Article Highlights
Moving From 28 Gbps NRZ to 56 Gbps PAM-4: Is it a Free Lunch?
09/19/2018 | Yuriy Shlepnev, Simberian
Judy Warner: AltiumLive’s Second Year to be Even Better Than First
09/19/2018 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007
PCB Design Challenges: A Package Designer’s Perspective
09/17/2018 | Bill Acito, Cadence Design Systems
Managing the Challenges of Flex and Rigid-Flex Design
09/12/2018 | Dave Wiens, Mentor, a Siemens Business
Chuck Bauer Discusses the Future of Packaging
09/05/2018 | I-Connect007 Editorial Team
Design :: People

Latest Articles

PCB West 2018 Draws a Crowd of Designers and Technologists

The I-Connect007 team attended UP Media Group’s PCB West 2018 Conference and Exhibition in Santa Clara, California. I have been attending this event for many years, and every year the show is better than the year before. This year was no exception.

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.

BGA Fanout Routing Overview

PCB developers are deluged with new challenges caused by increasing density and smaller components. Ball grid arrays (BGAs) create particular challenges during layout, with hundreds of connections in just a few square centimeters. Fortunately, designers now have options for addressing these issues.

Faster Board Speeds Demand Constraint-Driven Design

Using powerful constraint techniques can be a double-edged sword. While the design process is made much safer by including constraints, it is all too easy to over-constrain the design and make it impossible to complete routing and placement. Even paper design guidelines can make products uneconomic to produce unless a great deal of engineering knowledge is applied during the design.

APCT Moves into Rigid-Flex with Cartel, Cirtech Acquisition

When I spoke with APCT President Steve Robinson a year ago, he said he was interested in adding flex and rigid-flex capabilities, and working closely with designers and engineers. With the recent acquisition of Cartel and their subsidiary Cirtech, APCT now has a flex and rigidflex facility, along with military and aerospace certifications. At DesignCon 2018, I asked Steve to discuss these acquisitions and what they mean for APCT and their customers.

Mark Thompson: What Designers Need to Know about Fab

Mark Thompson wants to help PCB designers. He’s seen it all in CAM support at Prototron Circuits: the incomplete or inaccurate data packages, boards that are unnecessarily complex or over-constrained, and so much more. Mark just returned to writing his popular Design007 Magazine column, The Bare (Board) Truth, which addresses questions such as, “What happens to your design at CAM?” I asked Mark to explain why it’s so important for designers to communicate with their fabricators, and why they need to get out of the office and visit a board shop every now and then.

Experts Discussion: What Does 5G Mean to Materials and EDA Tools?

Whether we’re ready for it or not, 5G technology is coming. We decided to speak with John Hendricks, market segment manager for wireless infrastructure at Rogers Corporation, and Ben Jordan, director of product and persona marketing for Altium, about the challenges related to 5G and what this means for PCB designers and fabricators.

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.


Porsche Engineering…by Design

Thomas Wischnack of Porsche Engineering is currently designing the high-power charging infrastructure that will go inside the next generation of automobiles. Thomas was a keynote speaker at AltiumLive 2017 in Munich, Germany. Barry Matties met with him to learn more about Porsche’s hardware and circuit development and what Porsche does to continually bring new designers into the fold.

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?

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.

South African Electronics Industry Going Strong

EDA Technologies is a South African company that offers PCB design engineering services, mainly for the domestic electronics market, which makes up a surprising 12.5% of South Africa’s GDP. Barry Matties recently spoke to founder Nechan Naicker about the benefits of outsourcing to South Africa, the market segments they service there, and any advice he had to offer from his 20+ years in the industry.

SnapEDA Harnesses Technology in Providing Verified Parts

Like many young entrepreneurs, Natasha Baker knew she wanted to run her own company years before she finally pulled the trigger. But she waited until the time was right, developed a business plan, and stuck to it. Now, five years after SnapEDA was launched, the company continues to expand its library parts and symbol creation services, with the help of some of today’s most cutting-edge technology. I recently caught up with Natasha, and we discussed how her team utilizes technology that has helped SnapEDA to become a major player in this space.

