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Polar Instruments’ Martyn Gaudion Discusses Tools and Books
10/18/2017 | Andy Shaughnessy, PCBDesign007
Dan Beeker’s Keynote: It's All about the Space
10/18/2017 | Barry Matties, Publisher, I-Connect007
PCB Signal Integrity Optimization Using X-ray Metrology
10/16/2017 | Scott Jewler, SILICON VALLEY X-RAY
AltiumLive 2017 Attracts Hundreds of Designers
10/12/2017 | Happy Holden, I-Connect007
Altium Designer 18 Introduced at AltiumLive 2017
10/12/2017 | Barry Matties, Publisher, I-Connect007
Design :: Education
Polar Instruments’ Martyn Gaudion Discusses Tools and Books
Polar Instruments has pretty been busy lately. In the last year, Managing Director Martyn Gaudion has written two books for I-Connect007, and the company has been working to upgrade its tools, especially library functionality. I met with Martyn at PCB West. We discussed Polar’s newest tool updates, Martyn’s new side job as an author of technical books, and the continuing growth of the EDA segment, including among young people.
Dan Beeker’s AltiumLive Keynote: It's All about the Space
Dan Beeker of NXP Semiconductors was a keynote speaker at the recent AltiumLive 2017 event in San Diego. His presentation focused primarily on the design of three-dimensional structures and how it’s all about space. I caught up with Dan, and we discussed his presentation, his background and career, and what kind of advice he would give to young PCB designers.
PCB Signal Integrity Optimization Using X-ray Metrology
It happens again. A new backbone router/switch build or a line card upgrade is approaching completion when something goes wrong. The system won’t operate at the targeted data rate. Deadlines are looming and the root cause of the problem is buried somewhere in a big rack of electronic components.
Full Coverage of AltiumLive 2017
Altium recently conducted its first-ever users conference, AltiumLive 2017: Annual PCB Design Summit, at the Hilton Resort and Spa in San Diego. Speakers included Dan Beeker of NXP Semiconductors, Max Seeley of 3M Corporate R&D, Tara Dunn of OMNI PCB, Susy Webb of Fairfield Nodal, Charles Pfeil of Altium, and our own Happy Holden. This conference drew hundreds of PCB designers, and included a robot design challenge and battle. If you couldn’t make it, don’t worry. We shot a variety of video and still photos.
Predictive Engineering: Happy Holden Discusses True DFM
Happy Holden has been involved in DFM for over 45 years, since he first started working at HP and optimized their PCB design and manufacturing processes. Naturally, for this issue, Barry Matties and Andy Shaughnessy made it a priority to get Happy’s thoughts on DFM, and what true DFM entails.
It’s Not Your Father’s DFM Anymore
What does DFM look like today? Well, for one, it’s become more than DFM. We now expect our software tools to serve us more completely to take new designs to market. DFM has evolved to become an integral part of new product introductions (NPI). Today’s NPI software spans design and manufacturing to accelerate the optimization of a PCB for manufacturing. It looks at the entire design-to-manufacturing release process and deliverables, then streamlines them.
Sensible Design: Thermal Management—The Heat is On
Thermal management materials are designed to prolong equipment life and reduce incidences of failure. They also maintain equipment performance parameters and reduce energy consumption by reducing operating temperatures, and minimising the risk of damage to surrounding components. Indirectly, they maintain brand reputation, as the reliability of the equipment will be very dependent upon the effectiveness of the thermal management technique used.
Fault-Finding: It’s All About Prevention, not Blame
There are thousands of things that can go wrong during the design and manufacture of a PCB assembly. One might say that it is an absolute miracle when a PCB goes through all of its phases—design, fabrication and assembly—and operates successfully. But there are some management and customer cultures who naively attempt to resolve problems by seeking out the culprits and shouting “Off with their heads!”
The International Paris Air Show with ASC’s Anaya Vardya
The International Paris Air show is the crème de la crème of the world’s trade shows. This is the big one, where all the aircraft, airline and defense aerospace companies meet to introduce new products, discuss the future of aviation, and make deals. This year I decided to talk to my friend Anaya Vardya, ASC’s president and CEO, about the show, why he goes and what it’s like.
Resins: Cutting Through the Technical Jargon
This month, I’m going to cut through some of the more heavy-going tech-speak, taking a few of my customers’ more frequently asked questions about resins to try to help you refine your selection process. There’s a lot of ground to cover, but for the purposes of this column, let’s concentrate on the PCB’s operating environment, caring for the components that are to be encapsulated, and the special needs of applications like LED lighting and RF systems.
New Challenges Facing Mil/Aero Segment
For this month's issue, we invited a sampling of professionals whose experience centers on the electronics industry in the military and aerospace world, including experts from design, PCB manufacturing, and the assembly arena to sit down with us for a frank discussion. Our discussion centered on the challenges associated with military work, including the new regulatory requirements for cybersecurity, dealing with leaded vs. lead-free components, and the differences and similarities with the commercial world.
Stephen V. Chavez Talks Mil/Aero PCB Design
Stephen V. Chavez, CID+, is the lead PCB designer for the Electronic Systems Center division of UTC Aerospace Systems (UTAS), a military contractor that builds all manner of cutting-edge tools for the American warfigher. He’s been designing military and aerospace PCBs for decades, and he’s a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. I caught up with Steph and asked for his thoughts on designing PCBs for the military and aerospace markets.
Orange Co. Designers Council Meeting Focuses on Embedded Passives
On July 19, the Orange County Chapter of the IPC Designer’s Council hosted a lunch-and-learn meeting in Tustin to discuss the benefits of embedded passives. Approximately 40 people were in attendance, which was lighter turnout than usual, most likely because of summer vacations. But the crowd was an enthusiastic one, as usual. The first speaker was Bruce Mahler of Ohmega Technologies, followed by Jin Hyun-Hwang of Dupont.
Trilogy Circuits: Mil/Aero Demands Technological, Regulatory Expertise
In the 16 years since its founding, Trilogy Circuits has become one of the go-to companies for mil/aero PCB design and manufacturing. I spoke with Charlie Capers, president and founder of the Richardson, Texas firm, about how he keeps ahead of the game. As he explains, succeeding with mil/aero PCB work requires not only mastery of the technological side, but of the regulations and certifications as well.
Using Vibration and Acceleration Analysis to Improve Reliability
Deriving the physical constraints and fatigue issues for a design prior to manufacturing is essential to reducing board failure and thereby improving product quality. In harsh environments, fatigue can be responsible for up to 20% of failures. Customers have come to expect reliability across the industry spectrum no matter where actual production occurs. Reliable products have less risk of failure, less field returns and less warranty claims, all of which contribute to higher profitability. It is a given that every product is expected to fail at some point, however premature failures can be mitigated through proper design with attention to potential issues due to vibration and acceleration.
PCB Designers Notebook: Embedding Components, Part 2
Technology and processes for embedding capacitor and inductor elements rely on several unique methodologies. Regarding providing capacitor functions, IPC-4821 defines two methodologies for forming capacitor elements within the PCB structure: laminate-based (copper-dielectric-copper) or planar process and non-laminate process using deposited dielectric materials.
Embedded Technology: A Useful Tool in Freedom CAD’s Toolbox
Freedom CAD has been designing and fabricating boards with embedded technology for years, and doing some pretty innovative work along the way. I asked Scott McCurdy, Freedom CAD’s director of sales and marketing, to share some details about their embedded processes, as well as the challenges and opportunities that embedded technology offers.
A Deep Look Into Embedded Technology
In preparation for this month’s magazine, we set up a conference call with the goal of uncovering the challenges and opportunities related to embedded technology. Invited were a handful of the industry’s heavy hitters in the embedded world: Retired technologist and I-Connect007 Contributing Editor Happy Holden, and Ohmega’s Technical Director Daniel Brandler and Design & Test Engineer Manuel Herrera.
Launching a New PCB Design Curriculum in Serbia
Let me share with you an experience that I remember from my college days. When I was a student, I had a professor who was too proud of the fact that she was an academic. “You don’t need to know how to manually solder electrical parts or how to design printed circuit boards,” she lectured. “It is important that you understand the formula for charge carrier currents in a p-n junction.” I started working as an R&D engineer for a Swiss company that developed and manufactured instruments for measuring magnetic fields and electrical currents. And nobody ever asked me about charge carriers in p-n junctions.
