Runner-up Discusses IPC Design Competition

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PCB designer Adam Thorvaldson of Innovex was a finalist in this year’s IPC Design Competition at IPC APEX EXPO. He came in second place in this final heat, which is quite a feat, considering that the contest started last fall with 49 contestants from around the globe. We asked Adam to share his thoughts on the competition, what it means to be one of the winners, and any ideas about improving the contest for 2024 in Anaheim. 

Kelly Dack: Adam, you’ve finished up the design competition here at IPC APEX EXPO. What did you think of the experience?

Adam Thorvaldson: This experience has been very eye-opening. The event is great; the competition has been very interesting, and the town is beautiful.

Dack: How did you hear about the competition? What were the previous heats like?

Thorvaldson: I learned about the competition on LinkedIn. I like finding ways to better myself and develop new foundations for future growth. I applied, signed up, got the project files, and competed in the first round. My first round took about 49 hours of work, and later I found out I was a finalist.

Andy Shaughnessy: That was when we had 49 finalists?

Thorvaldson: Yes, and that was all wrapped up in November.

Dack: What about the EDA tools? For the final heat, everyone used Altium Designer.

Thorvaldson: But in the first round we were allowed to use any software package. I was able to use the tool that I was most familiar with, that I’ve been on for 25+ years, so it made it really easy for me. I’m not sure what everybody else was using in the earlier heats.


Dack: Designers often have to switch software in their careers. To participate in a competition like this, some of you had to learn the ropes of a new program fairly quickly.

Thorvaldson: Sure. For the competition, the finalists received a 30-day trial license to learn Altium beforehand. Unfortunately, I got my license only 10 days before the show, so it’s been a crash course. The tool I’m most familiar with is Allegro (and OrCAD) PCB Designer from Cadence. They’re a little different. I learned Eagle years ago. I’ve known about Altium for a long time, but I finally got my hands on it about 10 days ago and it’s very bewildering. There are some features that I like but I haven’t had enough time on the tool to become familiar with its behavior. For the competition today, I didn’t feel comfortable, but I didn’t give up.

Dack: You’re a true designer. First, because you didn’t give up, and you saw the importance of the task at hand. Given the tools that you had, you made the best of it. Congratulations for that.

Thorvaldson: Thank you.

To read this entire conversation, which appeared in the March 2023 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.


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