Reading time ( words)
Over the last few decades, electronics have become an exponentially more important part of our daily lives, and in turn electronics designers have become highly sought after. The field is massively diverse in focus to cater to many different markets. This has led in some ways to much broader availability of resources to the junior designer, but on the flipside, the availability of “good” resources can still be lacking. Let’s take a look at some of the resources available, and how to make the best of them.
I’ve been doing PCB design for about 15 years. I started in high school, drawing out simple circuits in an image editor and raiding the local Radio Shack for ferric chloride and copper-clad boards for toner transfer etching. The results were crude, and often didn’t work, but the process was fascinating—and truthfully still is. For as empowering as it can be, PCB design has a shockingly low barrier to entry. Radio Shacks are harder to find today, but the materials are all still readily available from online shops. In contrast to my early days of hand etching, there are now dozens of PCB fabricators willing to make full-featured prototype boards for just a few dollars.
Furthermore, over the last decade the number and quality of free-to-use EDA software options has exploded, and features that were once only available in software suites costing many thousands of dollars are now making their way into open-source offerings. There has practically never been a less expensive time to get into the field.
But while access to tools and supplies has improved dramatically, access to quality training has not kept pace. Sure, there are thousands of videos on YouTube, but they all convey slightly different information in a slightly different way, and not always accurately. And higher education is not always the solution either; my own alma mater did not offer a PCB-specific course at the time I was working on my degree. So, it can be difficult for a junior designer or engineer to find the practical information they need to realize their design.
There certainly are quality resources out there. Many of these are in the form of topic-specific books; there is great knowledge in the texts of Howard Johnson, Eric Bogatin, and Bruce Archambeault; for someone with a design or two under his belt these are quite valuable reads. But particularly for very new designers, the terminology in these books can be intimidating, especially if the designer does not have a deep engineering background.
To read this entire article, which appeared in the August 2021 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.