Article Highlights
Randy Faucette Discusses PCB Carolina’s Explosive Growth
12/01/2022 | Andy Shaughnessy, I-Connect007
My Experience With Maxwell
11/23/2022 | Happy Holden, I-Connect007
I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week
11/18/2022 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
The Physics of PCB Design
11/17/2022 | I-Connect007 Editorial Team
DownStream Flexes in Rigid-Flex
11/14/2022 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
Design :: Education

Latest Articles

My Experience With Maxwell

I was first introduced to James Maxwell in 1967 as a college student. I had to decide whether I would take the Maxwell fields course or the switching and coding course. Being a chemical engineering major with a co-major in control theory, I had heard about the trials and tribulations of the infamous Maxwell fields course.

The Physics of PCB Design

In this wide-ranging interview, Dr. Eric Bogatin discusses the relationship between physics and electrical theory, and why it’s critical for designers and design engineers to understand the laws of physics. As he points out, the math is important, but designers shouldn’t let the principles of physics “hide behind the math.” Eric discusses some points of physics that designers need to understand, the physics resources available, and why it’s so important to have some understanding of Maxwell’s equations, even if you don’t have a strong math background.

DownStream Flexes in Rigid-Flex

During PCB West, I caught up with DownStream Technologies co-founder Joe Clark and Senior Product Marketing Manager Mark Gallant. We discussed some of their latest tool updates, including a greater focus on bringing post-processing functionality, such as inter-layer analysis capability, to rigid-flex circuits. Joe also offered a look at global design trends going into 2023, as more engineers take on PCB designer roles while senior designers are retiring.

Sunstone and I-007eBooks Launch Book on Designing for Reality

I-007eBooks is excited to announce the release of the latest title in its series for designers, The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Designing for Reality. This book covers both written and unwritten rules for how to create a realistic, manufacturable design.

Q&A: The Learning Curve for Ultra HDI

For this issue on ultra HDI, we reached out to Tara Dunn at Averatek with some specific questions about how she defines UDHI, more about the company’s patented semi-additive process, and what really sets ultra HDI apart from everything else. Do designers want to learn a new technology? What about fabricators? We hope this interview answers some of those questions that you may be having about these capabilities and what it could mean for your designs.

Book Excerpt: 'An Introduction to The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Stackups'

To give readers a sample of 'The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to... Stackups—The Design within the Design,' by Bill Hargin, we are providing the book's introduction. He writes, "Another book about stackups? If you’re asking this question, I’d like to know the book you’re thinking of, as I was looking for it a few years back. I have a pretty good PCB signal integrity (SI) library, and I’ve only found one chapter on stackup design so far."

Catching Up With John Johnson, New Director of Business Development at ASC

It’s always good to catch up with old friends, especially when you can start working together. I recently spoke with my friend John Johnson, who has joined American Standard Circuits as the director of business development. At ASC, John will be using the Averatek A-SAP process that he was previously involved with. He shares some of his background and provides insight on the best ways to use this semi-additive PCB fabrication process that opens the capability window for forming trace and space.

Book Excerpt: The Electronics Industry’s Guide to… The Evolving PCB NPI Process

The Electronics Industry’s Guide to… The Evolving PCB NPI Process is the first book in I-Connect007’s new The Electronics Industry’s Guide to… technical series. This valuable resource is for all segments of the electronics interconnect industry. What follows is an excerpt from Chapter 1: 'How the NPI Process Has Changed and Where We're Going'.

September 2022 Issue of Design007 Magazine Available Now

Supply chain management is a dynamic situation, with a number of global forces that can create pain for PCB designers. In this issue, we speak with a variety of experts and bring you up-to-the-minute insight about designing PCBs in this ever-changing environment.

I-Connect007 eBook Introduction: The Evolving NPI Process

Thanks to marketing and advances in technology, we have all come to expect that the electronic products we buy will be closely aligned to our individual and specific lifestyle or business requirements. This expected variability, in personal function and style, as well as regulatory compliance and a changing global economic landscape, has made designing and producing new products a challenging prospect. And, on top of the resulting “high-mix, low-volume” production cycles, increasingly more products contain electronic components in varying levels that heighten the complexity of design and manufacturing.


Cadence Provides ‘Clarity’ in Design Tool

Nolan Johnson recently spoke with Brad Griffin, product marketing director for Cadence Design Systems, about Cadence’s Matrix solver technology. They discuss its use as a multi-disciplinary field solver as well as Cadence’s focus on thermal analysis and utilizing the power of the cloud.

John Watson Wants You—to Sign Up for His PCB Design Class

I-Connect007 columnist John Watson is teaching an introductory class on PCB design at Palomar College this fall, but this is much more than a basic design class. But John has hit a slight snafu: He needs a few more students to sign up before Aug. 23, or the class will be cancelled. It’s an online class, so you don’t have to live in San Diego to attend. In this interview, John talks about the genesis for the class and its benefits.

Excerpt Chapter 5: 'The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to... Thermal Management with Insulated Metal Substrates, Vol. 2'

Chapter 5 of the 2nd Volume from The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... Thermal Managment with Insulated Metal Substrates provides examples of thermally enhanced prepregs and cores now available in the market with the versatility to solve a wide variety of challenges. Included in this chapter you will find examples of simple designs and more complex hybrid assemblies that combine multilayer and single-layer areas on the same board.

HyperLynx: There’s an App for That

I recently spoke with Todd Westerhoff, product marketing manager for signal integrity software tools at Siemens. We discussed a new capability called HyperLynx Apps that offers a new take on traditional signal and power integrity analysis, and how that fits in with the Siemens plan to put SI and PI tools into the hands of more designers early in the design cycle.

Excerpt: 'The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to... Thermal Management with Insulated Metal Substrates, Vol. 2'

As the second in this two-part series, The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to... Thermal Management with Insulated Metal Substrates, Volume 2, by Didier Mauve and Robert Art builds on the material presented in the first book by describing up-to-the-minute products and design techniques for thermal management with IMS.

New Book from I-Connect007 Examines Evolution of Electronics Industry NPI

The Electronics Industry’s Guide to… The Evolving PCB NPI Process is the first book in I-Connect007’s new The Electronics Industry’s Guide to… technical series. This valuable resource is for all segments of the electronics interconnect industry.

Webinar Review: Thermal Integrity of High-Performance PCB Design

Electrical and mechanical engineers may be working on the same product development teams, but they speak different languages, and they have completely different objectives. As a result, these folks almost never use the same software tools. But Cadence’s new Celsius Thermal Solver is an exception to the rule. In a new CadenceTECHTALK webinar, “How Static and Dynamic IR Drop Analysis Can Help PCB Designs and Challenges,” product manager Melika Roshandell and SerDes SI/PI engineer Karthik Mahesh Rao explain how the EE and ME can both use the Celsius Thermal Solver to achieve their disparate objectives.

The Practical Side of Using EM Solvers

Electromagnetic (EM) solvers based on Maxwell’s equations have proven invaluable in the advancement of digital electronics and wireline communications. Plain and simple, electrical engineers need to know what a circuit or electrical interconnect will do when excited by a dynamic or varying signal. In the signal integrity world, an interconnect that passes a DC connectivity check can completely fail at higher frequencies. In the power integrity world, a power rail that measures the correct DC voltage could easily go into oscillation when a dynamic load is applied. Learning the basic skills to fire up an EM simulator, obtain qualitative answers in minutes, and higher fidelity answers in a few days, can be the difference between sleepless nights of product failures vs. robust designs with wide design margins.

The Great Divide in PCB Simulation Software

Today’s PCB design engineers have more layout and analysis tools at their disposal than ever before. Over the years we’ve seen layout tools become more automated, rules-driven, and more integrated. Now we even have integration between design tools from different vendors and ranging across domains, starting with basic circuit design, and spanning up to PLM and ERP integration. It really is a great time to be a designer.

Surveying the Land of Field Solvers

Electromagnetic field solvers have traditionally been used by a small slice of engineers—the full-time signal integrity experts—and their use has been limited to the most demanding designs. But as design speeds increase, problems requiring field solvers are becoming more mainstream and field solvers are popping up all over the place, including free or inexpensive solvers available through an internet search. Many companies are claiming that their field solvers can be used by hardware design engineers without the SI background that solvers once required.


Rambus Driving a CXL Memory Option

In this interview with Arjun Bangre, director of product for high-speed interface IPs for PCI Express and CXL at Rambus, the discussion revolves around new developments in CXL, PCI Express, and interoperable IP solutions that Rambus has developed.

EIPC Summer Conference 2022: Day 2 Review

Örebro, Sweden on June 15 brought a bright and early start to Day 2 of the EIPC Summer Conference for those who had enjoyed the previous evening’s networking dinner, but had resisted the temptation to over-indulge or to carry on their long-awaited catch-up conversations with old friends into the small hours. All but a few were in their seats for 9 a.m., awake and attentive for Session 4 of the conference, on the theme of new process technologies, moderated by Martyn Gaudion, CEO of Polar Instruments.

EIPC Summer Conference 2022: Day 1 Review

At last, a live EIPC conference and this time in the Swedish city of Örebro, “where history and contemporary culture converge,” a pleasant and convenient location for an event that included a privileged visit to the Ericsson facility in Kumla. Around 100 delegates made the journey and the Örebro Scandic Grand Hotel was an excellent conference venue for the June 14-15 conference.

Ventec’s Book on Thermal Management: The Summer Sequel You’ve Been Waiting For

I-Connect007 is excited to announce the release of the second title in Ventec’s series on thermal management, "The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Thermal Management with Insulated Metal Substrates, Volume 2." This second volume covers the latest developments in the field of thermal management, particularly in insulated metal substrates, using state-of-the-art products as examples, and focusing on specific solutions and enhanced properties of IMS.

Passionate People Can Do Fantastic Things

Electrical engineer Marshall Massengill is the first to admit that he has a pretty sweet gig. Marshall serves as a mentor for the Zebracorns, a robotics team based at a STEM-oriented high school in North Carolina. And he’s not just a mentor: He’s also a graduate of North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, and a former member of one of the earliest robotics teams organized by FIRST. We recently spoke with Marshall about his work with the FIRST robotics team, and what it’s like teaching PCB design to juniors and seniors in high school.

The Survey Said: Designing Around Missing Data

One of the best tools we have for keeping our fingers on the pulse of the industry is the reader survey. When we want to find out what’s going on, we just ask. Fortunately, our readers are not a shy bunch of folks. They don’t mind sharing—the good, the bad, and the ugly. In a recent survey, we asked our PCB designer readers, “What missing information or data (impedance requirements, library data, etc.) do you find yourself having to ‘design around’?”

A Textbook Look: Signal Integrity and Impedance

Believing that I knew a bit about signal integrity and controlled impedance, I was pleased to take the opportunity to connect with an educational webinar that I hoped would extend my knowledge. In the event I was surprised at how little I actually knew, and the webinar was an excellent learning opportunity. The webinar was introduced and expertly moderated by Anna Brockman of Phoenix Contact in Germany.

