Article Highlights
Steve Robinson Discusses APCT’s Tenfold Expansion
05/24/2017 | Andy Shaughnessy, PCBDesign007
Altium Focuses on the Designer First
05/22/2017 | Judy Warner, Altium
San Diego IPC Designers Council Meeting Held at Del Mar Show
05/11/2017 | Judy Warner, Altium
Bruce Mahler Discusses Ohmega’s Resistive Material Technology
05/07/2017 | Andy Shaughnessy, PCBDesign007
Sensible Design: Casting a Spotlight on Resin Applications
05/03/2017 | Alistair Little, Electrolube
Design :: Suppliers

Latest Articles

Steve Robinson Discusses APCT’s Tenfold Expansion

Steve Robinson, CEO of APCT, a PCB fabricator in Silicon Valley, has led the company to impressive growth since he acquired it nearly 10 years ago. I ran into Steve at DesignCon 2017, and we sat down to discuss the company’s remarkable transformation and his focus on working with PCB designers and engineers to create advanced, high-speed PCBs.

Altium Focuses on the Designer First

A few months before Judy Warner joined Altium, while she was still with I-Connect007, she sat down with Lawrence Romine to discuss the company’s drive to satisfy the individual PCB designer, and not necessarily the OEMs who employ them. Romine also explains what sets designers and engineers apart from the average person, and why some Altium users have a different primary EDA tool, but use Altium when they need a design done fast.

San Diego IPC Designers Council Meeting Held at Del Mar Show

The Del Mar Electronics and Manufacturing Show is a long-time favorite among PCB professionals. What better place to hold a meeting of the San Diego Chapter of the IPC Designers Council? Each year, the San Diego Chapter of the Designers Council hosts their largest meeting of the year at the Del Mar show. This year, approximately 50 PCB designers and electronics professionals attended the lunch-and-learn meeting.

'Flexdude' Tom Woznicki Celebrates Company’s 25th Anniversary

Twenty-five years ago, Tom “Flexdude” Woznicki got laid off. A lot of people did, back during the mini-recession that helped bring Bill Clinton into the White House. So, he launched his own flex circuit design bureau and never looked back. Since then, he’s designed flex circuitry for everything under the sun, including the Mars Rover; the flex circuits he designed are visible in many of the Rover photos. I ran into Tom at DesignCon 2017 and we discussed the benefits of flex circuits, the expansion of the flex market, and his company’s first quarter-century in operation.

China High-Speed PCB Market Update with Polar's Simon Chan

During the recent CPCA Show in Shanghai, Editor Stephen Las Marias and Polar Instruments (China) Assistant Manager Simon Chan discussed the opportunities and challenges for Polar's customers in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as the current state of the high-speed PCB market in China.

Perpetual or Subscription EDA Tool Licenses? That is the Question

After I began working at Altium, I started learning all I could about PCB design software licensing. I wondered about the pros and cons of perpetual vs. subscription licenses. I wanted to learn firsthand from PCB designers what kind of benefits they received and challenges they faced as a result of how EDA companies offered design tools. I reached out to a variety of sources to get a broad slice of insight into this evolving issue, and thus began my trip down the EDA licensing software rabbit hole.

Mentor Graphics Takes Best Paper Award at DesignCon

At DesignCon, I met with Dave Kohlmeier, senior product line director for Mentor Graphics. We discussed their Best Paper award and DesignCon sessions such as the Signal Integrity Boot Camp, as well as the new rigid-flex capabilities found in the HypeLynx suite.

A New Power Design Methodology for PCB Designs

Advanced PCB design is an iterative process of analysis-fix-analysis. Historically, this process is very time-consuming, requiring analysis experts and PCB designers to work together to find and fix layout problems. This article describes a new PCB design methodology that allows a PCB designer to perform the power design without having to run expert-level analysis tools. This methodology provides the setup automation for advanced analysis without the need to understand every minute parameter, and can be completed in a few steps.

Catching up with Polar Instruments' Geoffrey Hazelett

Product specialist Geoffrey Hazelett discusses some of the latest developments at Polar Instruments, including a new tool that will allow fabricators to determine how copper roughness will affect the end-product. He also talks about Polar's upcoming eBook on signal integrity, soon to be published by I-Connect007. Talented young technologists like Geoffrey are the future of our industry.

Cadence’s Zhen Mu Discusses Her Power-Aware Analysis Solution White Paper

At DesignCon, I met with Zhen Mu, senior principal product engineer with Cadence Design Systems, and Brad Griffin, product marketing director for Cadence. We discussed Zhen’s new white paper, “Power-Aware Analysis Solution.”


