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 :: Signal Integrity

Latest Articles

Mentor Graphics Takes Best Paper Award at DesignCon

At DesignCon, I met with Dave Kohlmeier, senior product line director for Mentor Graphics. We discussed their Best Paper award and DesignCon sessions such as the Signal Integrity Boot Camp, as well as the new rigid-flex capabilities found in the HypeLynx suite.

A New Power Design Methodology for PCB Designs

Advanced PCB design is an iterative process of analysis-fix-analysis. Historically, this process is very time-consuming, requiring analysis experts and PCB designers to work together to find and fix layout problems. This article describes a new PCB design methodology that allows a PCB designer to perform the power design without having to run expert-level analysis tools. This methodology provides the setup automation for advanced analysis without the need to understand every minute parameter, and can be completed in a few steps.

Tom Hausherr Discusses PCB Libraries’ BOM Builder Service

PCB Libraries CEO Tom Hausherr and Editor Kelly Dack discuss PCB Libraries’ new BOM Builder service during IPC APEX EXPO. Equipped with the new LEAP technology, the BOM Builder can potentially save PCB designers days or weeks of time normally spent turning a BOM into a CAD library.

Catching up with Polar Instruments' Geoffrey Hazelett

Product specialist Geoffrey Hazelett discusses some of the latest developments at Polar Instruments, including a new tool that will allow fabricators to determine how copper roughness will affect the end-product. He also talks about Polar's upcoming eBook on signal integrity, soon to be published by I-Connect007. Talented young technologists like Geoffrey are the future of our industry.

Cadence’s Zhen Mu Discusses Her Power-Aware Analysis Solution White Paper

At DesignCon, I met with Zhen Mu, senior principal product engineer with Cadence Design Systems, and Brad Griffin, product marketing director for Cadence. We discussed Zhen’s new white paper, “Power-Aware Analysis Solution.”

Exciting New Technology: Thermal Risk Management

Two years ago I entered into a collaboration with Dr. Johannes Adam, from Leimen Germany. Johannes has written a software simulation tool called Thermal Risk Management (TRM). We used it to look at the thermal characteristics of PCB traces under a variety of conditions, and it is hard for me to contain my excitement and enthusiasm for what it does and what we learned about traces using it. Our collaboration resulted in the publication of numerous articles and a book. In this article, I’ll talk about some of the capabilities of TRM that really caught my attention.

Real Time with...IPC: Jim Fuller Offers HDPUG Update

Sanmina's Jim Fuller gives his insight on how the High-Density Packaging User Group (HDPUG) shares the experience and resources of member companies to tackle projects and get results. Also, he reviews the study of the effect of copper bonding treatment on signal integrity

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.

True DFM: Taking Control of Your EDA Tool

We PCB designers are doing some truly great things with our layout tools. But we must remember that these tools are so powerful that they will sometimes allow us to design things that can’t be manufactured! We must collaborate with our fabricator and assembly brethren and embrace the best DFM practices, or face the consequences downstream.

A Handy Compilation of Our Top 10 DFM Articles

When we started working on this DFM issue, I searched through our files and found that we’ve published some great DFM articles over the past year or so. While topics like signal integrity tend to get most of the limelight, in the end it all comes down to solid DFM practices. So, without further ado, we present this compilation of our Top 10 DFM articles and columns.


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.

Lightning Speed Laminates: The Blending of High-Speed Digital and High-Frequency RF

When the terms high-speed and high-frequency are mentioned, people think they describe the same issue. But in reality, they can be two very different matters. The term high-speed generally refers to digital technology which transfers data at very high rates. But the term high-frequency is typically related to radio frequency (RF), which involves analog signals moving energy at high frequencies.

Mentor Graphics’ PADS Platform Bridges Design and Manufacturing

At PCB West, Barry Matties spoke with Paul Musto about Mentor’s PADS environment and their introduction of scalable software tools to help design better boards, from the enterprise level down to the entry level and hobbyists. They also discussed the evolution of the design process infrastructure in North America vs. Asia, and what design engineers should focus on to increase their value.

The Shaughnessy Report: Leadership vs. Management

Is your manager one of the great ones, a true leader? Many of your colleagues would probably answer with a pointed “No.” In our reader surveys, we ask, “What is your biggest challenge?” Every time we've posed that question, we received replies along the lines of, “Management doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing.” Some replies are too salty to print.

Freedom CAD: Navigating the Unpredictable Design Marketplace

As COO of the design service bureau Freedom CAD, Scott Miller has a front-row seat to the challenges currently plaguing designers and the design community as a whole. He shared his views with me recently, offering insights on the importance of picking the right partners and customer relationships in an unforgiving and sometimes unpredictable design marketplace.

