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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Excerpt: The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to…Flex and Rigid-Flex Fundamentals
The design process is arguably the most important part of the flex circuit procurement process. The decisions made in the design process will have a lasting impact, for better or worse, throughout the manufacturing cycle. In advance of providing important details about the actual construction of the flex circuit, it is of value to provide some sort of understanding of the expected use environment for the finished product.
Field Trip: CID Class Sees How Flex is Made at Streamline Circuits
While I was teaching my CID class for EPTAC in Santa Clara, I learned that we were only a block away from Streamline Circuits. Streamline does a lot of military and aerospace work, as well as communications and industrial electronics. The company manufactures quite a bit of multilayer flex and rigid-flex circuits, in addition to rigid boards. This would make a great field trip for my CID class!
Design and Manufacturing Perspectives from DISH Technology’s Les Beller
I recently interviewed Les Beller, a long-time PCB designer who is now a manufacturing engineer for DISH Technology. We discussed his company’s business shift towards 5G and streaming, and the stresses that puts on a design team. He also explains the greatest challenges that he’s facing with HDI and higher frequencies, and the added importance for designers to understand the manufacturing process and DFM tools.
ITEQ Ready for Autonomous and Electric Vehicles of the Future
During DesignCon 2018, I spoke with Tarun Amla, the executive vice president and CTO of ITEQ. We discussed ITEQ’s future plans, including the development of materials for cutting-edge technology needs, such as autonomous and electric vehicles, as well as 5G technology.
Geeking Out at Geek-A-Palooza MSP 2018
Kiersten Rohde, I-Connect007 editor, covers Geek-A-Palooza MSP 2018. Geek-A-Palooza "is a different kind of gathering that combines networking with a fun, relaxing atmosphere." This event provided an opportunity for local electronics geeks from every industry segment to gather for a professional social event that included great music, food, drinks, games, raffle prizes, and booths.
American Standard Circuits Discusses New RF/Microwave eBook
During DesignCon 2018, I met with Anaya Vardya and John Bushie of American Standard Circuits. Anaya and John recently co-wrote an eBook, published by I-Connect007, titled "The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to Fundamentals of RF/Microwave PCBs." We discussed their goals and the scope of this handy microbook, which features plenty of information that even high-speed digital designers can benefit from.
Interview: Incoming and Outgoing Presidents of Polar Instruments
Polar Instruments has hired some talented technologists recently, including a new president, Dorine Gurney. At DesignCon, I had the opportunity to sit down for an interview with Dorine and Ken Taylor, Polar’s outgoing president. We talked about Dorine’s objectives for the company and Ken’s plans for life after Polar.
Estonia a Hot Spot for New Technology
Most Westerners know very little about Estonia. A former Soviet Bloc country, Estonia has come a long way since restoring its independence in 1991. Electronics companies are thriving in this tiny EU member country, and capital city Tallinn has been called “Silicon Valley on the Baltic Sea.” During productronica, I met with Arno Kolk, general manager of the Estonian Electronics Industries Association, and we discussed the explosion of new technology in this “Baltic Tiger” country?
Fadi Deek Discusses Mentor’s New Power Integrity eBook
At DesignCon 2018, I ran into Mentor’s Fadi Deek, the author of both of Mentor’s I-Connect007 eBooks: the newest, "The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to Power Integrity by Example," and their first book, "The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to Signal Integrity by Example." We sat down and discussed how the idea for the books came about, as well as some of the power integrity challenges facing PCB designers and engineers.
Martin Cotton Discusses Ventec’s New Book and Low-Loss Materials
During DesignCon 2018, Andy Shaughnessy sat down for an interview with Martin Cotton, director of OEM projects for Ventec. Martin was a PCB designer for years, so he has experience on both sides of the desk. They discussed Ventec’s reasons for coming to DesignCon, their expansion into low-loss materials, and Ventec’s new I-Connect007 book, The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to Thermal Management with Insulated Metal Substrates.
Julie Ellis: TTM’s Interface Between Designer and Fabricator
As a field application engineer for TTM, Julie Ellis sees the problems that can occur between circuit board designers and manufacturers. Barry Matties spoke with Julie at the AltiumLive event in Munich about the age-old problem of throwing designs “over the wall,” the trend towards HDI, and what advice she would give new designers.
Cadence’s Sigrity Automates Power Integrity Simulation Earlier in Design Cycle
DesignCon is always a great place to check out the latest PCB layout and simulation software tools. During DesignCon 2018, Guest Editor Kelly Dack met with Sam Chitwood, a product engineer with Cadence. Sam explained how the Cadence Sigrity simulation software now allows users to make decisions early in the design process, and how this can help optimize the design of the power delivery network and ensure signal integrity in complex PCBs.