Better Together: How HDP User Group Showcases the Industry’s Best Side
HDPUG is a non-profit trade organization comprised of members from top companies in the electronics industry, from materials suppliers and manufacturers, to OEMs and end users. Key activities include collaborating on issues facing multiple industries and bringing people together on projects who might not have met otherwise. Barry Matties met HDPUG’s European representative and project facilitator Alun Morgan at the recent EIPC Summer Conference to learn more about the group and current projects.
Global Impact on European PCB Fabrication: EIPC Summer Conference 2017, Day 1
Electronics industry professionals from 13 countries, mainly from Europe and Scandinavia, others from the USA, but some from as far away as India and Japan, gathered in Meriden, the centre of England, for the EIPC Summer Conference.
Must Work Well on a Team; CID a Bonus
Throughout my decades-long career in PCB design, I have been fortunate. I’ve only had to search for a job out of desperation once. I had no idea my IPC Certified Interconnect Designer credentials would come in handy when I hit the pavement. It also helped that I am known to "work well on a team." It turns out that being able to play well with others is a real plus in the PCB design community.
Sensible Design: Casting a Spotlight on Resin Applications
Over the last few columns, I’ve given readers pointers on virtually every aspect of potting and encapsulation resins, ranging from their formulations and special properties to their applications, benefits and limitations. It’s probably high time, therefore, to take a step back from the do's and don’ts and focus instead on how these resins are bringing very real benefits to practical electronic and electrical engineering applications. A good starting point is to look at the special requirements of an industry that is enjoying explosive growth: LED lighting.
TTM Shines a Light on Optical Interconnect
Are embedded optics on PCBs set to make a breakthrough in the upcoming years? According to Dr. Craig Davidson, VP of Corporate Technology at TTM, it might be closer than you’d expect. In a recent interview with the I-Connect007 team, Craig outlines TTM’s current pursuit of high-volume manufacturing lines able to deliver embedded optical interconnect, what that would mean for the PCB industry, and why he thinks there will be manufacturing production capability by 2020.
'Flexdude' Tom Woznicki Celebrates Company’s 25th Anniversary
Twenty-five years ago, Tom “Flexdude” Woznicki got laid off. A lot of people did, back during the mini-recession that helped bring Bill Clinton into the White House. So, he launched his own flex circuit design bureau and never looked back. Since then, he’s designed flex circuitry for everything under the sun, including the Mars Rover; the flex circuits he designed are visible in many of the Rover photos. I ran into Tom at DesignCon 2017 and we discussed the benefits of flex circuits, the expansion of the flex market, and his company’s first quarter-century in operation.
China High-Speed PCB Market Update with Polar's Simon Chan
During the recent CPCA Show in Shanghai, Editor Stephen Las Marias and Polar Instruments (China) Assistant Manager Simon Chan discussed the opportunities and challenges for Polar's customers in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as the current state of the high-speed PCB market in China.
Perpetual or Subscription EDA Tool Licenses? That is the Question
After I began working at Altium, I started learning all I could about PCB design software licensing. I wondered about the pros and cons of perpetual vs. subscription licenses. I wanted to learn firsthand from PCB designers what kind of benefits they received and challenges they faced as a result of how EDA companies offered design tools. I reached out to a variety of sources to get a broad slice of insight into this evolving issue, and thus began my trip down the EDA licensing software rabbit hole.
Mentor Graphics Takes Best Paper Award at DesignCon
At DesignCon, I met with Dave Kohlmeier, senior product line director for Mentor Graphics. We discussed their Best Paper award and DesignCon sessions such as the Signal Integrity Boot Camp, as well as the new rigid-flex capabilities found in the HypeLynx suite.
A New Power Design Methodology for PCB Designs
Advanced PCB design is an iterative process of analysis-fix-analysis. Historically, this process is very time-consuming, requiring analysis experts and PCB designers to work together to find and fix layout problems. This article describes a new PCB design methodology that allows a PCB designer to perform the power design without having to run expert-level analysis tools. This methodology provides the setup automation for advanced analysis without the need to understand every minute parameter, and can be completed in a few steps.
Tom Hausherr Discusses PCB Libraries’ BOM Builder Service
PCB Libraries CEO Tom Hausherr and Editor Kelly Dack discuss PCB Libraries’ new BOM Builder service during IPC APEX EXPO. Equipped with the new LEAP technology, the BOM Builder can potentially save PCB designers days or weeks of time normally spent turning a BOM into a CAD library.
Catching up with Polar Instruments' Geoffrey Hazelett
Product specialist Geoffrey Hazelett discusses some of the latest developments at Polar Instruments, including a new tool that will allow fabricators to determine how copper roughness will affect the end-product. He also talks about Polar's upcoming eBook on signal integrity, soon to be published by I-Connect007. Talented young technologists like Geoffrey are the future of our industry.
Cadence’s Zhen Mu Discusses Her Power-Aware Analysis Solution White Paper
At DesignCon, I met with Zhen Mu, senior principal product engineer with Cadence Design Systems, and Brad Griffin, product marketing director for Cadence. We discussed Zhen’s new white paper, “Power-Aware Analysis Solution.”
Real Time with...IPC: Jim Fuller Offers HDPUG Update
Sanmina's Jim Fuller gives his insight on how the High-Density Packaging User Group (HDPUG) shares the experience and resources of member companies to tackle projects and get results. Also, he reviews the study of the effect of copper bonding treatment on signal integrity
Help Wanted! Our 2017 Industry Hiring Survey
This month we conducted an industry survey on plans for hiring during the year. Included here is a summary of the results. We started by simply asking, “Do you plan to hire additional people this year?” More than half of the respondents answered yes while about a third said no—which we take as an optimistic sign that our industry plans to expand in 2017.
True DFM: Taking Control of Your EDA Tool
We PCB designers are doing some truly great things with our layout tools. But we must remember that these tools are so powerful that they will sometimes allow us to design things that can’t be manufactured! We must collaborate with our fabricator and assembly brethren and embrace the best DFM practices, or face the consequences downstream.
A Handy Compilation of Our Top 10 DFM Articles
When we started working on this DFM issue, I searched through our files and found that we’ve published some great DFM articles over the past year or so. While topics like signal integrity tend to get most of the limelight, in the end it all comes down to solid DFM practices. So, without further ado, we present this compilation of our Top 10 DFM articles and columns.
Flex and Rigid Sales and Marketing with Al Wasserzug
After decades in the PCB industry, Al Wasserzug of Cirexx International has seen marketing and sales trends come and go. I recently caught up with Al and interviewed him via email about the latest sales and marketing techniques, the value of traditional methods such as trade shows and conferences, and the particular characteristics of marketing flex circuits.
Altium’s Sales Plan: Deal Directly with Designers
Altium has been shaking up the EDA world for quite some time. The Australian company once slashed the cost of Altium Designer by 75% to grow market share, and who could forget their famous (or infamous) “Bunny” ad campaign? In this email interview with Lawrence Romine, Altium’s global head of field marketing, he shares his views on sales and marketing in the EDA world, as well as Altium’s philosophy on selling EDA tools.
Sales and Marketing with DownStream Technologies
From its inception, DownStream Technologies has been a new kind of software tool company. DownStream’s post-processing tools address one of the most unpopular parts of the design process: documentation. DownStream's CEO Rick Almeida discusses some of his firm’s marketing and sales methods, the trends that he sees, and the influence of the Internet on marketing.
SiSoft Discusses Signal Integrity Drivers and Challenges
In the last few years, SiSoft has launched a variety of innovative SI tools that help automate tasks that used to take weeks or months to complete. I recently interviewed CEO Barry Katz via email, and he detailed their customers’ challenges, and some of the market drivers in the world of signal integrity.
Sunstone Circuits Makes Shift in Strategy, Offerings
Sunstone Circuits, the Oregon-based online vendor of quickturn circuit boards, has recently made a shift in capabilities that will enable a move into the RF and microwave space. At PCB West, Publisher Barry Matties caught up with Sunstone’s David Warren, and they discussed details of this change and how they plan to approach such a competitive marketplace.
Sensible Design: Why are Resin Properties So Important?
Last month, I started this series of columns on resins by going back to basics, questioning the core rationale for potting and encapsulation with resins, their fundamental chemistries and how each resin type differs one from the other—indeed, how their individual properties can be exploited to maximise performance under a wide range of environmental conditions. I hope readers found this useful. Of course, when it comes to the choice and applications of resins, there’s a great deal more to discuss.
What’s the Difference Between a Manager and a True Leader?
The role of the manager is complex; it means balancing business needs with creative opportunity and flexibility, building trust and providing inspiration with a team. With the recruitment of Generation X, and now the millennials, the expectations of employees are changing, accompanied by an unprecedented growth of technology. How can today’s manager maintain an effective and motivated team?
