PCB Design Training: More Critical Than Ever


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I interviewed Gary Ferrari of FTG at the IPC High-Reliability Forum and Microvia Summit in Baltimore. Gary is a co-founder of the IPC Designers Council and a longtime advocate for PCB design and PCB designers. We discussed the crucial role that PCB designers play in the entire electronics development process, and how IPC and the Designers Council are helping to educate and inform the next generation of designers. 

Andy Shaughnessy: Gary, how are you doing? It’s good to see you.

Gary Ferrari: It’s going well. The industry is moving ahead and I just keep on plugging away.

Shaughnessy: It’s a good time to be in this industry. It seems as if more people, especially at IPC, are starting to kind of get the idea that design is actually a pretty important part of the process and, in some ways, that everything really does start with design.

Ferrari: I recently had a conversation with John Mitchell, the president of IPC. We were discussing things, and he told me “You know Gary, you’re going to like what I have to say. I got my staff together and I asked them what’s the most important thing that we should be focusing on?” Surprisingly, he said it was design, because everything starts with design. That’s a message I have been sending for many years. The designer is responsible for understanding electronic engineering—in some cases even more information about engineering than, maybe the engineers—mechanical engineering, board fabrication, materials, signal integrity, and it goes on and on.

There is much more that PCB designers need to know now. First they must fully understand the fabrication processes used for various types of materials. What materials will work for a specific design, both mechanically and electrically (signal integrity). They need to know the assembly processes, which include the types of soldering processes used for technologies such as through hole, SMT, buried components, etc. Then, how to create a layout that addresses the optimum component orientation, so that everything is soldered properly.  They need to know when they are pushing the envelope, which affects performance and cost. Finally, they also need to know something about field service. Is the product serviceable in the field, or back at a repair depot. The field service engineers don’t necessarily have the same tools that we used in the factory.

So, if that’s the case, then the designer has to design in such a way that it can be repaired, if that’s the mission out in the field, rather than going back to the factory or repair depot. As you can see, there’s a lot that the designer is responsible for. If he doesn’t do it right, it’s going to cost you. It’s going to cost more time and dollars out there. Without a good understanding, you may see more failures because of designs that were not given the proper attention to details.

To read this entire interview, which appeared in the August 2019 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.

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