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Ken Wyatt: Think of Circuit Traces as Wave Guides
10/20/2021 | I-Connect007 Editorial Team
The Case for ODB++: Interview with Pat McGoff and Max Clark
10/14/2021 | I-Connect007 Editorial Team
Tribal Knowledge and Design Data Formats
10/13/2021 | Gene Weiner, Weiner Associates
Sunstone Circuits: Use the Design Data Format That Gives You Best Results
10/12/2021 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
Collaboration by Design: The Role of EDA Tools
10/07/2021 | Rich Tighe, Noah Medical
Design :: Compliance
Managing Footprints With Integrated EDA Tools
Electronics companies are always under great pressure to continually grow and innovate. In addition to navigating ever-accelerating design cycles, they must also address and overcome generational complexities associated with their products, the underlying components they use, and the human capital accountable for delivering on time and on budget. Electronics firms can ill afford the time and resource inefficiencies associated with manually correcting design errors, poor library data integrity, or other inconsistencies leading to missed deadlines or even costly re-spins.
Just Ask Heidi: Winning NASA’s Silver Snoopy Award
First, we asked you to send in your questions for Happy Holden, Joe Fjelstad, Eric Camden, John Mitchell, and Tara Dunn in our “Just Ask” series. Now, it’s Heidi Barnes’ turn! Today: the ins and outs of NASA's Silver Snoopy Award.
Cutting Respins: Journey to the Single-spin PCB
PCB design is more than a short sprint to the finish line; it is a journey best suited for the prepared adventurer. According to a study by Lifecycle Insights, the average PCB design project requires 2.9 respins. These respins can cost anywhere from tens of thousands to millions of dollars—each! As an engineer/business owner, I find respins frustrating because I would rather spend my time and money applying scientific principles inventing, improving technology, and solving problems. I am not an advocate for perfectionism, but rather I focus on becoming a better adventurer. Sometimes I get to taste the sweet wine that is a single spin PCB. As fellow adventurers, let’s discuss some topics that influence unnecessary return trips on our PCB design journey: simulation, technical reviews, and interest in PCB design.
Just Ask Heidi: Is China Still Far Ahead of the U.S. in EE Graduates?
First, we asked you to send in your questions for Happy Holden, Joe Fjelstad, Eric Camden, John Mitchell, and Tara Dunn in our “Just Ask” series. Now, it’s Heidi Barnes’ turn! Today's question: Is China still graduating far more EEs than the U.S.?
Lee Ritchey on Reducing Respins by One
I-Connect007 recently spoke with Lee Ritchey about the subject of continuous improvement with a focus on DFM, specifically looking at the benefits of reducing the number of respins by just one. A longtime instructor and one of the authors of Right the First Time: A Practical Handbook on High-Speed PCB and System Design, Lee has spent decades preaching the value of solid DFM practices, so we asked him to discuss why so many OEMs accept multiple respins with each design project and what designers could do to eliminate just one spin. He also shares some of the lessons in reducing respins that he learned in the early days of Silicon Valley.
Real Time with… AltiumLive 2020: Lawrence Romine on Successful U.S. Event
Andy Shaughnessy and Lawrence Romine, vice president of corporate marketing for Altium, discuss some of the lessons learned from last week's virtual U.S. AltiumLive, as well as what attendees can expect from the European show, which takes place October 20–22, 2020.
This Month in Design007 Magazine: Thermal Fundamentals With Mike Jouppi
The I-Connect007 team recently interviewed Mike Jouppi, one of the champions of thermal management in PCBs. Mike spent decades working on updating the old IPC current-carrying data, which dated back to the 1950s, and he is the primary architect behind IPC-2152— the standard for determining current-carrying capacity in printed board design. As Mike explained in this wide-ranging interview, even if you’re using the latest thermal design software, you still need to have a firm understanding of the fundamentals.
A Design Economics Primer
When you start a new design, do you begin tracking costs right away, or do you wait until you have a functioning product before you start looking at the dollars and cents? Chris Young begins cost-aware design before the design cycle has even begun. Andy Shaughnessy and Nolan Johnson recently interviewed Chris, an engineer with The Goebel Company and founder of Young Engineering Services, and asked him to explain his approach to design economics.
Freedom CAD’s Expert PCB Design Tips, Part 2
When you’re designing complex PCBs, knowledge truly is power. The more PCB design tips, tricks, and techniques you know, the better your cutting-edge designs will be. With that in mind, we’re bringing you a series of PCB design tips, courtesy of Freedom CAD Services.
Freedom CAD's Scott Miller: Taking Care of Customers and Staff
COO Scott Miller explains that Freedom CAD remains fully operational during the COVID-19 quarantine. Staff members have been telecommuting for years, so the company's day-to-day operations are relatively unchanged. He also discusses the company's plans to help employees and customers during this time, and Miller asks anyone with design questions—customers or not—to contact the company any time.
When Your Fabricator Is Late
The I-Connect007 Editorial Team recently had a wide-ranging discussion with John Watson, CID, of Legrand. Questions covered include, “What happens when your fabricator is late, whether it’s a prototype or volume production?” and, “What are the costs and ramifications up and down the chain?”
The Formation of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association
Patty Goldman spoke with Gary Ferrari, FTG Corporation, at IPC APEX EXPO 2020 about the formation of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association, which—having been started two months ago—has attained lots of interest from the industry. The PCEA hopes to bring together designers, engineers, fabricators, assemblers through local chapters to focus mainly on education and learning.
Multi-board Etching: Managing Rigid-Flex Designs and Conductivity
Good troubleshooting techniques involve considering a system as individual parts rather than as a whole. The same techniques apply to your work with multi-board PCB designs. Each board consists of a single unit that has its own lifecycle. Some product designs may use a single PCB design for multiple functions or for multiple devices. Others may interconnect multiple PCB designs to produce a complete, fully functional system.
IPC’s Dr. John Mitchell Commends U.S. Manufacturers and Governors
On March 31, Dr. John Mitchell, IPC president and CEO, gave Barry Matties an update on the industry response to COVID-19 since their conversation on March 20. Mitchell provides an overall update on the industry, commending U.S. manufacturers for their proactive responses.
I-Connect007 COVID-19 Outbreak Research Survey Results
Our ongoing survey regarding the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on the electronics industry has produced some interesting results. Here are some of the response highlights as of today. If you would like to make your voice heard, please take the survey.
Publish Your Work, Become an Industry Leader
I recently met with Bert Simonovich, founder of Lamsim Enterprises, to discuss a new mentorship program and panel discussion at DesignCon, where veteran authors of technical papers mentor new authors through the process. Bert explained the benefits of publishing technical papers and shared Wayne Gretzky’s advice for any engineers or technologists who are considering publishing their technical work.
A Young Designer’s Journey After Grad School
Lukas Trumpler is a young PCB designer from Germany who designs boards for sensors with ITK Engineering GmbH. I recently met with Lukas and spoke with him about his job, what he’s learned in this industry so far, and his impressions of his first AltiumLive event.
IPC APEX EXPO 2020 Attendees Speak: Sheryl Long
"It’s a great place to see our customers and other friendly faces," said Sheryl Long, global marketing communications manager for Rogers Corporation. "The traffic has been a little slow this year, but it’s a great place to meet everybody at one spot and to get together and talk about what’s going on in the industry.
Catching up With Flexible Circuit Technologies
Dan Beaulieu catches up with Troy Koopman, president and co-founder of Flexible Circuit Technologies (FCT), and Carey Burkett, the company’s VP of business development. FCT is a full-service flex and rigid-flex supplier.
IPC APEX EXPO 2020: Day 2 Review
Wednesday at IPC APEX EXPO drew a fairly steady stream of attendees to the show floor. Exhibitors we spoke with said the visitors were ready to spend some money. Almost everyone said their company was having a good quarter and experiencing slow but consistent growth year over year.