DownStream Technologies: Building the Interface Between Designers and Fabricators
DownStream Technologies founder Rick Almeida speaks with Editor Pete Starkey about building the interface between the PCB designers and fabricators. He gives details on their design software and where most of the design community resides.
Lightning Speed Laminates: The Blending of High-Speed Digital and High-Frequency RF
When the terms high-speed and high-frequency are mentioned, people think they describe the same issue. But in reality, they can be two very different matters. The term high-speed generally refers to digital technology which transfers data at very high rates. But the term high-frequency is typically related to radio frequency (RF), which involves analog signals moving energy at high frequencies.
Mentor Graphics’ PADS Platform Bridges Design and Manufacturing
At PCB West, Barry Matties spoke with Paul Musto about Mentor’s PADS environment and their introduction of scalable software tools to help design better boards, from the enterprise level down to the entry level and hobbyists. They also discussed the evolution of the design process infrastructure in North America vs. Asia, and what design engineers should focus on to increase their value.
The Shaughnessy Report: Leadership vs. Management
Is your manager one of the great ones, a true leader? Many of your colleagues would probably answer with a pointed “No.” In our reader surveys, we ask, “What is your biggest challenge?” Every time we've posed that question, we received replies along the lines of, “Management doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing.” Some replies are too salty to print.
Freedom CAD: Navigating the Unpredictable Design Marketplace
As COO of the design service bureau Freedom CAD, Scott Miller has a front-row seat to the challenges currently plaguing designers and the design community as a whole. He shared his views with me recently, offering insights on the importance of picking the right partners and customer relationships in an unforgiving and sometimes unpredictable design marketplace.
Ventec Europe Celebrates 10 Years as 'Not Just Another Laminate Merchant'
Incorporated in November 2006 as a joint venture known as Global Ventec Laminates, Ventec Europe imported its first container-full of material in May 2007. Now, here we are 10 years on, a bit older and not a lot wiser, in Ventec Europe’s immaculate headquarters facility, still in Leamington Spa, but in smart new premises.
Altium ActiveRoute Debuts at PCB West: Routes Under One Second Per Connection
While at PCB West, Judy Warner had the chance to sit down with Charles Pfeil of Altium and learn more about their exciting new tool, ActiveRoute, that was introduced and demonstrated during PCB West 2016. She also learned a bit of background about Pfeil, who is a living history lesson in PCB design.
SnapEDA: Inspiring Millennials in the PCB Design Community
Natasha Baker, founder of SnapEDA, is part of the new breed of entrepreneurs. She manages a group of millennials who are not much younger than she is. Natasha discusses what it means to be a manager vs. a leader, what motivates millennial engineers, and some of the changes in the world of EDA that managers have to contend with to succeed.
Beyond Design: How to Handle the Dreaded Danglers, Part 2
In Part 1, I deliberated on how dangling via stubs distort signals passing through an interconnect and also decrease the usable bandwidth of the signal. This is due to the via stub acting as a transmission line antenna, which has a resonant frequency determined by the quarter wavelength of the structure. The conventional solution to this problem is to back-drill (or control depth drill) the vias to bore out the via stub barrels, so that the via stubs are reduced in length if not completely removed. This month I will look into all the possible solutions.
Space: Still the Final Frontier
If this doesn’t make you feel like a “seasoned citizen,” I don’t know what will: "Star Trek" first aired 50 years ago, on Sept. 8, 1966. No one—not even the actors—thought the show would last, and it only ran for three seasons, drawing average ratings. But Captain Kirk and company are more popular than ever on their Golden Anniversary.
Flexdude Abides: PCB Design for Satellites
Tom Woznicki, aka “Flexdude,” has focused primarily on flex circuit design since he founded Flex Circuit Design Co. in the 1990s, and he designed flex circuits for the Mars rover. But recently, Tom designed rigid PCBs for the TESS satellite. I asked Tom to discuss his work with TESS, and what it’s like switching between flexible and rigid PCBs.
The Fundamentals of Improving PCB Thermal Design
Continental's automobile engineers have years of experience building critical parts and systems for automobiles. Making sure that automotive electronics are reliable, safe, and properly designed begins at the component level. Heat must be addressed early in the design process for these goals to be achieved. The most important thermal resistance for heat, outside the IC package, is the PCB.
Quiet Power: Evaluating Evaluation Boards
Evaluation boards are very helpful. Manufacturers of complex circuits such as DC-DC converters provide boards with those circuits ready to try out, saving us time and effort to design the printed circuit board around them. Evaluation boards are supposed to help us to understand the capabilities of the device. But with the many potential user applications, what should a particular user expect and look for in an evaluation board? We need to know how to properly evaluate an evaluation board.
John Cardone on Designing Flex for Spacecraft
If you watched footage of the Mars rover driving all over the red planet, you’re familiar with some of John Cardone’s handiwork. He’s been designing rigid, flex, and rigid-flex circuitry for spacecraft since he joined JPL in the early ‘80s, and he’s worked on some of the more ground-breaking flex circuits along the way. Now John runs his own design service bureau, JMC Design Services, and he continues to design circuitry for things that blast off. I caught up with John recently and asked him to give us the straight scoop on designing boards for spacecraft.
Mike Creeden: Care and Training of Your Designers
The I-Connect007 team recently visited San Diego PCB Inc. and received a warm welcome from CEO Mike Creeden and his youthful-looking (relatively speaking) team of designers. Creeden spoke with Barry Matties and Judy Warner about what it takes to run a successful design service center, how to properly care for the PCB designers of today and tomorrow, and why IPC’s design training is paramount when training a new designer.
Sensible Design: Conformal Coatings - Beware the Boards that ‘Bare’ All!
This month, Phil Kinner departs from his usual format of providing five essential facts about conformal coatings. Instead, he provides an account of a customer’s problem—no company names mentioned, of course—that brought into question the adhesion performance of a coating that they had been using successfully for some time.
Beyond Design: How to Handle the Dreaded Danglers, Part 1
Dangling via stubs can distort signals and decrease the usable bandwidth of the signal. A via stub acts as a transmission line antenna, and has a resonant frequency determined by the quarter wavelength of the structure. At this frequency, the transmitted signal is greatly attenuated, by up to 3dB. For low-frequency signals, this is not much of an issue, but for higher-frequency signals, this issue becomes a problem.
The Evolution of Altium: Road to a Record-Breaking Year
Chris Donato, VP of sales for Altium Americas, sat down with Judy Warner recently to discuss what he and Altium have been doing lately, where they came from (Australia) and what the future holds for Altium. This company has evolved from flying well under the radar during the acquisition frenzy of the ‘80s, to achieving a record $100 million in sales for fiscal year 2016.
Orange Co. Designers Council Meeting Draws A Packed House
Speaker John Stine, VP of operations at Summit Interconnect’s Anaheim facility, gave a presentation on flex and rigid-flex design and fabrication. At least 75 electronics professionals listened as Stine, an expert in flex and rigid-flex technologies, discussed proper trace geometries, grounding, cover lay, adhesives, signal integrity, impedance control, book-bindings and much more in his 80-minute presentation.
The Shaughnessy Report: Voices of the Industry
We asked readers like you to share your thoughts about PCB design. Your replies were all over the map. Of course, as journalists, we are drawn to your complaints and challenges—our publications exist to help you address these challenges. And you were not shy about sharing your complaints! Designers’ complaints haven’t changed much since I've been covering this segment.
The Many Voices Over the Past Year
In line with our "Voices of the Industry" theme this month, we're publishing this handy index of all of the interviews we've conducted over the past year with the movers and shakers, managers, entrepreneurs, and and rank-and-file designers and design engineers. In case you missed them, here's another bite of the apple, alphabetized by interviewee's last name. Enjoy!
Lightning Speed Laminates: Smaller Circuits--Material Properties and Thermal Issues
Coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) is typically considered for PCB reliability, but it can also have an impact on circuit performance for applications exposed to varying temperatures. Due to CTE, a circuit will change physical dimensions when the temperature changes. If the circuit has small features or tightly coupled features, the physical change of the circuit dimensions can cause a shift in electrical performance.
Brooks' Bits: Your Traces Have Hot Spots!
The reasons for the temperature variation at high temperatures are not too hard to understand. There may be minor contamination under the trace or in the copper that accounts for it. Certainly, at higher temperatures (say above about 300°C) the board may begin to delaminate, severely disrupting its cooling characteristics. There may be small variations in trace width or thickness that help account for the delam, and these effects would be randomly distributed along the length of the trace.
