The State of High-Speed Materials

Choosing the right material for your PCB was so simple a few decades ago. All but the most high-tech PCBs were constructed with FR-4. The lowly FR-4 has been improved and re-engineered many times in the past few decades, and rumors of its demise have proven unfounded.

But at today’s high speeds, FR-4 often doesn’t measure up, and designers must select an advanced low-loss PCB material with low Df and Dk values that isn’t prohibitively expensive or terribly difficult for fabricators to register during lamination. High-speed PCB signals now exhibit characteristics previously seen only in the RF and microwave world, requiring PCB designers to consider using lok-Dk RF materials such as PTFE and Teflon, which are much “softer” than FR-4 and tougher for the fabricator to work with.   

We started out with a reader survey. We asked, “If you are a PCB fabricator or designer, what are the greatest challenges for you working with high-speed materials?” and some of the answers were quite interesting.

Answers included:

  • Dielectric constant is too high
  • Material movement
  • Getting accurate performance data
  • Customer knowledge
  • Performance for signal integrity
  • Getting accurate dielectric material properties from data sheets
  • Availability
  • Too many materials to stock
  • Mechanical stability in the z-axis
  • Materials adhesion
  • As a PCB fabricator, understanding designers' needs
  • Hole wall quality
  • Educating the customers on what they actually need
  • Impedance control
  • Lead time
  • Cost

Many of the fabricators’ biggest challenges were related to manufacturability. The more high-tech materials are softer and pose problems with adhesion and registration. But many of the problems cited by designers centered on the lack of good data for advanced materials.

To read this entire column, which appeared in the April issue of The PCB Design Magazine, click here.

Back

2017

The State of High-Speed Materials

05-10-2017

The May issue of The PCB Design Magazine focuses on high-speed materials. As always, we started out with a reader survey. We asked, “If you are a PCB fabricator or designer, what are the greatest challenges for you working with high-speed materials?” and some of the answers were quite interesting. Many of the problems cited by PCB designers centered on the lack of good data for advanced materials.

View Story

We Have to be Marketers for Our Industry

04-12-2017

IPC has been working for decades to get the PCB curriculum into colleges. But wait. Isn’t this our responsibility? It’s our industry; shouldn’t we see to it that our industry gets the respect it deserves, and that the next generation can’t resist joining us and working on some of the coolest technology around? What if everyone who attended IPC APEX EXPO went home and visited the schools in their neighborhood, spreading the word about our industry? What if everyone who attended DesignCon, DAC, IMS and PCB West did the same? I bet the locals who attend CPCA are already doing this.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: Are You a Luddite?

03-01-2017

I recently discovered that I’d become a Luddite. Sure, it was only in one very specific case, but as technical magazine editor, not to mention the IT guy for our home, I like to think I’m on top of technology. But setting up podcasts on my iPhone proved to be a bridge too far. Don't be a Luddite!

View Story
Back

2016

The Shaughnessy Report: Sales and Marketing in PCB Design

12-27-2016

Sales in the electronics industry used to be so simple: You started cold-calling and you called until you made a sale. Ditto for marketing: Your company attended and exhibited at trade shows, presented papers at conferences, and (hopefully) you advertised in the trade publications of your choice. And if you were selling EDA tools, you flew around the globe doing presentations. But now there are a multitude of social media tools that can help sales and marketing folks, if they know how to use them.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: The Hole Truth

11-30-2016

For such a simple structure, the PCB via certainly stirs up more than its share of intrigue. The via is another one of those topics that pop up in our reader surveys when we ask about your ongoing challenges. And it’s not just the blind and buried vias that draw readers’ attention. Something as basic as a hole drilled through a circuit board can generate a whole lot of controversy.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: Let’s Get Small

07-20-2016

I sometimes wonder what people were thinking during great moments in history. For instance, did you ever wonder what was going through the minds of the technologists who created the earliest PCBs? I imagine that when the first PCBs were developed, rather than just being satisfied that they’d created this great new piece of interconnect, the lead engineers were already thinking, “What if we could put more components on this thing? What if we shrank the traces? Could we use the ENIAC computer to design PCBs? That would be swell!”