Designing in a Vacuum Q&A: Carl Schattke

Not long ago, I caught up with Carl Schattke, CEO of PCB Product Development LLC and a longtime PCB designer, for his thoughts on “designing in a vacuum.” As Carl points out, if you follow PCB design best practices, knowing the identity of your fabricator is not a “must-have.” He also offers some communication tips for discovering the information you do need, including one old-fashioned technique—just asking for it.

Additive Manufacturing Requires Additive Design Techniques

Although I am not a designer by trade, I want to share my thoughts on what additive manufacturing means for designers, especially how it relates to solder mask. In this article, you will learn what topics I feel are the most important to address.

Designing PCBs With Additive Traces

Advances in technology have been clear to see within the component packaging industry, as the ball grid array (BGA) package sizes reduce from 1.0 mm pitch to 0.8 mm, 0.4 mm, and even beyond. However, while these improvements have occurred with component packages, it has become increasingly more difficult to break out and route the dense circuitry associated with these parts. Currently, the high-density interconnect (HDI) method typically used for the breakout of such parts has been to create the smallest possible subtractive-etched traces with microvias to allow for connections and escapes on the innerlayers of your PCB.


Designing Additive and Semi-Additive PCBs

With components getting smaller and electronic devices becoming more compact, we are reaching the physical limits of the typical etched fabrication processes. To address these limits, new additive and semi-additive processes are being developed to fit into the current fabricators’ production lines without too much disruption or extra cost.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

It’s been a busy week in this industry, and we have news and articles from the PCB design, fabrication, and assembly communities. The roller coaster ride continues, with whiplash-inducing news from IPC about March North American shipment—they’re up from February but down from the same period a year ago.

The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Stackups: The Design within the Design

If you have ever contemplated crosstalk, eye closure, power loss, or a list of other issues defined in this textbook, then you also need to understand what, why, and how stackups can and will impact your circuit’s performance. After all, the stackup is one of the few things that directly touches every single part of your design; therefore, you must set yourself up for the highest probability of success by establishing a strong foundation through a well-designed stackup.

A Definitive Review of New Expert Guide to High-Performance Materials

I am always surprised when a colleague produces a statement about PCB laminates that seems incorrect or out of date. This need not happen today as the specialists at Isola have written an excellent book about high performance materials, now available for download from I-Connect007. Author Michael Gay, a 25-year veteran of laminate manufacturing, meticulously guides readers through the most pertinent questions regarding rigid laminates. This is essential information for everyone, including the experts, because the materials and applications for laminates in printed circuits are constantly changing.

Additive Design: Same Steps, Different Order

We recently spoke with Dave Torp, CEO of Winonics, about the company’s additive and semi-additive processes and what PCB designers need to know if they’re considering designing boards with these new technologies. As Dave explains, additive design is not much different from traditional design, but the steps in the design cycle are out of order, and additive designers must communicate with their fabricators because so much of the new processes are still proprietary.

DesignCon 2022: Back to Business as Usual

It was something of a homecoming as DesignCon returned to the Santa Clara Convention Center this week for DesignCon 2022. It’s been two years since the last DesignCon was held in this venue just before the pandemic began. I attended DesignCon 2021 at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in July of last year, and I could see a big improvement in attendance as DesignCon moved back into its usual venue.

AltiumLive 2022: Design for Availability

Andy Shaughnessy spoke with Rodrigo Contreras Lopez of SnapEDA about Rodrigo’s AltiumLive presentation, which is now available online. It’s a changing world, he says, and designers need to approach their designs from a different perspective: Creating designs with parts that may or may not be available now may just set up your design team and your customer for failure in a few years. Is Design For Availability going to enter the PCB design lexicon?

Strategizing a Design Education Plan With John Watson

Altium’s John Watson is a veteran PCB designer and instructor, as well as a Design007 columnist. He also recently accepted a professorship at Palomar College in San Marcos, California, teaching basic and advanced PCB design. John and I recently discussed his thoughts on setting up a PCB design education strategy, the need to continue your design education for your entire career, and the kind of attitude that makes someone a successful PCB designer.

Book Excerpt: 'The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… High Performance Materials', Chapter 1

Choosing the right material for your application can be a major challenge. These are “cost to performance” decisions that need to be made to select material that will meet the expected performance requirements and the desired cost targets. Selecting a material that meets cost targets but fails to perform in prototype development testing results in costly revision spins, cost increases and delays to market. Chapter 1 of this book helps readers understand what resin choices to make for optimal electrical performance.

Calumet is Bullish on Additive and Semi-Additive

Calumet Electronics has been a domestic pioneer with additive and semi-additive electronics manufacturing processes. We recently asked Calumet’s Todd Brassard and Meredith LaBeau to discuss the state of this technology, which traditional processes that they might replace, and some of the challenges facing OEMs or PCB shops that are considering these options.


RF and Microwave: No Black Magic

I caught up with Ben Jordan after his class on RF and microwave at IPC APEX EXPO. Ben, an electrical engineer, explained how sitting through previous classes on this topic led to him developing his own class. “I wanted to bridge the gap,” he says, “with a class that makes the material approachable and teaches the intuitive nature of fields and waves and how they work in circuit boards.”

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

It’s Friday, and I’ve spent the last few days breaking in my new laptop. It’s a Mac, and it’s been a while since I used one of these. It occurred to me that the last time I used a Mac, there was no email and no internet. I was editor of my college newspaper. I had just voted for Clinton, because that’s what you did in your 20s. We had Apple Classic II monitors with screens the size of a postcard, and we were on the cutting edge of desktop publishing. Students submitted articles on 3.5” loppy disks or on notebook paper, sometimes written in pencil. That’s where I learned to edit, and to do it quickly. We won awards every year. Good times.

Planning Your Design Education Strategy

If you’re a new PCB designer, you might be asking yourself: How do I set up an education and training plan for my career in PCB design? We asked Eric Bogatin to weigh in with his thoughts. Eric has a unique viewpoint: He’s a veteran signal integrity instructor, as well as a professor in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In this interview, Eric lays out some of his planning strategies and the need for a degree in electrical engineering in the PCB design world.

AltiumLive 2022: Robert Feranec Takes Aim at 'Aha' Moments

I recently spoke with Robert Feranec, the founder and CEO of the FEDEVEL Academy. He’s a well-known hardware engineer and something of an industry “rock star” on YouTube; his channel provides tips and techniques on digital design and engineering, with some videos clocking 400,000 views. I asked Robert to discuss his AltiumLive 2022 presentation, “Aha, That’s How it Works.” As he explains, much of an engineer’s life involves making these little “Aha!” discoveries that challenge the way they look at electronics.

AltiumLive 2022: Power and Signal Integrity—Return to Sender

I recently spoke with Heidi Barnes and Stephen Slater, both engineers with Keysight Technologies, about their presentations at this year’s virtual AltiumLive. They discussed ways to avoid signal and power integrity challenges later by following simple board design practices early on, how SI and PI are interconnected, and why the return path must be more than an afterthought in high-speed designs.

Finally! A Book About PCB Stackups

‘The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Stackups: The Design within the Design’ is the latest addition to I-Connect007’s comprehensive, educational library. In this book, brought to readers by Siemens Digital Industries Software and I-007eBooks, author and stackups expert Bill Hargin discusses materials, laminate datasheets, impedance planning, and more. This book provides the reader with a broader understanding of stackup planning and material selection in an effort to comprehend what Hargin calls “the design within the design.”

AltiumLive 2022: Don’t Phone It In - Reducing EMI in Wireless Applications

I recently spoke with Ken Wyatt, founder of Wyatt Technical Services and an expert on signal integrity and EMC. I asked him to discuss his AltiumLive 2022 presentation, which focuses on reducing EMI, particularly in the wireless arena, where self-generated emissions are often a fact of life.

Real Time with... IPC APEX EXPO 2022: Disruptive Technologies Growing Business

Joe Clark, founder of DownStream Technologies, gives editor Andy Shaughnessy his report of what's been causing a 10% growth in his business during the past two years. Rigid-flex as a disruptive technology has been a focus of the latest phases to his software tools. If you didn't make it to IPC APEX EXPO, don't worry. We're bringing you coverage of the week's events in San Diego, from ribbon cutting to teardown.

Changes on the Horizon: Is Resistance Futile?

For printed circuit engineers, especially those of us who have been in the industry for some time now, change is inevitable. From customer requirements that lead to design changes and deadlines being pulled in, to decreasing budgets and resource reallocations, change is one area where we must be adaptable if we want to survive and be successful in today’s industry. Engineering change orders (ECOs), schematic/drawing redlines, component placement adjustments, and mechanical features modifications are among the changes that most of us usually deal with at one point or another during a project’s design cycle.

High-Voltage Circuit Design Guidelines and Materials

The Hubble telescope, the Cassini-Huygens mission, and other exploratory spacecraft utilize high-voltage DC power supplies for everything from vidicon camera tubes and mass spectrometers to radar and laser technologies. NASA has experienced performance problems with the 1.5 kV supplies because—as a 2006 report stated—“designers did not take the high-voltage problems seriously in the initial design.” The report cited very narrow parts parameters, electrical insulation problems in dielectrics, ceramics, bad geometries, small spacing, the use of the wrong insulating materials, and thermal expansion as causes for the power supply failures.


AltiumLive 2022: Stopping Your EMC Problems Before They Start

Todd H. Hubing has been working with EMC for decades. He began as an engineer at IBM, then served as a professor at the EMC lab at the University of Missouri-Rolla (now Missouri Science and Technology), and later moved to Clemson, where he founded the Vehicular Electronics Library. Now, Todd is focusing on his most recent endeavor, LearnEMC. At AltiumLive 2022, Todd shares his thoughts on how to avoid EMC issues before they have a chance to wreak havoc on your board, simply by making smart decisions early in the design process. As he points out in this interview, this is much better than waiting until you have EMC issues later on and possibly redesigning a board until you pass EMC.

AltiumLive 2022: Keep Your Boards From Screaming with Eric Bogatin’s EMI Tips

I recently spoke with Eric Bogatin, the “signal integrity evangelist,” about his AltiumLive keynote presentation, “How to Keep Your Boards from Screaming Like a Banshee.” Eric explains how attention to board structures during the early stages of PCB layout can keep EMI from becoming a problem in your design. He also discusses a feature of Altium Designer that some designers may not know about—a 2D field solver that's part of the Simbeor high-end electromagnetic measurement tool, but with a simple GUI that most designers can master right away.

AltiumLive 2022: Tamara Jovanovic Discusses Lessons Learned at AltiumLive

Shortly after graduating three years ago, design engineer Tamara Jovanovic attended her first AltiumLive in San Diego and discovered the global community of PCB designers. With a few years of experience designing PCBs for smart baby beds with Happiest Baby, Tamara is now working on her master's degree. In this interview, Tamara explains why she plans to attend AltiumLive again this year, and she discusses what it's like attending class as an experienced technologist.