IPC APEX EXPO 2020: Day 1 Review
2020 was a special anniversary year for IPC APEX EXPO: “Celebrating 20 years of excellence in electronics” was the tagline. Pete Starkey provides a review of the Day 1 activities on the show floor and beyond.
‘A Night of Happy-ness’ and 2020 Good for the Industry Awards
The Horton Grand Hotel in San Diego was the site of “A Night of Happy-ness” on the evening of Monday, February 3, 2020. I-Connect007 transformed the Regal Ballroom into a cozy lecture hall with two key objectives: to award the I-Connect007 Good for the Industry awards, and to celebrate the life, achievements, and personality that is industry pioneer Happy Holden.
Meet Eran Navick, I-Connect007 Columnist
Meet Eran Navick, one of I-Connect007’s newest columnists! In his columns, Eran will discuss technology around the world, touching on all aspects of PCB technology, especially high technology. Eran has been in the PCB business for over 25 years and held key positions in PCB companies, including as a PCB designer and applications engineer.
What You Need to Know: The High-tech Job Market
Andy Shaughnessy met with Taylor Rousse, an engineering recruiter for Aerotek, a high-tech staffing company, at PCB Carolina to discuss the demands she sees in different industry segments and how it varies region to region. Taylor also offers advice for designers or electrical engineers in the job market, including tips on writing that perfect résumé and the return of the counter-offer.
Meet John Watson, I-Connect007 Columnist
Meet John Watson, CID, one of our newest I-Connect007 columnists! John has been in the electronics industry for 40 years, with 20 of them being in PCB design, and is now a senior PCB engineer for Legrand Corporation. Read "Elementary, Mr. Watson" in Design007 Week Newsletter.
The World of PCBs: Anything But Boring
Andy Shaughnessy had the chance to catch up with Megan Teta, CID+, product manager of design and education services at Insulectro. Megan explains why she’s excited to become more involved in training and why the world of PCBs is anything but boring, contrary to popular opinion.
Lady Gaga’s Keyboardist Designs a Circular Piano
Who says a modern piano has to be a certain shape? Not Brockett Parsons, Lady Gaga’s keyboardist. He worked with Dave Starkey and Chuck Johnson to create PianoArc—a custom-designed 360-degree circular keyboard and a company with the same name. I spoke with Brockett and Dave at AltiumLive to learn more about the design efforts that went into this fascinating instrument.
Chris Banton is Bullish on New Tech
Chris Banton is the director of marketing for EMA Design Automation. He and Andy Shaughnessy discuss the need to train the next generation of designers, advent technologies like AI and machine learning, and why companies like EMA are using these advancements to help designers with today’s complex PCBs.
Curtis Scott Opens the Blinds on PCB Design
I recently spoke with Curtis Scott, a young PCB design engineer with Current Products, a manufacturer of automated window coverings in Pensacola, Florida. I’m always excited to hear about OEMs in Pensacola; I lived there for 17 years, and it’s a great town, but you won’t find much industry other than tourism. I asked Curtis to share his thoughts on the industry and his job designing PCBs in that scenic city on the Gulf of Mexico.
Planning a Successful Technical Conference
Amanda Lange founded DINEvent and has evolved her company into an active events planner and management company with a global client base. In this interview, Nolan Johnson asks Amanda to share how a technology company should get started with a technical conference for customers.
Digi-Key on Adapting to the Changing Industry Landscape, Part 2
The I-Connect007 editorial team recently spoke with Chris Beeson, executive vice president of global suppliers and new business development at Digi-Key Electronics, about trends and the changing landscape of the industry. In the second half of this interview, Beeson discusses the EDA tools market, and how Digi-Key works with PCB designers to present the most efficient, seamless process for selecting components.
Words of Advice: Making Life Easier for Fabrication and Assembly
In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What steps do you take to make the job easier for your fabrication and assembly providers? Here are a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.
What Does Intelligent Routing Look Like?
Many PCB design projects miss schedule commitments by 70% due to delayed routing and lack of automation. Moreover, due to late-stage design changes, schedules are not met, and the addition of those new items takes 10 times longer or more to incorporate than if changes were added from the beginning. Fortunately, over the past several years, powerful routing capabilities have been added that allow designers to address a number of specific, critical tasks.
Digi-Key on Adapting to the Changing Industry Landscape, Pt. 1
The I-Connect007 editorial team recently spoke with Chris Beeson, executive vice president of global supplier and new business development at Digi-Key Electronics, about trends and the changing landscape of the industry. Beeson describes how Digi-Key is looking to continue growing its user community as a design service provider while providing greater services for the entire PCB.
Words of Advice: 5G Reliability
In a recent survey, we asked the following question: Do you think 5G will improve the reliability of communication? Here are a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.
Dugan Karnazes Discusses His New Startup
I caught up with Dugan Karnazes again this year and discussed his new startup, Velocity Research, which is a one-stop shop for design made up of technical creatives. The Grand Rapids company is already doing design work for a variety of customers, from individuals to multinational companies.
Communication, Part 5: Internet Impedance Calculators for Modeling
Bob Chandler of CA Design and Mark Thompson of Prototron Circuits address how new engineers use internet impedance calculators for modeling (e.g., formulas versus recipes) in Part 5 of this series. Do you use impedance calculators that you found on the internet? Read on!
IPC-2581 Continues to Flourish
Because standards adoption in this industry tends to be akin to turning around a battleship, what is often seen as new has generally already been in production for 10 years or more. Often, there are outside influences and dependencies that cause this, so most of us tend to take a “wait-and-see” approach—let others shake out the issues. And even then, we only look at adoption if the mandate comes from higher-ups in the organization. It works the way we do it now, so why change?
So Many Standards Committees, So Little Time
During the IPC Summer Meetings and Panelpalooza in Raleigh, North Carolina, I met with Leo Lambert, vice president and director of technology at EPTAC. We discussed IPC’s recent efforts to revamp the way standards are developed and interpreted as well as changes to training and education committees and a variety of methods for eliminating errors and duplicated comments when revising standards.
Words of Advice: Making Life Easier for Fabrication and Assembly
In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What steps do you take to make the job easier for your fabrication and assembly providers? Here are a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.
Words of Advice: Starting a New Design
In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What do you think is the most important thing a designer should remember when planning a new PCB design? Here are a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.
ODB++: Transforming Ideas Into Products
The ODB format originated with the objective of delivering on this need. The format was originally introduced for use by PCB fabricators, eliminating the need for a collection of CAM files in multiple formats—such as Gerber, Excellon, IPC-356, or even IPC-350, which was an early attempt to simplify this process. The key to the success of ODB was that it obtained industry acceptance.
Bob Martin Brings Maker Attitude to AltiumLive Keynote
Bob Martin is a self-proclaimed “Wizard of Make” and senior staff engineer with Microchip Technology. Next week, this leader of the maker community will be one of the keynote speakers at AltiumLive in San Diego, California. I caught up with Bob and asked him to give us a preview of his presentation.
Words of Advice: What Data Format do you Send Your Assembly Provider?
In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What PCB data format(s) do you send to your PCB assembly supplier? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.
Leo Lambert on Training the Next Generation of Technologists
I sat down for an interview with Leo Lambert, VP of technical director for EPTAC Corporation, during the IPC Summer Meetings in Raleigh, North Carolina. We discussed the company’s growth, including plans to have training centers across different regions of the country to help cut down on students’ travel times, and why training methods must constantly evolve to remain effective.
Words of Advice: What are Your Biggest Design Challenges?
In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What are your biggest design challenges? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.