Worldwide Systems Consulting: Tools, Process, People
In Munich for productronica, Editor Andy Shaughnessy and Publisher Barry Matties sat down with Mentor’s Jay Gorajia, director of worldwide systems consulting. Gorajia discussed Mentor’s systems consulting business, their focus on the “digital twin,” and how their acquisition by Siemens is benefitting Mentor and their customers.
Bridging the Customer-Supplier Gap
For the February issue of Design007 Magazine, we interviewed Nolan Johnson of Sunstone Circuits, and Dan Beaulieu of DB Management—our regular columnist—on the topics of knowing your customers, the challenges in dealing with customers, and providing excellent customer satisfaction.
MakeHarvard 2018: The Super Bowl of Makeathons
The inaugural MakeHarvard event was everything one would expect from the title, and more. Sunstone Circuits’ Nolan Johnson and Dustin Jablonski served as both mentors and competition judges. Sunstone sponsored a prize for the best feats of reverse engineering and documentation. Sunstone’s reverse engineering competition was one of the most hotly contested. Judging was based on creativity, depth, technical difficulty, usability, scalability, and value to society.
Still Using 1980s Formats for Design Data Handoff?
The IPC-2581 format was created in the early 2000s with the merger of two competing formats: ODB++ and GENCAM. The new format, the brainchild of the late Dieter Bergman, languished with no adoption until 2011, when a small group of companies created the IPC-2581 Consortium with the goal of getting this open, neutral and intelligent format adopted. The consortium has been growing steadily in recent years. Its membership now includes more than 100 associate members in addition to its more than 90 corporate members.
RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Valor Tool Benefits from Merging Mentor, Siemens Technologies
Oren Manor, director of business development, discusses the convergence of the electrical and mechanical discplines made possible through Mentor's merger with Siemens. Manor also explains how Mentor's Valor platform now utilizes Siemens' "digital twin" concept.
Frontline's InStack Viewer Helps Designers and Fabricators
Ben Quarles, software solultions business manager at Frontline, and Editor Andy Shaughnessy discuss the new InStack Viewer, which allows PCB designers and fabricators to investigate impedances, material properties, and other attributes of the correct stackup.
Part 2: EIPC’s 2018 Winter Conference in Lyon, Review of Day 1
We continue with the rest of Pete Starkey’s report on Day 1 of the EIPC Winter Conference in Lyon, France. Included in this segment are presentations by Ventec, Ericsson, TTM and others, plus photos of their evening tour of Alstom.
Who Really Owns the PCB Layout? Part 2
In Part 1 of this series, Paul Taubman made the bold statement that the PCB layout is just as much a mechanical effort as it is an electrical one. In Part 2, he threads the needle, explaining why he believes that a PCB truly a mechatronic design, and why mechanical engineers may be more prepared to take on the PCB layout.
APCT’s Cartel Acquisition Adds Capacity, Technology and Certifications
APCT recently acquired Cartel Electronics and its affiliate, flex and rigid-flex maker Cirtech. During DesignCon 2018, I spoke with APCT President and CEO Steve Robinson about what this acquisition means for the San Jose-based fabricator.
A Conversation with Dorine Gurney, New President of Polar Instruments
Dorine Gurney has recently been named president of Polar Instruments. With a 30-year resume that includes management positions at Mentor Graphics, Lattice Semiconductor and Tektronix, she takes the reins as Ken Taylor heads into retirement. I recently caught up with Dorine at DesignCon 2018 in Santa Clara, California.
Fully Automated Schematic Verification
Schematic verification is a part of the hardware engineer’s responsibility just as PCB layout verification is an accepted part of the PCB designer’s responsibility. However, with today’s circuit designs becoming more and more complex, time-consuming manual schematic verification is no longer an option. Manual verification of a complex circuit introduces significant risk by not identifying schematic design errors that are, in turn, passed to the downstream processes and ultimately to the fabricated board.
What’s New in EDA: The Experts Discussion
We wanted to find out what’s new in the world of EDA. Joining us on our experts conference call were Polar Instruments Managing Director Martyn Gaudion, DownStream Technologies founder Rick Almeida, and Director of Product Management Mark Hepburn and Product Management Group Director of Allegro Enterprise Products Hemant Shah, both with Cadence Design Systems. The group discussed the challenges and opportunities they see in our industry, as well as the need to bring new blood into the PCB design community.