Selling PCB Design Services in a First-World Country

As the business operations manager for Better Boards Inc., I see our company at the focal point for consolidation: a gathering of skilled board designers to create a center of excellence. It is at this point that we have the critical problem facing a PCB design services company: How do we effectively sell these services back to the companies that cast off their own skilled employees? How do we sell PCB design services into small companies that can barely afford the one overworked electrical engineer that they hired last year?

Real Time with...IPC: Jim Fuller Offers HDPUG Update

Sanmina's Jim Fuller gives his insight on how the High-Density Packaging User Group (HDPUG) shares the experience and resources of member companies to tackle projects and get results. Also, he reviews the study of the effect of copper bonding treatment on signal integrity

EIPC 2017 Winter Conference Review of Day 2

Almost everyone made it back to the conference room for the start of the second day of the EIPC Winter Conference in Salzburg, even those who had enjoyed the late networking session into the early hours!

The Evolution of PCB Design and Designers

According to Rainer Asfalg of Altium, VP Sales EMEA, EDA companies owe it to their customers to provide much more than just a standard design tool. Barry Matties met with Rainer at the recent electronica show to discuss the continued evolution of the design process towards automation, and what this might mean for the education and overall requirements of PCB designers going forward.

True DFM: Taking Control of Your EDA Tool

We PCB designers are doing some truly great things with our layout tools. But we must remember that these tools are so powerful that they will sometimes allow us to design things that can’t be manufactured! We must collaborate with our fabricator and assembly brethren and embrace the best DFM practices, or face the consequences downstream.

A Handy Compilation of Our Top 10 DFM Articles

When we started working on this DFM issue, I searched through our files and found that we’ve published some great DFM articles over the past year or so. While topics like signal integrity tend to get most of the limelight, in the end it all comes down to solid DFM practices. So, without further ado, we present this compilation of our Top 10 DFM articles and columns.

Altium’s Sales Plan: Deal Directly with Designers

Altium has been shaking up the EDA world for quite some time. The Australian company once slashed the cost of Altium Designer by 75% to grow market share, and who could forget their famous (or infamous) “Bunny” ad campaign? In this email interview with Lawrence Romine, Altium’s global head of field marketing, he shares his views on sales and marketing in the EDA world, as well as Altium’s philosophy on selling EDA tools.

Top 10 Most-Read Design Articles of 2016

Every January, I like to go back through the last year and see which articles had the highest number of views. They're usually the articles that bring you PCB design and industry information that's relevant to your job. Check out the most-read PCB design articles from 2016.

SiSoft Discusses Signal Integrity Drivers and Challenges

In the last few years, SiSoft has launched a variety of innovative SI tools that help automate tasks that used to take weeks or months to complete. I recently interviewed CEO Barry Katz via email, and he detailed their customers’ challenges, and some of the market drivers in the world of signal integrity.

Sensible Design: Why are Resin Properties So Important?

Last month, I started this series of columns on resins by going back to basics, questioning the core rationale for potting and encapsulation with resins, their fundamental chemistries and how each resin type differs one from the other—indeed, how their individual properties can be exploited to maximise performance under a wide range of environmental conditions. I hope readers found this useful. Of course, when it comes to the choice and applications of resins, there’s a great deal more to discuss.


DownStream Technologies: Building the Interface Between Designers and Fabricators

DownStream Technologies founder Rick Almeida speaks with Editor Pete Starkey about building the interface between the PCB designers and fabricators. He gives details on their design software and where most of the design community resides.

TTM SJ Hosts IPC Designers Council Meeting

The Silicon Valley Chapter of the IPC Designers Council was treated to a delicious barbecue lunch on October 13 at TTM’s San Jose facility. About 20 PCB designers and support professionals gathered for the tri-tip lunch-n-learn conference.

Lightning Speed Laminates: The Blending of High-Speed Digital and High-Frequency RF

When the terms high-speed and high-frequency are mentioned, people think they describe the same issue. But in reality, they can be two very different matters. The term high-speed generally refers to digital technology which transfers data at very high rates. But the term high-frequency is typically related to radio frequency (RF), which involves analog signals moving energy at high frequencies.

Mentor Graphics’ PADS Platform Bridges Design and Manufacturing

At PCB West, Barry Matties spoke with Paul Musto about Mentor’s PADS environment and their introduction of scalable software tools to help design better boards, from the enterprise level down to the entry level and hobbyists. They also discussed the evolution of the design process infrastructure in North America vs. Asia, and what design engineers should focus on to increase their value.

