EDA Tools: Automation vs. Control


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Stephen V. Chavez, CID+, has been a senior-level PCB designer for almost 20 years. He is currently the lead PCB designer for the Electronic Systems Center division of UTC Aerospace Systems (UTAS).

Stephen stays pretty busy. He’s the vice president of his local IPC Designers Council chapter in Phoenix, and a Designers Council Executive Board member at large, and he is recognized as a Subject Matter Expert by IPC. He often speaks at the Design Forum at IPC APEX EXPO. At this year’s Design Forum, “Steph” spoke about the importance of taking charge of your PCB design education and networking.

I caught up with Stephen and asked for his thoughts on the EDA tools of today, and whether he’d prefer to have more control vs. more automation.

Andy Shaughnessy: You’ve been a designer for a few years. In general, what do you think of today’s design automation tools?

Stephen Chavez: It’s true that I’ve been designer for many years now and have used a variety of tool sets. In my experience, I find today’s automation tools extremely useful and when the opportunity presents itself to use these type tools, they can assist greatly in the overall success of a project. Today’s tools have gotten very powerful. They range from very simple to use, to very complex in nature. In my opinion as a designer, I strongly feel that when a designer progresses in his/her career and perfects his/her craft, if and when the opportunity exist, they should take advantage of these new automated tools to design a more quality product, shorten the overall design cycle, and positively affect the overall project budget. With today’s designs getting more and more complex, there are instances where the only way to complete a task is to take advantages of these automation tools. Taking advantages of the horse power within these automation tools in today’s design world is key and I feel these tools should be evaluated to see how they can benefit you and your employer by positively impact your effectiveness as a designer and ultimately improve your company’s success. 

Shaughnessy: For your day-to-day design work, would you rather see more automation in your tools, or have more manual control? Is it just a matter of having the correct mix?

Chavez: For me, I’d rather have more automation in my tools. Being able to do tasks faster, work more efficiently, and producing better quality designs allows me more time to evaluate multiple options for better results and of course shortens my design cycle. With that said, having the correct mix is important too. I feel each designer has to figure out what works best for him/her and within his company. In the end, it’s not the tool that makes the difference… It’s the designer!

Shaughnessy: In what areas of design do you usually favor more automation?

Chavez: For me, I’d have to say the areas of design I favor more automation are as follows: constraint input/edits/updating, autorouting, generating outputs, documentation, DFM checking (Valor), design re-use and library part creation (symbols and cells). These are areas I feel where taking advantage of today’s automated tools is a must and can be a game changer.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the May 2016 issue of The PCB Design Magazine, click here.

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