Thermal Management Update with Doug Brooks
I had the opportunity to talk with our contributor Doug Brooks recently. He has been doing some research on temperature effects on PCB traces over the last few years, and I wanted to check the status of his latest thermal efforts. He discussed his work with Dr. Johannes Adam, why temperature charts based on a trace in isolation are inaccurate, and how the industry remained so wrong about PCB temperatures for so long.
Mike Jouppi Discusses his Drive for Better Thermal Data
If you mention thermal management in a group of PCB designers and design engineers, Mike Jouppi’s name usually pops up. Mike is an engineer and founder of the Thermal Management LLC consulting firm. He spent years updating IPC’s charts on current-carrying capacity, which had been unchanged since the 1950s. I recently caught up with Mike and asked him to give us his views on the state of thermal management, as well as the tools and standards related to thermal design.
IEEE’s Romanian SIITME Show a Success
The 23rd annual IEEE International Symposium for Design and Technology in Electronic Packaging (SIITME) was held in Constanta, Romania, in October 2017. It attracted more than 190 participants from Romania, and 13 other counties. While there might be some who question the suitability of Romania as a venue for such a conference, the country has a long technological history and has produced some top innovators and pioneers in aviation including Aurel Vlaicu, Traian Vuia, Henri Coanda, who prototyped an early jet aircraft in 1910.
HDI PCBs: Make the Right Choice from Design to Volume
Modern electronic products are expected to offer evermore advanced functions, while the products themselves are becoming increasingly smaller. There are two key factors for the successful production of HDI PCBs: first, making the right choices at the design stage, and then carefully choosing the factory that can support the specific technical demands of the project. NCAB Group COO Chris Nutall explains.
Three Perspectives for HDI Design and Manufacturing Success
Mike Creeden has been in the PCB design industry for more than 40 years now. In June 2003, he founded San Diego PCB Inc., a design bureau serving a variety of industries, including industrial, automotive electronics, medical diagnostics, internet of things (IoT), defense, aerospace, and communications markets. So, we asked Creeden to share his insights about HDI, and how designers and manufacturers can address those issues.
Who Really Owns the PCB Layout?
In order to understand the current climate, we have to look at the division of labor that took place in electronic design about 40 years ago. The labor was divided into two processes, with the first being the design itself. This process was (and still is) owned by the electrical engineers. Though circuit design has changed, the methods for representing the circuit have not. Paul Taubman of Nine Dot Connects explains.
Cannonballs, eBooks, and Signal Integrity
I-Connect007 editors Andy Shaughnessy and Pete Starkey recently met with Polar Instruments Managing Director Martyn Gaudion at productronica. They discussed the success of "The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to…Secrets of High-Speed PCBs," the ongoing challenge of facilitating communication between designers and fabricators, and the influence of chemical bond-enhancement processes on insertion loss.
Bay Area Circuits Updates InstantDFM Tool
Bay Area Circuits is on a quest to help PCB designers and design engineers. For the past few years, the company has been holding facility tours and open house events to help designers understand more about the fabrication process. Now, Bay Area Circuits has upgraded its free design tool, InstantDFM.com, which allows customers and non-customers alike to check manufacturability and request pricing of their jobs. At PCB West, Andy Shaughnessy spoke with President Stephen Garcia and COO Brian Paper about the new tool update, and some of the other services they offer for PCB designers.
Zuken Teams With Nano Dimension for 3D Printing Design Flow
At PCB West, Zuken shared a booth with Nano Dimension. Zuken has been working with Nano Dimension for some time, and adding support for 3D printing and nanotechnology to its design tool platforms. I sat down with Zuken’s Humair Mandavia and Nano Dimension’s Simon Fried to learn more about this alliance, and to find out more about this odd-looking box being demonstrated in Zuken’s booth.
Video from productronica 2017: Karel Tavernier on Ucamco's New Communic8tor
European Editor Pete Starkey and Ucamco Managing Director Karel Tavernier discuss Ucamco’s cloud-based Communic8tor platform which facilitates two-way communication between the CAM engineer and the PCB designer, or any other party involved in the manufacturing process. This gives real-time access to image data and annotations, enabling queries to be resolved, changes to be approved, and a full communications history to be maintained.
Signal Integrity: The Experts Weigh In
When we began planning the October issue on signal integrity, we arranged a conference call with a variety of industry experts. Mike Steinberger of SiSoft, Mark Thompson of Prototron Circuits, and Yogen and Sunny Patel of Candor Industries joined editors Andy Shaughnessy, Patty Goldman, Happy Holden and Publisher Barry Matties on the call for a spirited discussion about the challenges related to signal integrity and some of the tricks of the trade for helping ensure SI.