The Shaughnessy Report: Leadership vs. Management

Is your manager one of the great ones, a true leader? Many of your colleagues would probably answer with a pointed “No.” In our reader surveys, we ask, “What is your biggest challenge?” Every time we've posed that question, we received replies along the lines of, “Management doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing.” Some replies are too salty to print.

Freedom CAD: Navigating the Unpredictable Design Marketplace

As COO of the design service bureau Freedom CAD, Scott Miller has a front-row seat to the challenges currently plaguing designers and the design community as a whole. He shared his views with me recently, offering insights on the importance of picking the right partners and customer relationships in an unforgiving and sometimes unpredictable design marketplace.

Altium ActiveRoute Debuts at PCB West: Routes Under One Second Per Connection

While at PCB West, Judy Warner had the chance to sit down with Charles Pfeil of Altium and learn more about their exciting new tool, ActiveRoute, that was introduced and demonstrated during PCB West 2016. She also learned a bit of background about Pfeil, who is a living history lesson in PCB design.

SnapEDA: Inspiring Millennials in the PCB Design Community

Natasha Baker, founder of SnapEDA, is part of the new breed of entrepreneurs. She manages a group of millennials who are not much younger than she is. Natasha discusses what it means to be a manager vs. a leader, what motivates millennial engineers, and some of the changes in the world of EDA that managers have to contend with to succeed.

Beyond Design: How to Handle the Dreaded Danglers, Part 2

In Part 1, I deliberated on how dangling via stubs distort signals passing through an interconnect and also decrease the usable bandwidth of the signal. This is due to the via stub acting as a transmission line antenna, which has a resonant frequency determined by the quarter wavelength of the structure. The conventional solution to this problem is to back-drill (or control depth drill) the vias to bore out the via stub barrels, so that the via stubs are reduced in length if not completely removed. This month I will look into all the possible solutions.

Flexdude Abides: PCB Design for Satellites

Tom Woznicki, aka “Flexdude,” has focused primarily on flex circuit design since he founded Flex Circuit Design Co. in the 1990s, and he designed flex circuits for the Mars rover. But recently, Tom designed rigid PCBs for the TESS satellite. I asked Tom to discuss his work with TESS, and what it’s like switching between flexible and rigid PCBs.


John Cardone on Designing Flex for Spacecraft

If you watched footage of the Mars rover driving all over the red planet, you’re familiar with some of John Cardone’s handiwork. He’s been designing rigid, flex, and rigid-flex circuitry for spacecraft since he joined JPL in the early ‘80s, and he’s worked on some of the more ground-breaking flex circuits along the way. Now John runs his own design service bureau, JMC Design Services, and he continues to design circuitry for things that blast off. I caught up with John recently and asked him to give us the straight scoop on designing boards for spacecraft.

Mike Creeden: Care and Training of Your Designers

The I-Connect007 team recently visited San Diego PCB Inc. and received a warm welcome from CEO Mike Creeden and his youthful-looking (relatively speaking) team of designers. Creeden spoke with Barry Matties and Judy Warner about what it takes to run a successful design service center, how to properly care for the PCB designers of today and tomorrow, and why IPC’s design training is paramount when training a new designer.

Sensible Design: Conformal Coatings - Beware the Boards that ‘Bare’ All!

This month, Phil Kinner departs from his usual format of providing five essential facts about conformal coatings. Instead, he provides an account of a customer’s problem—no company names mentioned, of course—that brought into question the adhesion performance of a coating that they had been using successfully for some time.

The Evolution of Altium: Road to a Record-Breaking Year

Chris Donato, VP of sales for Altium Americas, sat down with Judy Warner recently to discuss what he and Altium have been doing lately, where they came from (Australia) and what the future holds for Altium. This company has evolved from flying well under the radar during the acquisition frenzy of the ‘80s, to achieving a record $100 million in sales for fiscal year 2016.

Increasing Heat Dissipation in FPGAs

In recent years, the miniaturization and modularization of electronic products have led to the increased density of electronic components and the decrease of areas for effective heat dissipation. As a result, the thermal design of high-powered electronic components has become a major focus for electronics engineers. An effective solution for FPGA heat dissipation is critical. Thermal design of the PCB aims to decrease the temperature of both components and the board through suitable measures, so that the system is capable of working at a suitable temperature.

Orange Co. Designers Council Meeting Draws A Packed House

Speaker John Stine, VP of operations at Summit Interconnect’s Anaheim facility, gave a presentation on flex and rigid-flex design and fabrication. At least 75 electronics professionals listened as Stine, an expert in flex and rigid-flex technologies, discussed proper trace geometries, grounding, cover lay, adhesives, signal integrity, impedance control, book-bindings and much more in his 80-minute presentation.