New Book From Isola Highlights Importance of Material Selection

In "The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to... High Performance Materials," the latest release from I-007eBooks, readers will learn how to overcome challenges associated with choosing the right material for their specific application. Author Michael Gay of Isola provides a clearer picture of what to know when determining which material is the most desirable for which products. PCB materials and DFM expert Mark Thompson says, “I love this book, particularly the sections on the effects of the glass weave, the history of laminate, and the difference between Dk and effective Dk."

Field of Dreams: The Art and Science of Designing with Field Theory

For this issue of Design007 Magazine focusing on the art and science of PCB design, we sought input from Dan Beeker, senior principal engineer of NXP Semiconductors. Dan has spent years teaching designers about the need to focus on the electromagnetic fields around the traces, not the traces themselves, as the late Ralph Morrison advised. We asked Dan to share his thoughts on the art of designing PCBs, and how art and science figure into his views on field theory.

DFM 101: PCB Via Structures

One of the biggest challenges facing PCB designers is not understanding the cost drivers in the PCB manufacturing process. This article is the latest in a series that will discuss these cost drivers (from the PCB manufacturer’s perspective) and the design decisions that will impact product reliability.

Seeking Out Design Education Resources

I’ve been doing PCB design for about 15 years. I started in high school, drawing out simple circuits in an image editor and raiding the local Radio Shack for ferric chloride and copper-clad boards for toner transfer etching. The results were crude, and often didn’t work, but the process was fascinating—and truthfully still is. For as empowering as it can be, PCB design has a shockingly low barrier to entry.

Unfolding Altium’s Design Education Platforms

For the August issue on PCB design education, we knew we had to speak with Judy Warner, director of community and industry engagement for Altium. Judy has been heavily involved with Altium’s educational programs, including the technical presentations for their annual conference, AltiumLive. The I-Connect007 Editorial Team asked Judy to discuss Altium’s educational plans going forward, specifically AltiumLive’s transition back to live, in-person shows soon to be offered in a new hybrid format.

My Road to Becoming a Great Designer

It was halfway into 2009, I had recently graduated from the University of Guelph with a bachelor of engineering in systems and computing, and the options for employment were slim. Unfortunately, I had entered the workforce during the very tail end of the 2008 financial crisis and was having difficulty finding employment in any field. It would be the better part of a year before I was able to start in the first position in my field as a junior electronics engineer.

My PCB Design Education: A Continuous Process

Being under pressure to deliver functioning boards, on time, made me aware of what could go wrong, and it forced me to employ a systematic approach to every design I work on. I started keeping notes of the tricks I learned along the way and because of that, I ensured that I wouldn’t make the same mistakes again. Here are some of the design practices that I’ve been following while designing boards.


Design Education and Training for Today and Tomorrow

PCB design and design engineering are evolving constantly, and design education and training must also evolve to meet the needs of tomorrow’s young designers—yes, there are young designers again. The I-Connect007 Editorial Team recently spoke about this issue with design instructor Susy Webb, CID. We asked Susy to discuss how design and training have changed in the last few decades, where design education is headed, and how today’s crop of new designers differs from the “graybeards” who are planning their retirements. She also recommends design education resources from a variety of media formats.

Ask the Experts: Replacing the Retiring 'Graybeards'

Q: Our company’s senior designers and EEs, including me, are heading for retirement and pickleball. How can we attract new/young people into PCB design?

Excerpt: The System Designer’s Guide to… System Analysis, Chapter 1

System designers for 5G, automotive, high-performance computing (HPC), IoT, and other advanced applications have been facing growing challenges in EM interference and thermal issues. These are prevalent in all electronic devices. Data centers play a key role in this high-performance computing (HPC) era, and EMI/thermal issues have a huge impact on the performance of data centers. This book explains scenarios and issues based on the context of data center electronic systems.

Ask the Experts: Determining Amount of Copper for Heat Dissipation

Q: When a datasheet calls out an area of copper for heat dissipation, how do I interpret that requirement for my board?

PCB Design Challenges: Designing With DDR

Longtime signal integrity experts Rick Hartley and Barry Olney join the I-Connect007 Editorial Team for a discussion around DDR and the complications board designers inevitably face when they design for DDR. If, as Rick and Barry explain, the DDR design process is not that much more complicated than that of a typical high-speed board, why does DDR cause design engineers so much grief? Much of this comes down to following the process, running simulation, and not relying on reference designs.

DFM 101: PCB Materials

One of the biggest challenges facing PCB designers is understanding the cost drivers in the PCB manufacturing process. This article is the first in a series that will discuss these cost drivers (from the PCB manufacturer’s perspective) and the design decisions that will impact product reliability.

Why We Simulate

When Bill Hargin was cutting his teeth in high-speed PCB design some 25 years ago, speeds were slow, layer counts were low, dielectric constants and loss tangents were high, design margins were wide, copper roughness didn’t matter, and glass-weave styles didn’t matter. Dielectrics were called “FR-4” and their properties didn’t matter much. A fast PCI bus operated at just 66 MHz. Times have certainly changed.

Alternatives to Simulation

We are living in an age where the demands on electronic product designs are constantly evolving. The IC technology and operating speeds continue to pose significant challenges for teams as they work to develop their products. The increased transistor switching speeds and less forgiving compliance standards make signal integrity and electro-magnetic compliance more difficult to achieve. The status quo seems to have become, “We expect to fail EMC testing.”

IBM Awarded Best Technical Paper at IPC APEX EXPO 2021

Nolan Johnson and Happy Holden speak with Sarah Czaplewski, whose team at IBM won the Best Technical Paper award at this year’s IPC APEX for “Signal Integrity, Reliability, and Cost Evaluation of PCB Interlayer Crosstalk Reduction.”

Bridging the Simulation Tool Divide

Todd Westerhoff of Siemens EDA recently spoke with the I-Connect007 Editorial Team about the divide between users of high-powered enterprise simulation tools and those who need a more practical tool for everyday use, and how Siemens is working to bridge the gap. Todd also shared his views on why so many engineers do not use simulation, as well as advice for engineers just getting started with simulation tools.


I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

In this week’s roundup, we have news about a new DFM environment from Siemens EDA, a 2D field solver from Avishtech, and a milestone for the IPC-CFX-2591 QPL. We also have a great article by Calumet’s Audra Thurston, who points out the many advantages of a virtual trade show. And in his latest column, Denny Fritz explains why the DoD is now thinking like many U.S. OEMs—worrying about single-source components, for instance—but the stakes are much higher.

Barry Olney’s High-Speed Simulation Primer

The I-Connect007 editorial team recently spoke with Barry Olney of iCD about simulation. Barry, a columnist for Design007 Magazine, explains why simulation tools can have such a steep learning curve, and why many design engineers are still not using simulation on complex high-speed designs.

EIPC Technical Snapshot: 5G and Loss Minimisation

Bringing a specialised technical area into sharp focus, this month’s topic was “5G and the understanding of loss minimisation at the PCB level,” with papers on dielectric material, copper foil, and modelling solutions. The webinar was moderated by EIPC board member Paul Waldner managing director of Multiline International Europa, who admitted that he had managed to get a haircut especially for the occasion!

Turning ‘Garbage In, Garbage Out' into ‘Good In, Good Out’

In the PCB design cycle, it is so easy to unintentionally introduce “garbage” into your system. Unless you have time to extensively check everything you bring in from an external source, it is very likely that something will not match up with your design data. In the end, this means you’ll have to put more work into your design and basically reverse-engineer a part that was supposed to save you time and effort.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

We’re seeing an increase in optimism as more people are vaccinated and states under lockdown begin flipping open their shutters. This positive outlook is spreading, albeit slowly.

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.

Wild River ISI-56 Platform Accelerates SerDes Testing

I recently spoke with Al Neves, founder and CTO of Wild River Technology, about the release of their new ISI-56 loss modeling platform. Al explains why it was so critical that this tool meets the stringent requirements of the IEEE P370 specification (which he helped develop), and why he believes this is currently the best tool for SerDes testing and characterization.

Seven Tips for Your Next Stackup Design

Rarely do we have the luxury of designing a board just for connectivity. When interconnects are not transparent, we must engineer them to reduce the noise they can generate. This is where design for signal integrity, power integrity and EMC—collectively high-speed digital engineering—are so important. Eric Bogatin offers seven tips for stackup design.

Just Ask Heidi Barnes: The Exclusive Compilation

We asked for your questions for Keysight Technologies' Heidi Barnes, and you took us up on it! We know you all enjoyed reading these questions and answers, so we’ve compiled all of them into one article for easy reference. We hope you enjoy having another bite at the apple.

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.


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.?

Just Ask Heidi: Attracting New Designers and Engineers

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’s turn! Today's question: How can we attract more young designers and design engineers to this industry?

Just Ask Heidi: Is Power Integrity the Hot Discipline of the Future?

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’s turn! eidi has been awarded five patents and a NASA Silver Snoopy award (each Silver Snoopy pin flies on a space mission first), and she was named DesignCon's 2017 Engineer of the Year. We hope you enjoy “Just Ask Heidi.”

Just Ask Heidi: Eliminating EMC Failures

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’s turn!

Cadence’s Celsius: Don’t End up Holding the Hot Potato!

I was just thinking about the party game Hot Potato. It reminded me of today’s increasingly competitive marketplace: Accurate thermal analysis must be performed, and any potential issues have to be identified and addressed as early as possible in the design cycle. Otherwise the system will run into problems, market windows will be missed, and someone will be left holding the hot potato. Trust me, you do not want to be that someone.

Book Excerpt: Thermal Management With Insulated Metal Substrates, Part 4

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 4 of "The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... Thermal Management With Insulated Metal Substrates," written by Ventec International Group’s Didier Mauve and Ian Mayoh. In this free eBook, the authors provide PCB designers with the essential information required to understand the thermal, electrical, and mechanical characteristics of insulated metal substrate laminates.

Oops, I Did It Again: Survey Details Most Common Design Errors

We hate to admit it, but even the best of us make mistakes. Such is true with PCB designers and design engineers. We wondered: What are the most common mistakes that PCB designers make? Michelle Te has more.

ECWC15 Virtual Conference Keynote: 5G PCB Technology and Material Challenges

The second day of the Electronic Circuits World Convention began with a keynote from Dr. Shiuh-Kao Chiang, managing partner of Prismark, describing the PCB technology and material challenges presented by the introduction of the fifth-generation cellular wireless communication network—the roll-out of which was continuing in spite of the coronavirus pandemic. Technical Editor Pete Starkey has more.

Cadence’s Clarity: 'I Can See Clearly Now'

Do you recall the song “I Can See Clearly Now”? This catchy tune was first released by Johnny Nash in 1972, which was three years before I started my BSc in Control Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University, Yorkshire, England. I’ve just been looking at the Clarity 3D Transient Solver from Cadence, so the lyrics I’m hearing in my head are, “I can see clearly now the EMI is gone / I can see all EMC obstacles in my way..."