View Story

Doing My Part for Medical Electronics

02-25-2016

One interesting aspect of having hernia surgery recently was the number of PCBs in the operating room. I’ve never seen so many electronic devices together in my life. I saw one Agilent monitor, and a bunch of others with names I couldn’t make out. It reminded me of the IT room in most companies. I guess they had to be set up to handle routine surgery like mine, and the not-so-routine operations as well. Medical electronics is doing fine, no doubt

View Story
Back

2015

The Shaughnessy Report: The PCB Design Supply Chain

08-26-2015

We asked readers of The PCB Design Magazine if their supply chain was a problem for them. Almost two thirds of respondents said no, but a solid 37% said yes. And surprisingly, for many it was an emphatic “yes.” Navigating the supply chain is a huge challenge for some of our leading companies. Comments such as “We’re dealing with idiots” were typical.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: Fighting the War on Failure

08-11-2015

No one in this industry sets out to fail, except failure analysis test engineers. But failure is a part of life for designers and manufacturers of electronics. Our reader surveys show that failure affects nearly everyone in the PCB industry: designers, fabricators, assembly providers, OEMs, and suppliers.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: All About That Via?

07-29-2015

In June, I went on a little road trip. I attended Zuken Innovation World in San Diego, and later headed up the coast to the Orange County Designers Council's "Lunch and Learn" event, set up by Chapter President Scott McCurdy. Who says there aren't enough educational opportunities in PCB design?

View Story

The Readers Speak

06-03-2015

Recently, we sent out a survey with a handful of questions; we’ve found that surveys with too many questions don’t get answered. One question was, “Does supply chain management affect your job?” The answers were surprising. Almost 2/3 of you said no, the supply chain doesn’t affect your job in any meaningful way. But a third of you said the exact opposite: The supply chain impacts your job directly, and for some of you, it’s a big problem. A very vocal minority left us a variety of great comments regarding their supply chain challenges.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: Moore's Law Turns 50

05-20-2015

Fifty years ago, Dr. Gordon E. Moore was director of R&D at Fairchild Semiconductor, and "Electronics Magazine" asked him to make some predictions about the future of the semiconductor industry. On April 19, 1965, the magazine published his earthshaking article outlining what became known as Moore’s Law. But as Moore's Law turns 50, the vultures are circling overhead.

View Story

Happy New Year; Now Back to Work

02-18-2015

During the week of February 22–26, it’s off to San Diego for IPC APEX EXPO and the Design Forum. (And three cheers for IPC moving APEX back to “America’s Finest City.” (It’s hard to have a bad day in San Diego.) Appropriately, the Design Forum kicks off the week, with a keynote by Carl Schattke, a PCB design engineer with Tesla Motors.

View Story
Back

2014

The Shaughnessy Report: Who is Your EDA Company's Customer?

12-10-2014

"At first glance, it sounds like a simple question, with a simple answer. Some of you may be thinking, 'I'm the EDA tool company's customer. My tool provider serves me, the designer.' But I've heard from a growing number of PCB designers who disagree. Not all designers are in this group; it's definitely not a majority," writes Editor Andy Shaughnessy.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: Help Wanted - PCB Design Needs an Icon

07-23-2014

Editor Andy Shaughnessy writes, "Designers are retiring, and they just aren't being replaced. When was the last time you met a designer who was under 30?...What's our hook, our 10-second elevator spiel? PCB design suffers from an image problem. It has no image, and that's the problem."

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: Couch Time at SMTA Atlanta

05-28-2014

"The exhibitors at SMTA Atlanta just about filled up the room. Everyone I spoke with was in good spirits. Some companies were in hiring mode, and a few had just experienced great quarters, but no one was predicting wild revenue growth this year. Like the electronics industry in general, they were planning for steady, incremental growth. That's better than no growth at all," writes Editor Andy Shaughnessy.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: Out With the Old, In With the New?

04-30-2014

Editor Andy Shaughnessy writes, "I spoke with President John W. Mitchell and discovered that he lives near me in metro Atlanta, and he designed PCBs in the past. For years, PCB designers felt, often accurately, that IPC was giving the design community short shrift. But Mitchell sounded determined to change that. How many of you ever thought IPC would be led by a man who had PCB design experience?"

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: DesignCon - A PCB Design Show

02-26-2014

Every DesignCon, we get a chance to check out the current state of PCB (and IC) design, as well as the latest from the EDA tool industry. This year's conference boasted a variety of papers on signal integrity, EMC, test and measurement, and high-speed PCB design in general. There was plenty of focus on 10 Gb Ethernet, and a slew of skew coverage too.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: The Old Guard Moves On

02-05-2014

The year ahead is ripe with promise. The jobless rate dropped to 7%, the lowest in five years, and more jobs were added to the economy in December than analysts expected. And, surprisingly, the U.S. government hasn't shut down in nearly three months! Did the Democrats and Republicans secretly agree to quit calling each other names and actually work together?