IPC-2581 Demo Draws a Crowd at IPC APEX EXPO

During IPC APEX EXPO 2018, the IPC-2581 Consortium held a demo of this open-source data transfer standard, attracting numerous designers, fabricators and assembly providers. Jim Pierce of Axiom Electronics and Bob Miklosey of Aegis Software sat down to discuss the demo and their involvement with the consortium. Axiom now charges more for designs submitted in the Gerber format.

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.

IoT: Let’s Put the “A” Back into EDA

If I say IoT, most people today will immediately conjure up some notion in their mind. This is especially true in the engineering community, where many of us are hanging the future of our careers on the Utopian vision of a clean, beautiful environment with hidden networks and sensors everywhere.

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.


Real Time with... DesignCon: Mentor Partners with Sintecs on EU Project

During DesignCon 2018, Guest Editor Kelly Dack interviewed Sintecs' CEO Evert Pap and system architect Hans Klos in the Mentor booth. Sintecs used Mentor's software tools to design the dReDBox, a virtual prototype project funded by the European Union.

Real Time with... DesignCon: User Feedback Helped Shape Altium Designer 18

During DesignCon 2018, Altium’s Judy Warner sat down with Editor Kelly Dack for an update on Altium’s software tools. She explains how user feedback lead the company to fix the bugs in Designer 17 during the development of Designer 18, and how “community engagement” is more than a buzzword for Altium.

Out-of-the-Box Innovation Strikes a Chord at NAMM 2018

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) holds two shows each year; the first is in Anaheim in January, and the second in Nashville in July. The January show is huge, attracting 100,000 visitors during its four-day run. My friend and editor (and bass player) Dan Feinberg has discussed how difficult it was for him to cover the CES show in a few days, and I must echo that sentiment about NAMM. It is one gigantic show.

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.

EMA Cloud Lined with Capability

Editor Kelly Dack speaks with EMA Design Automation Marketing Manager Chris Banton about the company's new free cloud-based OrCAD schematic capture tool, OrCAD's design constraint manager, and the Sigrity electrical rule checker.

Rogers Continues Expansion into High-Speed Digital Materials

Mahyar Vahabzadeh discusses a paper presented by his colleague Dr. Allen Horn at DesignCon. He also explains some of the different characteristics Rogers has discovered as they move from RF into high-speed digital materials.

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.

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.

That’s Hot: Ventec’s Goodwin on Thermal Management

IPC’s fall committee meetings were held in conjunction with SMTA International, as has been the case for several years now. Patty Goldman sat in on some subcommittee meetings, including one on laminates, where she met up with Ventec COO Mark Goodwin for a discussion on thermal management from a laminate supplier’s perspective.

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.


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.

SiSoft Preparing for DDR5 Simulation Next Year

DDR5 is expected to double the memory bandwidth and density of DDR4. Andy Shaughnessy recently spoke with SiSoft CTO Walter Katz about his company’s efforts to hit the market with this game-changing technology in 2018.

GCSI's James Kozich Discusses Industry Hiring Trends

James Kozich of Gilbert Consulting Services has been matching qualified technologists with the right jobs for decades, from the shop floor to C suite positions. During SMTA International, he sat down with Andy Shaughnessy to discuss the recent hiring trends he's seeing in electronics manufacturing.

Sunstone Integrates SnapEDA Libraries into PCB123

Sunstone Circuits and SnapEDA recently announced that SnapEDA’s parts library would be integrated into Sunstone’s PCB123 design tool. During PCB West, I interviewed EDA Product Manager Nolan Johnson of Sunstone Circuits and SnapEDA President Natasha Baker. We discussed their new partnership, the changing parts library landscape, and where the companies see this alliance heading in the future.