New SI Techniques for Large System Performance Tuning

In this DesignCon paper, Donald Telian of SiGuys and Michael Steinberger and Barry Katz of SiSoft describe newly-developed techniques for equalization tuning and discontinuity reduction, offering additional design margin. Cost reductions are also achieved as new signal integrity techniques demonstrate performance parity, removing non-essential re-timers and PCBs layers.

Software Bytes: Having Fun With Impedance

About a year ago, I was assigned a new project: become an expert in impedance, more or less. I had no idea how much this research would bring out the nerd in me. Even if you don’t typically design controlled-impedance circuit boards, you probably will eventually. Read on!

Getting Signal Integrity Right by Design

As clock frequencies increase and active devices and interconnect traces shrink and are placed ever closer together, signal integrity becomes an increasing challenge. Today, SI is typically addressed late in the design process after the PCB layout has been completed by performing complex and time-consuming 3D extractions and simulations for high-speed lines. But with little attention being paid to SI during the layout process, simulation frequently identifies numerous SI problems.

Beyond Design: Mastering “Black Magic” with Howard Johnson’s Seminars

Dr. Howard Johnson, the world’s foremost authority on signal integrity, has recently released his High-Speed Digital Design (HSDD) Collection. I recently reviewed all three of the seminars in this collection, a total of 36 hours of viewing time. If you want to gain some of Dr. Johnson's enthusiasm and master the art of high-speed design, then the collection is a must-have.


Designing With Tighter Tolerances

David Ledger-Thomas is a PCB design engineer with Honeywell Aerospace. He’s spent decades designing PCBs for a variety of applications, including defense, aerospace, computers, and high-performance audio. I asked David to share some of his thoughts on designing high-tech boards with increasingly finer spaces, traces and pitch.

The State of the Electronic Design Automation Nation

We are the automation nation. We are the high-speed demons, the low-frequency artists, the mixed-signal designers that make up the electronic design automation industry. We spend most of our working lives behind software, delivered to our fingertips with the promise of making things easier, faster, better, and getting us to our deadlines ever faster.

EIPC Summer Conference 2016, Day 1: Strategies to Maintain Profitability in the European PCB Industry

Resplendent in the kilt, EIPC chairman Alun Morgan welcomed a large and enthusiastic gathering of printed circuit professionals from all over Europe and as far afield as the USA, Canada and Russia, to the EIPC Summer Conference 2016 in Edinburgh, Scotland's cosmopolitan capital city.

The Shaughnessy Report: The Designer Roundtable Roundup

Every year, I attend SMTA Atlanta, just across town. You have to love a local trade show. No airlines, no jet lag, and no hotels. It’s a small show; it would fit in a school gymnasium. But for me, the highpoint of SMTA Atlanta is the Designers Roundtable. This year the roundtable had 15 attendees, up from 12 last year. Two of the new attendees were under 35, which surprised all of us "graybeards."

Beyond Design: DDR3/4 Fly-by vs. T-topology Routing

JEDEC introduced fly-by topology in the DDR3 specification for the differential clock, address, command and control signals. The advantage of fly-by topology is that it supports higher-frequency operation, reduces the quantity and length of stubs and consequently improves signal integrity and timing on heavily loaded signals. Fly-by topology also reduces simultaneous switching noise (SSN) by deliberately causing flight-time skew.

The Roles of the Designer and the Design Engineer

Steve Hageman has been designing electronics since elementary school. An engineer by trade, he has decades of experience performing PCB design and layout. I asked Steve to give us his opinion about the divide between some PCB designers and their engineers, and what can be done to solve this problem.

Cadence Paper: Automating Inter-Layer In-Design Checks in Rigid-Flex PCBs

Flexible PCBs make it possible to create a variety of products that require small, lightweight form factors. As flexible PCB fabrication technology has matured, new design challenges have emerged. This paper discusses some of the key challenges and introduces a new PCB design approach that enhances productivity through in-design inter-layer checks.

The Partnership: Design Engineers and PCB Designers

Randy Faucette is founder, president and director of engineering at Better Boards Inc. in Cary, North Carolina. I asked Randy to talk about some of the occasional tension between PCB designers and design engineers, and what he thinks can be done to help open the lines of communication.

SiSoft: Optimizing the State of the Art

In the 20 years since its founding, SiSoft has been at the forefront of signal integrity analysis tool development. Now, the company is leading the way with a new technology called OptimEye and tools for creating accurate IBIS-AMI models. Todd Westerhoff, VP of semiconductor relations, gives us an update on the company’s newest technologies.