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: Bringing Sexy Back to EDA

01-08-2014

Amid all of the hullabaloo in this industry, we sometimes forget one absolute truth: We're all geeks. Admit it. If you're reading this, there's no way around it: You are a geek.

View Story
Back

2013

The Shaughnessy Report: A Time for New Ideas

10-30-2013

Editor Andy Shaughnessy says, "At this rate, there won't be anyone left in this industry in 30 years. We have to attract more young people to the world of PCB design, fabrication, and assembly. I may be 50, but odds are I'm still younger than just about anyone reading this. That's nice for me, but it's bad for the future."

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: An Inside Look at PCB West 2013

10-01-2013

"It's been a few years since I last attended PCB West, but I'm glad I went this year. The show has been growing steadily over the past few years, and this year it was busier than it's been in quite a while. Let's take this as a good omen for 2014!" said Editor Andy Shaughnessy.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: Tech Support - Are You Happy With Yours?

09-11-2013

Tech support seems simple enough. EDA tool users on maintenance are entitled to technical support services; just call or e-mail your software company and a helpful tech support person will right all of your wrongs and have you designing again in no time. So why do so many PCB designers despise their vendors' tech support?

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: The Year in Design

01-02-2013

As we enter 2013, it's a great time to look back over the PCB design news of 2012. The American electronics industry seemed to find more solid ground in 2012, but we’re not out of the woods yet. Since our leaders in Washington averted a fiscal cliff crisis, we just might see real growth this year. What's ahead for 2013?

View Story
Back

2012

Introducing: The PCB Design Magazine

10-10-2012

The PCB design is the foundation of electronic products. So, why isn't there a magazine dedicated solely to PCB design? We couldn't think of a reason either, so we're taking action. In November, we're launching The PCB Design Magazine, a publication that covers PCB design and related issues. Our inaugural issue will feature articles by Lee Ritchey, Happy Holden, Tom Hausherr, and Iain Wilson, and the best stable of columnists anywhere.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: Packed DesignCon a Good Sign

02-08-2012

The show floor at DesignCon 2012 was packed, the conference sessions well attended. And for its second year managing DesignCon, United Business Media seems to have worked out most of the kinks in its customer service. That's a very good thing for DesignCon going forward.

View Story
Back

2011

2011: The Year in Design

12-28-2011

This has been one crazy year, and 2012 is likely to be even more volatile. But when we look back over the past 12 months, we realize that things actually could have been much, much worse. And so, in the spirit of the New Year, enjoy this brief snapshot of 2011, as recorded in the pages of PCBDesign007 and the Inside Design Newsletter.

View Story

Talking Translation With Elgris Technologies' Igor Luvishis

11-16-2011

Once again, EDA data standards are in the news again. But an entire industry is devoted to translating data from one EDA vendor's format to another. We tracked down Elgris Technologies President Igor Luvishis and got the straight scoop on his company's direct (vendor-to-vendor), EDIF, and XML translators.

View Story

Behind the Scenes: Intercept Overhauls Pantheon's GUI

09-15-2011

Intercept Technology's Pantheon PCB layout suite has served its users well. But the tool, developed in the early 1990s, now felt "clunky" to use, as some Intercept staff members put it. It was time for a complete redesign of the interface. I spoke with Project Lead Brian Jones about the new Pantheon interface, which the company believes will make users feel like they're driving a Ferrari instead of a Gremlin.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: The Evolution of the PCB Designer

08-24-2011

Many of you started out hand-taping PCB designs, and you've seen a lot of changes since then. But now it's starting to get really interesting. In the future, the North American PCB designer may have to be much more of a project manager than "just" a layout guy or gal.

View Story

PCB Summit Preview with John Andresakis

01-21-2011

Each year, DesignCon expands its PCB content in the classrooms while attracting more PCB exhibitors on the show floor. For 2011, the PCB Summit will be chaired by John Andresakis, VP of Strategic Technology for Oak-Mitsui. He offers a preview of DesignCon 2011, as well as what attendees can expect at the PCB Summit.