Stephen Chavez and Happy Holden on Designing Reliable Vias

Andy Shaughnessy and Happy Holden speak with Stephen Chavez, a staff engineer with an aerospace company and chairman of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA), about designing vias for greater reliability. They also address several areas where they can look to improve reliability, a variety of steps that designers should take to help ensure more robust vias, and some testing and educational resources that PCB designers and design engineers should be aware of.


Use of IMS Thermal Materials in Multilayer Stackups for Power Applications

This roundtable discussion brings together the expertise of Ventec International Group’s Global Head of IMS Technology Chris Hanson and Technical Manager Denis McCarthy. Rax Ribadia of Excello Circuits provides hands-on fabrication experience from a specialist PCB manufacturer, and I-Connect007 editors Andy Shaughnessy and Pete Starkey contribute to a conversation that explores applications, materials, design considerations, and mechanisms of heat transfer.

Real Time with… AltiumLive 2020: Vince Mazur Previews New Design Rule Features

Altium Technical Marketing Manager Vince Mazur discusses his presentation at the recent AltiumLive, which focused on updates to Altium Designer's approach to creating design rules and constraints. Vince explains that these features will be more intuitive for the user, and the update, which is currently in beta, will be released in the future. The company is shifting from “rule-centric” design rules features to capabilities that are more “design-centric,” with applicable rules for each object available at one click.

Real Time with… Altium Live Europe 2020: Rick Hartley’s Secrets of PCB Optimization

As Lawrence Romine said in his introduction, “There’s that moment when you sit in the crowd and hear Mr. Rick Hartley speak that you know you’ve arrived in PCB design.” With 50 years in the industry focused on circuit and PCB design—and as a specialist in EMI, noise, and signal integrity issues—Rick Hartley was invited to talk about PCB optimization. Pete Starkey provides an overview of the presentation.

Meet Dugan Karnazes, Design007 Columnist

Meet Dugan Karnazes, one of our newest Design007 columnists! Dugan’s columns will cover new ways to solve classic engineering problems for technical organizations.

Real Time with… AltiumLive Europe 2020: Eric Bogatin’s ‘Unlearning’ Keynote

Pete Starkey admits to not being a Star Wars freak, but he was impressed by Yoda’s iconic wisdom and philosophy and intrigued by his advice that, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” Here, he describes how attending Dr. Eric Bogatin’s keynote at the AltiumLive Europe 2020 Virtual Summit was an enlightening experience.

Real Time with… AltiumLive Europe: 21st-Century Tools Keynote

Good morning, Europe!” Altium VP of Marketing Lawrence Romine said as he introduced the European edition of Altium’s PCB design conference—established as an annual must-attend event, but for 2020 presented in a virtual format. Pete Starkey brings you the details from AltiumLive Europe's opening keynote on 21st-century tools and what's coming in 2021.

EIPC Technical Snapshot: Automotive Technology

Although current circumstances have forced the postponement of its live conferences, seminars, and workshops, EIPC continues to provide a platform for the exchange and dissemination of the latest knowledge and technical information to the European interconnection and packaging industry. Pete Starkey details how its current series of technical snapshots, delivered in a webinar format, address technology challenges facing the automotive, telecom, and high-speed sectors of the industry.

Real Time with… AltiumLive: Eric Bogatin on Unlearning What You’ve Learned

The second day of the virtual AltiumLive 2020 event got off to a great start with a class by Dr. Eric Bogatin. It was officially titled “You Must Unlearn What You’ve Learned,” but it could have just as easily been called “Designing Interconnect That Sucks Less.”

Real Time with… AltiumLive 2020: Happy Holden’s Panel Discussions Review

AltiumLive 2020 was a virtual event, and Happy Holden attended all the keynotes, as well as many other sessions. This article summarizes three panel discussions from Dugan Karnazes, Dr. Eric Bogatin, and Judy Warner, which were all worth the time investment.

Real Time with… SMTAI 2020: Reflections on the Technical Conference

This year’s SMTA International Conference and Exposition went virtual! Pete Starkey explains how the SMTA team did a fine job in difficult circumstances to present an interactive show and technical conference. Here, he highlights four of the papers that particularly caught his interest.


Real Time with… SMTAI 2020: Technical Conference Review

SMTAI 2020, which was converted to a virtual event, took place from September 28–30. I attend every year, but since there was no keynote in the virtual format, I went straight to the technical conference. This event covered a broad range of topics related to everything in assembly. Over 90 technical presentations are available, but this report covers just some of the sessions I attended.

Just Ask John Mitchell: The Exclusive Compilation

We asked for you to send in your questions for IPC President and CEO John Mitchell, and you took us up on it! We know you all enjoyed reading these questions and answers, so we’ve compiled all of them into one article for easy reference. We hope you enjoy having another bite at the apple. And if you’d like to hear more from John Mitchell, view his column series “One World, One Industry.”

Mentor and Z-zero Collaborate on New Stackup Tool

I recently spoke with Max Clark, business unit manager with Mentor, a Siemens Business, and Z-zero founder Bill Hargin about the newly formed partnership that resulted in a new stackup tool that Mentor is now selling worldwide. Fun fact: Hargin used to work for Mentor as part of the HyperLynx team, which now has an interface with Z-planner Enterprise. Talk about coming full circle.

This Month in Design007 Magazine: Dear Designers—Please Include a Sanity Check

We recently asked Rick Almeida, DownStream co-founder, and Technical Sales Manager Ray Fugitt to discuss why so many fabricators are still receiving (and correcting) inaccurate and incomplete data from their customers. And if fabricators and designers are content with this current process, is it really a problem after all?

Book Excerpt: Signal Integrity by Example, Chapter 3

The following is an excerpt from The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... Signal Integrity by Example, written by Fadi Deek of Mentor, a Siemens Business. Deek explores how to reach effective design solutions and make strong engineering tradeoffs through analysis techniques, best design principles, and software tools to achieve accurate simulations and measurements.

Dana Korf: What Fabricators Expect From Designers

Andy Shaughnessy and Barry Matties spoke with Dana Korf, former chief PCB technologist for Huawei and currently principal consultant of Korf Consultancy, about the breakdown in communication between manufacturers and designers. Dana discusses exactly what a fabricator expects from a PCB designer, why these expectations are often not met, and the need for designers to make mistakes so that they can learn from them.

Letter to the Editor: Rick Hartley Offers Addendum on App Notes

In the June 2020 issue of Design007 Magazine, the I-Connect007 editorial team interviewed design instructors Rick Hartley and Dan Beeker regarding their belief that designers should not trust app notes until they've been proven to be accurate. After the issue was published this week, Rick emailed us with a few more points that he wished to contribute to the ongoing app note conversation.

Book Excerpt: Signal Integrity by Example

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from "The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... Signal Integrity by Example," written by Fadi Deek of Mentor, a Siemens Business. Deek explores how to reach effective design solutions and make strong engineering tradeoffs through analysis techniques, best design principles, and software tools to achieve accurate simulations and measurements.

Book Excerpt: Power Integrity by Example

The following is an excerpt from "The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... Power Integrity by Example," written by Fadi Deek of Mentor, a Siemens Business. In this free eBook, Deek addresses problematic issues within electronic transmissions, and presents a variety of simulations and analyses in every chapter.

SpaceX Manned Mission Promises More Success for Milaero and Electronics Manufacturing

On May 30, 2020, SpaceX became the first non-governmental organization to send human cargo into orbit and to a successful docking rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS). On June 1, Nolan Johnson spoke with military/aerospace consultant and I-Connect007 columnist Mike Hill about the significance of this mission.


The iNEMI 2019 Board Assembly Roadmap

iNEMI continues to publish chapters of its 2019 Roadmap and recently presented an overview of its Board Assembly Roadmap Chapter in a webinar prefaced by Grace O’Malley, vice president of global operations. The new chapter is just the latest addition to this global effort from 23 working groups contributing expert input from all aspects of the electronics industry.

This Month in Design007 Magazine: What Did You Expect From Me, Anyway?

As engineers, we work in the middle of a (usually long) process chain. It’s sort of like working on an intellectual assembly line—we get requirements and data as input, perform our particular task, and then provide our output as requirements and data to the next person on down the line. It seems easy enough. So, why is it that so many of the requirements we’re supposed to meet and so much of the data we receive is downright bad?

The Cost of Inefficient Production of PCB Documentation

The following article is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of the I-Connect007 eBook The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Documentation, written by Mark Gallant of DownStream Technologies.

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.

A Design Economics Horror Story

During a recent conversation with Rick Hartley, he shared one of his favorite PCB design horror stories. This is a cautionary tale about what can happen when design teams place too much faith in app notes and do not follow cost-aware design techniques. Enjoy!

Freedom CAD’s Expert PCB Design Tips, Part 1

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.

Porticos: Designing Everything From Handheld Electronics to Guitar Parts

I met with Greg Patterson, one of the founders of Porticos—a product development company that develops rugged handheld electronics, among other products. Greg shares the biggest design challenges Porticos encounters in these products, as well as some of the most interesting projects he has developed.

I-Connect007 Survey Details Concerns About Future of Industry

I-Connect007 continues to monitor the current worldwide economic situation by seeking input from our market leaders. Here’s what we discovered: If you’re feeling the pressure, you’re not alone. In a recent survey, we asked about your primary concerns for the future of our industry. The number one concern (26%) indicated a belief that sales will be affected negatively in the coming months.

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?”

I-Connect007 Survey: DFM, Signal Integrity Knowledge Most Important Job Criteria

In a recent survey regarding the industry's expectations of PCB designers, we asked our readers: Of the following criteria, which are the three most important for your job, according to your customers and your company? Here are the results.


Arlon Takes on High-Power Failure

In this video interview from IPC APEX EXPO, Pete Starkey and Dave Nelson, director of business development at Arlon Electronic Materials, explore causes of failure in high-power PCBs and explain how resin cracking during drilling can be overcoming using thermally conductive filled resin.

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.

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.

DownStream: Smoothing out the Post-Processing Bumps

In this video interview from the show, Joe Clark, co-founder of DownStream Technologies, gives Guest Editor Kelly Dack an overview of the company and their innovative product line, which serves to smooth the bumps that can occur between source design output and manufacturing line input. As Joe explains, 2019 was a great year for the company, and he expects that trend to hold through 2020.

Design007 Survey: Profitability in Your Design Process

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What part does profitability play in your PCB design planning process? Here are a few of the comments, edited slightly for clarity.

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.

This Month in Design007 Magazine: Al Neves on Designing for Profitability

If your company is having trouble designing PCBs for profitability, where does the blame fall? Is it management’s fault for having inefficient processes, or is it the fault of the designers and design engineers for not keeping up to date with their training? During DesignCon, I asked Al Neves of Wild River Technology to weigh in on this question. As he explains, you and your manager might both be to blame for inefficiencies in the design process.

2020 EIPC Winter Conference, Day 1

Pete Starkey recaps how the 2020 EIPC Winter Conference, held in mid-February, attracted around 90 delegates from a dozen European countries—as well as a few from North America—to an outstanding learning and networking experience for members of the PCB community. The theme of this year's event was: “The Needs for Next-Generation Electronic Devices and Changes in Fabrication Solutions for PCBs, PCBAs, Materials, and Technologies.”