EMA is Bullish on Data Management

EMA Design Automation has evolved over the years, from a typical Cadence Design Systems VAR to a distributor that functions more like a part of Cadence. During DesignCon, I met with Greg Roberts, director of marketing for EMA, and asked him to discuss the company’s focus on data management tools, and why he’s giving away certain OrCAD tools.


Beyond FR-4: High-Performance Materials for Advanced Designs, Part 1

In the past 40-plus years of PCB manufacturing, the primary material of choice has overwhelmingly been e-glass supported FR-4 resin laminates. This is due to the excellent dimensional stability and reasonably acceptable thermal performance (based on glass transition temperature [Tg] and decomposition temperature [Td]). In general, these materials exhibit impressive performance and excellent cost for a wide range of applications.

Wild River: Simplifying SI so Engineers Can Focus on Design

Al Neves is founder and chief technologist of Wild River Technology, and he’s a signal integrity engineer who likes to tell it like it is. So when I bumped into Al during DesignCon, I asked him to sit down for an interview. We discussed the paper he co-wrote for DesignCon and the challenges SI engineers are facing, as well as Wild River’s efforts to take the black magic out of signal integrity.

Steinberger Talks PAM4, the Next Generation of Modulation

I recently interviewed our old friend Michael Steinberger, SiSoft’s lead architect for serial channel products. Steinberger is always a great interview; he breaks down complex signal integrity simulation technology in ways that are simple and often humorous. Steinberger sat down and discussed a paper he presented at DesignCon, and some of the challenges his customers are facing.

IPC APEX EXPO: Gary Carter on First Board Manufactured With IPC-2581B

Gary Carter, senior manager of CAD engineering for Fujitsu Network Communications, discusses the first board fabricated and assembled using IPC-2581B. This 20-layer board features 21,000 component pins and 15,000 holes, with controlled impedance on all layers. He also gave a presentation on IPC-2581B during the Design Forum.

What’s New at Cadence?

Cadence Design Systems has released a variety of PCB design tools lately, and we wanted to find out a little more about what’s new at Cadence. I tracked down Product Marketing Director Brad Griffin and asked him to discuss some of the newest technology coming out of Cadence.

What’s New at Zuken?

Zuken has developed some innovative PCB design tools in the past few years, and I wanted to find out more about the company’s new and upcoming technologies. I caught up with Bob Potock, vice president of marketing for the Americas for Zuken USA, and asked him what was new at Zuken.

The PDN Bandini Mountain and Other Things I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know

Originally, Bandini Mountain referred to a mound of fertilizer built by the Bandini Fertilizer Company in California prior to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. When the company went bankrupt, this mound of fertilizer was left behind. Steve Weir coined this term to describe the large resonant frequency peak formed by the parallel combination of the on-die capacitance and the package lead inductance, as seen from the die looking into the PDN.

IPC APEX EXPO: Hofer Discusses the Pros and Cons of Backdrilling

General Manager James Hofer of Accurate Circuit Engineering discusses the process of backdrilling vias, including the benefits and drawbacks. Backdrilling can improve signal integrity, but it can also create stubs that may act as unwanted antennas.

Mark Thompson: It’s All About Communication

In engineering support at Prototron Circuits, Mark Thompson has seen it all. He ensures that each design is manufactured the way the designer intended, even if the CAD data is not crystal clear. During DesignCon, Barry Matties and Andy Shaughnessy talked with Thompson about why communication is paramount when designing and prototyping boards. Thompson also explained how designers can avoid making common mistakes that can set back an entire project.

DuPont, Taconic and PFC Team Up For High-Speed Flex

At DesignCon, I sat down with three flex circuit specialists: Glenn Oliver of DuPont, Tom McCarthy of Taconic, and Steve Kelly of PFC Flexible Circuits. Our discussion covered a lot of territory, most notably the findings they described in the paper they were about to present later that day at DesignCon, and the future of flex, as they see it.


The Shaughnessy Report: Doing My Part for Medical Electronics

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.

Designers Notebook: Flex and Rigid-Flex Circuit Design Principles, Part 2

In this installment of "Designers Notebook," Vern Solberg discusses supplier assessment, planning of the flexible circuit outline, and various circuit routing principles. Communication between designer and fabricator is paramount, as well as an understanding of IPC-2223, which sets the specific requirements for the design of flex circuits.