View Story
Back

2010

Top 25 Design007 Stories of 2010

12-21-2010

In online publishing, especially in the business-to-business arena, views are what it's all about. When a columnist or contributor crafts an article that pulls in a few thousand views, we know that he--or she--is onto something. And if a news story blows up the view-o-meter, the topic of that story might be worth a follow-up. Here are the Top 25 stories from Design007 in 2010.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: The Year in Review

12-15-2010

It was the supposed to be the year of the recovery, and signs of revival were everywhere. But 2010 proved to be a tough year for many companies in the PCB industry. Still, there were plenty of great stories to be told in the world of PCB design. Here is a look back at 2010 as seen in PCB Design007.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: HDI Class Q&A with Dan Smith

08-24-2010

Is North America falling behind the rest of the world in HDI technology development? Not if Dan Smith can help it. "The New Mr. HDI" is putting together the first IPC HDI certification course and exam. We caught up with him and discussed the HDI course, what it takes to be an instructor and Happy Holden's 400-gig "data dump."

View Story

Great Education Online, If You Know Where to Look

07-14-2010

Many Internet sources provide education and training in our respective fields. You just have to know where to look. It's not quite like attending a live training event, but you can improve your skill set through the Internet, and you can often do so free of charge.

View Story

A DFA Match: PCBDesign007 Plus SMT Magazine

07-07-2010

You've likely heard that I-Connect007 has acquired SMT Magazine. As a result, we have inherited quite a stable of columnists, including Vern Solberg of Solberg Technical Consulting, who will continue writing his column "PCB Designers Notebook" for PCBDesign007. Exciting times lie ahead.

View Story

Milestones: Paul Eisler's PCB Patent Turns 60

06-16-2010

Paul Eisler developed the first PCB while living in a London boarding house, on the run from the Nazis, shortly before he was locked up as an illegal alien by the British. Eisler's life story is proof that you should never underestimate a determined engineer.

View Story

PCB Design: The Best Beat a Reporter Could Have

04-28-2010

As a reporter, I've covered car shows, air shows, real estate, city politics and crime. I've counted bullet holes, worked police checkpoints and sat through DNA evidence at trials. But PCB design is by far the best beat I've ever covered as a reporter.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: Good Season For Trade Shows

04-21-2010

It's spring and that means show season is in full swing. We've covered a half-dozen PCB trade shows since January, and all of them have shown increased attendance over last year. Despite a tumultuous 2009 and virtual challengers on the Web, the venerable trade show will probably be around for some time.

View Story

Designers Day Preview: Rick Hartley on Fighting EMI

03-31-2010

This week we'll hear from Rick Hartley, the high-speed design instructor who will be teaching his "EMI: High Frequency/High-Speed Design" workshop at IPC APEX Expo during Designers Day. Rick explains some of the issues he'll cover in his class, and discusses why the board design, not circuit design, is usually behind EMI problems.

View Story

Tool Talk With New Polar CEO Martyn Gaudion

03-17-2010

Martyn Gaudion came up through the ranks at Polar Instruments over the past two decades, and he recently took the reins as CEO. Find out what Martyn has planned for the company's design, fabrication and documentation tools, and what the rest of 2010 may bring for our industry.

View Story
Back

2009

Madhavan Swaminathan: The Power of Power Integrity

11-18-2009

Dr. Madhavan Swaminathan, Joseph M. Pettit Professor in Electronics at Georgia Tech and a co-author of "Power Integrity Modeling and Design for Semiconductors and Systems," and Guest Editor Eric Bogatin discuss the issues surrounding power integrity and the need for accurate measurement tools, as well as his work as CTO for E-System Design.

View Story

Zuken's Z-DAC Conference Well Attended

11-09-2009

The annual Zuken users event held just outside Dallas drew a good crowd of attendees. Travel budgets may still be tight, but users came from all over the U.S. - a few even came from Canada - to attend classes and share feedback with Zuken's tool developers.

View Story

Stilwell Baker Focuses on Engineering

10-21-2009

While the industry contracted over the past year, Stilwell Baker added a design center and expanded its engineering services. COO Peter Hoogerhuis explains how Stilwell Baker differentiates itself in the design engineering arena, and how customer demand drove the company's recent growth.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: Talking Design With Scott McCurdy

10-07-2009

FreedomCAD's Scott McCurdy has spent 40 years in the PCB industry. After running a board shop, Scott transitioned from the world of fabrication to PCB design. Hear what this self-described "designer wannabee" has to say about the future of PCB design and the need for design education.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: DesignCon Prepares for PCB Summit

09-29-2009

DesignCon 2010 will be here before you know it. Program Director Barry Sullivan is getting ready for DesignCon 2010, which will feature a first-ever PCB conference track. Barry discusses what engineers and designers can expect at the February show in Santa Clara.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: The Wikipedia Revolution

09-16-2009

"The Wikipedia Revolution" is a great book by Andrew Lih. This book has it all--a solid American Dream plot line, colorful characters and plenty of cool technology. With fewer than a dozen employees and a $1 million budget, how does Wikipedia stay in the Top 20 of Internet sites?

