The Designers Council: A Chapter Primer From the Ground Up


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I went to my first IPC Designers Council meeting in the fall of 2002. I was selling PCB fabrication a year after my company, McCurdy Circuits, ceased operations—one of the many casualties in the electronics industry following the dotcom collapse.

Thinking it might be a way to make new contacts with PCB designers in Orange County, I attended a couple of Designers Council meetings. The chapter president at that time was Paul Fleming, who asked me to be part of his steering committee because he learned that I had spent decades in fabrication. Within a few months, he had gotten a job transfer to Arizona, so he twisted my arm to take over as the chapter president. I agreed, but little did I know that this would become a major turning point in my PCB career.

After a couple of years of building up our chapter, I took a job selling PCB design layout services, so I was suddenly smack dab in the middle of the design world. This was after 30+ years of building boards and receiving so many layouts wrought with terrible design practices that I would often exclaim that they had been created by designers with “no adult supervision” or the faintest idea of how boards were to be made.

Now, I had a platform to help put some real meaning behind DFM. Hoping to bring designers together with fabricators, assemblers, CAD vendors, and a variety of industry suppliers and gurus, our chapter officers came up with topics and speakers to provide educational opportunities at our chapter meetings. We wanted to inspire our audience to expand their knowledge and become better designers. It became a real passion for me.

In the ensuing 15+ years as president of the Orange County Designers Council chapter, we’ve grown to become one of the largest chapters in the country. To date, we’ve held over 60 events. We hold quarterly “lunch ‘n learn” meetings, and with the help of our chapter officers, we’ve recruited terrific speakers covering a wide range of topics that are interesting and educational for our audience of designers and other PCB professionals. Our meetings typically draw 45–75 attendees, and sometimes many more if it’s a really great topic or a “rock star” speaker.

So, why do designers show up and make our chapter so successful? I believe there are several answers to that question.

1. Continuing education

PCBs get more complex every year. Manufacturing processes advance as the fabricators improve their capabilities to meet ongoing technical challenges. A designer needs continue to learn more and more to have the skills to meet these challenges. Those who attend our meetings receive copies of the speakers’ slide presentations to build their library of technical information to refer to and can reach out to that speaker in the future. You don’t know what you don’t know, so Designers Council meetings are a great resource for learning. 

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

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