Robert Feranec: A Lifetime of PCB Design
I recently spoke with Robert Feranec about the upcoming keynote he’ll be giving at AltiumLive in San Diego, California. Robert is a YouTube star and founder of the FEDEVEL Academy. In our interview, he discusses his keynote presentation as well as how he’s helping designers and engineers around the world understand and optimize their PCB design processes.
SimplifyDA’s Floorplanning Tool Optimizes Autorouting
Zen Liao, CEO of Simplify Design Automation, recently spoke with the I-Connect007 editorial team about his company’s high-level floorplanner for autorouting, which allows engineers to pass their ideas along to PCB designers. Zen discusses the floorplanning technology and his marketing strategies as well as the challenge of getting reluctant PCB designers to embrace autorouters.
Meet Our Newest Columnists From NCAB Group
Meet our newest I-Connect007 columnists from NCAB Group! Jeff Beauchamp, Ruben Contreras, and Harry Kennedy are field application engineers from NCAB Group's technical team. In their columns, they will explore fresh PCB concepts, including medical and telecommunications applications, topics related to RoHS, and much more.
Words of Advice: Your Company’s Design Process
In a recent survey, we asked PCB designers to describe their company’s design process: Is it a rigid workflow they follow to the letter, or a process that allows for their individual techniques? Of course, the comments were illustrative.
Focusing on Surface Sensitivity for Reliability
At the recent IPC High-Reliability Forum and Microvia Summit, Customer Applications Scientist Elizabeth Kidd and Sales Engineer Alex Bien, both of BTG Labs, discuss with Andy Shaughnessy their presentation on the challenges of working with highly sensitive surfaces, such as the risk of contamination. They also talked about the various surface characterization techniques that BTG Labs uses to identify such contaminants.
Interconnect Reliability Correlation With System Design and Transportation Stress
Interconnect reliability is very critical to ensure product performance at predefined shipping conditions and user environments. Plating thickness of the compliant pin and the damping mechanism of electronic system design are key success factors for this purpose. This paper discusses design variables—such as pin hard gold plating thickness, motherboard locking mechanism, and damping structure design—to ensure interconnect reliability.
Development of Flexible Hybrid Electronics
This article will present a hybrid manufacturing process to manufacture FHE systems with a two-layer interconnect structure utilizing screen printing of silver conductive ink, filled microvias to connect ink traces at the different layers, and use of the traditional reflow process to attach the semiconductor chips to the printed substrates.
IPC Reliability Forum Wrap-up With Brook Sandy-Smith
I attended the recent IPC High-Reliability Forum and Microvia Summit in Baltimore, Maryland. The speakers and panelists focused on a variety of topics, but one issue that kept popping up was the failure of some microvias on military and aerospace PCBs. Fortunately, some smart technologists are focusing on determining the cause of these via failures. I asked Brook Sandy-Smith, IPC’s technical education program manager, to give us a quick wrap-up of this event.
The Impact of Inductance on Impedance of Decoupling Capacitors
This article discusses the impact of interconnection inductance on the impedance of the decoupling capacitor, which influences the power integrity of the PCB. The investigation is performed with 3DEM simulation by varying the trace length and height of stitching vias that connect the decoupling capacitor across the power rail and ground.
Altium Designer 19.0 Features Printed Electronics Design Functions
The newest version of Altium Designer—revision 19.0—includes functionality for designing printed electronic circuits. We wanted to get the scoop on Altium’s PEC tools, so we asked Nikolay Ponomarenko, Altium’s director of product management, to give us a tour of the new functions.
Denny Fritz: The Difference Between Quality and Reliability
I recently spoke with industry veteran (and I-Connect007 columnist) Denny Fritz about the relationship between quality and reliability—two terms that are unequal but often used interchangeably. We also discuss the current state of lead-free solders in the U.S. military and defense market as well as the microvia reliability issues Denny focused on at IPC’s High-Reliability Forum and Microvia Summit in Baltimore, Maryland.
Mentor Tools: Optimized for Flex and Rigid-flex Design
With the launch of the new Flex007 section in Design007 Magazine, we asked David Wiens, product marketing manager with Mentor, a Siemens Business, to tell us about their tools’ flex and rigid-flex design capabilities. As David explains, today’s higher-end design software tools are optimized for flex design, making workarounds a thing of the past.
Words of Advice: Making Life Easier for Fabrication and Assembly
In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What steps do you take to make the job easier for your fabrication and assembly providers? Here are a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.
Words of Advice: Will 5G Affect Electronics Manufacturing?
In a recent survey, we asked the following question: How do you think 5G will affect the electronics manufacturing industry? Here are a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.
Stitching Capacitor: Crosstalk Mitigation for Return Path Discontinuity
When the return path is broken due to the switching of reference planes with different potential, e.g., from ground to power or vice versa after layer transition on PCB, the return current might detour and propagate on a longer path, which causes a rise in loop inductance. This might lead to the sharing of a common return path by different signals that pose a high risk of interference among the signals due to higher mutual inductance. This interference results in signal crosstalk. To mitigate the crosstalk due to return path discontinuity (RPD), stitching capacitors are mounted on the PCB to serve as a bridge between the two reference planes of interest on different PCB layers.
Words of Advice: When do You Get Involved in the PCB Design Cycle?
In a recent survey, we asked the following question: Where in the process do you typically get involved with a design project? Here are a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.
Automation and the Smart Factory: Introduction to Industry 4.0
There’s a lot of talk about automation, but I find that there is very little available on automation planning. This is one of my specialties. I started by studying for an MSEE in control theory, which went well with my bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering because I specialized in process control and IC manufacturing.
Smart Design Data Is Essential for Industry 4.0 Manufacturing
Almost all of the conversation regarding Industry 4.0 is centered on the manufacturing floor, which is where the effect of the initiative is most felt initially. Little attention is given to the starting data for manufacturing—the data that comes from design. However, you can’t have smart manufacturing if your process begins with dumb data. As Pink Floyd said, “You can’t have your pudding if you don’t eat your meat!”
Words of Advice for New PCB Designers
In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What do you think is the most important thing a designer should remember when planning a new PCB design? Here are a few answers, edited slightly for clarity. One favorite: "Have a good music selection."
Words of Advice: Long Component and Laminate Lead Times
In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What advice do you have regarding the current supply chain issues? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity. One reply really sticks out: "If the end customer is large, use their power."
PCB Designer Survey: Everything Starts With Design
Recently, a variety of technologists who fabricate and assembly PCBs have made the following statement: “Everything starts with design.” We want to get your thoughts on this. What are some of the steps you take early in the design process that can affect your downstream partners? Let us know!
Preparing to Enter the Workforce With PCB Design Experience
Nolan Johnson recently spoke with Alex Burt, a computer engineering student at George Fox University, at a well-attended college career fair on the GFU campus in Newberg, Oregon. In the interview, Alex discusses his PCB classwork, challenges of design, and how it has impacted his internship experience as he prepares to enter the workforce upon graduation in the spring semester of 2019.
From Spain to Austria: A Student’s Drive to Be a Professor
The AltiumLive event in Munich drew several hundred PCB designers from around Europe, including engineering students interested in PCB design. I spoke with Pablo Sanchez Martinez, a student at FH Joanneum in Austria who is working toward being a full professor in hardware design. Pablo discussed his studies in engineering and PCB design, the classes he’s teaching, and his plans for teaching the young engineers of the future.
Words of Advice: Combating Component and Material Shortages
In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What strategies are you employing to combat supply chain issues? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.
Sunstone's Terry Heilman Discusses the Evolving Industry
For the last 14 years, CEO Terry Heilman has been one of the key leaders in driving the expansive growth at Mulino, Oregon-based Sunstone Circuits, growing from a traditional PCB manufacturer to a PCB solutions provider with online ordering and a free PCB design tool. At IPC APEX EXPO 2019, Terry discusses the importance of serving the customer, how customers are shaping companies today, and the impact this will have on companies in the future.