Systematic Estimation of Worst-Case PDN Noise: Target Impedance and Rogue Waves

In the dark ages of power distribution design, the typical advice was to use a bulk capacitor and one 0.1uF bypass capacitor for every power pin on the digital circuit. This was very unscientific, but served the industry reasonably well in low-density and low-speed circuits. As the designs got more demanding, the target impedance concept was developed. Using a target impedance, designers had a metric and a design goal to guarantee that the voltage transients stay within specified limits.

Lightning Speed Laminates: Why Do Different Test Methods Yield Different Electrical Values?

A variety of different test methods may be used for any one electrical concern. This article will discuss the issues related to determining the dielectric constant (Dk) and dissipation factor (Df or Tan-Delta). On a data sheet, a designer may see a Dk value for a material to be 3.5, as an example. Once the designer buys the material and performs necessary evaluations, it may be found that the Dk of the material is 3.8. In some applications this difference in Dk is probably not meaningful; however, for many RF and high-speed digital applications, this difference could be very significant.

Electrical Design Challenges for Automotive PCBs

A recent article in this magazine by Monica Andrei of Continental Automotive Systems emphasized the systemic nature of an automobile and discussed the characteristics and adoption of software design tools to enable such system-level design. Recognizing that electrical challenges are part of the automotive system-level discussion, this article will present more detail on signal integrity. Future discussion is planned regarding EMI, power integrity, and thermal integrity.

McCurdy: How to Build a Successful IPC Designers Council Chapter

When Scott McCurdy made his transition from PCB fabrication to a PCB layout focus about 13 years ago, he accepted an invitation to attend our local IPC Designer’s Council. Shortly after, he was recruited to serve on the group’s steering committee. At that time, 20–25 people were regularly attending the meetings. When the chapter president moved, he asked Scott to take his place. Now, Orange County chapter meetings often draw close to 100 attendees.

Beyond Design: Plane Crazy, Part 1

A high-speed digital power distribution network (PDN) must provide a low inductance, low impedance path between all ICs on the PCB that need to communicate. In order to reduce the inductance, we must also minimize the loop area enclosed by the current flow. Obviously, the most practical way to achieve this is to use power and ground planes in a multilayer stackup. In this two-part column, I will look at the alternatives to planes, why planes are used for high-speed design, and the best combination for your application.

Why Autorouters Don’t Work: The Mindset!

Ask any group of PCB designers what they think of autorouters and the majority will say that they do not use them because they do not work. I have been battling this mindset for over 20 years now and it still persists today, even with the dramatic advances in routing technology. This way of thinking generally comes from those designers who use the entry-level tools. But even the most primitive autorouter may have some useful features. It’s all about changing that mindset of the designer and having a crack at it.

EMA: Helping Technologists Manage Disparate Data

Today’s EDA tools are better than ever, but managing design data, from schematics through Gerbers, can be an unwieldly task. I recently interviewed Manny Marcano, president and CEO of EMA Design Automation. He discusses EMA’s approach to managing a variety of types of complex data, the need for seamless data processes, and the future of compliance-aware design.

Pulsonix Poised to Take More EDA Market Share

Publisher Barry Matties met with Bob Williams, managing director and co-owner of Pulsonix, and Sales and Marketing Manager Tyrone Stephens to discuss the challenges facing the EDA tool market, and how they’re establishing this company in the global design tool marketplace.


SnapEDA: The Female-Owned Startup Revolutionizing CAD Data

SnapEDA founder Natasha Baker may mark the beginning of a new trend in EDA: young female entrepreneurs. (When was the last time we heard about an EDA startup?) As her company prepared for a major launch, Natasha took time to explain the philosophy behind SnapEDA, and how the company is helping designers and engineers manage an ever-increasing volume of CAD data.

Orange County IPC Designers Council Meeting Draws Record Crowd

On November 18, the Orange County Chapter of the IPC Designers Council held a “Lunch ‘n’ Learn” event at the Harvard Park Community Center in Irvine, California. Eighty-nine PCB designers and electronics industry professionals gathered to listen to a talk by Chris Heard, a signal integrity engineering consultant at CSH Consulting LLC.

productronica 2015: Ucamco's Integr8tor Incorporates Polar Stack-up Functionality

Big extensions to the capabilities of the Integr8tor client-server work-flow system, way beyond the established CAM functions, now include full product definition covering all production stages of PCB manufacture, including flex and flex-rigid technologies. Integr8tor now incorporates all of the functionality of Polar Instruments’ stack-up design package, instantly accessible.

Polar Instruments Fine-Tunes Layer Stackup Management

Polar Instruments CEO Martyn Gaudion and Technical Editor Pete Starkey discuss Polar’s efforts to simplify specification issues related to the supply chain. Designing PCBs with mixed materials makes layer stackup management more difficult than ever, but Gaudion explains how Polar works closely with materials providers and CAD tool vendors in order to provide users with constantly updated information.