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: Happy on PCB Design Advances

09-02-2009

Happy Holden recently announced that he was retiring from Mentor Graphics and moving to Taiwan. Ray Rasmussen, Steve Gold and I interviewed Happy shortly after his announcement. In this clip, Happy comments on the major advancements in PCB design he's seen in the last 40 years.

View Story

Armistead Technologies: Military Work Not Just for "Big Guys"

08-25-2009

Many smaller PCB companies shy away from military work for a plethora of reasons, with cost of certification and the often long wait to get paid ranking near the top of the list. But John Armistead of Armistead Technologies believes that even the "little guys" can compete for--and win--military contracts.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: NI Week Wrapup

08-19-2009

National Instruments recently held its annual NI Week in Austin, Texas and, despite the unsteady economy, attendance increased from last year. NI's Bhavesh Mistry explains how this event drew so many engineers to the hundred-degree Texas heat, and why NI's hardware and software are a perfect match.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: ADI Bridges the Data Gap

08-12-2009

PCB designers would love to be able to create a library part and take it into all EDA design tool vendors' formats, without spending too much time and money. ADI's Frank Frank and Mike Wilson explain how ADI stepped in to fill that need with Ultra Librarian.

View Story
Back

2008

The Shaughnessy Report: Great Time to Donate Old PCs

12-23-2008

According to a recent report, the used PC market is slowing in spite of increasing demand. So, in the spirit of the holidays, why not donate your old computer to a charity or non-profit organization?

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: Altium's "Better Way" Campaign

12-10-2008

Altium drew the attention - and chuckles - of the design community with an online ad featuring the overworked design engineer Dave and his restless girlfriend Bunny. President Emma Lo Russo and Product Manager Rob Irwin discuss Altium's "better way" of developing EDA tools.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: A Conversation With Max Maxfield

12-03-2008

Over the years, Max Maxfield has designed and written about CPUs, PCBs, ASICs--you name it. Today, while some segments of the industry seem to be reaching maturity, Max believes FPGAs and other programmables are just starting to hit their technological stride.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: CAD, Cars and California

11-26-2008

I always enjoy visiting the Golden State. Last week I was in Orange County, attending the Z-DAC Zuken users group meeting and visiting PCB design service bureaus. I managed to dodge the wild fires, and I had a glimpse into the future of transportation: The electric car.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: LogicSwap Loses Nothing in the Translation

11-18-2008

LogicSwap President Dilip Pitil built his data conversion company around the idea that PCB designs, schematics and libraries should be able to move in and out of any CAD vendor's PCB design tool. Dilip and Marketing Manager Mike Wilson sat down with Andy at the Z-DAC Zuken users group meeting in Long Beach.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report : PCB Matrix Finds Value in Offering Free Tools

11-12-2008

PCB Matrix recently announced plans to offer its new V2009 IPC Land Pattern Calculator free to all users of the IPC 7351 Viewer. President Tom Hausherr explains how PCB Matrix finds plenty of value in by giving tools away.

View Story

Nick Barbin on Optimum's Acquisition of RockSolid

11-05-2008

What slowing economy? Optimum Design Associates recently acquired RockSolid Design, combining a top Allegro design bureau with a top Expedition shop. Optimum President Nick Barbin explains why this move made strategic sense.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: Time For Investment, Innovation

10-29-2008

After all the recent negative financial news, some players in the electronics industry will opt to operate in survival mode well into next year. But companies that invest in innovative technologies and processes now will be the winners when the storm clears.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: "Survival" a Lean Book for Everyone

10-22-2008

PCB designers may ignore all the news about lean processes, because lean is often associated with manufacturing. But as Steve Williams of Plexus explains in his book "Survival in Not Mandatory," lean can help cut waste from any process.

View Story

The Shaughnessy Report: Deac Descoteaux of PalPilot on Scheduling and Quoting Strategies

10-08-2008

Scheduling and quoting PCB designs is an inexact science. Deac Descoteaux of PalPilot discusses strategies for figuring out when that design will really be finished. Plus, a non-scientific look at whether a designer's gender has any impact on scheduling accuracy.

View Story
Copyright © 2017 I-Connect007. All rights reserved.