Words of Advice: Obstacles to Getting Designs to Fab
In a recent survey, we asked, "What are the biggest obstacles you face in getting your design to the fabricator?" Here are a few of the responses, edited slightly for clarity.
Andy Johnson: EDA a Great Field for Young People
At the AltiumLive event in Munich, Germany, I sat down for an interview with Altium’s Andy Johnson. Andy is 25 and just a few years out of college, so I asked for his thoughts on working in this industry and what we can do to draw more young people into the PCB design community.
Kelly Dack at IPC APEX EXPO: The Attendees Speak!
During IPC APEX EXPO, Guest Editor Kelly Dack and the I-Connect team roamed the show floor, recorders in hand. They asked various attendees for their impressions of the show, and any new tools and technology that may have caught their attention. These are their stories.
Dan Gamota Discusses Flex and Alternative Substrates
As the VP of manufacturing technology and innovation for Jabil, Dan gave us his take on the current state of flex and alternative substrates and explained why modeling, automation, and process controls are likely to be key ingredients in the recipe for manufacturing non-FR-4 boards in the future.
SimplifyDA: Time for a New Autorouter Paradigm?
At DesignCon, I spoke with SimplifyDA CEO Zen Liao and Director of Sales and Marketing Dale Hanzelka. SimplifyDA is putting a new twist on the old autorouter by utilizing topological technology. I asked them to discuss their approach to autorouting, and how they plan to entice more PCB designers to use routers. Is it time for a paradigm shift in autorouting?
3DEM Modeling: Influence of Metal Plating on PCB Channel Loss and Impedance
This article briefly introduces different types of metal plating commonly used in PCB fabrication. Subsequently, the influence of metal plating on PCB channel loss (i.e., insertion loss or S21) and impedance (i.e., time domain reflectometry or TDR) is studied with 3DEM modeling,
Cherie Litson on ECAD/MCAD and Training the Next Generation
Cherie Litson, CID+, was one of the instructors at AltiumLive Munich. I asked her to discuss some of the topics she covered in her class, and what the future of PCB design will look like. How are we going to pass down all of this design knowledge to the next generation?
Linda Mazzitelli: PTC Goes all in on ECAD/MCAD Collaboration
At AltiumLive Munich, I ran into Linda Mazzitelli of PTC. Linda has worn a lot of hats in the PCB design world—she’s even married to a designer. I asked Linda to discuss her current work at PTC and the apparent convergence of ECAD and MCAD, which many think has been a long time coming for this industry.
Natasha Baker: Supply Chain Transparency Inside the CAD Tool
Natasha Baker, CEO and founder of SnapEDA, an online parts library, discusses the benefits of transparency in online libraries to designers, and discusses strategies on how to solve supply chain challenges, and more.
RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Rogers' Anthony Mattingly Discusses the Advanced Laminate Market
Rogers Corporation's Senior Product Manager Anthony Mattingly and Editor Pete Starkey discuss the ever-evolving market for advanced laminates for technologies such as 5G. Mattingly explains how Rogers has invested heavily in infrastructure for adding about 40% more capacity in the next few years.
CES 2019: More Show Floor Favorites
In my final piece covering CES 2019, I will review more automotive technology, updates on 3D printing, and some trending devices such as smartwatches and new computer components for those that either need or just want to have extremely powerful and impressive-looking computers.
RTW IPC APEX EXPO 2019: For Elmatica, the Future is All About Data
At this year's IPC APEX EXPO, guest editor Judy Warner sits down with Elmatica CEO Didrik Bech to discuss the company's business model and CircuitData, their award-winning open-source PCB design data language.
Happy Anniversary, Gerber Format: Looking Ahead to Digital Innovation
This year, we celebrate the 55th anniversary of the introduction of the Gerber machine language format. We can thank H. Joseph Gerber, the man who took manual PCB design to the next level with the automated photoplotter, for giving us this format in 1964. Gerber immigrated to the United States in 1940 with his mother following the death of his father during the Holocaust. Gerber started Gerber Scientific Instrument Company in 1948 to commercialize his first patented invention—the variable scale.
Alun Morgan Discusses AltiumLive Munich Keynote
EIPC Chairman Alun Morgan will deliver a keynote speech at this week’s AltiumLive event in Munich, Germany. He gave us a quick preview of his keynote, and explained what his new job entails as technology ambassador with Ventec International Group.
A Fractal Conversation with Jim Howard and Greg Lucas
Veteran PCB technologists Jim Howard and Greg Lucas have made an interesting discovery: Certain shapes of copper planes make a PCB run more efficiently than other shapes, a process they dubbed fractal design. It doesn’t appear to cost a penny more, and testing suggests that fractal design techniques could eliminate edge noise. Barry Matties and Andy Shaughnessy asked Jim and Greg to discuss the fractal design process, and the advantages of using this technique.
Rainer Beerhalter Discusses His AltiumLive Munich Presentation
Rainer Beerhalter is a physicist, and according to his design bureau’s website, “founder, owner, and mastermind” of B GMBH. Rainer attended the first AltiumLive in Munich in 2017, and he’s returning to this year’s event in Munich January 15–17. I asked him to tell us about the class he’ll be teaching in Munich, and why he decided to come back for the sophomore AltiumLive show.
Birds of a Feather: PCB Carolina and the RTP Designers Council
At PCB Carolina 2018, I met with show founders Tony Cosentino, Randy Faucette, and Lance Olive, who are all employees at the Better Boards service bureau in nearby Cary. I asked the trio to discuss the show’s history, its relationship to the Research Triangle Park (RTP) North Carolina Chapter of the IPC Designers Council, as well as the show’s tremendous growth over the past few years.
Words of Advice: Design Challenges
In a recent Design007 survey, we asked the following question: "What are your biggest design challenges?" Here are just a few of the replies, edited slightly for clarity.
Top 10 Most-Read PCB Design Articles of 2018
Every year, we like to take a look back at the most popular PCB design news, articles, interviews, and columns. Without further ado, here are the top 10 most-read PCB design articles from the past year. Check them out.
Calculation of Frequency-Dependent Effective Roughness Dielectric Parameters for Copper Foil Using Equivalent Capacitance Models
Knowledge of the correct parameters of laminate PCB dielectrics refined from any copper foil roughness impact and the proper foil roughness characterization are important constituents of modeling high-speed digital electronics designs.
In Medical PCB Design, Innovation Never Stops
Medical electronics is an exciting field to be working in right now with new ideas coming online almost daily. We last interviewed medical PCB designer Kenneth MacCallum in 2015. Recently, I asked him to give us an update on trends he sees in medical electronics, and some of the challenges in adapting the latest technology to this segment of the industry.
Randy Burcham Discusses New Techniques for BOM, Daughterboards
During AltiumLive, I spoke with IOTA Engineering's Randy Burcham, who taught several classes during the event. He explained his methodology for filtering BOM data as well as his new approach to working with daughterboards and how he was up and running on Altium tools after only three days.
Embedded Inductors with Laser Machined Gap
The power magnetics are often the largest and most expensive devices in the circuit. Integrating them into either a power converter module or system board can significantly reduce size and cost of the power converter function. This work presents the fabrication of embedded inductors and the experimental laser machining of gaps in the underlying ferrite structure.
Words of Advice: Streamlining Your Design Process
In a recent Design007 Survey, we asked the following question: What would help you streamline your design process? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.
Stephen Chavez: Breaking the Design Data Bottleneck
When we started planning this issue on design data, I knew we’d have to speak with PCB designer and EPTAC design instructor Steph Chavez. In this interview, he explains some of the biggest issues related to good design data handoff, and he offers some ways forward.