Accelerating the PCB Design Cycle

An area of communications that is often underappreciated, but has become vitally important to design efficiency, is the dialogue with the PCB fabricator. It’s critical to engage the fabricator very early in the design process to nail down the proper materials and stack-up. With so many options for via structures, it is critical to select the most appropriate structure for the design. Adding blind and/or buried vias as an afterthought can limit their utilization and drive up the printed circuit board cost.

Flex Circuit Shielding Design Options

Shielding may not be your company’s number one design concern when thinking about your interconnect designs. But if you have to shield circuits for EMI, then you will need to depend on your supplier to assist you with their favorite shielding technique and experience.

The Shaughnessy Report: Squeezing Seconds Out of the Design Cycle

When you’re designing a board, time is always your enemy. That’s what we learned when we surveyed our readers recently. PCB designers said that time pressure was one of their least favorite parts of the job, and in some cases, they were ready to retire just to avoid design cycle challenges. I imagine that many of you near retirement, and that’s quite a few of you, feel the same way.

Top Gear: PADS Professional Road Test

In this column, Barry Olney test drives the newest version of the Mentor Graphics PADS Professional EDA tool. "Based on Xpedition technology, PADS Professional is a major improvement over the previous PADS suite of tools. utilizes xDX Designer as the front-end design entry tool. The latest routing technology is fast, smooth to drive, and hugs the corners well, with all the horsepower you need for the most demanding design."

Automotive Systems Design: a Support Engineer’s Perspective

In a nutshell, the promise of the system design approach is to allow for hitting the “sweet spot” in terms of functionality, quality and reliability, in the shortest possible design time and with the lowest possible resource investments. In an industry that has a very long time to market (on average around 1,000 days), steadily increasing quality demands and an ever intensifying pressure to lower costs, all these promises become most attractive and compelling.

Mentor Graphics Helps Bridge Gap Between PCB and RF

Recently, Publisher Barry Matties met with Per Viklund, the director of IC packaging and RF product lines at Mentor Graphics, and Alex Caravajal, business development manager with Mentor. They discussed the challenges facing PCB designers working with RF and microwave technology, and Mentor’s efforts to help reduce the RF design cycle time.


Beyond Design: Stackup Planning, Part 3

Following on from the first Stackup Planning columns, this month’s Part 3 will look at higher layer-count stackups. The four- and six-layer configurations are not the best choice for high-speed design. In particular, each signal layer should be adjacent to, and closely coupled to, an uninterrupted reference plane, which creates a clear return path and eliminates broadside crosstalk. As the layer count increases, these rules become easier to implement but decisions regarding return current paths become more challenging.

Nick Barbin: From Designer to EMS Company Owner

Many PCB designers would rather do just about anything than pore over a P&L spreadsheet. But Nick Barbin isn’t a typical designer. He co-founded the design bureau Optimum Design Associates over two decades ago, and the company later expanded into contract manufacturing and Lean processes. In this interview, Nick discussed how he wound up leading an EMS company on the Inc. 5000 list.

Material Witness: The Use of Fillers in Composites

The use of finely divided ceramic fillers in composites intended for use in printed wiring boards has a long history, but most people still associate the idea with reducing the cost of the product by loading it with an inexpensive inert filler. Nothing could be further from the truth...

Fast Interconnect: Engineering Services for the Masses

Gary Griffin and Ana Rosique are co-founders of Fast Interconnect, an Arizona-based product engineering company designed to serve an underserved market: the small product developers, inventors, and anyone with an idea for a “cool gadget.” I caught up with Griffin recently to discuss the new company, its innovative business model, and the challenges facing smaller OEMs and product developers.

Max Maxfield Looks at the Future of Electronics

Clive “Max” Maxfield has worked for decades in this industry, and in a variety of capacities: Engineer, author, editor, columnist, blogger, and keynote speaker, just to name a few. I caught up with my former columnist recently and asked him what he’d been doing to stay out of trouble, and what sort of technology and futuristic electronic gadgets were piquing his interest right now.

Avoid Overbuilding your RF Printed Circuit Board

Today, many companies are overbuilding and “overmaterializing” their RF printed circuit boards. In this interview, James Hofer of Accurate Circuit Engineering (ACE) shares some strategies to avoid doing both, which will help lower the total cost of your PCB and improve the overall product quality. Hofer also discusses some of the challenges in the laminate supply chain.