Meet One of the Industry’s Newest PCB Designers

Molly Knewtson is a recent graduate now working for a pharmaceutical company as a mechanical engineer. She was asked if she would consider learning PCB design and taking on some design projects. She agreed, though she had never considered circuit design as a career path. I sat down with Molly at PCB West to learn how she came to this position and what might be done to inspire more people from her generation to join the industry.

AltiumLive 2017 Attracts Hundreds of Designers

Altium conducted its first-ever users conference, AltiumLive 2017: Annual PCB Design Summit, at the Hilton Resort and Spa on beautiful Mission Bay in San Diego. This conference included a lineup of notable speakers, including four keynote speeches over the two-day event. This conference drew hundreds of PCB designers, many of whom attended breakout sessions designed in accordance with the show’s motto, “Learn – Connect – Get Inspired.”

Altium Designer 18 Introduced at AltiumLive 2017

At the recent AltiumLive 2017 event in San Diego, I sat down for an interview with Dan Fernsebner, Altium’s global head of technical marketing. Dan discussed the upcoming release of Altium Designer 18, as well as the company’s corporate responsibility for giving back to the industry and bringing more young people into EDA. The event featured speakers such as Happy Holden, Dan Beeker, Charles Pfeil, and Tara Dunn, as well as a robot team competition.

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.

RTW SMTAI: Judy Warner Discusses AltiumLive: 2017 and Her New Role

At SMTA International in Rosemont, Illinois, Judy Warner of Altium discusses her new role as director of community engagement. She also details AltiumLive: 2017, which takes place October 3-4 at the Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa. AltiumLive features Happy Holden and Charles Pfeil, as well as a robot design challenge and battle.

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!”


Enough Blame to Go Around

The idea for this article began a few months ago when The PCB Design Magazine conducted a reader survey regarding the topic “Whose Fault is that Bad Board?” After some thought, I submitted my answers. After all, I must have some kind of input after over 25 years of PCB design. But still, whose fault is that bad board? OK, I know what you’re thinking: Don’t go there. We designers make mistakes too.

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.

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.

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.

Performance Evaluation of Thin-Film Embedded Resistors

Thin-film microstrip circuits have been widely applied in microwave communications, electronic countermeasures (ECM), and aerospace applications, etc. When manufacturing thin-film ICs, it is very important to apply deposited thin-film resistor material to fabricate high-accuracy and highly stable thin-film embedded resistors. Thin-film ICs call for thin-film resistors that meet stringent requirements.

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.

Romania’s PCB Design Students Compete at TIE 2017

During the last week in April, the 26th Interconnection Techniques in Electronics (TIE) show was held at the Gheorghe Asachi Technical University in Iasi, Romaina, a wonderful hill town not unlike Rome. The event, a convention for the Romanian electronic packaging community, included a series of actions designed to draw smart young students to the electronics industry, which is clearly growing. Participants had only four hours to create this PCB design, which was generated by a team of professionals from Continental Automotive Romania Timisoara.


Whose Fault is it When the Board Fails?

In an upcoming issue of The PCB Design Magazine, we will discuss a question that you've undoubtedly faced in your job: Whose fault is it when the board fails? Of course, everyone likes to blame the PCB designer. But think about it. Is the board shop at fault, or perhaps the EMS provider? Is it the customer's fault, or does the designer bear some of the blame after all? Take this quick survey and let your voice be heard!

Steve Robinson Discusses APCT’s Tenfold Expansion

Steve Robinson, CEO of APCT, a PCB fabricator in Silicon Valley, has led the company to impressive growth since he acquired it nearly 10 years ago. I ran into Steve at DesignCon 2017, and we sat down to discuss the company’s remarkable transformation and his focus on working with PCB designers and engineers to create advanced, high-speed PCBs.