Design Data: File Naming Conventions
Working for an EMS provider, I am often asked to make sense of customers’ PCB design data packages that must be audited for completeness and manufacturability. Quite often, EMS operations receive data to produce a PCB design and begin the auditing process, only to be called off due to customer changes. Sometimes the data is incomplete, or it is missing one or more of the data files required to fabricate the PCB at the supplier. There are also occasions where a customer has sent files that were supposed to be the updated version but were not changed at all.
Julie Ellis: Communication and Fabrication Knowledge Critical for Designers
Field Application Engineer Julie Ellis of TTM sees it all: good designs, bad designs, and everything in between. Her classes on proper DFM techniques are always a big draw. She taught at the inaugural AltiumLive in 2017 and was back at this year’s event. I caught up with Julie and asked her to discuss some of the things she covered in class. As she points out, many issues could be eliminated if designers communicated with their fabricators and had a better understanding of how PCBs are manufactured.
Simon Fried: Additive Manufacturing Through Printed Electronics
Simon Fried, president of Nano Dimension, discusses how the company has taken the additive manufacturing process to the next level through printed electronics. He also shares his thoughts on the growing demand for 3D circuits, as well as how this could potentially be a game-changer for PCB designers.
Cadence: Bullish on AI
David White has been involved with artificial intelligence research for almost 30 years. Now, David is the senior group director of R&D for Cadence Design Systems, and I knew we’d have to speak with him for this issue on AI. In a recent interview, we discussed his decades of work in AI, Cadence’s research into AI and machine learning, and what he believes AI could mean for the EDA tools of the future.
AltiumLive 2018 a Mecca for PCB Designers
AltiumLive 2018 San Diego is now in the history books. This is the second annual AltiumLive (North America), and it was even better than the first. With nearly 300 hundred participants, from all parts of the country and industry, the event was a huge success.
Front-End Expert Mark Thompson of Prototron Circuits Publishes Book on Producing the Perfect Data Package
Errors and inaccuracies slow the process down because the CAM department has to correct their data package or ask customers to clarify their intent. In the quick-turn prototype business where people pay for time, a slowdown on a three-day turn can be a disaster. I recently sat down with Thompson to find out more about his new book and discuss the quest for the perfect data package.
Artificial Intelligence: More Questions than Answers
I’ve been covering artificial intelligence (AI) and related technologies for years, particularly at events such as the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). As I write this, we are in the run-up to CES 2019, and the Artificial Intelligence Conference in San Francisco, so the AI landscape is likely to change—at an ever-accelerating rate. Let’s look at some of the challenges facing AI now, and then after CES 2019 we can take another look.
Moving From 28 Gbps NRZ to 56 Gbps PAM-4: Is it a Free Lunch?
The usual way of signaling through PCB interconnects is a two-level pulse, an encoding of 1s and 0s or bits, named NRZ (non-return-to-zero) or PAM-2 line code type. Increasing the data rate with the NRZ code type presents some obstacles. For a 28 Gbps NRZ signal, the bit time is about 35.7 ps with the main spectral lobe below 28 GHz. For a 56 Gbps NRZ signal, the bit time is about 17. 86 ps, with the main spectral lobe below 56 GHz. One can feel the problem already: Getting PCB interconnect analysis and measurements up to 56 GHz and beyond is very challenging, to say the least.
In With the New at Cadence
The next generation of PCB designers is coming—slowly, but surely. What will this new group of designers mean for EDA vendors like Cadence Design Systems? Andy Shaughnessy recently interviewed Dan Fernsebner, product marketing group director and a veteran EDA guy, and Bryan LaPointe, lead product engineer and representative of the younger generation. They discussed the next generation of PCB designers, some of the best ways to draw smart young people into this industry, and why the PCB designers of the future may need to have a college degree just to get an interview.
Dave Wiens Discusses Multi-board Design Techniques
For our multi-board design issue, I interviewed Dave Wiens, product marketing manager for Mentor, a Siemens business. We discussed how the multi-board design technique differs from laying out single boards, along with the planning, simulation and analysis processes required to design multi-board systems.
Sensible Design: Protecting PCBs from Harsh, Challenging Environments
Think very carefully about the sort of environment your PCB is likely to encounter. It is easy to over-engineer a product so that it will survive the very worst of conditions, but worst conditions may only be fleeting or transient. Therefore, a resin solution with a lower temperature performance specification will often cope. Take temperature extremes, for example. Your application may experience occasional temperature spikes of up to 180°C, which you might feel deserves treatment with a special resin.
APCT Moves into Rigid-Flex with Cartel, Cirtech Acquisition
When I spoke with APCT President Steve Robinson a year ago, he said he was interested in adding flex and rigid-flex capabilities, and working closely with designers and engineers. With the recent acquisition of Cartel and their subsidiary Cirtech, APCT now has a flex and rigidflex facility, along with military and aerospace certifications. At DesignCon 2018, I asked Steve to discuss these acquisitions and what they mean for APCT and their customers.
Expert Discussion: Dan Feinberg on Automotive Electronics
A fixture at the Consumer Electronics Show, Dan Feinberg has been covering autonomous, hybrid and electric vehicles for years, along with the rapid growth of high-tech electronic gadgetry in traditional vehicles. In this freewheeling expert discussion, Dan spoke with Barry Matties, Patty Goldman, and Happy Holden about the future of auto electronics and what it all means to the PCB industry.
RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Ucamco's New Tools for Designers, Fabricators
European Editor Pete Starkey and Ucamco partner Luc Maesen discuss Ucamco's newest solutions for PCB designers and fabricators, YELO (Yield Enhancing Layout Optimizer) and Communic8tor. Both of these products were recently launched for users in the North American market.
Bridging the Customer-Supplier Gap
For the February issue of Design007 Magazine, we interviewed Nolan Johnson of Sunstone Circuits, and Dan Beaulieu of DB Management—our regular columnist—on the topics of knowing your customers, the challenges in dealing with customers, and providing excellent customer satisfaction.
IPC-2581 Demo Draws a Crowd at IPC APEX EXPO
During IPC APEX EXPO 2018, the IPC-2581 Consortium held a demo of this open-source data transfer standard, attracting numerous designers, fabricators and assembly providers. Jim Pierce of Axiom Electronics and Bob Miklosey of Aegis Software sat down to discuss the demo and their involvement with the consortium. Axiom now charges more for designs submitted in the Gerber format.
IoT: Let’s Put the “A” Back into EDA
If I say IoT, most people today will immediately conjure up some notion in their mind. This is especially true in the engineering community, where many of us are hanging the future of our careers on the Utopian vision of a clean, beautiful environment with hidden networks and sensors everywhere.
Real Time with... DesignCon: User Feedback Helped Shape Altium Designer 18
During DesignCon 2018, Altium’s Judy Warner sat down with Editor Kelly Dack for an update on Altium’s software tools. She explains how user feedback lead the company to fix the bugs in Designer 17 during the development of Designer 18, and how “community engagement” is more than a buzzword for Altium.
Nano Dimension’s 3D Printing: Prototypes at the Push of a Button?
SICK AG is a global manufacturer of sensors and sensor solutions for industrial applications, with headquarters located in Waldkirch, Germany. After a demo of Nano Dimension’s new 3D printing machine at productronica, Barry Matties met with SICK’s Danny Wernet to discuss its pros and cons and get his overall impression of the technology. Are 3D prototypes really as simple as feeding in a Gerber file and pushing a button?
Dr. Johannes Adam Gets Hot on Thermal Management
Thermal management expert Johannes Adam, PhD, was kind enough to take the train from his home in Leimen, Germany to meet with me during productronica in Munich. He is the creator of TRM (Thermal Risk Management) software and contributor, with Douglas G. Brooks, of "PCB Trace and Via Currents and Temperatures: The Complete Analysis, 2nd Edition." He’s also working on his own book on thermal management. Johannes sat down for an interview, and I asked him to share his views on the current state of thermal management for PCBs, and what the industry can do to put the spotlight on what’s hot in PCBs.
