IPC APEX EXPO 2022: Focus on PCB Design

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I recently spoke with Patrick Crawford, manager of design standards and related industry programs for IPC, about the design events at the upcoming IPC APEX EXPO, including a PCB design competition. Patrick explains what PCB designers should expect by attending the show and points out the need for more young designers and engineers to volunteer with IPC Design. 

Andy Shaughnessy: Patrick, tell us what you have planned for IPC APEX EXPO as far as design. 

Patrick Crawford: We are pretty excited about this year. During the show, we’re holding the finals for our PCB design competition. This is our inaugural event. 

We have 15 competitors from around the world, including India, Norway, the UK, the U.S., Mexico, and Brazil, just off the top of my head. It is a top-to-bottom design build-out. We hand you a schematic, a BOM, and a little interpretation letter for those who haven’t used Altium before. The competitors are responsible for handing us a complete file package at the end of the day. The preliminary heat took place between November 1 and December 1. We estimate that it’s about 40 hours of design work. 

On Tuesday of the show, we invite three finalists from this preliminary round. We will have everything ready to go—the stackup, the materials, etc. It’s going to be a simple, two-layer board—we can’t have a 12-layer board in a four-hour competition. It’s going to be a good time. 

Wednesday at the show is dedicated to Design for Excellence (DFX). That would be 2231A: DFX Guidelines, which was published in August. We’re excited about DFX, because it pulls together the often-disparate parts of industry and focuses on common things like design for manufacturing, design for fabrication, for tests, for environment reusability, and recyclability. 

Another exciting thing we’re trying is an AMA—Ask Me Anything, just like on Reddit. We have a few individuals from industry who are excited to be our experts, so it will be like a design master session. I can’t share all of the names yet, but we have confirmed Kris Moyer, CID+, who teaches PCB design courses with IPC and helped us build the curriculum. And we have Dale Lee from Plexus, who will talk about accessibility and manufacturability. 

We will also have speakers focusing just on the DFX standard. What is it, and why should you care if you’re working at the front desk or on the line? 

On Thursday, we will highlight STEM through the IPC Education Foundation, which is hosting a show floor tour for high school students as part of the STEM program. There will be a pit stop on the tour for a 10-minute presentation on design. We want to get high school students excited about PCB design. The plan is to have them coming through Thursday morning, and a little bit in the afternoon. 

I want to note this is an open invite. Anyone on the floor can come by and meet the students. Bump their elbows, talk to them, and get them excited. In the process, you’ll get excited knowing that these are the future engineers. 

Shaughnessy: The AMA sounds really good. They always get people excited on Reddit. 

Crawford: Absolutely. We’ll have people asking questions over all of IPC’s social media on the Monday and Tuesday before the AMA, and attendees can drop questions in a box, so it’ll be fun. Hopefully, we’ll get some good back and forth discussion. 

Shaughnessy: What else has been going on with IPC Design? 

Crawford: We’re moving forward. We want to re-strategize what we want to do with design and how we can best serve the design industry. We’re looking at how we can better the industry through our PCB design courses, and how we are going to work with industry through that education branch in general. But as we move into the next year, and into the next three or four years, we really want to shift focus to these deliverables and opportunities for designers. 

Shaughnessy: Right. I noticed that IPC offered online military and aerospace design classes during the fall. You had a few classes going on this fall. 

Crawford: Yes, and I’ve taken a couple of them. I took Intro to PCB Design 1 and 2 when they were first running a couple of years ago. There are a few more now, such as the PCB design for military and aerospace applications. As you might expect, that addresses design challenges such as temperature ranges, high altitude, and more. 

We also offer classes on PCB design for HDI and advanced packaging, design for rigid-flex, embedded components, and more. Most attendees I’ve talked to who have taken these courses say that they have learned fast when they were taking them, and these are skills they can immediately translate into their jobs. 

I am so grateful for the steering committee which is putting the design competition together. There’s so much going on at IPC Design. We will have so much to share in the next year or so, but we will also need your help and we need volunteers. The best thing you can do is to help out. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun. That is my call to action. If you’re interested in volunteering your time, please email me at design@ipc.org. 

Shaughnessy: I am curious about where we can access the design reference guide that you mentioned. Is that in the PDF format? I’d like to see that, and I know designers would too. 

Crawford: It will be available through our store, starting, hopefully, in February. 

Shaughnessy: Well, it’s been great talking with you, Patrick. I’ll see you at the show. 

Crawford: Nice talking with you, Andy. Thank you.

This conversation originally appeared in the January 2022 issue of Design007 Magazine.



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