Beyond Design: The Rise of the Independent Engineer
With the changing demographics, the old-timers in our industry—the master PCB designers—are about to retire and hand over the exacting job of PCB design to the Gen-X and Ys. These generations, shaped by technology, will tackle the most demanding designs without possessing the experience that we veterans benefit from. And to top it off, these up-and-coming designers will be degreed engineers who have to cope with both design and layout tasks as the specialized PCB designer’s positions are phased out.
New SI Techniques for Large System Performance Tuning
In this DesignCon paper, Donald Telian of SiGuys and Michael Steinberger and Barry Katz of SiSoft describe newly-developed techniques for equalization tuning and discontinuity reduction, offering additional design margin. Cost reductions are also achieved as new signal integrity techniques demonstrate performance parity, removing non-essential re-timers and PCBs layers.
The Gerber Guide, Chapters 15 and 16
Before sending your Gerber files off to your fabricator, you are often advised to check them using a reputable Gerber viewer such as GC-Prevue. This is excellent advice. Note that this involves more than just verifying that the viewer displays your intended image: It is important that you check too that the file is valid.
Software Bytes: Having Fun With Impedance
About a year ago, I was assigned a new project: become an expert in impedance, more or less. I had no idea how much this research would bring out the nerd in me. Even if you don’t typically design controlled-impedance circuit boards, you probably will eventually. Read on!
Mentor Video: Impact of Power Integrity on Temperature
One of the most common outputs from a DC Drop simulation is a current density plot. But how much is too much current density? The answer depends on temperature rise, and requires a PI-thermal co-simulation to properly characterize.
Designing for Profitability: Don’t Over-Materialize
John Bushie, applications engineering manager at American Standard Circuits, spoke with Barry Matties recently about how designers can avoid over-materializing. He also outlined the benefits of designing for profitability.
Getting Signal Integrity Right by Design
As clock frequencies increase and active devices and interconnect traces shrink and are placed ever closer together, signal integrity becomes an increasing challenge. Today, SI is typically addressed late in the design process after the PCB layout has been completed by performing complex and time-consuming 3D extractions and simulations for high-speed lines. But with little attention being paid to SI during the layout process, simulation frequently identifies numerous SI problems.
Beyond Design: Mastering “Black Magic” with Howard Johnson’s Seminars
Dr. Howard Johnson, the world’s foremost authority on signal integrity, has recently released his High-Speed Digital Design (HSDD) Collection. I recently reviewed all three of the seminars in this collection, a total of 36 hours of viewing time. If you want to gain some of Dr. Johnson's enthusiasm and master the art of high-speed design, then the collection is a must-have.
Making Digital and Analog “Play Nice” at Peavey
Most guitarists have owned a Peavey Electronics amplifier or instrument at some point in their lives. Peavey originally drew accolades for their line-up of high-quality, budget-friendly products. Now the company also develops high-end instruments, amps, and live sound equipment. Peavey was also the last major American musical equipment maker to have product manufactured overseas. I met with Tom Stuckman, an electrical engineer at Peavey, during NAMM and asked him about the technical challenges he faces and what it’s like working at Peavey.
Designing With Tighter Tolerances
David Ledger-Thomas is a PCB design engineer with Honeywell Aerospace. He’s spent decades designing PCBs for a variety of applications, including defense, aerospace, computers, and high-performance audio. I asked David to share some of his thoughts on designing high-tech boards with increasingly finer spaces, traces and pitch.
Lightning Speed Laminates: The Dilemma--Soldermask for High-Frequency PCBs
Typically, PCBs with RF traces on the outer layers have minimal or no soldermask in the RF circuitry areas. Many times the soldermask is applied in areas where components are soldered to the PCB but the soldermask is developed away in the areas where conductors have critical RF performance. There are many reasons to avoid soldermask coverage on RF conductors, due to inherent soldermask properties.
Designing with Fine Lines and Features
Albert Gaines is the owner and senior PCB designer at HiGain Design Services in Norcross, Georgia. He’s been a PCB designer since 1981; he's designed a variety of boards in that time. I asked Albert to talk about some of the finer lines and features that come through his shop, as well as some design techniques for boards with tight tolerances.
Taylor Guitars Protected with Analog, RF Circuitry
Trenton Blizzard is an electrical engineer at Taylor Guitars and part of the team that developed the TaylorSense shock and climate change protection system. At the NAMM show, Trenton spoke with me, along with Editors Dick Crowe and Dan Feinberg, about this new device, and what it’s like being an electrical engineer for a “woodworking shop.”
From the CAM Shop: Tight Tolerance Design Tips
After you finish your design, it winds up in the hands of people like Mark Thompson, the man who runs the CAM department at Prototron Circuits in Redmond, Washington. He sees CAD data firsthand, and often has to address errors and inconsistencies in PCB designs. For this issue, we asked Mark to discuss the today’s tight tolerances, some of the problems they can cause PCB designers, and what designers can do when dealing with shrinking features.
The State of the Electronic Design Automation Nation
We are the automation nation. We are the high-speed demons, the low-frequency artists, the mixed-signal designers that make up the electronic design automation industry. We spend most of our working lives behind software, delivered to our fingertips with the promise of making things easier, faster, better, and getting us to our deadlines ever faster.
Sensible Design: Coatings—Five Essentials for Designers
In an ideal world, PCB designs would not have an inherent weak point for corrosion; unfortunately, in the real world, they do. When a weak point is revealed, you are better equipped to deal with it. Often the spacing of components, board finish and distance to ground planes can be optimised for corrosion resistance.
Beyond Design: The Case for Artificial Intelligence in EDA Tools
There has been a lot of activity in the field of artificial intelligence recently, with such developments as voice recognition, unmanned autonomous vehicles and data mining to list a few. But how could AI possibly influence the PCB design process? This month, Barry Olney will take a look at the endless possibilities.
Rogers’ John Coonrod on Insertion Loss
John Coonrod of Rogers Corporation gave a keynote presentation at the recent Geek-A-Palooza trade show, concentrating on printed circuit board fabrication’s influences on insertion loss. I sat down with John to learn more about his presentation and what OEMs and designers need to be aware of to avoid insertion loss.
Tim’s Takeaways: The Basics of Hybrid Design, Part 3
The world of hybrid design is growing, and we have lots of hybrid-specific functionality built into our software that helps designers meet and conquer the unique hybrid design requirements that they are faced with. And yet many designers out there (and I used to be one of them) have no idea what is meant when people start talking about hybrid design.
EIPC Summer Conference 2016, Day 1: Strategies to Maintain Profitability in the European PCB Industry
Resplendent in the kilt, EIPC chairman Alun Morgan welcomed a large and enthusiastic gathering of printed circuit professionals from all over Europe and as far afield as the USA, Canada and Russia, to the EIPC Summer Conference 2016 in Edinburgh, Scotland's cosmopolitan capital city.
Romanian Electronics Industry Celebrates 25th Anniversary of TIE
The high point of the Romanian TIE event was a competition among the students to design and layout a circuit for a specific product meeting to the maximum extent possible a long list of design and product requirements. The students had four hours to deliver a design which was then evaluated by a team comprised of a university instructor and a seasoned industry engineer.
EDA Tools: Automation vs. Control
Stephen V. Chavez, CID+, is currently the lead PCB designer for the Electronic Systems Center division of UTC Aerospace Systems (UTAS). He's also a frequent speaker at the IPC APEX EXPO Design Forum. I caught up with Stephen and asked for his thoughts on the EDA tools of today, and whether he’d prefer to have more control vs. more automation.
The Shaughnessy Report: The Designer Roundtable Roundup
Every year, I attend SMTA Atlanta, just across town. You have to love a local trade show. No airlines, no jet lag, and no hotels. It’s a small show; it would fit in a school gymnasium. But for me, the highpoint of SMTA Atlanta is the Designers Roundtable. This year the roundtable had 15 attendees, up from 12 last year. Two of the new attendees were under 35, which surprised all of us "graybeards."
PADS Paper: 10 Things to Know about Thermal Design
As designs get smaller, power densities at all packaging levels increase dramatically. Removing heat is critical to the operation and long-term reliability of electronics, and component temperatures within specification are the universal criteria used to determine the acceptability of a design. This PADS paper discusses 10 things designers need to know about thermal design.