That’s Hot: Ventec’s Goodwin on Thermal Management
IPC’s fall committee meetings were held in conjunction with SMTA International, as has been the case for several years now. Patty Goldman sat in on some subcommittee meetings, including one on laminates, where she met up with Ventec COO Mark Goodwin for a discussion on thermal management from a laminate supplier’s perspective.
Who Really Owns the PCB Layout?
In order to understand the current climate, we have to look at the division of labor that took place in electronic design about 40 years ago. The labor was divided into two processes, with the first being the design itself. This process was (and still is) owned by the electrical engineers. Though circuit design has changed, the methods for representing the circuit have not. Paul Taubman of Nine Dot Connects explains.
AltiumLive Summit—Munich, Germany, Part 2
Pete Starkey continues with his review of the AltiumLive PCB Design Summit held recently in Munich, Germany. The second day commenced with a new product launch. “Working together is hard” it read on the screen. Statistics indicated that 33% of new products were late getting to market, of which 28% were late due to insufficient collaboration, and up to 50% of potential revenue could be lost through being late to market. Then the screen read “NEXUS makes it easy!”
AltiumLive 2017 Munich: Sold Out!
I recently sat down with Ted Pawela, Lawrence Romine, and Judy Warner of Altium to wrap up their sold-out AltiumLive 2017 PCB Design Summit in Munich, Germany. This conference, following on the heels of an AltiumLive event in San Diego, was packed full of PCB designers who attended a series of great keynotes and an excellent technical program. We discussed some of the highlights of the show, including designers’ reactions to a new version of Altium Designer 18 and the brand-new Altium Nexus tool.
Altium Designer 18 Introduced at AltiumLive 2017
At the recent AltiumLive 2017 event in San Diego, I sat down for an interview with Dan Fernsebner, Altium’s global head of technical marketing. Dan discussed the upcoming release of Altium Designer 18, as well as the company’s corporate responsibility for giving back to the industry and bringing more young people into EDA. The event featured speakers such as Happy Holden, Dan Beeker, Charles Pfeil, and Tara Dunn, as well as a robot team competition.
Full Coverage of AltiumLive 2017
Altium recently conducted its first-ever users conference, AltiumLive 2017: Annual PCB Design Summit, at the Hilton Resort and Spa in San Diego. Speakers included Dan Beeker of NXP Semiconductors, Max Seeley of 3M Corporate R&D, Tara Dunn of OMNI PCB, Susy Webb of Fairfield Nodal, Charles Pfeil of Altium, and our own Happy Holden. This conference drew hundreds of PCB designers, and included a robot design challenge and battle. If you couldn’t make it, don’t worry. We shot a variety of video and still photos.
Predictive Engineering: Happy Holden Discusses True DFM
Happy Holden has been involved in DFM for over 45 years, since he first started working at HP and optimized their PCB design and manufacturing processes. Naturally, for this issue, Barry Matties and Andy Shaughnessy made it a priority to get Happy’s thoughts on DFM, and what true DFM entails.
Sensible Design: Thermal Management—The Heat is On
Thermal management materials are designed to prolong equipment life and reduce incidences of failure. They also maintain equipment performance parameters and reduce energy consumption by reducing operating temperatures, and minimising the risk of damage to surrounding components. Indirectly, they maintain brand reputation, as the reliability of the equipment will be very dependent upon the effectiveness of the thermal management technique used.
Whose Fault is That Bad Board?
Years ago, I held a position in an EMS company where projects were analysed before manufacturing. We found that even some of the best and most innovative circuits could not be manufactured. Why? Because the PCB designer, an electronic engineer, was not acquainted with the fabrication process. He had no idea about technological requirements necessary for electronic production. I know another designer who learned, finally, the importance of the thermal relief pad for heat restriction during reflow for a good soldering. His response? “Oh, was that what they were for? And to think I worked so much to remove them!”
Enough Blame to Go Around
The idea for this article began a few months ago when The PCB Design Magazine conducted a reader survey regarding the topic “Whose Fault is that Bad Board?” After some thought, I submitted my answers. After all, I must have some kind of input after over 25 years of PCB design. But still, whose fault is that bad board? OK, I know what you’re thinking: Don’t go there. We designers make mistakes too.
Romania’s PCB Design Students Compete at TIE 2017
During the last week in April, the 26th Interconnection Techniques in Electronics (TIE) show was held at the Gheorghe Asachi Technical University in Iasi, Romaina, a wonderful hill town not unlike Rome. The event, a convention for the Romanian electronic packaging community, included a series of actions designed to draw smart young students to the electronics industry, which is clearly growing. Participants had only four hours to create this PCB design, which was generated by a team of professionals from Continental Automotive Romania Timisoara.
Whose Fault is it When the Board Fails?
In an upcoming issue of The PCB Design Magazine, we will discuss a question that you've undoubtedly faced in your job: Whose fault is it when the board fails? Of course, everyone likes to blame the PCB designer. But think about it. Is the board shop at fault, or perhaps the EMS provider? Is it the customer's fault, or does the designer bear some of the blame after all? Take this quick survey and let your voice be heard!
PCB Design in the Age of IoT
From the early days of printed circuit boards, the electronics industry has made huge strides in board materials, copper printing methods, miniaturization, rigid-flex, ELIC, EDA, and much more. Many of the devices we use in our homes, our vehicles, and in our workplaces would not be possible without this continuous evolution of PCB design and technology. And yet in 2017, we are poised to shift from evolution to revolution, driven by the idea of the Internet of Things.
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.
Rigid-flex Design Tips and Best Practices
While the traditional “design-separately-then-assemble” approach minimized potential issues with the flex portions of the product, it also had several inherent disadvantages. These include the cost associated with the physical connectors; the space required for the physical connectors; the need to properly manage interconnects that have to transition between the separate rigid and flex PCBs (through the connectors); and, of course, the time and cost associated with assembly. The move to the current generation of rigid-flex technology mitigates these issues; however, they are replaced with a different set of challenges and concerns.
Exciting New Technology: Thermal Risk Management
Two years ago I entered into a collaboration with Dr. Johannes Adam, from Leimen Germany. Johannes has written a software simulation tool called Thermal Risk Management (TRM). We used it to look at the thermal characteristics of PCB traces under a variety of conditions, and it is hard for me to contain my excitement and enthusiasm for what it does and what we learned about traces using it. Our collaboration resulted in the publication of numerous articles and a book. In this article, I’ll talk about some of the capabilities of TRM that really caught my attention.
Kelly Dack and Mike Creeden: Are We in a PCB Design Renaissance?
Technical Editor Kelly Dack and San Diego PCB founder Mike Creeden discuss some of the trends they're seeing in the PCB design community, including greater numbers of young people becoming designers and more EEs doing design work. They also focus on IPC's training and designer certification efforts, and the need for designers to get out of the office and visit a board shop once in a while.
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?
In Deep: The Art and Science of DFM with Gary Ferrari
When the topic of DFM techniques came up, I knew I had to talk with Gary Ferrari of FTG Corp. Gary has been involved with designing and manufacturing PCBs for decades, and he’s the past co-founder and executive director of the IPC Designers Council. I caught up with Gary between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we conducted the following interview.
IPC Designers Council San Diego Chapter Meeting: Flex Focus Fills the House
A report from the January meeting of the San Diego chapter of the IPC Designers Council. The meeting was hosted by the PCB design bureau San Diego PCB, with the featured guest speaker John Stine of Summit Interconnect. Stine’s presentation focused on flex and rigid-flex DFM, and he offered a variety of helpful design tips to the full house of 30-40 designers in attendance.
