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January 2019 Issue of Design007 Magazine Available Now
01/15/2019 | I-Connect007
A Fractal Conversation with Jim Howard and Greg Lucas
01/15/2019 | Barry Matties and Andy Shaughnessy, I-Connect007
Words of Advice: Streamlining Your Design Process
01/14/2019 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
Rainer Beerhalter Discusses His AltiumLive Munich Presentation
01/11/2019 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
Birds of a Feather: PCB Carolina and the RTP Designers Council
01/10/2019 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
Design :: Compliance
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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