Altium Focuses on the Designer First

A few months before Judy Warner joined Altium, while she was still with I-Connect007, she sat down with Lawrence Romine to discuss the company’s drive to satisfy the individual PCB designer, and not necessarily the OEMs who employ them. Romine also explains what sets designers and engineers apart from the average person, and why some Altium users have a different primary EDA tool, but use Altium when they need a design done fast.

San Diego IPC Designers Council Meeting Held at Del Mar Show

The Del Mar Electronics and Manufacturing Show is a long-time favorite among PCB professionals. What better place to hold a meeting of the San Diego Chapter of the IPC Designers Council? Each year, the San Diego Chapter of the Designers Council hosts their largest meeting of the year at the Del Mar show. This year, approximately 50 PCB designers and electronics professionals attended the lunch-and-learn meeting.

'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.

Rigid-flex Design Tips and Best Practices

While the traditional “design-separately-then-assemble” approach minimized potential issues with the flex portions of the product, it also had several inherent disadvantages. These include the cost associated with the physical connectors; the space required for the physical connectors; the need to properly manage interconnects that have to transition between the separate rigid and flex PCBs (through the connectors); and, of course, the time and cost associated with assembly. The move to the current generation of rigid-flex technology mitigates these issues; however, they are replaced with a different set of challenges and concerns.

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.

EIPC 2017 Winter Conference Review of Day 2

Almost everyone made it back to the conference room for the start of the second day of the EIPC Winter Conference in Salzburg, even those who had enjoyed the late networking session into the early hours!

The Evolution of PCB Design and Designers

According to Rainer Asfalg of Altium, VP Sales EMEA, EDA companies owe it to their customers to provide much more than just a standard design tool. Barry Matties met with Rainer at the recent electronica show to discuss the continued evolution of the design process towards automation, and what this might mean for the education and overall requirements of PCB designers going forward.

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.


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.

Much Ado About Sales and Marketing

We recently surveyed our readers to get a better idea of what company leaders thought about sales and marketing. We sent this survey to several sales leaders; the results were informative, at times surprising, and even a bit disappointing, especially when participants reported that they had no sales and marketing plan at all. Does your company fall into that category?

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.

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.

Flexdude Abides: PCB Design for Satellites

Tom Woznicki, aka “Flexdude,” has focused primarily on flex circuit design since he founded Flex Circuit Design Co. in the 1990s, and he designed flex circuits for the Mars rover. But recently, Tom designed rigid PCBs for the TESS satellite. I asked Tom to discuss his work with TESS, and what it’s like switching between flexible and rigid PCBs.

Prototron Adding a Variety of Services and Certifications

Editor Judy Warner and Prototron Sales Manager Russ Adams discuss Prototron's new capabilities and certifications. The company recently added via fill and limited flex services, and is ready to pull the trigger on AS9100 once the new rev is finalized.

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.

Transline Technology is Bullish on Design Engineers

At the International Microwave Symposium, I met with Chris Savalia, vice president and co-owner of Transline Technology. We discussed the California-based fabricator’s philosophy, the challenges of the RF and microwave markets, and the need to engage with young design engineers now.


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 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.

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.

Signal Integrity Tools and Design Methodology in the Modern Age

The PCB design process has traditionally been done in silos. One group creates the design intent (schematic), another group implements the logic on the PCB, and yet another group does some checking of the design using analysis tools. This traditional approach has run into a number of problems.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

DownStream: What a Long EDA Trip it’s Been

No doubt about it: DownStream Technologies co-founder Joe Clark is an EDA veteran, with a history that dates back to the very beginning of EDA tools through the merger madness of the late ‘90s and beyond. I sat down with Joe during IPC APEX EXPO, and asked him about some of the changes he’s seen, and the direction of DownStream as it enters its 15th year.

Designers and Design Engineers: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Andy and Sue Critcher have been the lead designers at Total Board Solutions Limited, a UK-based design bureau, since its founding in 1998. I asked Andy to share his opinion about the friction between some PCB designers and their engineers, and what can be done to improve communications between these groups.