Flex and Rigid Sales and Marketing with Al Wasserzug
After decades in the PCB industry, Al Wasserzug of Cirexx International has seen marketing and sales trends come and go. I recently caught up with Al and interviewed him via email about the latest sales and marketing techniques, the value of traditional methods such as trade shows and conferences, and the particular characteristics of marketing flex circuits.
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.
Resins: Five Essentials to Achieve the Right Cure
Last month, I looked at some of the critical things you need to consider before selecting your resin. Of course, when it comes to the choice and application of resins, there’s a lot of information to take in, and over the following months I hope to distill this and provide some useful tips and design advice that will help you in your quest for reliable circuit protection.
CAT’s David Wolf on Via Reliability Analysis
Conductor Analysis Technologies (CAT) has been analyzing test panels and coupon designs for over 20 years. CAT’s analysis provides valuable, quantitative data on PCB quality and reliability, which can help designers and manufacturers trace the source of defects and non-uniformities. Vice President of Technical Marketing David Wolf discusses some of the trends he’s seeing in via structures, and the common reliability and quality issues related to vias.
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.
What’s the Difference Between a Manager and a True Leader?
The role of the manager is complex; it means balancing business needs with creative opportunity and flexibility, building trust and providing inspiration with a team. With the recruitment of Generation X, and now the millennials, the expectations of employees are changing, accompanied by an unprecedented growth of technology. How can today’s manager maintain an effective and motivated team?
Sensible Design: The Little Guide to Resins
I would like to start this series of columns 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.
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.
Prototron Adding a Variety of Services and Certifications
Editor Judy Warner and Prototron Sales Manager Russ Adams discuss Prototron's new capabilities and certifications. The company recently added via fill and limited flex services, and is ready to pull the trigger on AS9100 once the new rev is finalized.
Transline Technology is Bullish on Design Engineers
At the International Microwave Symposium, I met with Chris Savalia, vice president and co-owner of Transline Technology. We discussed the California-based fabricator’s philosophy, the challenges of the RF and microwave markets, and the need to engage with young design engineers now.
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.
The Shaughnessy Report: Voices of the Industry
We asked readers like you to share your thoughts about PCB design. Your replies were all over the map. Of course, as journalists, we are drawn to your complaints and challenges—our publications exist to help you address these challenges. And you were not shy about sharing your complaints! Designers’ complaints haven’t changed much since I've been covering this segment.
Lightning Speed Laminates: Smaller Circuits--Material Properties and Thermal Issues
Coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) is typically considered for PCB reliability, but it can also have an impact on circuit performance for applications exposed to varying temperatures. Due to CTE, a circuit will change physical dimensions when the temperature changes. If the circuit has small features or tightly coupled features, the physical change of the circuit dimensions can cause a shift in electrical performance.
Sensible Design: When Coatings Go Wrong
This month, I consider some of the more common, and often very frustrating, problems that may be encountered when coating electronic circuit boards and components. I also discuss some practical solutions. As we all know, nothing in life is straightforward.
Signal Integrity Tools and Design Methodology in the Modern Age
The PCB design process has traditionally been done in silos. One group creates the design intent (schematic), another group implements the logic on the PCB, and yet another group does some checking of the design using analysis tools. This traditional approach has run into a number of problems.
The Gerber Guide, Chapters 15 and 16
Before sending your Gerber files off to your fabricator, you are often advised to check them using a reputable Gerber viewer such as GC-Prevue. This is excellent advice. Note that this involves more than just verifying that the viewer displays your intended image: It is important that you check too that the file is valid.
From the CAM Shop: Tight Tolerance Design Tips
After you finish your design, it winds up in the hands of people like Mark Thompson, the man who runs the CAM department at Prototron Circuits in Redmond, Washington. He sees CAD data firsthand, and often has to address errors and inconsistencies in PCB designs. For this issue, we asked Mark to discuss the today’s tight tolerances, some of the problems they can cause PCB designers, and what designers can do when dealing with shrinking features.
The Importance of Design for Profit (DFP)
In this interview, Interconnect Design Solutions’ Mike Brown and I took a few minutes during the recent Geek-A-Palooza event to discuss the importance of material selection and designing for profitability, how automation affects the design process, and the future of the design community.
Tim’s Takeaways: The Basics of Hybrid Design, Part 3
The world of hybrid design is growing, and we have lots of hybrid-specific functionality built into our software that helps designers meet and conquer the unique hybrid design requirements that they are faced with. And yet many designers out there (and I used to be one of them) have no idea what is meant when people start talking about hybrid design.
DownStream: What a Long EDA Trip it’s Been
No doubt about it: DownStream Technologies co-founder Joe Clark is an EDA veteran, with a history that dates back to the very beginning of EDA tools through the merger madness of the late ‘90s and beyond. I sat down with Joe during IPC APEX EXPO, and asked him about some of the changes he’s seen, and the direction of DownStream as it enters its 15th year.
PADS Paper: 10 Things to Know about Thermal Design
As designs get smaller, power densities at all packaging levels increase dramatically. Removing heat is critical to the operation and long-term reliability of electronics, and component temperatures within specification are the universal criteria used to determine the acceptability of a design. This PADS paper discusses 10 things designers need to know about thermal design.
Designers and Design Engineers: Two Sides of the Same Coin
Andy and Sue Critcher have been the lead designers at Total Board Solutions Limited, a UK-based design bureau, since its founding in 1998. I asked Andy to share his opinion about the friction between some PCB designers and their engineers, and what can be done to improve communications between these groups.
Quiet Power: Dynamic Models for Passive Components
A year ago, my Quiet Power column described the possible large loss of capacitance in multilayer ceramic capacitors when DC bias voltage is applied. However, DC bias effect is not the only way we can lose capacitance. Temperature, aging, and the magnitude of the AC voltage across the ceramic capacitor also can change its capacitance. This column will provide all of the details.
Beyond Design: The Need for Speed—Strategies for Design Efficiency
Years of experience with one EDA tool obviously develops efficiency, whether the tool be high-end feature-packed or basic entry-level. And one becomes accustomed to the intricacies of all the good and bad features of their PCB design tool. However, there comes a time when one should really consider a change for the better to incorporate the latest methodologies. This month, I will look at productivity issues that impede the PCB design process.
The Bare (Board) Truth: The Top 10 Ways Designers Can Increase Profits
So, can you truly increase profitability through PCB design practices? Prototron's Mark Thompson believes you can. And it starts with a philosophy that embraces DFM techniques. Then you must be ready for the initial release to a fabricator by ensuring that you are communicating all of your specifications and needs clearly to the fabrication house so that you get an accurate quote. Let’s dive in, starting with Number 10 and working our way to the most important way a designer can increase company profits.
IPC APEX EXPO: Isola Introduces New Products, Increases R&D
Ed Kelley, VP of global technology, sits down with Guest Editor Dan Beaulieu at IPC APEX EXPO to discuss the company's plans for the future. The company is launching new low-loss laminates and increasing its R&D activities around the globe. He also explains why Isola often works with designers at OEMs.
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.
Designers Notebook: Flexible and Rigid-Flex Circuit Design Principles, Part 4
All of the design rules for the glass reinforced-portion of the board (land pattern geometry for mounting surface mount devices, solder mask and the like) are now well-established. One unique facet of fabricating the rigid-flex product is how the flexible portion of the circuit is incorporated with the rigid portion of the circuit. As a general rule for multilayer PCB design, furnish a balanced structure by building up the circuit layers in pairs (4, 6, 8 and so on).
IPC APEX EXPO: IPC's Fern Abrams Provides Updates on RoHS, REACH Directives
Fern Abrams, director of regulatory affairs and government relations at IPC, discusses with I-Connect007's Stephen Las Marias the latest updates on the changes happening in the RoHS and REACH directives this year, as well as IPC's new initiatives and advocacies.