IPC APEX EXPO 2020 Attendees Speak: Caleb Buck

"I am a PCB designer and an electrical engineer," said Caleb Buck of EaglePicher Technologies. "I’m not involved in the manufacturing, but I tell manufacturers what to do via my drawings. I had an interest in learning more about the IPC standards, my manufacturer’s capabilities, and some of the tools they use."

Inspiring Next-Generation Engineers Through STEM

Through the STEM Student Outreach Program, IPC invites high school students to visit IPC APEX EXPO for a day. Last year, they had about 100 participating students, and this year, it doubled. The program is designed to introduce students to our industry at a younger age. During one event planned for them, the students had a chance to participate in a hands-on soldering track, creating wearable buttons to take home with them.


Max Seeley: Some Designers Hesitant to Adopt New Tech

I spoke with Max Seeley of 3M about a design class he presented at AltiumLive in Frankfurt, Germany. We also discussed autorouting and the continuing advances in EDA tools, as well as the schism between users who embrace new technology and those who still prefer to layout their boards the old-fashioned way. Which camp do you belong to?

Joe Clark Says DownStream Is Ready for More Growth in 2020

Joe Clark, co-founder of DownStream Technologies, gives Kelly Dack an overview of the company and their innovative product line, which serves to smooth the bumps that can occur between source design output and manufacturing line input. As Joe explains, 2019 was a great year for the company, and he expects that trend to hold through 2020.

February Design007 Magazine: Eric Bogatin Looks at EMI Root Causes and Solutions

The I-Connect007 team recently spoke with design instructor and author Eric Bogatin about the EMI challenges facing PCB designers today. Eric is a “signal integrity evangelist” with Teledyne LeCroy, as well as an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, and technical editor of the Signal Integrity Journal. In this interview, Eric explains why EMI is so prevalent and what designers and design engineers can do to avoid EMI from the start.

Watch and Learn: Not All Acrylics Are Created Equally

How can additional data, including test results, ensure a greater understanding of the most suitable coating for your application? The fifth episode of the popular webinar series, "Coatings Uncoated," is now available to view. Author of "The Printed Circuit Assembler’s Guide to Conformal Coatings for Harsh Environments" and topic expert Phil Kinner from Electrolube shares highly focused educational information on conformal coating and encapsulation.

IPC Designers Council Has a New Name: IPC Design

Yes, you read that right. The IPC Designers Council is now known as IPC Design. Many of you have heard secondhand stories about what this change will entail, so I asked IPC to shed some light on this subject. I recently spoke with IPC’s Teresa Rowe and Patrick Crawford about what’s changing, what’s not, and IPC’s plans to provide improved infrastructure for PCB design content and curriculum.

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.

AT&S: Working With Designers on a Global Level

Barry Matties recently took a tour of AT&S’s Austrian factory, which is developing new circuit design strategies surrounding embedded and active components. Gerald Weis discusses the company’s focus on serving and educating PCB designers around the world, as well as their plans to embrace the latest technology and Industry 4.0 processes going forward.

‘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.

DesignCon Kicks Off Its 25th Anniversary Show

DesignCon’s 25th anniversary show got underway yesterday, and the I-Connect007 Editorial Team was there, meeting with some of the industry’s top electronics engineers, technologists and managers

Fresh Thinking on the Logistics of Laminate Distribution

Mark Goodwin, COO of Europe and the Americas for Ventec International Group, sits down with Barry Matties to explain his approach to supply chain management, efficient distribution, and maintaining definitive product identity at every stage.


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.

Todd Westerhoff on the Value of Solid Design Skills

Andy Shaughnessy recently caught up with Todd Westerhoff, product marketing manager for Mentor’s HyperLynx signal integrity (SI) tools. Todd discusses some of the challenges that he and his customers are facing and why good design skills have more influence on a PCB than any software tool.

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.

Tamara Jovanovic Checks in After First Year as a Designer

What a difference a year makes. The I-Connect007 Editorial Team caught up with Tamara Jovanovic, a PCB designer they met last year at AltiumLive in San Diego as a newly minted engineering graduate. She discusses her first year in the industry and explains how education and training events can help shape the careers of new designers.

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.

Meet Two New CID Grads: Kalen Brown and Michael Steffen

At PCB West, I spoke with two newly minted Certified Interconnect Designers: Kalen Brown of EaglePicher and Michael Steffen of Crystal Group. After passing the CID exam, they attended the IPC Designers Council Executive Board Meeting, where the more “seasoned” veterans were very happy to meet them.

What You Need to Know About a PCB Design Career

Never stop learning. Why? Because the industry never stops changing. Those that continuously stay in that state of learning are the ones who succeed. The old saying “Knowledge is power,” often attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, has never been truer. Fortunately, there is never a lack of things to learn. Don’t ever become apathetic about learning. Make a point of keeping a running list of ideas or subjects that you want to research, and then purposely set aside time in your week strictly to study and learn about these things anywhere you can.

The Value of Education and Communication

Editor Nolan Johnson recently spoke with Lawrence Romine, VP of corporate marketing at Altium, about what he thinks design customers need to know and the importance of education and communication between designers and manufacturers.


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.

How to Become a Certified IPC Trainer

The Blackfox Certified IPC Trainer (CIT) programs are best suited for experienced and skilled electronics technicians, engineers, and supervisors who have the will and passion to teach and train colleagues about the quality standards of IPC. They also provide successful candidates with a credential that confirms their knowledge and understanding of IPC quality systems.

Is Captive Making a Comeback?

Andy Shaughnessy recently spoke with Altium’s Steve Chalgren, senior VP of business strategy and planning. Steve shared his thoughts about why improved manufacturing and automated EMS equipment, such as robotics, might lead smaller OEMs to become captive shops like the old days. Is captive making a comeback?

Insulectro Works to Bridge the Fabricator/Designer Gap

Barry Matties sat down with Insulectro’s Megan Teta and Mike Creeden to discuss trends they see in the materials market and how they’re working to bridge the gap between fabrication and design, including helping designers understand what they can do to make a board more manufacturable.

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.

Designing for Complex PCBs

The I-Connect007 editorial team sat down with Freedom CAD’s Scott Miller to talk about the industry’s demand for more increasingly complex PCBs, and the challenges this presents. They also discuss Freedom CAD’s in-house training programs, the company’s recent book authored by Scott, and why communication is such an important tool in a PCB designer’s toolbox.

AltiumLive Frankfurt 2019: Happy Holden Keynote

Nobody left early! Altium had wisely kept Happy Holden’s keynote presentation on “PCB Trends that Will Impact Your Future” until the end of the final day of the AltiumLive 2019 European PCB Design Summit in Frankfurt, Germany. Pete Starkey presents the highlights of Happy's presentation.

Traversing the Design Landscape With Hartley and Creeden

Design instructors Rick Hartley and Mike Creeden recently spoke with the I-Connect007 Editorial Team about the current landscape of the PCB design segment. This wide-ranging conversation also focused on the next generation of designers, some promising new laminates, and the need for more communication and collaboration between designers and fabricators.

AltiumLive Frankfurt 2019: Carl Schattke Keynote

“How many here can remember manually taped artworks?” No more than three hands were raised in an audience of over 230 at the AltiumLive 2019 European PCB Design Summit in Frankfurt, Germany, as IPC Advanced Certified Interconnect Designer Carl Schattke introduced his keynote, entitled “Making and Breaking the Rules.” Schattke had learned PCB layout as his father’s apprentice, hand-taping several hundred PCB designs in the 1970s.

Conductivity Laminate for High-frequency Applications

Editor Pete Starkey and Vitali Judin discuss how Rogers Corporation has responded to demands for high thermal conductivity combined with low loss in high-power RF applications with the newly launched. The PTFE-based TC350 Plus is capable of handling temperatures above 125°C and draws upon Rogers’ long experience with the TC350 material line-up.


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.

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.

Martyn Gaudion Discusses Backdrilling Software

Martyn Gaudion updates Pete Starkey on Polar’s recent work to model signal integrity to higher speeds as well as additional laminates included in the material library. Now backdrilling is the focus for high-speed design specialists. Martyn discusses the backdrilling beta software that Polar Instruments was showing on the show floor.

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.

AltiumLive Frankfurt 2019: Rick Hartley Keynote

Introduced by Lawrence Romine, Altium’s VP of corporate marketing, as a “low impedance presenter with a passion for his topic,” Rick Hartley delivered the opening keynote at the AltiumLive 2019 European PCB Design Summit in Frankfurt, Germany. Pete Starkey provides an overview of Hartley's presentation, entitled “What Your Differential Pairs Wish You Knew."

Flex Standards Update With Nick Koop

This month, I interviewed Nick Koop—director of flex technology at TTM Technologies, a veteran “flex guy” and instructor, and a leader of several IPC flex standards committees. Nick provides an update for the committees he’s involved with and discusses some of the challenges that he sees as more designers enter the world of flex.

Lee Ritchey on the Direction of PCB Design

Editors Andy Shaughnessy and Nolan Johnson recently spoke with Lee Ritchey of Speeding Edge about the direction of PCB design. Lee also discusses some of the changes that he has seen in this industry over the past 40 years and some of the technological drivers that are causing designers to think more like electrical engineers than ever before.

Explaining the QSFP-DD Data Center Interconnect Standard

According to Cisco’s report, most IP traffic either originates or terminates in data centers. Yet as massive as the flows between centers are becoming, the data managed within those same facilities is going even higher. All of this activity means that “hyperscale” is the word of the future. Roughly one-quarter of all servers installed in 2016 went to hyperscale facilities, but that number will grow to almost one-half by next year.

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!

Words of Advice: What Feature Would You Like to See in Your CAD Tool?

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What feature would you like to see in your CAD tool? Here are a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.


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.

Why Designers Need to Be at the SMTA Additive Electronics Conference

In a recent interview, Kelly Dack and Tara Dunn (Omni PCB president and conference co-chair) discussed why designers need to attend the SMTA Additive Electronics Conference. Tara will also be attending and moderating a panel discussion at the conference.

Happy Holden Previews His AltiumLive Frankfurt Keynote

I recently sat down for an interview with Happy Holden, who is slated to give a keynote speech at this year’s AltiumLive event in Frankfurt, Germany. Happy gives a preview of his presentation, which is focused on smart factories and automation, and why artificial intelligence might improve PCB design and fabrication in the future.

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.

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.

John Michael Pierobon Discusses His Flex Design Class

If you’re new to flex design, you might want to check out an online course offered by All Flex, a flex fabricator. The course, Designing Flexible Circuits, was created by John Michael Pierobon. I asked John Michael to discuss his flexible circuit design course, and whether online curriculum can ever replace good old-fashioned live instruction.

Words of Advice: First Steps in the Design Process

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What are the first steps you take in the PCB design process? Here are some 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.