The Roles of the Designer and the Design Engineer

Steve Hageman has been designing electronics since elementary school. An engineer by trade, he has decades of experience performing PCB design and layout. I asked Steve to give us his opinion about the divide between some PCB designers and their engineers, and what can be done to solve this problem.

Quiet Power: Dynamic Models for Passive Components

A year ago, my Quiet Power column described the possible large loss of capacitance in multilayer ceramic capacitors when DC bias voltage is applied. However, DC bias effect is not the only way we can lose capacitance. Temperature, aging, and the magnitude of the AC voltage across the ceramic capacitor also can change its capacitance. This column will provide all of the details.

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.

Designers Notebook: Flexible and Rigid-Flex Circuit Design Principles, Part 5

The outline profile of the flexible circuit is seldom uniform. One of the primary advantages of the flexible design is that the outline can be sculpted to fit into very oblique shapes. This month, Vern Solberg focuses on outline planning, physical reinforcement, and accommodating bends and folds in flexible and rigid-flex circuits.

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.


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.

IPC APEX EXPO: Electrolube to Educate PCB Designers on Coatings

Phil Kinner, technical director of coatings for Electrolube, discusses a paper on condensation testing that he presented at IPC APEX EXPO, and his plans to educate PCB designers about conformal coatings to help them avoid problems during manufacturing.

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.

What’s New at DownStream?

Since its founding in the uncertain days of 2002, DownStream Technologies has made a name for itself with its line of PCB design post-processing tools. Founder Rick Almeida gives us an update on the latest innovations at DownStream, and he discusses some of the challenges and trends he sees in the PCB design segment.

Patricia (Patty) Goldman Inducted into IPC Hall of Fame

We at I-Connect007 are thrilled that our own Patty Goldman has been awarded the highest level of volunteer recognition that IPC can give to an individual, the Raymond E. Pritchard Hall of Fame Award. The award is given in recognition of superior achievement, extraordinary contributions and distinguished service to IPC and the advancement of the electronics industry.

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.

The Shaughnessy Report: Doing My Part for Medical Electronics

One interesting aspect of having hernia surgery recently was the number of PCBs in the operating room. I’ve never seen so many electronic devices together in my life. I saw one Agilent monitor, and a bunch of others with names I couldn’t make out. It reminded me of the IT room in most companies. I guess they had to be set up to handle routine surgery like mine, and the not-so-routine operations as well. Medical electronics is doing fine, no doubt.

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.

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.

IPC Designers Council Viewpoint: Mike Creeden

When covering the IPC Designers Council, one quickly learns that it’s the volunteers who make the train run on time. San Diego PCB CEO Mike Creeden, CID+, is one such volunteer, and as a member of the Designers Council’s Executive Board, he was a must-have for this issue. I tracked him down and asked him to give us a rundown of his involvement with the DC, and to explain why designers might want to get involved with their local DC chapters.


IPC Designers Council: Serving PCB Designers for Almost 25 Years

You may have seen Anne Marie Mulvihill at the Design Forum during IPC APEX EXPO, rounding up speakers with a sarcastic comment or two. As PCB design program manager for IPC, Anne Marie makes the design train run on time. When I told Anne Marie that we were covering the Designers Council for this issue, she jumped at the chance to help us.

The Shaughnessy Report: Are You Drowning in Data?

Data management was so much simpler during the days of Mylar and Bishop Graphics tape. Data was handwritten. All you had to do was keep track of your paperwork and you were golden. Now, you’re all much more productive, but you have data coming out of your ears; slowly but surely, incrementally, data has become much more complicated. How do designers and engineers wind up managing all of this data? With kluged-together processes and software tools, and the occasional handwritten notes.

Rogers Scales up Production and Integrates Arlon Range

Editor Pete Starkey interviews Rogers European Sales Manager John Hendricks at productronica 2015. Hendricks updates us on Rogers’ acquisition of Arlon, and explains how the Arlon products are complementary to Rogers’ existing materials.