EIPC Summer Conference: Day 2

Refreshed after an excellent conference dinner, and for most, a good night’s sleep, delegates returned for the second day of the EIPC Summer Conference in Berlin, continuing the theme of improving profitability through technical leadership and innovation to meet future market requirements, with sessions on materials and processes for high performance PCBs and advanced material testing strategies to meet OEM and ODM needs.

TTM: Consult Fabricators Early for PCB Designs

Recently, I attended the Designers Council “Lunch and Learn” at Broadcom’s office in Orange County, California. One of the speakers at this event was Julie Ellis, a field applications engineer with TTM Technologies. She sat down with me to discuss her presentation and some of the ways fabricators can assist PCB designers.

Broadcom PCB Design: Miniaturization on the Cutting Edge

Editor Andy Shaughnessy recently attended the Orange County Designer's Council “Lunch and Learn” meeting, held at the Broadcom offices on the campus of the University of California, Irvine. Afterward, he sat down with Scott Davis, CID, the senior manager of PC board design at Broadcom, to discuss the company’s savvy PCB design department and their approach to PCB design.

Polar Talks Impedance Control and Insertion Loss Testing

During IPC APEX EXPO, Guest Editor Dan Feinberg sat down with Polar Instruments product specialists Michael Bode and Geoffrey Hazlett to talk about the company and its products and solutions. They also discussed some of the signal integrity technologies being enabled by the company, including controlled impedance and insertion loss testing.


HDPUG Demonstrates Benefits of Cooperative R&D

The High Density Packaging User Group (HDPUG) is a member-driven, non-profit, project-oriented industry consortium that addresses the integration of new electronics component packaging and interconnection technologies into the supply chains of its member companies.

Hunter Technology on Design Operations and Business Strategies

Immediately following IPC APEX EXPO 2015, Guest Editor Kelly Dack paid a visit to Hunter Technology’s facility in Milpitas, California, where he interviewed Ian Grover, vice president of design engineering, and Chris Alessio, vice president of sales and programs. Discussed are Hunter’s design operations as well as the company’s overall business strategy.

Trending at Freedom CAD: New Crop of Next‐Gen Designers

Scott McCurdy, director of sales and marketing at Freedom CAD Services, expresses his vision for what North America is bringing to the table in the world of circuit design. I‐Connect007 Publisher Barry Matties and McCurdy also discuss China, trends in product design, tools, and more.

Reliability and Harmonization of Global Standards at Forefront of EIPC Efforts

At IPC APEX EXPO 2015, I-Connect007 Technical Editor Pete Starkey caught up with EIPC's Michael Weinhold and Alun Morgan, who were happy to discuss both recent and ongoing focuses for EIPC, namely, reliability. Also touched on was the importance of the alignment of global standardization processes, especially for Asia.​

Panasonic Meeting Market Needs with Higher-Performance Megtron 7

I-Connect Technical Editor Pete Starkey sat down with Panasonic’s Tony Senese and Tomoyuki Abe at IPC APEX EXPO 2015 in San Diego--and high-speed digital materials, particularly those with very low-loss characteristics, was the focus of their discussion. Also noted were the positive responses from chemical process suppliers, and the realistic length of a product development cycle.

Effective Characteristic Impedance

Reflections can occur anytime there is an impedance mismatch on the line. Sources of mismatches are plentiful and include trace width changes, vias, stubs, reference plane changes, and even the so-called fiber weave effect. In this case, a trace can encounter a different dielectric constant depending on whether it is routed over glass or the epoxy resin in the dielectric material. In this investigation by Kirk Fabbri, it is the capacitive contribution of the different components that are of interest, and how they affect the characteristic impedance the driver sees.

Altium Talks 3D Flex Packaging Design

Altium Product Manager Ben Jordan and Editor Kelly Dack sat down at IPC APEX EXPO to discuss Altium’s new tools for designing flex and rigid-flex circuits. The new software allows users to model the design in 3D, eliminating the need for rigid-flex designers to create “paper dolls” for each design.

Cadence’s Brad Griffin Digs Deep Into DDR

During DesignCon 2015, our roving reporter, Kelly Dack, stopped by to visit with Brad Griffen in the Cadence booth. What follows is their very interesting conversation that revolves around the evolution of DDR.

Polar Takes on China's Test Equipment Counterfeiters

Recently, while in China, Barry Matties spoke with Jonson Jiang, country manager of Polar Instruments. They discussed the company's latest impedance test equipment offerings and the challenges Polar faces in China, including companies that create counterfeits of their testing equipment. Can legitimate companies rely on China's government to fight counterfeiting?
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