Design Automation Tools, Today and in the Future
Kelly Dack has been designing PCBs for over three decades, at OEMs of all kinds. Now a PCB designer with a Washington state contract manufacturer, Kelly enjoys waxing philosophic about PCB design and design automation in general. I asked Kelly about the direction EDA tools are headed, and whether he’d like to see more control, or more automation in his PCB design tools.
Beyond Design: DDR3/4 Fly-by vs. T-topology Routing
JEDEC introduced fly-by topology in the DDR3 specification for the differential clock, address, command and control signals. The advantage of fly-by topology is that it supports higher-frequency operation, reduces the quantity and length of stubs and consequently improves signal integrity and timing on heavily loaded signals. Fly-by topology also reduces simultaneous switching noise (SSN) by deliberately causing flight-time skew.
Designers Notebook: Flexible and Rigid-Flex Circuit Design Principles, Part 6
The designer is generally under pressure to release the documentation and get the flexible circuit into production. There is, however, a great deal at risk. Setting up for medium-to-high volume manufacturing requires significant physical and monetary resources. To avoid potential heat from management, the designer must insist on prototyping the product and a thorough design review prior to release.
Cadence Paper: Automating Inter-Layer In-Design Checks in Rigid-Flex PCBs
Flexible PCBs make it possible to create a variety of products that require small, lightweight form factors. As flexible PCB fabrication technology has matured, new design challenges have emerged. This paper discusses some of the key challenges and introduces a new PCB design approach that enhances productivity through in-design inter-layer checks.
SiSoft: Optimizing the State of the Art
In the 20 years since its founding, SiSoft has been at the forefront of signal integrity analysis tool development. Now, the company is leading the way with a new technology called OptimEye and tools for creating accurate IBIS-AMI models. Todd Westerhoff, VP of semiconductor relations, gives us an update on the company’s newest technologies.
Behind the Scenes: Adcom’s TLA Award-Winning Design
Adcom’s design team placed first in this year’s TLA program, taking the top spot for the category of “Computers, Blade & Servers, Memory Systems.” This board, like most PCBs today, is a complex system designed by a multi-disciplinary team of designers, striving to bring an operational product to the market on schedule.
EMA is Bullish on Data Management
EMA Design Automation has evolved over the years, from a typical Cadence Design Systems VAR to a distributor that functions more like a part of Cadence. During DesignCon, I met with Greg Roberts, director of marketing for EMA, and asked him to discuss the company’s focus on data management tools, and why he’s giving away certain OrCAD tools.
Design Strategies for Success—and Profit
In today’s economic environment, making money on a project is getting more and more challenging. Those years when businesses like mine were practically printing money are long gone. If you are under 30 years old, you probably do not have this point of reference; it’s been one downturn after another for your entire adult life. But for us older folks, times were really good back then. So, what happened? You happened, as well as a million others like you. In other words, the market is a little cramped now and much more competitive, which dilutes our profit per project.
Sunstone Circuits R&D: 3D Printing Great for Prototyping
We’ve been hearing a lot about 3D printing for the past few years. But where does 3D printing fit in with traditional rigid circuit board development? Sunstone Circuits recently completed a project that focused on that very question. Sunstone Product Manager Nolan Johnson explains why 3D printing is a viable option when it comes to jigs and parts of the support infrastructure that are needed when prototyping today’s emerging technologies.
Brooks' Bits: How Many Vias Does It Take To…?
During 2015, I enjoyed a very productive collaboration with Dr. Johannes Adam, from Leimen, Germany. This resulted in several papers, but one in particular is relevant for this column, “Via Currents and Temperatures.” In that paper, we used a simulation tool, thermal risk management, developed by Dr. Adam, to simulate current flowing through a via and then determine the temperature of the via. Read on to find out how our results contradicted conventional wisdom.
Beyond FR-4: High-Performance Materials for Advanced Designs, Part 1
In the past 40-plus years of PCB manufacturing, the primary material of choice has overwhelmingly been e-glass supported FR-4 resin laminates. This is due to the excellent dimensional stability and reasonably acceptable thermal performance (based on glass transition temperature [Tg] and decomposition temperature [Td]). In general, these materials exhibit impressive performance and excellent cost for a wide range of applications.
Beyond Design: The Need for Speed—Strategies for Design Efficiency
Years of experience with one EDA tool obviously develops efficiency, whether the tool be high-end feature-packed or basic entry-level. And one becomes accustomed to the intricacies of all the good and bad features of their PCB design tool. However, there comes a time when one should really consider a change for the better to incorporate the latest methodologies. This month, I will look at productivity issues that impede the PCB design process.
Tim's Takeaways: The Principles of Hybrid Design, Part 1
What exactly is a hybrid design? We are seeing more and more of our customers exploring the world of hybrid design, and we are getting new customers for whom hybrid design is their sole focus. The world of hybrid design is growing and we have lots of hybrid-specific functionality built into our software that helps designers conquer the unique hybrid design requirements.
Wild River: Simplifying SI so Engineers Can Focus on Design
Al Neves is founder and chief technologist of Wild River Technology, and he’s a signal integrity engineer who likes to tell it like it is. So when I bumped into Al during DesignCon, I asked him to sit down for an interview. We discussed the paper he co-wrote for DesignCon and the challenges SI engineers are facing, as well as Wild River’s efforts to take the black magic out of signal integrity.
RTW IPC APEX EXPO: HDP Users Group Update with Jack Fisher
Jack Fisher, technical director for the High-Density Packaging Group, discusses the latest projects that the consortium is focusing on. He explains that member companies have full access to all of the R&D data that is developed. One of the group's most interesting current efforts involves optoelectronics.
RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Geek-A-Palooza Coming to S. California May 12
Steve Williams sits down with Geek-A-Palooza founders Tara Dunn and Judy Warner to discuss their upcoming event in Irvine, California on May 12. The Geek-A-Palooza held in Minneapolis last year drew over 300 PCB designers, fabricators, assemblers and suppliers. Tara and Judy explain why this is not just another boring technical talk, and attendees will definitely enjoy themselves.
Steinberger Talks PAM4, the Next Generation of Modulation
I recently interviewed our old friend Michael Steinberger, SiSoft’s lead architect for serial channel products. Steinberger is always a great interview; he breaks down complex signal integrity simulation technology in ways that are simple and often humorous. Steinberger sat down and discussed a paper he presented at DesignCon, and some of the challenges his customers are facing.
What’s New at Cadence?
Cadence Design Systems has released a variety of PCB design tools lately, and we wanted to find out a little more about what’s new at Cadence. I tracked down Product Marketing Director Brad Griffin and asked him to discuss some of the newest technology coming out of Cadence.
IPC APEX EXPO: New Arlon Materials Address Design and Fab Challenges
Brad Foster, VP and general manager of Arlon, discusses some new laminates and pre-pregs that help designers and fabricators address a variety of challenges. He explains how Arlon works with customers to help them with stack-ups and other issues.
What’s New at Zuken?
Zuken has developed some innovative PCB design tools in the past few years, and I wanted to find out more about the company’s new and upcoming technologies. I caught up with Bob Potock, vice president of marketing for the Americas for Zuken USA, and asked him what was new at Zuken.
The PDN Bandini Mountain and Other Things I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know
Originally, Bandini Mountain referred to a mound of fertilizer built by the Bandini Fertilizer Company in California prior to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. When the company went bankrupt, this mound of fertilizer was left behind. Steve Weir coined this term to describe the large resonant frequency peak formed by the parallel combination of the on-die capacitance and the package lead inductance, as seen from the die looking into the PDN.
IPC APEX EXPO: Prototron Works with Customers to Stay on Top
Prototron Circuits Operations Manager Mike Graves explains how his company's focus on customer service, including helping with PCB designs, has made Prototron "America's Board Shop." He also discusses their expansion into flex and HDI technology, and their efforts to achieve AS9100 certification.
IPC APEX EXPO: Hofer Discusses the Pros and Cons of Backdrilling
General Manager James Hofer of Accurate Circuit Engineering discusses the process of backdrilling vias, including the benefits and drawbacks. Backdrilling can improve signal integrity, but it can also create stubs that may act as unwanted antennas.
IPC APEX EXPO: Clyde Coombs Discusses the New Printed Circuits Handbook
In this interview that was shot during the IPC APEX EXPO 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Clyde Coombs discusses the latest edition of the Printed Circuits Handbook, which was published this week. The seventh edition, co-edited with Happy Holden, includes new sections on supply chain management and PCB design, with a chapter on EDA tools by Design007 Editor Andy Shaughnessy.
