Article Highlights
Perpetual or Subscription EDA Tool Licenses? That is the Question
03/22/2017 | Judy Warner, Altium
Mentor Graphics Takes Best Paper Award at DesignCon
03/22/2017 | Andy Shaughnessy, PCBDesign007
A New Power Design Methodology for PCB Designs
03/15/2017 | Dingru Xiao, Cadence Design Systems
Tom Hausherr Discusses PCB Libraries’ BOM Builder Service
03/15/2017 | Kelly Dack, CID+
Catching up with Polar Instruments' Geoffrey Hazelett
03/08/2017 | Andy Shaughnessy, PCBDesign007
Design :: People

Latest Articles

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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