Design Rule Checks Cut Down Board Respins

PCB designs commonly undergo multiple respins as a result of inconspicuous signal integrity (SI), power integrity (PI), and electromagnetic interference (EMI) violations. At an average cost of nearly $28,000 per respin, ensuring that a given design meets its performance, time to market, and cost goals is imperative. To help eliminate complicated and difficult-to-diagnose layout violations, some PCB tool suites offer unique electrical design rule checks (DRC).


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.

Words of Advice: What Feature Would You Like to See in Your CAD Tool?

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What feature would you like to see in your CAD tool? Here are 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.

Words of Advice: Flex Design Problems

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What are your biggest problems related to flex design? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity. Not designing "enough flex to get good at it" is a fairly common refrain.

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.

PCB Design Training: More Critical Than Ever

I interviewed Gary Ferrari of FTG at the IPC High-Reliability Forum and Microvia Summit in Baltimore. Gary is a co-founder of the IPC Designers Council and a longtime advocate for PCB design and PCB designers. We discussed the crucial role that PCB designers play in the entire electronics development process, and how IPC and the Designers Council are helping to educate and inform the next generation of designers.

AltiumLive Q&A With Keynote Speaker Eric Bogatin

It's show season again! The 2019 AltiumLive PCB Design Summit will be here before you know it, taking place October 9-11 in San Diego, California. Teledyne LeCroy’s Eric Bogatin, the “signal integrity evangelist,” will be giving a keynote presentation titled “Breaking Bad: A Downside of Open Source Designs.” Eric gives us a preview of his presentation and discuss some of the biggest design challenges he sees today.

Decoupling Capacitors’ Impact on Power and Signal Integrity

It is crucial for hardware designers to identify the resonant frequency of each element of the PDN on a PCB and its impact on power integrity. A PCB with poor power integrity—such as a higher-than-targeted PDN impedance across the wideband range—results in SSN and a shrunken eye diagram of the signal transmitted by the IC that draws power from the PDN. This article demonstrates the post-layout co-simulation of power and signal integrity.

Words of Advice: Obstacles to Solid Data Hand-off

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What are the biggest obstacles you face in getting your design to the fabricator? Here are a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.

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.


Bill Brooks on Teaching PCB Design at Palomar College

Bill Brooks of Nordson ASYMTEK is a long-time PCB designer and one of the first people to teach PCB design courses in a college setting. He recently spoke with the I-Connect007 editorial team about his history in design and his time as a PCB design instructor, the curriculum he developed and taught, and various techniques that might be enacted today to better educate the designers of tomorrow.

Words of Advice: Drawbacks to Your PCB Data Format?

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What is the biggest drawback to your current PCB data format? Here are a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.

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.

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.

IPC High-reliability Forum and Microvia Summit Review, Part II

The Microvia Summit on May 16 was a special feature of the 2019 event in Baltimore, since microvia challenges and reliability issues have become of great concern to the PCB manufacturing industry. It provided updates on the work of members of the IPC V-TSL-MVIA Weak Interface Microvia Failures Technology Solutions Subcommittee and opportunities to learn about latest developments in methods to reveal and explain the presence of latent defects, identify causes and cures, and be able to consistently and confidently supply reliable products.

Avoiding CAF Failures at the IPC High-reliability Forum

Foresite CEO Terry Munson recently spoke with Andy Shaughnessy during the IPC High-Reliability Forum and Microvia Summit in Baltimore about his presentation on the causes of conductive anodic filament (CAF), the dangers of resin starvation, and what advice he'd give to PCB designers to avoid those types of failures.

26 Meters of Flex!

Barry Matties spoke with Philip Johnston, managing director of Trackwise Designs, about the company’s patented length-unlimited multilayer printed circuits aimed at replacing conventional wire harnesses. Originally created for the aerospace industry, Trackwise has since seen growing interest from a number of different industries. Jake Kelly, managing director and chairman of Viking Test Ltd., also joined the conversation to discuss the importance of having a flexible equipment supplier when dealing with such a unique technology.

IPC High-reliability Forum and Microvia Summit Review, Part I

The IPC High-Reliability Forum and Microvia Summit covered a broad range of topics related to reliability and provided interactive opportunities to share expert knowledge and experience in determining and understanding the causes of failure and selecting the best design rules, materials, processes, and test methods to maximise product reliability.

Words of Advice: Where Do You Get Involved in the Design Process?

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.

Words of Advice: What are Your Biggest Problems Related to Flex Design?

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What are your biggest problems related to flex design? Here are a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.


PCB Reliability: Via Design

When considering the long-term reliability of a PCB, you must take into account any vias on your board. While an invaluable and essential part of board design, vias introduce weaknesses and affect solderability. This article will discuss vias, the potential concerns that are introduced into your board through their implementation, and how to minimize those concerns to acceptable levels.

Identifying Product Board Class and Pre-quote Software

Deciding on the class of the final product will determine what files are needed for fabrication and assembly. It is critical to note that for a product to be built to any class level, it must be designed to that class level from its inception.

Design Is a Pivotal Piece of the Puzzle

As a field applications engineer at TTM Technologies, which has fabrication and manufacturing locations around the world, Julie Ellis sees a wide variety of customer design requirements. In this interview with the I-Connect007 Editorial Team, Julie explains how PCB designers can influence the development of the PCB. She shares a variety of tips and tricks that designers can implement early in the design process to help optimize fabrication and assembly later on and keep small issues from becoming big problems downstream.

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.

Design for the Unknown

Our industry loves DFx, also known as the “Design Fors.” As PCB designers, we not only design for manufacturability (DFM) but we design for assembly, reliability, cost, test, and many more factors which we like to lump together as DFx. But now, I think it’s time we embrace a new DFx: Design for the Unknown, or DFU.

Words of Advice: Planning 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.

Design Rules Recipe: Solvability, Manufacturability, and Performance

One thing that we’ve noticed lately: Each designer seems to have his or her own way of using PCB design rules. There doesn’t seem to be much agreement about setting or using design rules. So, in this true experts panel, Mike Creeden of San Diego PCB joined Freedom CAD’s Scott McCurdy, Jay Carbone, and Rich Kluever to share their views on PCB design rules.

Wild River, eSilicon, and Samtec Team up for 112-Gbps Test Vehicle

During DesignCon, I sat down for an interview with Tim Horel from eSilicon, Al Neves of Wild River Technology, and Matt Burns from Samtec. They’ve recently teamed up to create a 112-Gbps test vehicle that may be the first of its kind of test fixture.

Freedom CAD Book Excerpt: The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Executing Complex PCBs

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of "The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Executing Complex PCBs," written by Scott Miller of Freedom CAD Services.

Words of Advice: What Feature Would You Like to See in Your CAD Tool?

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What feature would you like to see in your CAD tool? Here are a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.


Mentor’s EDA Perspective on Managing Design Rules

I recently spoke with Dave Wiens, product manager, and Mike Santarini, EDA content director of corporate marketing, both of Mentor, a Siemens business, about design rules and constraints, and what their customers want regarding design rules. They explained how EDA companies like Mentor help designers constrain for performance while avoiding over-constraining and increasing the cost of the board and also being manufacturing-aware.

Altium’s Craig Arcuri on Design Rules: Past, Present, and Future

We recently spoke with Altium’s Craig Arcuri about his views on design and manufacturing rules. Craig has experience running both design and manufacturing companies, so he has a fairly circumspect view of constraints from both sides of the product realization process. Craig details some of the challenges with setting and managing hundreds of often divergent design and manufacturing rules, and how both design and manufacturing constraints need to evolve.

Technically Appropriate Material Choices are Key to Design Success

Materials are no longer a passive part of the design; they play an active role in the manufacturability, reliability, and speed of a PCB. I-Connect007’s Nolan Johnson and Mike Creeden, founder of San Diego PCB Design, discuss several key characteristics that designers should consider in their material selection process.

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. Only one respondent said, "We just wing it."

Learning to Be More Flexible: Case Studies on Improving FPC Design

As miniaturization requirements force manufacturers to pack more functionality into ever-smaller packages, it becomes more difficult to conform to IPC construction recommendations. Achieving robust FPCs requires frequent, iterative interaction internally among the mechanical, electrical, and PCB design teams, as well as with the fabricators and assemblers. The sooner in the design cycle you can engage the supplier and assembler, the better.

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.

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."

EM Modeling: The Impact of Copper Ground Pour on Loss and Impedance

This article briefly introduces the general purposes of copper ground pour on printed circuit boards. Subsequently, the impact of copper ground pour on PCB channel loss in terms of insertion loss and impedance in terms of time domain reflectometry (TDR) is studied with electromagnetic modeling using Mentor HyperLynx.

Youth in the Industry Putting Training to Work

At a job fair on campus at George Fox University, Nolan Johnson sat down with Jake Whipple, a computer engineering senior, to discuss the GFU engineering program. This is one of the few engineering programs in the U.S. that gives students experience designing PCBs before they enter the work force.

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!


George Fox University: Teaching PCB Design to EE Students

Gary Spivey is director of engineering projects at George Fox University, a Christian college in the Pacific Northwest, and his students learn to design and fabricate a PCB while also giving back to the community. Not surprisingly, these graduates get snapped up quickly. In this wide-ranging interview, Spivey discusses GFU’s engineering curriculum, their cutting-edge lab facilities, and the need to teach students to think critically.

Words of Advice: Flex Design Challenges

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What are your biggest problems related to flex design? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.

Project MARCH Students’ Exoskeleton Helps Paraplegics Walk Again

Project MARCH student volunteers design and build futuristic exoskeletons that can help paraplegics walk. The students do most of the work themselves, including designing the various PCBs. I saw their latest exoskeleton up close at AltiumLive in Munich, and I had to find out more about this program. Delft Students Martijn van der Marel and Roy Arriens sat down with me to discuss their work on the exoskeleton, including their PCB design experience, and whether they plan to pursue PCB design as a career.

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.

Nano Dimension Offers Update on Dragonfly 3D Printer a Year After Launch

The Nano Dimension Dragonfly 3D printer arrived in much fanfare a little over a year ago. The company has been selling them to customers around the world, many of whom are using them to print antennas, sensors, and PCBs. At AltiumLive in Munich, I asked Product Manager Robert Even to discuss what they’ve learned in the year since the Dragonfly debuted, and some potential uses for 3D printing technology.

Bert Simonovich on Modeling Copper Roughness

I met with one of our contributors, Bert Simonovich of Lamsim Enterprises, at DesignCon 2019. Bert’s paper on interconnect modeling was nominated as a Best Paper finalist, so I asked him to discuss his paper and some of the challenges that engineers and their customers are facing right now.

Mentor’s Cristian Filip Discusses His Award-winning DesignCon Paper

During DesignCon, I met with Cristian Filip, a senior product architect with Mentor, a Siemens business. Cristian had just received word that his paper had won a DesignCon Best Paper award—his second such award in three years. I asked Cristian to discuss his paper and how this technology can help improve manufacturing yields at high volumes.

EMA: Cadence Moves Simulation Further Up in the Design Cycle

Cadence Design Systems recently integrated more of its Sigrity capabilities into the front end of its PCB design tools. During DesignCon, Chris Banton of EMA Design Automation spoke with me about how this drive for “model-less analysis” benefits the PCB designer who can now access signal and power integrity, DFM, and electrical rule checking functionality early in the design process and have fewer issues later.

