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It's been a wild year in the PCB design community. Naturally, the top columns in The PCB Design Magazine during 2014 cover a maze of topics, from high-speed design to design for manufacture. So, without further ado, here are the Top 10 columns from The PCB Design Magazine of the past year.
At #10, The Town Crier: Differential Education 101 for PCB Designers, by Dan Smith, Raytheon Missile Systems: What is the state of PCB designer education in 2014 and where is it going? Where should it be going? Columnist Dan Smith's new column will focus on PCB design, design processes, education and a host of topics important to PCB designers.At #9, Beyond Design: Surface Finishes for High-Speed PCBs, by Barry Olney, In-Circuit Design Pty Ltd.: PCB surface finishes vary in type, price, availability, shelf life, assembly process, and reliability. While each treatment has its own merits, electroless nickel immersion gold (ENIG) finish has traditionally been the best fine pitch (flat) surface and lead-free option for SMT boards over recent years. But, unfortunately, nickel is a poor conductor with only one third the conductivity of copper.At #8, Bob and Me: The Key to Increasing Quality - Bribe Your Employees, by Bob Tarzwell and Dan Beaulieu: Back in the 1990s when Bob owned a board shop in Canada, the company was going through a bad stretch, as board shops sometimes will. Yields were way down and they were losing a lot of boards for stupid reasons, many having to do with carelessness and apathy. Bob tried yelling and screaming, but, not being a naturally gifted yeller and screamer, Bob proved ineffective at this method. So he knew he had to try something new.At #7, Beyond Design: Entanglement - The Holy Grail of High-Speed Design, by Barry Olney, In-Circuit Design Pty Ltd.: While high-speed SERDES serial communications seems to currently be at the cutting edge of technology, maybe it will shortly become an antiquated low-speed solution--even speed-of-light fiber optics may become obsolete. This month, Columnist Barry Olney looks at how quantum physics is transforming our world and how it could affect PCB design.AT #6, Design For Manufacture: High-speed Networks Drive New Material Choices, by Amit Bahl, Sierra Circuits: The number of people online is soaring and demand for video services and other applications is compounding the burdens on network bandwidth. Likewise, data-intensive business applications are straining the bandwidth of corporate IT infrastructures. Every sector of the industry is being driven by the need to provide greater network capacity, yet improve the efficiency of network communication equipment in terms of bits per second per watt.At #5, Bert's Practical Design Notes: Accelerating the SI Learning Curve - Bogatin's SI Academy, by Bert Simonovich, Lamsim Enterprises: Columnist Bert Simonovich writes, "Last year, Dr. Eric Bogatin, the 'Signal Integrity Evangelist,' announced the end of his famous signal integrity classes. At the time I remember thinking to myself, 'What's next for Eric?' If you know Eric, like I do, you realize that the end of one phase of his career usually means the start of the next one. And now we know what that is."At #4, Beyond Design: Matched Length Does Not Always Equal Matched Delay, by Barry Olney, In-Circuit Design Pty Ltd.: In previous columns, Columnist Barry Olney has discussed matched length routing and how matched length does not necessarily mean matched delay. But, all design rules, specified by chip manufacturers regarding high-speed routing, specify matched length--not matched delay. In this month's column he takes a look at the actual differences between the two.At #3, Brooks' Bits: Electromagnetic Fields, Part 3 - How They Impact Coupling, by Douglas Brooks, UltraCAD Design: In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, Doug Brooks talked about how helpful it can be to recognize what the electromagnetic field looks like around a conductor or trace and how that field may change as the stackup or trace parameters are changed. In Part 3, he looks at how changes in the electromagnetic field relate to changes in coupling between traces or between a trace and the outside world.At #2, The Bare (Board) Truth: Understanding the Typical CAM Process, by Mark Thompson CID+, Prototron Circuits: Not all board fabricators have the ability to have both CAD and CAM. You may say to yourself, "But a CAM tool should be able to do some, if not all, CAD functions," and that is true; but if you are really getting to the design level, you need to have a design team.And, at the #1 spot, Design for Manufacturing: Mythbusting - Semi-additive Process Makes Sub-3/3 a Reality, by Amit Bahl, Sierra Circuits: PCB designers used to have good reasons for avoiding trace widths and spaces smaller than 3 mils beyond very short spans. But the 3-mil limitation is now becoming a thing of the past, thanks to the use of semi-additive fabrication by some board manufacturers. The main reason designers steered clear of sub-3-mil lines and spaces for more than short distances is etch factor.