The Digital Layout: Live or Via Zoom, Knowledge is All Around Us

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As you may know, the Printed Circuit Engineering Association is acquiring the assets of UP Media Group. Once that happens, I’ll become president of PCEA. So, for those who know me as the editor of a different industry publication, I can assure you are in the right place.

For the past year-plus, this column has been written by Kelly Dack, our erstwhile communications director, and Stephen Chavez, our chairman. In the next couple of months, the PCEA is transitioning from an all-volunteer organization to one with a fulltime staff, which will allow the board of directors to focus on higher-level strategy. Steph’s role, then, will no longer be tied to monthly communications but rather leading the board in charting the goals and direction of the association. Filling the gaps is where I come in.

Think of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association as a “ground up” organization. We aim to advance the careers of professional engineers. We do this primarily through a peer-to-peer network where we offer training, technical knowledge, and career advice across the printed circuit engineering spectrum: design, fabrication, assembly, test.

We have nearly 20 local chapters around the world1 and we are affiliated with multiple other trade associations, including SMTA and the European Institute of Printed Circuits (EIPC).

Those chapters engage in periodic meetings—in person and online—where they supplement their on-the-job training with tailored presentations from a host of industry experts. As a benefit of membership, PCEA is setting up a platform to make some of these presentations available on-demand. (More on that in a future issue.)

In the meantime, here’s a sampling of what members have been treated to:

  • Fundamentals of creating reliable PCBs
  • How dielectric and conductor properties can affect high-speed PCB design performance
  • PCB materials and their applications
  • Designing for RF: Tips and tricks from the PCB pros
  • Next gen line/space capability for PCB designs
  • An overview of via fill
  • Achieve optimal stackup design considering process and electrical performance
  • Microvias: Have you designed for reliability?
  • How fabrication processes determine DFM guidelines
  • The top five symbol and footprint mistakes that even professional engineers make
  • Signal integrity effects of different PCB structures
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning basics and how it will affect PCB design
  • Addressing the challenges of multi-board design
  • Design and manufacturing developments to lower insertion loss and digital pair skew
  • Rigid-flex PCB design
  • Flex for 5G—why materials matter
  • Model-based software design
  • Modelado y simulacion de fuentes commutadas (Modeling and simulation of switched fonts)

No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. Those last two presentations are among those given at our chapters in Mexico, which are based in Monterrey and Nogales. Other chapters outside the U.S. are in Toronto and the UK, and we are starting to affiliate with organizations in Australia and elsewhere. They mesh with chapters in 11 states (so far) in the U.S., some of which (California, for one) have multiple chapters.

At this point, you might be asking what all this costs. The answer is: nothing. Individual membership in PCEA is free.

Some chapters have plans to resume live meetings. Others remain virtual. Either way, PCEA meetings remain one of the most cost-effective ways to expand your professional network. Time and again, I hear from engineers that their opportunities for career advancement are limited, or their companies do not support outside training (or for that matter, inside training). While I believe that approach is short-sighted, after 30 years in the industry, I have found the most successful folks are the ones who focus less on talking about how things should be and more on carving out a solution that works for them.

PCEA meetings are exactly that solution.

If you are interested in presenting to one of our chapters, please let me know.

Until then, we wish all readers a warm holiday season and the best for a healthy and prosperous new year.



 This column originally appeared in the December issue of Design007 Magazine.


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