What’s New at DownStream?
Since its founding in the uncertain days of 2002, DownStream Technologies has made a name for itself with its line of PCB design post-processing tools. Founder Rick Almeida gives us an update on the latest innovations at DownStream, and he discusses some of the challenges and trends he sees in the PCB design segment.
IPC APEX EXPO: Glenn Oliver on His IPC 'Best Paper' on High-Frequency Materials
Glenn Oliver of DuPont discusses his award-winning paper, “Round Robin of High-Frequency Test Methods by IPC-D24C Task Group." Co-authors include Jonathan Weldon of DuPont, John Andresakis of Park Electrochemical, Chudy Nwachukwu of Isola, John Coonrod of Rogers Corporation, David L. Wynants of Taconic Advanced Dielectric Division, and Don DeGroot of Connected Community Networks. The paper looks at high-frequency offerings from a variety of materials providers.
Beyond Design: Faster than a Speeding Bullet
In optical communications, electrons don’t carry the signal—photons do. And we all know that photons travel at the speed of light. So surely, optical fibers must transmit information much faster than copper wires or traces on a multilayer PCB? Actually, photons and electrons transmit data at the same speed. The limiting factor is the relative permittivity (dielectric constant) of the medium in which the signal propagates.
Technology Outlook with Mentor Graphics
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.
Catching up With Tom Hausherr of PCB Libraries
When fate placed Tom Hausherr and I at PCB West, we made sure to carve out some time together. Tom agreed to have a long breakfast with me so I could learn more about the challenges related to component libraries and how his company addresses these issues. So, pull up a chair and join us for a chat.
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.
American Standard Circuits: Leading the Way in Medical Electronics
When it comes to innovative fabricators, American Standard Circuits is always at the front of the pack. Naturally, when Editor Andy Shaughnessy asked me to interview a fabricator about PCBs for the medical market, ASC was the one company that immediately came to mind. I spoke with CEO Anaya Vardya about fabricating medical PCBs, the medical electronics market, and the future of this fast-growing segment.
Innovative Circuits Sees Healthy Medical Market
Medical electronics is one of the fastest growing segments of our industry. Alpharetta, Georgia-based Innovative Circuits is at the forefront of fabricating medical PCBs, both flex and rigid. I asked Innovative Business Development Manager Amir Davoud to give us a solid diagnosis of the world of medical PCBs.
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.
Designers Notebook: Flex and Rigid-Flex Circuit Design Principles, Part 1
In his new Designers Notebook column, Verb Solberg discusses primary flex circuit structures, proper design for operating environment, and base material selection. The design guidelines for flexible circuits, although similar to those for rigid circuits, have distinctive differences that are influenced by specific applications and the intended operating use environments. Communication with your fabricator is paramount when designing flex and rigid-flex circuits.
IPC Designers Council Viewpoint: Gary Ferrari
As co-founder and longtime executive director of the Designers Council, Gary Ferrari has dedicated a big part of his career to PCB design. After decades of service, he was inducted into the IPC Hall of Fame at IPC APEX EXPO this year. I caught up with Gary and asked him to fill us in on the creation of the Designers Council, and some of the changes he’s seen in the last 24 years.
IPC Designers Council: Serving PCB Designers for Almost 25 Years
You may have seen Anne Marie Mulvihill at the Design Forum during IPC APEX EXPO, rounding up speakers with a sarcastic comment or two. As PCB design program manager for IPC, Anne Marie makes the design train run on time. When I told Anne Marie that we were covering the Designers Council for this issue, she jumped at the chance to help us.
Honeywell Paper Investigates Avionics Vibration Durability
Dr. Joseph Juarez, principal mechanical engineer at Honeywell International, discusses with I-Connect007's Andy Shaughnessy his SMTA paper, which addresses avionics vibration durability between tin-lead and lead-free solder, the years of testing he conducted, the importance of doing a good soldering job, and some of the surprising findings of his research.
Good In, Good Out: Bay Area Circuits Discusses Data Strategies
A lot of companies talk about the importance of good data management, but for some firms, this amounts to little more than lip service. Then there are companies like fabricator Bay Area Circuits. I recently sat down with Bay Area Circuits President Stephen Garcia and COO Brian Paper to discuss how automating and upgrading their data systems has significantly cut down overall process time, as well as their drive to educate young PCB designers and actively promote the industry to the emerging electronics industry workforce.
Accelerating the Design Cycle : Moving from Discipline-Centric to Product-Centric Design
Today, the design process in most cases fans out from the requirements as defined by marketing into multiple independent design threads that converge at the prototype. There is usually no systematic method for these different disciplines to communicate their work to the other disciplines. This lack of communication often leads to conflicting design decisions, such as when an electrical engineer or purchaser selects a component without having any way of knowing that it interferes with the enclosure. Extra design turns are often needed to resolve these conflicts at the prototype stage.
The Readers Speak: Tips on Accelerating your Design Cycle
This month, in addition to publishing feature articles by well-known experts in the field, we decided to collect feedback from the readers—PCB designers and engineers working in the trenches each day. We asked our readers to provide their favorite tips, tricks, and techniques for speeding up the PCB design cycle. Here are 10 tips for cutting your design time, courtesy of designers just like you.
Insulectro Hosts Silicon Valley Designers Council Meeting
On October 15, about 25 people gathered for the IPC Designers Council Silicon Valley Chapter meeting at Insulectro's Mountain View facility. Carl Schattke, senior PCB design engineer at Tesla, was the main speaker. His presentation covered a variety of facets of PCB design, from shadowing to the location of component based on weight and surface finishes.
The Challenges of Being Competitive in Automotive Electronics Manufacturing
Simple electronics were gradually introduced into automobiles from the earliest times. At first, these were just simple electro-mechanical devices to make cars work without manual effort, such as to start the engine and keep windshields clear. But in this past decade, we have seen the effects of the gradual growth of issues with electronics systems, with recalls caused by safety issues that cost automotive manufacturers millions of dollars. Electronics within an automotive environment today requires a new approach to ensure a higher level of quality perfection.
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."
The Shaughnessy Report: Car Talk
The automotive electronics segment has exploded. Early cars didn’t have much in the way of electronics. Even in 1950, electronics made up only 1% of a car’s cost. But that figure is expected to hit 35% in 2020, and 50% in 2030. The global automotive electronics market is forecast to hit $314.4 billion by 2020, and that means a whole lot of PCBs.
Jack Pattie Discusses New Ventec Facility
Jack Pattie, CEO of Ventec USA, discusses the company's newest laminate facility, which recently opened in Northern California. He explains how this location, the company's fourth, will help Ventec better serve customers in that region.
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.
Kelly Dack and Mark Thompson Unite in the War on Failure
There’s been a lot of talk about fighting the war on failure in the PCB industry. But what strategies should our generals follow to prosecute this war? What exactly constitutes a failure in the first place? Is this war even winnable? I recently spoke with longtime designer Kelly Dack and CAM support veteran Mark Thompson of Prototron Circuits about the best battle plans for beating failure, and why designers and manufacturers must team up against this common enemy.
Ten Considerations for Outsourcing PCB Designs
Outsourcing your design work is a big deal. How do you know that the end-result will be as you envisaged? Will you have full control of your design? Will it be done to the quality you expect and within the time frame required? Outsourcing can pose some fairly scary questions, so what are the key things to consider and what are the pitfalls to avoid? Steve Dobson of Quadra Solutions explains.
A Review of the Opportunities and Processes for Printed Electronics (Part 1)
As microsystems continue to move towards higher speed and microminiaturization, the demands for interconnection are opening up new opportunities for "innovative" interconnects. In the first part of this five-part article series, Happy Holden gives a brief background on printed electronics, as well as presents key technologies that are being employed for PE production.
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