Electromagnetic Analysis Design Insight: Effects of Meshed Reference Planes on Interconnects

Most of the transmission lines in PCB or packaging interconnects have so-called quasi-TEM waves with the electric and magnetic fields mostly perpendicular or transverse to the propagation direction. Parameters of such transmission lines can be accurately approximated with the analysis of a single cross-section in a 2D field solver. With the cutouts in the reference plane, the waves become non-TEM and not even quasi-TEM due to the presence of the longitudinal components in the electric and magnetic fields.

Todd Westerhoff Discusses His New Position and Much More

At DesignCon, I met with our old friend Todd Westerhoff, a veteran signal integrity engineer. Todd joined Mentor, a Siemens Business, since we last spoke. We discussed his new job responsibilities, his drive to get more designers and engineers to use SI tools, and the increasing value of cost-reduced design techniques versus overdesigning PCBs.


Words of Advice: Component Shortages in 2019

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What components do you expect to be in short supply in 2019? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.

RTW IPC APEX EXPO 2019: Judy Warner on Altium's Transformative Vision

During IPC APEX EXPO, Guest Editor Kelly Dack sat down for an interview with Judy Warner, Altium's director of community engagement. They discussed Altium's efforts to educate PCB designers, regardless of their CAD tools, and the company's plan to transform the industry by bringing together PCB design and manufacturing.

Carl Schattke on Stackup Design and Managing the Component Shortage

At AltiumLive, I met Carl Schattke, CID+, a lead PCB designer with an American automaker. Carl and TTM’s Julie Ellis taught a packed class on good stackup practices complete with plenty of slides showing examples of all kinds of stackups. After class, Carl explained why the stackup is often the root of manufacturing problems downstream, and why today’s discrete component shortages are likely to be around for quite some time.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Industry Leaders: IPC STEM Student Outreach Program

At IPC APEX EXPO 2019, I-Connect007 Managing Editor Patty Goldman spoke with Colette Buscemi, IPC's senior director for education programs, about the success and expansion of the IPC STEM Student Outreach Program, activities and scholarship opportunities for students through sponsor support—including I-Connect007—and feedback she received on the event.

Words of Advice: What Concerns you About the Future?

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What concerns do you have about the future? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.

Casper van Doorne Discusses His AltiumLive Class, IoT, and More

What’s in a name? When PCB designer Casper van Doorne needed to choose a name for his service bureau, only one name would do—Doofenshmirtz Evil Incorporated, a villainous name familiar to fans of Walt Disney. At AltiumLive Munich, I spoke with Casper about his company, the class he presented in Munich, and some of the benefits and ramifications of the growth of IoT.

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.

A Drone's-eye View of the IPC APEX EXPO Show Floor

If you couldn't make it to IPC APEX EXPO in San Diego, don't worry. We have full coverage of this annual must-attend event, from the opening ceremony to the close of the final day. To get a sense of the size of this year's show, check out our drone's-eye view of the show floor. Can we name our drone Air007?

TUM Hyperloop Team Learns PCB Design on Way to Setting World Speed Record

At AltiumLive Munich, I met with Tobias Bobrzik, a Technical University of Munich student and member of the TUM Hyperloop team. In 2018, the TUM Hyperloop team’s prototype pod set the world speed record of 290 miles per hour, which lead to their meeting with Musk. Tobias designed some of the PCBs used in that vehicle, so I asked him to tell us more about this experience, and what he hopes to do after graduation.


Words of Advice: Flex Design and Manufacturing Training

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: Where do your technologists acquire training or expertise regarding flexible circuits? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.

Joe Clark Discusses DownStream’s Updated Tool Lineup and IPC-2581

DownStream Technologies recently revamped their entire product line, from CAM350 through BluePrint-PCB. DownStream co-founder Joseph Clark and Guest Editor Kelly Dack discuss some of these updates, including a new GUI and capabilities such as 3D analysis, as well as news about IPC-2581.

The Designers Council: A Chapter Primer From the Ground Up

Thinking it might be a way to make new contacts with PCB designers in Orange County, I attended a couple of Designers Council meetings. The chapter president at that time was Paul Fleming, who asked me to be part of his steering committee because he learned that I had spent decades in fabrication. Within a few months, he had gotten a job transfer to Arizona, so he twisted my arm to take over as the chapter president. I agreed, but little did I know that this would become a major turning point in my PCB career.

Words of Advice: Flex Design Problems

In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What are your biggest problems related to flex design? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity. How many of you would agree that "educating the customer" is your biggest challenge?

AltiumLive Munich: Day 2 Keynotes

Having enjoyed the conference dinner and robot battles of the previous evening, a good night’s sleep, and a hearty breakfast, Altium’s family of over 220 electronics engineers and designers eagerly returned to the conference room. Many jostled to secure the best seats for the second day of the European AltiumLive design summit in Munich, keen to make the most of the “learn, connect, and get inspired” opportunity it offered.

The Sun Rises on IPC APEX EXPO 2019

It's sunrise on Monday in San Diego, and IPC APEX EXPO at the San Diego Convention Center is already abuzz with activity. The exhibition hall setup is on schedule to open for business tomorrow morning, January 29th, 2019.

AltiumLive Munich: Day 1 Keynotes

The weather forecast was wrong! Despite my apprehension and winter clothes, there was very little snow at the Hilton Munich Airport. It could have been any season of the year inside the splendid convention facility, which was also the venue for the second European AltiumLive design summit. AltiumLive brought together a family of over 220 electronics engineers and designers eager to learn from top industry experts and applications specialists who were equally eager to share their knowledge and experience freely.

Words of Advice: Advice for Systems Designers

In a recent Design007 survey, we asked the following question: What advice would you give an OEM system designer? Here are just a few of the replies, slightly edited for clarity.

STEM: The Future of Our Industry

Facing a growing shortage of talented labor with which to fill the employment positions in America, IPC is working to help solve this problem. Colette Buscemi, senior director of IPC’s education programs, is encouraging IPC members to better engage pre-college and post-secondary college students at the local level. Barry Matties spoke with Colette about the educational programs IPC has put in place to invest in future generations, including the STEM program at this year’s IPC APEX EXPO.

CES 2019 Showstoppers, the Show Floor, and Some Neat Stuff

CES 2019 is over, and those of us who spent four to five days trying to see and hear as much as possible are in recovery mode. There were over 182,000 attendees, and 6,600 of us were media all trying to get to as much of the 2.9-million-square-feet exhibit space as possible.


The Quest for Perfect Design Data Packages

There’s an ongoing problem in the PCB industry: fabrication shops are receiving incomplete or inadequate design data packages, leaving manufacturers scrambling to fill in the blanks. For a quick-turn prototype shop like Washington-based Prototron, with over 5,000 customers and up to 60% of orders coming from new customers each month, that can add up to a lot of wasted time and effort just in the quoting stage. Dave Ryder, Prototron president, and Mark Thompson, engineering support, delve into this continuing issue and more.

Altium Prepares for Munich Show as Growth Continues

It’s been just two months since the AltiumLive event drew several hundred designers to San Diego, California, and Altium is already gearing up for the next show in Munich, Germany (January 15–17, 2019). I recently spoke with Chris Donato, VP of global sales for Altium, about the upcoming AltiumLive show as well as the company’s growth over the past few years.

January 2019 Issue of Design007 Magazine Available Now

The component shortage is getting crazy. Some PCB designers are finding their favorite capacitors on 50-week and 80-week lead times, or worse. How do you design a board today when the components you need won’t be available for a year or more? In the January 2019 issue of Design007 Magazine, we asked our expert contributors to explain the current component shortage, as well as some of the workarounds that can help you get your next design out the door sooner rather than later.

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.

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.

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.

Dan Beeker on His AltiumLive Munich Keynote and Battle With the Status Quo

Dan Beeker, senior principal engineer with NXP Semiconductors, was one of the speakers at the first AltiumLive event in San Diego in 2017. Now, he returns to AltiumLive 2019 in Munich from January 15–17 with a keynote titled, “It’s All About the Space.” Here, he discusses his keynote, which focuses on the need for designers to understand the behavior of electromagnetic fields, and why the status quo for advanced PCB design must change from, “We are going to fail,” to, “We are going to pass.”

Susy Webb: The History and Future of the Designers Council

When we started planning this issue on the IPC Designers Council, I knew I’d have to speak with design instructor Susy Webb, a longtime DC member and currently an executive board officer. I asked Susy to discuss how she first got involved with the DC, why designers should join their local chapter, and what the future holds for this group.

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.

Effects of PCB Fiber Weave on High-Speed Signal Integrity

This article studies the effect of PCB fiber weave on signal integrity in terms of mode conversion and differential channel loss due to intra-pair skew. The study used Keysight ADS 2DEM simulation to observe s-parameter (i.e., insertion loss and differential to common-mode conversion) and an eye diagram for signal transmission at 1 Gbps and 10 Gbps.


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.

The Readers Speak: The Design Data Format Survey

If you’re or designer or a design engineer, the odds are good that you have a few things to say regarding design data formats. We want to hear from you! Your participation in this design data survey would be much appreciated. We know that your time is valuable, and you’re getting ready for the holidays, so we’ve kept it short and sweet.

Martin Cotton’s Parting Shot

Martin Cotton is a unique personality in the PCB industry. As Cotton says, “I’m a designer—look at my haircut!” Cotton gave the keynote at the Institute of Circuit Technology’s 2018 Harrogate Seminar, challenging his audience to consider laminate dielectric properties in the context of power and cost in a presentation entitled 'The Effect of the Dk of a PCB Laminate on the Cost-effectiveness of Office Rental Space. Intrigued?' Read on!

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.

Mentor Discusses New DFT, DFM, and Design Verification Tools

At electronica 2018, John McMillan, digital marketing program manager-Electronic Board Systems, and Mark Laing, business development manager-Valor Division of Mentor, a Siemens business, discuss new tools for PCB design verification, as well as design for manufacturing (DFM) and design for testing (DFT).

Rick Almeida Discusses DownStream's Latest News

At the 2018 electronica exhibition in Munich, Rick Almeida, founder of DownStream Technologies, brings Editor Pete Starkey up to speed with the company’s latest news.

Martyn Gaudion on Signal Integrity Modelling and Stackup Tools

The accuracy of signal integrity modelling continues to improve, and stackup tools are becoming widely used, which now include material suppliers' datasheet information. During the recent electronica show in Munich, Germany, Martyn Gaudion, managing director at Polar Instruments, explained how Polar often serves as a bridge between PCB design and fabrication, and why educating his customers is so critical.

Words of Advice: Fabricator Feedback?

In a recent Design007 Survey, we asked the following question: What is the most important feedback that you receive after your board is manufactured? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.

