Reading time ( words)
Mentor Graphics recently announced the winners of its PCB Technology Leadership Awards. Now in its 26th year, this program provides a great barometer for measuring the newest trends in cutting-edge PCB designs. I caught up with Product Marketing Manager David Wiens and asked him to give us an idea of the trends he’s seeing in PCB design and manufacturing, and what the industry has in store for us in the next few years.
Andy Shaughnessy: Let’s start off with a look at the industry. What trends are you seeing in PCB design that you believe will continue in 2016 and beyond?
David Wiens: There are several, Andy. A lot of trends are simply a continuation and expansion of what we’ve seen for several years. As component sizes become smaller and integration more dense, PCBs continue to pack more into less space, resulting in less real estate for traces. Combine this with the fact that the boards themselves are getting smaller and you see the difficult challenge for PCB designers.
For perspective, over the last 20 years PCB feature sizes have shrunk ~3x while IC features have shrunk more than 40x. This has enabled integration of more and more functionality on silicon, which has in turn driven up on-board pin densities, created more diverse power requirements, and much faster signal speeds. So while the spotlight of the industry remains on silicon, the challenges with board design increase in lockstep.
Shaughnessy: So, PCB designers have to deal with this increasing complexity, while still controlling costs and facing a shortening design cycle. How do designers do it?
Wiens: A lot of design today boils down to trade-offs. There are trade-offs between performance and cost (e.g., more layers for efficient shielding or power distribution); between performance and manufacturability (e.g., extra steps for via back-drilling); between form factor and thermal management; and of course between product optimization and the ever-present ticking clock; I could list off at least another 20. All of these require the design team to review their options and pick the most efficient path forward. As design tool vendors, we assist in this process with tools that enable the designers to quickly evaluate their options (e.g., look at how different BGA fan-out schemes impact power distribution; or how device vendor guidelines for stack-up, trace geometries/topology can be bent to still meet performance requirements at lower cost).
To read this entire article, which appeared in the February 2016 issue of The PCB Design Magazine, click here.