Mark Thompson: It’s All About Communication
In engineering support at Prototron Circuits, Mark Thompson has seen it all. He ensures that each design is manufactured the way the designer intended, even if the CAD data is not crystal clear. During DesignCon, Barry Matties and Andy Shaughnessy talked with Thompson about why communication is paramount when designing and prototyping boards. Thompson also explained how designers can avoid making common mistakes that can set back an entire project.
Technology Outlook with Mentor Graphics
Mentor Graphics recently announced the winners of its PCB Technology Leadership Awards. Now in its 26th year, this program provides a great barometer for measuring the newest trends in cutting-edge PCB designs. I caught up with Product Marketing Manager David Wiens and asked him to give us an idea of the trends he’s seeing in PCB design and manufacturing, and what the industry has in store for us in the next few years.
Designers Notebook: Flexible and Rigid-Flex Circuit Design Principles, Part 3
This installment of "Designers Notebook" will focus on methods for specifying base materials, and also address copper foil variations and fabrication documentation. It is important to research the various products in order to choose the one that best meets the design requirements.
DuPont, Taconic and PFC Team Up For High-Speed Flex
At DesignCon, I sat down with three flex circuit specialists: Glenn Oliver of DuPont, Tom McCarthy of Taconic, and Steve Kelly of PFC Flexible Circuits. Our discussion covered a lot of territory, most notably the findings they described in the paper they were about to present later that day at DesignCon, and the future of flex, as they see it.
Catching up With Tom Hausherr of PCB Libraries
When fate placed Tom Hausherr and I at PCB West, we made sure to carve out some time together. Tom agreed to have a long breakfast with me so I could learn more about the challenges related to component libraries and how his company addresses these issues. So, pull up a chair and join us for a chat.
Justifying the Need to Outsource Design Work
Mehul Dave and H.D. Shreenivasa of Entelechy Global discuss the many benefits of outsourcing and why it should not be thought of as a four-letter word. They also talk about the huge gap between design and manufacturing, and how their company can help customers address that issue.
American Standard Circuits: Leading the Way in Medical Electronics
When it comes to innovative fabricators, American Standard Circuits is always at the front of the pack. Naturally, when Editor Andy Shaughnessy asked me to interview a fabricator about PCBs for the medical market, ASC was the one company that immediately came to mind. I spoke with CEO Anaya Vardya about fabricating medical PCBs, the medical electronics market, and the future of this fast-growing segment.
Innovative Circuits Sees Healthy Medical Market
Medical electronics is one of the fastest growing segments of our industry. Alpharetta, Georgia-based Innovative Circuits is at the forefront of fabricating medical PCBs, both flex and rigid. I asked Innovative Business Development Manager Amir Davoud to give us a solid diagnosis of the world of medical PCBs.
Beyond Design: Plane Crazy, Part 2
In my recent four-part series on stackup planning, I described the best configurations for various stackup requirements. But I did not have the opportunity to delve into the use of planar capacitance to reduce AC impedance at frequencies above 1GHz, which is the region wherein bypass and decoupling capacitors dramatically lose their impact. In this column, I will flesh out this topic, and consider the effects of plane resonance on the power distribution network (PDN).
Medical PCB Design: Not Just Another High-Rel Board
Some of the coolest new electronic products have come courtesy of the medical market. I wanted to find out more about this fast-growing segment, so I contacted Kenneth MacCallum, an engineering physicist with StarFish Medical. MacCallum, an engineering physicist who designs PCBs for medical applications, explained why medical PCBs are not quite like other high-reliability boards.
Systematic Estimation of Worst-Case PDN Noise: Target Impedance and Rogue Waves
In the dark ages of power distribution design, the typical advice was to use a bulk capacitor and one 0.1uF bypass capacitor for every power pin on the digital circuit. This was very unscientific, but served the industry reasonably well in low-density and low-speed circuits. As the designs got more demanding, the target impedance concept was developed. Using a target impedance, designers had a metric and a design goal to guarantee that the voltage transients stay within specified limits.
IPC Designers Council Viewpoint: Gary Ferrari
As co-founder and longtime executive director of the Designers Council, Gary Ferrari has dedicated a big part of his career to PCB design. After decades of service, he was inducted into the IPC Hall of Fame at IPC APEX EXPO this year. I caught up with Gary and asked him to fill us in on the creation of the Designers Council, and some of the changes he’s seen in the last 24 years.
Lightning Speed Laminates: Why Do Different Test Methods Yield Different Electrical Values?
A variety of different test methods may be used for any one electrical concern. This article will discuss the issues related to determining the dielectric constant (Dk) and dissipation factor (Df or Tan-Delta). On a data sheet, a designer may see a Dk value for a material to be 3.5, as an example. Once the designer buys the material and performs necessary evaluations, it may be found that the Dk of the material is 3.8. In some applications this difference in Dk is probably not meaningful; however, for many RF and high-speed digital applications, this difference could be very significant.
Electrical Design Challenges for Automotive PCBs
A recent article in this magazine by Monica Andrei of Continental Automotive Systems emphasized the systemic nature of an automobile and discussed the characteristics and adoption of software design tools to enable such system-level design. Recognizing that electrical challenges are part of the automotive system-level discussion, this article will present more detail on signal integrity. Future discussion is planned regarding EMI, power integrity, and thermal integrity.
McCurdy: How to Build a Successful IPC Designers Council Chapter
When Scott McCurdy made his transition from PCB fabrication to a PCB layout focus about 13 years ago, he accepted an invitation to attend our local IPC Designer’s Council. Shortly after, he was recruited to serve on the group’s steering committee. At that time, 20–25 people were regularly attending the meetings. When the chapter president moved, he asked Scott to take his place. Now, Orange County chapter meetings often draw close to 100 attendees.
Beyond Design: Plane Crazy, Part 1
A high-speed digital power distribution network (PDN) must provide a low inductance, low impedance path between all ICs on the PCB that need to communicate. In order to reduce the inductance, we must also minimize the loop area enclosed by the current flow. Obviously, the most practical way to achieve this is to use power and ground planes in a multilayer stackup. In this two-part column, I will look at the alternatives to planes, why planes are used for high-speed design, and the best combination for your application.
IPC Designers Council Viewpoint: Rick Hartley
Rick Hartley has been in involved in PCB design and design education for decades, so it’s no surprise that he started working with the IPC Designers Council early on. Now retired from his day job at L-3, Rick still teaches PCB design and shows no sign of slowing down. I asked him to discuss his work with the Designers Council, and what the group means to the design community.
DownStream Takes on Data Documentation Management
Most designers will tell you that, as much as they enjoy laying out boards, they dislike the final data documentation step, which often involves various formats, including handwritten notes. Enter DownStream Technologies, a company founded 14 years ago to address the challenges related to post-processing the design. Senior Product Marketing Manager Mark Gallant recently discussed the company’s efforts to take the pain out of data documentation, even as data becomes more complex.
Why Autorouters Don’t Work: The Mindset!
Ask any group of PCB designers what they think of autorouters and the majority will say that they do not use them because they do not work. I have been battling this mindset for over 20 years now and it still persists today, even with the dramatic advances in routing technology. This way of thinking generally comes from those designers who use the entry-level tools. But even the most primitive autorouter may have some useful features. It’s all about changing that mindset of the designer and having a crack at it.
EMA: Helping Technologists Manage Disparate Data
Today’s EDA tools are better than ever, but managing design data, from schematics through Gerbers, can be an unwieldly task. I recently interviewed Manny Marcano, president and CEO of EMA Design Automation. He discusses EMA’s approach to managing a variety of types of complex data, the need for seamless data processes, and the future of compliance-aware design.
SnapEDA: The Female-Owned Startup Revolutionizing CAD Data
SnapEDA founder Natasha Baker may mark the beginning of a new trend in EDA: young female entrepreneurs. (When was the last time we heard about an EDA startup?) As her company prepared for a major launch, Natasha took time to explain the philosophy behind SnapEDA, and how the company is helping designers and engineers manage an ever-increasing volume of CAD data.
Orange County IPC Designers Council Meeting Draws Record Crowd
On November 18, the Orange County Chapter of the IPC Designers Council held a “Lunch ‘n’ Learn” event at the Harvard Park Community Center in Irvine, California. Eighty-nine PCB designers and electronics industry professionals gathered to listen to a talk by Chris Heard, a signal integrity engineering consultant at CSH Consulting LLC.