New Designers Council Column: The Digital Layout

The IPC Designers Council is launching a new column in Design007 Magazine: “The Digital Layout.” I recently asked two IPC Designers Council (DC) Executive Board members, Mike Creeden and Stephen Chavez, to discuss the content and objective of their new column, and how this all ties in with the DC.

Impact of Serpentine Routing on Multi-gigabit Signal Transmission

Serpentine is a technique to minimize skew or misalignment of differential pairs. The number of segments and intra-pair spacing of serpentining impacts the high-speed signal transmission. As the intra-pair gap is enlarged for serpentining, the characteristic impedance of the PCB trace in differential mode will rise. This leads to impedance discontinuity, signal reflection, and ultimately, attenuation. The signal attenuation is heavily dependent on the number of segments and intra-pair spacing of the serpentine.


Achieving Minimal Crosstalk in Multi-board Interconnect

In an electronic system, the signal transmission exists in a closed-loop form. The forward current propagates from transmitter to receiver through the signal trace. On the other hand, for a single PCB, the return current travels backward from receiver to transmitter through the ground plane closest to the signal trace. Meanwhile, for multi-board interconnect (e.g., connectivity through flex or ribbon cable), the return current travels back to the transmitter through the ground or return wire, preferably as close as possible to the signal wire. The path of forward current and return current forms a loop inductance.

PCB Carolina 2018 Draws a Crowd of Technologists

PCB Carolina 2018, the one-day tabletop show based in Raleigh, North Carolina, drew quite a crowd to the McKimmon Conference and Training Center at NC State University on November 7. Show managers Tony Cosentino, Randy Faucette, and Lance Olive (all employees of the Better Boards service bureau) said that this year’s event showed signs of growth compared to the 2017 show, which was also larger than the previous year. They estimated that about 1,000 people attended this year, and they expect another increase in attendance in 2019.

Max Seeley’s PCB Design Career is No Fish Story

Max Seeley, senior electrical, PCB, and manufacturing engineer with 3M, was an instructor at the first AltiumLive event in 2017, and he made a return visit to this year’s event in San Diego. I asked Max why he decided to come back to AltiumLive this year and to share the story of his rather circuitous journey into PCB design, which included a turn as a custom aquarium builder. Everyone in PCB design has a different backstory.

Amway Sells Beauty Products—and Designs its Own PCBs

During AltiumLive in San Diego, I met Dugan M. Karnazes, an associate electrical engineer and PCB designer at Amway. The company is famous for selling nutritional supplements and soap, but apparently Amway has been busy diversifying over the years. I was interested in finding out more about Amway’s electronics development. Dugan sat down with me to discuss his role at Amway, and how this company grew into an $8 billion global giant.

Altium Designer Increasingly Used for High-Speed Design

I recently met with Mark Forbes, the director of technical marketing at Altium, during the AltiumLive event in San Diego. We discussed Mark’s class on MCAD/ECAD collaboration and the success of AltiumLive, as well as the growth of Altium users who design high-speed PCBs with Altium Designer.

Catching up With Scott McCurdy and Freedom CAD

During PCB West, Scott McCurdy of Freedom CAD Services sat down with Technical Editor Tim Haag for an interview. We discussed Freedom CAD’s latest news, some trends in PCB design software tools, and the continuing need to draw more young people into a career in PCB design.

Rick Hartley is Bullish on PCB Design, 3D Printing

At the recent PCB West in Silicon Valley, Consulting Technical Editor Tim Haag met with long-time design industry veteran Rick Hartley to discuss the changing landscape of circuit board design, the layout designers of the future, and how designers can benefit from 3D printing of circuit boards.

One-Question Survey, Part 2: What Advice Would You Offer a New Designer?

During AltiumLive 2018, the I-Connect007 editorial team asked some of the attendees to answer one question: What advice would you offer to a brand-new PCB designer? Here are just a few of the replies we received.

Leo Lambert Discusses IPC Training Program Updates

During SMTA International, EPTAC Technical Director Leo Lambert and Managing Editor Nolan Johnson discuss a variety of recent IPC educational program updates, many of which are designed to smooth out the training process. Lambert also explains how these changes will allow EPTAC instructors to optimize the way they present IPC classes, which include the CID and CID+.

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.


Artificial Intelligence: The Future of EDA?

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been making inroads into a variety of industries in the past decade or so, from automobiles to medical devices. Naturally, EDA tool companies are taking a look at AI. Does AI offer a way forward for PCB design tool developers? I recently interviewed Paul Musto, director of marketing for the Board Systems Division of Mentor. We discussed Mentor’s plans for integrating AI into EDA tools, and why we may be at the very beginning of understanding the pros and cons of this new technology.

One-Question Survey: What Advice Would You Offer a New Designer?

During AltiumLive 2018, the I-Connect007 editorial team asked some of the attendees to answer one question: What advice would you offer to a brand-new PCB designer? Here are just a few of the replies we received.

Institute of Circuit Technology Hayling Island Seminar

After an extreme summer heat wave had left trees dehydrated and struggling to morph into their customary display of reds and golds, the leaves were brown and brittle as the great and good of the UK printed circuit board industry crossed the bridge from the mainland of the south coast of England to Hayling Island for the autumn seminar of the Institute of Circuit Technology on September 20, 2018.

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.

AltiumLive to Feature Altium Designer 19 Release

This week, Altium Designer 19 will be officially launched to the public during AltiumLive, which takes place October 3-5 in San Diego. I asked Altium COO Ted Pawela to give us a preview of Altium Designer 19, and to explain how AD19 fits in with the company’s long-term plans. He also discusses Altium Live’s plan to provide PCB design content that is not vendor-specific to help support the entire industry, not just customers.

Lee Ritchey Returns to AltiumLive with 32 Gbps Design Class

Lee Ritchey was one of the instructors for last year’s inaugural AltiumLive event, which drew hundreds of PCB designers. Now, Lee is back, teaching a high-speed design class at next week’s AltiumLive in San Diego. That class is sold-out, but you can catch Lee teaching the same class at the January AltiumLive event in Germany. I asked Lee to explain what he plans to cover in this course, and why PCB designers and design engineers should consider attending one of the events.

Judy Warner: AltiumLive’s Second Year to Be Even Better Than First

Last year, Altium launched its AltiumLive event with shows in San Diego and Munich, Germany. This year, the event has expanded to include an extra day of classes. Altium is gearing up for the San Diego event in early October and the German show in January 2019. I recent spoke with Judy Warner, director of community engagement for Altium, about what designers should expect at both shows, and how the company can build on the success of the 2017 events going into the future.

PCB Design Challenges: A Package Designer’s Perspective

The challenges faced by the PCB designers of today are significant. If we examine the breadth of designs, we find ever-increasing data rates and more high-speed signal routing that drive additional challenges meeting signal-quality requirements, including reflection signal loss and crosstalk issues. At the same time, designers are being asked to complete designs in shorter cycle times and in smaller form factors. They must come up with new and more complex routing strategies to better control impedance and crosstalk. Manual implementation is often time-consuming and prone to layout errors.

Managing the Challenges of Flex and Rigid-Flex Design

PCB designers working with flex or rigid-flex technology face many potential risks that can derail a project and cause costly design failures. As the name implies, flex and rigid-flex designs comprise a combination of rigid and flexible board technologies made up of multiple layers of flexible circuit substrates, attached internally and/or externally to one or more rigid boards. These combinations provide flexibility for the PCB designer working on dense designs that require a specific form factor. Rigid-flex allows the PCB design team to cost-efficiently apply greater functionality to a smaller volume of space, while providing the mechanical stability required by most applications.

Chuck Bauer Discusses the Future of Packaging

When we decided to cover the future of PCB packaging, we knew we would have to interview Charles Bauer, Ph.D., owner of TechLead Corporation. Chuck recently spoke with Happy Holden, Andy Shaughnessy and Barry Matties about current trends in packaging, the need for product designers and manufacturers to communicate, and why no matter how cool the technology is, cost is still king.


The Impact of PCB Dielectric Thickness on Signal Crosstalk

Crosstalk is an unintentional electromagnetic (EM) field coupling between transmission lines on a PCB. This phenomenon becomes a major culprit in signal integrity (SI), contributing to the rise of bit error occurrence in data communications and electromagnetic interference (EMI). With the existence of mutual inductance and capacitance between two adjacent transmission lines on a PCB, crosstalk has become more severe due to the shorter signal rise/fall times at today’s higher data speed rates.

Mentor Preparing for Next-Gen PCB Designers

Millennials are the future of our industry. What does this mean for the PCB design community? How do we attract more of these smart young people to the world of PCB design? I asked Paul Musto, director of marketing for Mentor’s Board Systems Division, to explain the company’s initiatives aimed at drawing more young people into PCB design

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.

Help Wanted: PCB Design Layout Specialist

I was told recently that the designer, aka the PCB layout specialist, is a dying breed soon to be extinct. I wish to reassure my fellow designers that, in my opinion, you are in the catbird seat. You are in hot demand and you should have great opportunities for the remainder of your career. By the way, after reading this article, you may feel empowered to go ask for a raise. Please don’t tell your manager that I sent you!

Multi-board Design with Altium’s Ben Jordan

Not too long ago, historically speaking, most electronic products contained only one PCB. But multi-board designs have become almost ubiquitous over the past decade, and EDA software companies are working to improve and simplify the multi-board design process. Editors Andy Shaughnessy and Stephen Las Marias spoke with Ben Jordan, director of product and persona marketing for Altium, about the company’s multi-board design tools, the challenges that customers face, and the numerous trade-offs that designers must contend with while performing multi-board design.

CPCA 2018 Seminar Overview

I had the good fortune to speak at a seminar sponsored by the CPCA and organized by the China Team of I-Connect007 in Shanghai. This full-day seminar was on one of today’s hot topics, “Automation in PCB Manufacturing.”

3D Convergence of Multiboard PCB and IC Packaging Design

A new generation of 3D multiboard product-level design tools offer major improvements by managing multiboard placement in both 2D and 3D, and enabling co-design of the chip, package and board in a single environment. Multiboard design makes it possible to create and validate a design with any combination of system-on-chips (SOCs), packages, and PCBs as a complete system.

Achieving Optimum Signal Integrity During Layer Transition on High-Speed PCBs

In electronic systems, signal transmission exists in a closed-loop form. The forward current propagates from transmitter to receiver through the signal trace. Meanwhile, the return current travels backward from receiver to transmitter through the power or ground plane directly underneath the signal trace that serves as the reference or return path. The path of forward current and return current forms a loop inductance. It is important to route the high-speed signal on a continuous reference plane so that the return current can propagate on the desired path beneath the signal trace.

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.

Paving the Way for 400Gb Ethernet and 5G

This article briefly introduces the 4-level pulse amplitude modulation (PAM-4) and its application in 400 Gigabit Ethernet (400GbE), to support the booming data traffic volume in conjunction with the deployment of 5G mobile communications. Furthermore, this article also highlights the essential pre-layout effort from signal integrity perspective for physical (PHY) link design on a PCB, including material selection, transmission line design and channel simulation to support 56Gbps data rate that paves the way for seamless communication in 400GbE.


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