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.

Good in, Good out: Bay Area Circuits Discusses Data Strategies

A lot of companies talk about the importance of good data management, but for some firms, this amounts to little more than lip service. Then there are companies like fabricator Bay Area Circuits. I recently sat down with Bay Area Circuits President Stephen Garcia and COO Brian Paper to discuss how automating and upgrading their data systems has significantly cut down overall process time, as well as their drive to educate young PCB designers and actively promote the industry to the emerging electronics industry workforce.

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.

Polar Instruments Fine-Tunes Layer Stackup Management

Polar Instruments CEO Martyn Gaudion and Technical Editor Pete Starkey discuss Polar’s efforts to simplify specification issues related to the supply chain. Designing PCBs with mixed materials makes layer stackup management more difficult than ever, but Gaudion explains how Polar works closely with materials providers and CAD tool vendors in order to provide users with constantly updated information.

Arlon’s John Wright Discusses New High-Performance Materials

During productronica, European Editor Pete Starkey interviewed Engineering/Quality Manager John Wright of Arlon. They discussed Arlon’s new 85HP ceramic-filled polyimide, as well as a non-woven aramid material, suitable for space applications, that is a drop-in replacement for a similar material discontinued by a competitor in 2006.

Accelerating the Design Cycle : Moving from Discipline-Centric to Product-Centric Design

Today, the design process in most cases fans out from the requirements as defined by marketing into multiple independent design threads that converge at the prototype. There is usually no systematic method for these different disciplines to communicate their work to the other disciplines. This lack of communication often leads to conflicting design decisions, such as when an electrical engineer or purchaser selects a component without having any way of knowing that it interferes with the enclosure. Extra design turns are often needed to resolve these conflicts at the prototype stage.


The Readers Speak: Tips on Accelerating your Design Cycle

This month, in addition to publishing feature articles by well-known experts in the field, we decided to collect feedback from the readers—PCB designers and engineers working in the trenches each day. We asked our readers to provide their favorite tips, tricks, and techniques for speeding up the PCB design cycle. Here are 10 tips for cutting your design time, courtesy of designers just like you.

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.

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.

Kelly Dack and Mark Thompson Unite in the War on Failure

There’s been a lot of talk about fighting the war on failure in the PCB industry. But what strategies should our generals follow to prosecute this war? What exactly constitutes a failure in the first place? Is this war even winnable? I recently spoke with longtime designer Kelly Dack and CAM support veteran Mark Thompson of Prototron Circuits about the best battle plans for beating failure, and why designers and manufacturers must team up against this common enemy.

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.

Kelly Dack Discusses His Recent Move

Dan Beaulieu has known the Prototron staff for years, and worked with them for a number of years as well. So, when he heard that they had hired Kelly Dack, a longtime PCB designer and guest editor for PCBDesign007, Dan wasted no time meeting with Kelly to talk about his new position, the future of PCB design, and the nascent interest millennials are showing in the PCB industry.

Broadcom PCB Design: Miniaturization on the Cutting Edge

Editor Andy Shaughnessy recently attended the Orange County Designer's Council “Lunch and Learn” meeting, held at the Broadcom offices on the campus of the University of California, Irvine. Afterward, he sat down with Scott Davis, CID, the senior manager of PC board design at Broadcom, to discuss the company’s savvy PCB design department and their approach to PCB design.

EchoStar’s Les Beller Shares the PCB Design-to-Fab Process

Recently, I-Connect007 Publisher Barry Matties had the opportunity to interview Les Beller of EchoStar Technologies. Beller’s career began in the early 1980s as a circuit board designer, eventually leading him to EchoStar, where he has managed the PWB design group and spent time as a PCB quality engineer. He is now a manufacturing process engineer specializing in DFx. In this interview, Beller focuses on the many challenges circuit board designers face, strategies for bridging the gap between circuit design and fabrication, and the future of circuit designers.

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.


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.
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