The Gerber Guide, Chapter 3: The PCB Profile
The profile defines a simple region in the 2D plane. The proper way to do this is to specify a closed contour: The inside of the contour is the PCB, and the outside is not. It is that simple. Note that such a simple region is solid, without holes. By definition then, a profile cannot have holes intentionally placed within it. These are superfluous and represent an unnecessary and complicated duplication given that drill holes are well defined in the drill/rout file. One can view cut-outs in a PCB as still part of the PCB, just as much as the drill holes are.
Beyond Design: Stackup Planning, Part 4
In this final part of the Stackup Planning series, I will look at 10-plus layer counts. The methodology I have set out in previous columns can be used to construct higher layer-count boards. In general, these boards contain more planes and therefore the issues associated with split power planes can usually be avoided. Also, 10-plus layers require very thin dielectrics in order to reduce the total board thickness. This naturally provides tight coupling between adjacent signal and plane layers reducing crosstalk and electromagnetic emissions.
Speeding up the Design Cycle: 10 Things to Remember
Many people understand the value of a PCB, but do not understand the best way to interact with PCB manufacturers. Poor planning and communication with fabricators slows down the design cycle and increases overall costs for your project. In this column, Mark Thompson streamline the design cycle through fabrication. Following my tips will minimize the need for future revisions and ensure you get quality boards on time.
Lightning Speed Laminates: Impact of Final Plated Finish on PCB Loss
A variety of plated finishes are used in the PCB industry. Depending on the circuit construction and other variables, the plated finish can cause an increase in PCB insertion loss. The plated finish used on the outer ground planes of a stripline circuit have minimal or no impact on insertion loss. However, microstrip or grounded coplanar waveguide circuits, which are common on the outer layers of multilayer high-frequency PCBs, can be impacted by the plated finish for increasing the insertion loss.
Accelerating the PCB Design Cycle
An area of communications that is often underappreciated, but has become vitally important to design efficiency, is the dialogue with the PCB fabricator. It’s critical to engage the fabricator very early in the design process to nail down the proper materials and stack-up. With so many options for via structures, it is critical to select the most appropriate structure for the design. Adding blind and/or buried vias as an afterthought can limit their utilization and drive up the printed circuit board cost.
The Material Witness: Nonwoven Aramid Reinforcement is Back
In the 1st century AD, there was significant debate among Jewish theologians as to whether resurrection was possible. PCB designers in the early 21st century have had a similar concern about future availability of 85NT nonwoven aramid laminate and prepreg. The stakes may be somewhat less critical, but the future of a wide variety of programs designed around the properties of Thermount have been hanging in the balance.
Flex Circuit Shielding Design Options
Shielding may not be your company’s number one design concern when thinking about your interconnect designs. But if you have to shield circuits for EMI, then you will need to depend on your supplier to assist you with their favorite shielding technique and experience.
The Shaughnessy Report: Squeezing Seconds Out of the Design Cycle
When you’re designing a board, time is always your enemy. That’s what we learned when we surveyed our readers recently. PCB designers said that time pressure was one of their least favorite parts of the job, and in some cases, they were ready to retire just to avoid design cycle challenges. I imagine that many of you near retirement, and that’s quite a few of you, feel the same way.
The Challenges of Being Competitive in Automotive Electronics Manufacturing
Simple electronics were gradually introduced into automobiles from the earliest times. At first, these were just simple electro-mechanical devices to make cars work without manual effort, such as to start the engine and keep windshields clear. But in this past decade, we have seen the effects of the gradual growth of issues with electronics systems, with recalls caused by safety issues that cost automotive manufacturers millions of dollars. Electronics within an automotive environment today requires a new approach to ensure a higher level of quality perfection.
Leo Lambert on EPTAC's Customized Training Plans
Andy Shaughnessy interviewed Leo Lambert, vice president and technical director of EPTAC, at SMTA International. Leo Lambert, vice president and technical director of EPTAC, explains how the New Hampshire-based company continues to provide customized training and IPC certification offerings, including its IPC Certified Interconnect Designer (CID) and CID+ classes.
Physics of Failure Durability Simulations for Automotive Electronics
Automotive electronics systems are becoming increasing complex and essential for the proper, safe operation of cars and trucks. Vehicle controls for basic operation and safety functions are increasingly being implemented by electronic modules. The ability of these electronic systems to function reliably is becoming a greater aspect of vehicle safety as was dramatically demonstrated by the 2009–2011 recall of over 9 million Toyota vehicles for unintended acceleration issues.
Automotive Systems Design: a Support Engineer’s Perspective
In a nutshell, the promise of the system design approach is to allow for hitting the “sweet spot” in terms of functionality, quality and reliability, in the shortest possible design time and with the lowest possible resource investments. In an industry that has a very long time to market (on average around 1,000 days), steadily increasing quality demands and an ever intensifying pressure to lower costs, all these promises become most attractive and compelling.
Mentor Graphics Helps Bridge Gap Between PCB and RF
Recently, Publisher Barry Matties met with Per Viklund, the director of IC packaging and RF product lines at Mentor Graphics, and Alex Caravajal, business development manager with Mentor. They discussed the challenges facing PCB designers working with RF and microwave technology, and Mentor’s efforts to help reduce the RF design cycle time.
Failure May not be an Option, but Sometimes it's a Reality
I’ve had mechanical engineers question why we are bothering with circuit boards instead of designing the circuitry into the plastic housing of the device. I’ve had manufacturing engineers demand that I shelve the electrical considerations in order to meet manufacturing requirements, and electrical engineers who could care less if the product could actually be built. I’ve had engineers hover over my shoulder watching each and every stroke of the mouse that I make, and others who are never available for important questions which ultimately brought the whole project to a grinding halt.
Training the Next-Generation Engineer: When Does it Begin and End?
American engineering companies are seeing a severe shortage of the homegrown engineers required to compete globally. Just go into any company today and you’ll notice that increasingly, the engineers are foreign-born. Our local universities are seeing fewer and fewer American engineering students each year. Universities are also seeing a growth in female students. Over 50% of college student are now female, and women traditionally are not attracted to science and engineering majors. What is causing this imbalance?
Nick Barbin: From Designer to EMS Company Owner
Many PCB designers would rather do just about anything than pore over a P&L spreadsheet. But Nick Barbin isn’t a typical designer. He co-founded the design bureau Optimum Design Associates over two decades ago, and the company later expanded into contract manufacturing and Lean processes. In this interview, Nick discussed how he wound up leading an EMS company on the Inc. 5000 list.
Supply Chain Challenges and Opportunities
Let’s start by defining exactly what a supply chain is. It’s not a nautical term for an anchor chain, or a dynamic part of a chainsaw that never runs out of chain. No, it’s a key term used in the organization of resources which may form a system between entities. Now this sounds a little closer to something that may be utilized in producing an electronic end-item, in our case, a printed circuit board.
Fighting the War on Failure
No one in this industry sets out to fail, except failure analysis test engineers. But failure is a part of life for designers and manufacturers of electronics. Our reader surveys show that failure affects nearly everyone in the PCB industry: designers, fabricators, assembly providers, OEMs, and suppliers.
Gary Ferrari Shares His Thoughts on PCB Design and More
Recently, I spoke with Gary Ferrari, director of technical support at Firan Technology Group, about numerous topics related to PCB design. Our conversation ranged from CID training to the need for reaching high school students as a way of introducing more young people to career opportunities in our industry. We also covered strategies for helping customers design and build better product, and keeping designers provided with the most critical part of their supply chain—information.
Ten Considerations for Outsourcing PCB Designs
Outsourcing your design work is a big deal. How do you know that the end-result will be as you envisaged? Will you have full control of your design? Will it be done to the quality you expect and within the time frame required? Outsourcing can pose some fairly scary questions, so what are the key things to consider and what are the pitfalls to avoid? Steve Dobson of Quadra Solutions explains.
Design and Manufacture of High-Voltage Electronics
This SMART Group webinar, presented by Ian Lake, director of engineering at Applied Kilovolts Ltd, and moderated by Bob Willis, explored the current technical barriers faced in high-voltage electronics design and manufacturing processes. Although he made it clear that within the timeframe of a webinar session he could only scratch the surface of the topic, Lake gave a valuable insight into basic concepts and drivers and set a perspective on current state of the art and future trends.
Fast Interconnect: Engineering Services for the Masses
Gary Griffin and Ana Rosique are co-founders of Fast Interconnect, an Arizona-based product engineering company designed to serve an underserved market: the small product developers, inventors, and anyone with an idea for a “cool gadget.” I caught up with Griffin recently to discuss the new company, its innovative business model, and the challenges facing smaller OEMs and product developers.
