Q&A With the IPC Design Competition Winner

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Design engineer Sathishkumar Vijayakumar (aka Sathish Kumar V.) with Tessolve Semiconductor, India, took home top honors in this year’s IPC Design Competition, besting the other four finalists in a rigid-flex design showdown during IPC APEX EXPO.

Unlike last year, no one finished the design completely, so judges graded competitors on what they did finish, as well as criteria such as design decisions they made, and whether they followed electrical and DFM rules. The first heat of the contest began last fall with an original field of 49 competitors, so it’s safe to say that these five finalists represent the cream of the crop.

I asked Sathish to tell us a little about himself and the competition, and what winning this contest means to him as a PCB designer.

Q: Sathish, congratulations on winning the IPC Design Competition for 2023! Why don’t you give us some background about yourself, and how you got into PCB design?

A: Thanks for your wishes, Andy. I am working as a senior PCB design engineer at Tessolve Semiconductor, India. I completed my bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering at Anna University, Chennai. I was happy to start a career in 2014 as a PCB design engineer as my background was in electronics and more specifically, I consider PCB design as an art where I can show my unique skills. At Tessolve, we cater to some of the top semiconductor companies in the world, and I get to work on cutting-edge technologies up front, which makes me feel proud as a PCB designer.

Q: What did you think of the design used in the competition? None of the competitors finished it, whereas last year’s design was considered too easy by a few of those contestants.

A: Yes, the design was quite complicated compared to last year’s design. The design was a rigid-flex PCB with a shape that would fit inside a robotic arm. You can imagine the traces needs to be routed with odd angles for such board shapes, which generally takes more time compared to 45-degree angle traces. It’s a real challenge to complete the routing within the allocated time. I feel it was one of the reasons why none of us were able to complete the design. I started working on items by priority and completed whatever I could following the guidelines. I believe this process helped me.

Remember: "The process is more important than the results. And if you take care of the process, you will get the results.”

Q: What does winning this competition mean to you as a designer?

A: This is one of the greatest milestones in my career and I am very proud for participating in this world competition. Winning this competition gives me more confidence in designing complex PCBs.

I believe that I received the best training and exposure to best practices from my organization while working on different types of PCBs over the years. It certainly helped me a lot with winning this competition. I would like to thank Tessolve, IPC India, and IPC International for helping me participate in the competition. I also thank my family members for being a part of my success.

Q: What advice would you give to other designers considering entering a design contest like this?

A: Nothing is more expensive than losing an opportunity. I would tell all my fellow designers to volunteer themselves and participate in design contests like this. Preparing for such contests itself will make designers learn more about PCB design and it’s certainly going to help their careers. I also think IPC contests create a positive vibe among PCB designers to come forward and participate in upcoming events. I believe that participating in the contests is more important than winning or losing.

Further reading: "Sathishkumar Vijayakuma Wins IPC Design Competition" in the 2023 issue of Real Time with... IPC APEX EXPO Show & Tell Magazine.


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