing. How do things actually fit? What kind of spaces do they really need to be manufacturable, and to be testable, so that you can rework the circuit if you need to? Those are things that you need to ask the manufacturer. What do you see as more reliable? What’s your maximum capability, but, more important, what’s your everyday capability? Because that’s going to be my cheapest line. I know I can always push it, but what’s your everyday capability?
Francis Allotey, Ward Leonard
Generally, one needs to be more focused on the design rules. You should stick to them and understand signal integrity. Read a lot, I will say that. Read a lot. And always, always double-check your work. Have someone else check your work, from schematic to layout. Don’t give yourself room by saying, “Well, it worked for somebody else, so it’s going to work for me.” Do the work. Don’t port out someone else’s design thinking it will work for you. Understanding is critical: Understand the layout, the drawing, and the signal integrity. Always do the work, and always understand what you’re doing, and I think you’ll be successful.