AltiumLive 2022: Design for Availability

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Andy Shaughnessy spoke with Rodrigo Contreras Lopez of SnapEDA about Rodrigo’s AltiumLive presentation, which is now available online. It’s a changing world, he says, and designers need to approach their designs from a different perspective: Creating designs with parts that may or may not be available now may just set up your design team and your customer for failure in a few years. Is Design For Availability going to enter the PCB design lexicon?

Andy Shaughnessy: How are you doing, Rodrigo?

Rodrigo Contreras Lopez: I’m doing fine, thanks. I had COVID for a few days, but I’m okay now.

Shaughnessy: You’re building herd immunity, and we thank you. So, why don’t you tell us about your AltiumLive presentation?

Contreras Lopez: The presentation is called “Diabolical Footprint Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.” It’s about how important it is to have really high-quality, world-class libraries. When we are designing, we often create our libraries without much attention to detail. We just create them to create our designs and that’s it.  But if we are going to get something into production, we need to have high-quality libraries; that’s what manufacturing is all about. We must be very consistent and very precise. We have to have great libraries.

Shaughnessy: So, you’re in an interesting spot. You’ve been seeing a lot of crazy stuff as far as the supply chain and components lately. How do things look out there now?

Contreras Lopez: I think it’s going to gradually improve, but I think we are far from getting over this component scarcity and shortage. I believe that if we design for availability and reliability, we can manage to take this shortage from the right edge and build good libraries. 

Shaughnessy: What advice would you give to some of the younger designers coming into the industry now after a long time without that? What advice would you give to some of the new designers and design engineers who are facing 60-week lead times?

Contreras Lopez: Be very careful and design for availability. Normally our design workflow is to first think of the architecture we’re going to use, select all the components, then look for the components or for the suppliers for the components. We need to change that. We must change our way of designing to design for availability. You need to see what’s available, what you are going to need that fulfill all the requirements, then just start designing. First source, then design.

Shaughnessy: I like that. In fact, in an interview a couple of months ago, Lee Ritchey said, “Why don’t designers just find out what components are available before they start the design?”

Contreras Lopez: That’s how we are crafting it right now. We have to do it, because maybe we will have a great design, a great product, but we are not going to be able to launch it off the market, because there is not going to be the parts available. In a few years the stock is available again, but then your design is going to be old.

Shaughnessy: Are you still seeing a lot of parts that are having things like have 50-week lead times?

Contreras Lopez: Yes, especially in the automotive industry, automatic parts are very scarce. Cars contain a lot of microelectronic mechanical systems (MEMs), and also a lot of processors, but there are no processors available for car design.

Shaughnessy: Everybody likes to blame Tesla or NVIDIA for buying up all the capacitors. Do you think there was any one culprit who bought all the discreets?

Contreras Lopez: I think it has to do with a lot of factors here. There have been typhoons in Southeast Asia where 85% of automotive components come from. There have also been blackouts and fires. Planning also had a lot to do with it, and Tesla and big companies buying the full stock played a part, but they are not the only culprits. The fabricators have a lot of guilt here. Well, maybe not guilt, but they are responsible because they started getting new technologies on the five nanometers. They started focusing on getting five-nanometer going, but they forgot to really strengthen the seven-nanometer technology MEMs, so it was just a bunch of factors that crashed together, and here we are now.

Shaughnessy: So, what should attendees to your class take away?

Contreras Lopez: I hope that they will take away some ideas about how to design their own workflow, to create these high-quality, world-class libraries, because when we are designing for a company, we usually tend to get into their workflow. Many times, we just adapt to the company workflow. But don’t forget to create your own workflow for creating a library; this will help you to manage your libraries, and to manage them in a whole new way.

It’s going to help you to be consistent. If we are very consistent throughout our libraries, manufacturing is going to be easier. We will have a lot fewer mistakes and issues during manufacturing. We will have fewer design issues because when a library has everything it needs to be a whole library, you won’t have any, any component crashes, you won’t have any solder accidents. You won’t have a lot of things that go wrong creating a prototype, when creating a product. I think that’s going to be one big takeaway.

Shaughnessy: Thanks, Rodrigo. 

Contreras Lopez: Thank you for the opportunity, Andy.

Watch Rodrigo Contreras Lopez's presentation "Diabolical Footprint Mistakes and How to Avoid Them" below.



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