A year of COVID-19 has taught the world how to operate more efficiently in the virtual amphitheater, and IPC is no different. While standards development meetings have historically occurred via teleconference, and most internal IPC business is conducted remotely, our larger programs—training and educational activities, full-day development meetings, hand-soldering competitions, etc.—have always relied on face-to-face collaboration. In the case of IPC Design, which debuted only weeks before lockdowns commenced around the world, it became clear that the initial model would not provide affiliate members with the promised experience. The drawing board was dusted off—although it didn’t have too much time to collect dust—and a newer, sleeker model was devised.
Before explaining what has changed, it’s important to detail what hasn’t changed. The key goals of IPC Design have always been to facilitate the professional development of its affiliate members, to enable professional networking among its affiliate members, to provide liaison between the professional printed board designers (and electronics manufacturing experts, in general) and academia, and to generally advance the art and science of printed board design engineering. It is still free to join and will always be free.
As for the changes, in short, IPC Design is now easier to join than ever. By migrating the community to Discord—a popular, free-to-use, multi-platform community building tool—many of the steps to affiliate have been eliminated, and the time-to-join has been reduced to 10 minutes (or less). There are no more forms to sign or bylaws to understand. The affiliation form can be found on the new IPC.org, which has recently been updated to offer a better experience to users—both IPC members and visitors alike.
Once you’ve signed up, you will receive a reply from IPC within two business days that includes instructions on how to join Discord.
By migrating to Discord, we have also formally eliminated the Chapter model, and coalesced all the previous affiliation types into one, unified affiliate. Discord is a server-based utility, and in general, “server” and “group” can be considered synonymous for the remainder of this column. As an affiliate, you can belong to as many servers as you would like, and you can request to create a server for your local design community, special interest group, project, or any other activity.
Upon signing up, you can choose which server you would like to belong to as an active affiliate, with the ability to use the chat and video features at will, as well as upload and download files. You will also be automatically enrolled in the global community as an affiliate with full permissions. (Currently, the global server will operate in English; however, Discord does offer built-in translation for its UI, and most browsers support translation of text within the Discord chat itself.)
One exciting aspect of the new Discord-based model is that any affiliate can join any other region’s server at will, allowing them to access materials and conversations therein (albeit in that server’s language). We are experimenting with enabling observer permissions for all affiliates in all servers, so that you can keep tabs on what activities are occurring around the world.
As of now, there are a few designers who have acted as pilots for the various IPC Design iterations, and I extend my thanks to those few. At this point, we are opening the floodgates for the new future of IPC Design, and I welcome all to come and give it a try.
The benefits of joining IPC Design are simple: By accessing a network of global design engineers (for free), you unlock hundreds of years’ worth of design engineering experience with whom to ask questions, disposition new ideas, forge new business relationships, and unlock new perspectives. By integrating IPC Design with the IPC Education Foundation, we will also be enabling established engineers to seek out new talent in the industry for mentorship, internship, or employment.
There are also no obligations, yearly meeting quota or dues to be paid, and there is no implicit promise of resource or time expenditure on your end.
IPC is dedicated to helping the industry build electronics better, and industry members associated with IPC Design have already been asked by IPC to provide input on new educational courses, participate in brainstorming sessions for upcoming design competitions (yes, this idea is not dead—there will be a board design competition in 2021), and provide feedback on which IPC standards should be translated into new languages. So, while you have no obligations, we hope to leverage your experience in design beyond what is available in standards development meetings alone.
I urge you to stop by and take a look. As the program grows, there will be even more members available with whom you can create a community. The new IPC Design is sleeker, more lightweight, and more accessible than ever—just another way that IPC strives to help you make your life easier and your designs better.
- Find the affiliation form at ipc.org/affiliate-ipc-design.
This column originally appeared in the January 2021 issue of Design007 Magazine.