Happy Holden and Charles Pfeil Discuss the Past and Future of PCB Design, Part 2
In Part 2 of this feature interview, I continue my conversation with industry icons Happy Holden and Charles Pfeil at the recent AltiumLive 2017 event in San Diego. In this half of the interview, we discuss the potential for artificial intelligence in EDA software tools, the graying of the designer pool, and what can be done to draw more young people to PCB design.
AltiumLive Summit—Munich, Germany, Part 2
Pete Starkey continues with his review of the AltiumLive PCB Design Summit held recently in Munich, Germany. The second day commenced with a new product launch. “Working together is hard” it read on the screen. Statistics indicated that 33% of new products were late getting to market, of which 28% were late due to insufficient collaboration, and up to 50% of potential revenue could be lost through being late to market. Then the screen read “NEXUS makes it easy!”
Nine Dot Connects: Good Design Instruction is a True Value-Add
Nine Dot Connects has certainly blazed an interesting trail. The company started out as an Altium reseller, but in less than a decade, Nine Dot Connects has also become a design service bureau and a provider of PCB design instruction, training, and consulting services. I recently interviewed Paul Taubman, technical services director for Nine Dot Connects. We discussed the company’s expansion from VAR to service bureau and content provider, and the changing landscape of PCB design instruction.
AltiumLive Summit—Munich, Germany, Part 1
Altium held a very successful AltiumLive PCB Design Summit in San Diego, California at the beginning of October for the benefit of their North American design community, and followed it three weeks later with a counterpart European event in Munich. And what an eye-opener it proved to be—literally hundreds of delegates, a superbly organised and managed programme, billed as a completely immersive two-day interactive design experience on a theme of learning, connecting and getting inspired.
Happy Holden and Charles Pfeil Discuss the Past and Future of PCB Design, Part 1
When it comes to the PCB design community and the challenges facing it, as well as where design has been and where it’s heading, there aren’t many people as qualified to speak on the topic as long-time industry veterans Happy Holden and Charles Pfeil. Joined by I-Connect007’s Barry Matties at the recent AltiumLive 2017 event in San Diego, the three sat down for a discussion about the current state of PCB design, what the future holds, and what it means to be a designer.
Insulectro Teams with Isola to Address Signal Integrity Needs
Insulectro and Isola recently shared a combined booth during PCB West 2017. Insulectro has distributed Isola materials for years, and the companies wanted to focus on Isola’s line-up of high-speed, low-loss material sets. Insulectro’s Chris Hunrath, VP of Technology, and Norm Berry, Director of Laminates and OEM Marketing, sat down with me to discuss the challenges facing signal integrity engineers today, and some of the Isola low-loss, low-Dk materials that can help with their signal integrity requirements. You might find Chris and Norm speaking to a group of PCB designers near you.
Carl Schattke: I Started Designing Boards When I Was 12
Growing up with a father who owned a PCB design bureau, Carl Schattke, CID+, may have been predestined to design circuit boards for a living. In fact, he’s been designing boards for nearly his entire life. Carl gave a keynote speech at the recent AltiumLive event in San Diego, where I caught up with him to discuss a lifetime spent in PCB design, as well as the graying of the PCB design community and what might be done to inspire a youth movement in PCB design.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Software Bytes: Having Fun With Impedance
About a year ago, I was assigned a new project: become an expert in impedance, more or less. I had no idea how much this research would bring out the nerd in me. Even if you don’t typically design controlled-impedance circuit boards, you probably will eventually. Read on!
Getting Signal Integrity Right by Design
As clock frequencies increase and active devices and interconnect traces shrink and are placed ever closer together, signal integrity becomes an increasing challenge. Today, SI is typically addressed late in the design process after the PCB layout has been completed by performing complex and time-consuming 3D extractions and simulations for high-speed lines. But with little attention being paid to SI during the layout process, simulation frequently identifies numerous SI problems.
Beyond Design: Mastering “Black Magic” with Howard Johnson’s Seminars
Dr. Howard Johnson, the world’s foremost authority on signal integrity, has recently released his High-Speed Digital Design (HSDD) Collection. I recently reviewed all three of the seminars in this collection, a total of 36 hours of viewing time. If you want to gain some of Dr. Johnson's enthusiasm and master the art of high-speed design, then the collection is a must-have.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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: 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.
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: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.