Avoid Overbuilding your RF Printed Circuit Board
Today, many companies are overbuilding and “overmaterializing” their RF printed circuit boards. In this interview, James Hofer of Accurate Circuit Engineering (ACE) shares some strategies to avoid doing both, which will help lower the total cost of your PCB and improve the overall product quality. Hofer also discusses some of the challenges in the laminate supply chain.
The Past, Present, and Future of IPC-A-610
To understand the ultimate power of IPC-A-610, you need to first understand what is at the core of this standard. IPC-A-610 is a collection of visual quality acceptability requirements for electronic assemblies. It is utilized as a post-assembly acceptance standard to ensure that electronic assemblies meet acceptance requirements.
EIPC Summer Conference: Day 2
Refreshed after an excellent conference dinner, and for most, a good night’s sleep, delegates returned for the second day of the EIPC Summer Conference in Berlin, continuing the theme of improving profitability through technical leadership and innovation to meet future market requirements, with sessions on materials and processes for high performance PCBs and advanced material testing strategies to meet OEM and ODM needs.
TTM: Consult Fabricators Early for PCB Designs
Recently, I attended the Designers Council “Lunch and Learn” at Broadcom’s office in Orange County, California. One of the speakers at this event was Julie Ellis, a field applications engineer with TTM Technologies. She sat down with me to discuss her presentation and some of the ways fabricators can assist PCB designers.
Electronic Design Training Crucial to Industry Growth
In the UK, the electronics industry contributes over £80 billion (approximately US$120 million) to the economy, representing 5.4% of UK GDP, employing over 850,000 people. There is, however, in many countries, a growing concern around labour shortages within the electronics industry, with worries over appropriate workforce skill levels growing.
The Composite Properties of Rigid vs. Multilayer PCBs
Most materials systems used in PWBs (aka PCBs) are composites of resins, fabric substrates and metal cladding. Each of these components has its own unique electrical and mechanical properties that contribute to the final characteristics of the finished laminates, prepregs and fabricated multilayer boards (MLBs). In most cases variables such as glass style and resin content have offsetting impacts on physical vs. electrical properties. Chet Guiles explains.
Polar Talks Impedance Control and Insertion Loss Testing
During IPC APEX EXPO, Guest Editor Dan Feinberg sat down with Polar Instruments product specialists Michael Bode and Geoffrey Hazlett to talk about the company and its products and solutions. They also discussed some of the signal integrity technologies being enabled by the company, including controlled impedance and insertion loss testing.
How to Successfully Purchase PCBs
How do you go about purchasing reliable and durable PCBs at the lowest possible cost? A key success factor is to provide the prospective suppliers with accurate and clear specifications, and to keep a close eye on the quality of the boards once they are in production.
HDPUG Demonstrates Benefits of Cooperative R&D
The High Density Packaging User Group (HDPUG) is a member-driven, non-profit, project-oriented industry consortium that addresses the integration of new electronics component packaging and interconnection technologies into the supply chains of its member companies.
Effective Decoupling Radius
Power distribution networks (PDN) are becoming an important topic. Many engineers are finding that properly designing the power supplies and providing adequate decoupling for devices is a challenge, especially since devices are switching faster and dimensions are shrinking. Engineers often focus on discrete decoupling capacitors placed local to switching devices in hopes of providing the required capacitance for these high current demands. Kirk Fabbri explains.
A Conversation (and Day) with Joe Fjelstad, Part 1
I-Connect007 Publisher Barry Matties and industry veteran Joe Fjelstad, CEO and founder of Verdant Electronics, met recently to spend a day together enjoying the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum (home of the Spruce Goose), located in the Oregon community of McMinnville. Their conversation ebbed and flowed between a wide variety of topics, from the electronics industry, to political shenanigans and the “war against failure.” In Part 1 of this multi-part series, Fjelstad introduces his “war against failure” idea, and what went terribly wrong in the advent of lead-free manufacturing.
Make the Right Decisions at the Right Time in the PCB Design Process
The right decisions are not always the easiest decisions, but making them well and as early as possible often avoids errors and addition costs. This is certainly the case in PCB design and a key decision influencing the design process and the eventual outcome is the selection of material and of the materials vendor. This is even more important when the PCB requires significant performance parameters to be met, such as high speeds.
Hunter Technology’s Two Newest CID Recipients Discuss Certification
I-Connect007 Guest Editor Kelly Dack spent time at Hunter Technology’s Silicon Valley plant, where he had the opportunity to sit down with two recent CID certification recipients, Jeff Davidson and Zev Gross, who recently completed Dack’s CID training program. The two also discuss the benefits of achieving certification and their plans to take the advanced course.
Reliability and Harmonization of Global Standards at Forefront of EIPC Efforts
At IPC APEX EXPO 2015, I-Connect007 Technical Editor Pete Starkey caught up with EIPC's Michael Weinhold and Alun Morgan, who were happy to discuss both recent and ongoing focuses for EIPC, namely, reliability. Also touched on was the importance of the alignment of global standardization processes, especially for Asia.
Mentor Paper: 10 Tips for Streamlining PCB Thermal Design
Timing issues are affected by temperature differences between components. Thermal issues with the PCB design are largely locked in during component selection and layout. This handy “how to” guide provides an overview of the key considerations in PCB thermal design and how to optimize the thermal layout.
Effective Characteristic Impedance
Reflections can occur anytime there is an impedance mismatch on the line. Sources of mismatches are plentiful and include trace width changes, vias, stubs, reference plane changes, and even the so-called fiber weave effect. In this case, a trace can encounter a different dielectric constant depending on whether it is routed over glass or the epoxy resin in the dielectric material. In this investigation by Kirk Fabbri, it is the capacitive contribution of the different components that are of interest, and how they affect the characteristic impedance the driver sees.
Clyde Coombs Publishing 7th Edition of Printed Circuits Handbook
Clyde Coombs is ready to publish the latest edition of his "Bible of the Industry," the Printed Circuits Handbook. Andy Shaughnessy and Coombs discuss the upcoming 7th edition of this book, which now includes PCB design and supply chain content. Shaughnessy also plugs his own contribution to the book in the section dealing with EDA software tools.
Cadence’s Brad Griffin Digs Deep Into DDR
During DesignCon 2015, our roving reporter, Kelly Dack, stopped by to visit with Brad Griffen in the Cadence booth. What follows is their very interesting conversation that revolves around the evolution of DDR.
Sunstone Unveils Updates for PCB123
Guest Editor Kelly Dack sat down with Nolan Johnson, EDA product marketing manager for Sunstone Circuits, to discuss some big changes to the PCB123 design tool. One new feature: PCB123 will now allow user to download a Gerber file. But Johnson explains why Sunstone isn’t too worried about PCB designers taking their Gerbers to rival fabricators.
The Shaughnessy Report: Back to Vegas
After three years, it'll be nice to get back to Vegas. It's a microcosm of America, a symbol of all that is positive and negative in the land of red, white, and blue. This town is a true dichotomy: gamblers can win big, or lose big. There are a lot of really happy people on the way up, and a lot of not-so-happy people on the way down.
Zen & the Collaborative Art of Designing, Manufacturing, & Implementing Low-loss, High-speed Flex Interconnects, Part 1
To maximize performance improvements and ensure the success of advanced flex materials, new design and fabrication trade-offs must be understood by material suppliers, OEMs, and fabricators. This article represents collaboration between an OEM, a fabricator, and a material supplier with the goal of broadening flex circuits in higher-speed applications.
Lee Ritchey: Designing a PCB Stackup, Part 1
The challenge in designing a PCB stackup is to satisfy its many demands. Information in this article is drawn from Lee Ritchey's experience gained by designing more than 2,000 PCB stackups for products as simple as video games and as complex as the highest-performance backplanes used in supercomputers and routers
Crosshatched Planes in Impedance-Controlled Flex-Rigid PCBs
While RF purists may feel discomfort at the thought of using crosshatch as a high-frequency return, using crosshatched planes on flex and flex-rigid PCBs is a realistic method of keeping impedance-controlled traces at a manufacturable dimension and retaining the desired flexibility of the assembly.
Comparing Time Domain and Frequency Domain Techniques for Investigation on Charge Delivery and Power-Bus Noise for High-Speed Printed Circuit Boards
Signal integrity engineers and EMC engineers look at the decoupling capacitor in different ways. This award-winning paper presented at DesignCon 2007 looks at decoupling from a time-domain and frequency-domain viewpoint.
Step 1: Design for Manufacture
The advantage of parallel design architecture is that it lets multiple designers work on the same design simultaneously without needing to partition the design.
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