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.

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.

The Fundamentals of Improving PCB Thermal Design

Continental's automobile engineers have years of experience building critical parts and systems for automobiles. Making sure that automotive electronics are reliable, safe, and properly designed begins at the component level. Heat must be addressed early in the design process for these goals to be achieved. The most important thermal resistance for heat, outside the IC package, is the PCB.

Quiet Power: Evaluating Evaluation Boards

Evaluation boards are very helpful. Manufacturers of complex circuits such as DC-DC converters provide boards with those circuits ready to try out, saving us time and effort to design the printed circuit board around them. Evaluation boards are supposed to help us to understand the capabilities of the device. But with the many potential user applications, what should a particular user expect and look for in an evaluation board? We need to know how to properly evaluate an evaluation board.


John Cardone on Designing Flex for Spacecraft

If you watched footage of the Mars rover driving all over the red planet, you’re familiar with some of John Cardone’s handiwork. He’s been designing rigid, flex, and rigid-flex circuitry for spacecraft since he joined JPL in the early ‘80s, and he’s worked on some of the more ground-breaking flex circuits along the way. Now John runs his own design service bureau, JMC Design Services, and he continues to design circuitry for things that blast off. I caught up with John recently and asked him to give us the straight scoop on designing boards for spacecraft.

Mike Creeden: Care and Training of Your Designers

The I-Connect007 team recently visited San Diego PCB Inc. and received a warm welcome from CEO Mike Creeden and his youthful-looking (relatively speaking) team of designers. Creeden spoke with Barry Matties and Judy Warner about what it takes to run a successful design service center, how to properly care for the PCB designers of today and tomorrow, and why IPC’s design training is paramount when training a new designer.

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.

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.

Increasing Heat Dissipation in FPGAs

In recent years, the miniaturization and modularization of electronic products have led to the increased density of electronic components and the decrease of areas for effective heat dissipation. As a result, the thermal design of high-powered electronic components has become a major focus for electronics engineers. An effective solution for FPGA heat dissipation is critical. Thermal design of the PCB aims to decrease the temperature of both components and the board through suitable measures, so that the system is capable of working at a suitable temperature.

Orange Co. Designers Council Meeting Draws A Packed House

Speaker John Stine, VP of operations at Summit Interconnect’s Anaheim facility, gave a presentation on flex and rigid-flex design and fabrication. At least 75 electronics professionals listened as Stine, an expert in flex and rigid-flex technologies, discussed proper trace geometries, grounding, cover lay, adhesives, signal integrity, impedance control, book-bindings and much more in his 80-minute presentation.

The Shaughnessy Report: Voices of the Industry

We asked readers like you to share your thoughts about PCB design. Your replies were all over the map. Of course, as journalists, we are drawn to your complaints and challenges—our publications exist to help you address these challenges. And you were not shy about sharing your complaints! Designers’ complaints haven’t changed much since I've been covering this segment.

The Many Voices Over the Past Year

In line with our "Voices of the Industry" theme this month, we're publishing this handy index of all of the interviews we've conducted over the past year with the movers and shakers, managers, entrepreneurs, and and rank-and-file designers and design engineers. In case you missed them, here's another bite of the apple, alphabetized by interviewee's last name. Enjoy!

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.


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.

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.

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.”

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.

The Importance of Design for Profit (DFP)

In this interview, Interconnect Design Solutions’ Mike Brown and I took a few minutes during the recent Geek-A-Palooza event to discuss the importance of material selection and designing for profitability, how automation affects the design process, and the future of the design community.

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.


Changing the World of PCB Rapid Prototyping

Tony Tung is a recent graduate from Taiwan who has come up with a new way for PCB designers and makers to create breadboards using printed paper circuits. I caught up with Tony at the recent San Mateo Maker Faire and sat down with him to learn more about this project.

Rogers’ John Coonrod on Insertion Loss

John Coonrod of Rogers Corporation gave a keynote presentation at the recent Geek-A-Palooza trade show, concentrating on printed circuit board fabrication’s influences on insertion loss. I sat down with John to learn more about his presentation and what OEMs and designers need to be aware of to avoid insertion loss.

Tim’s Takeaways: The Basics of Hybrid Design, Part 3

The world of hybrid design is growing, and we have lots of hybrid-specific functionality built into our software that helps designers meet and conquer the unique hybrid design requirements that they are faced with. And yet many designers out there (and I used to be one of them) have no idea what is meant when people start talking about hybrid design.

EIPC Summer Conference 2016, Day 1: Strategies to Maintain Profitability in the European PCB Industry

Resplendent in the kilt, EIPC chairman Alun Morgan welcomed a large and enthusiastic gathering of printed circuit professionals from all over Europe and as far afield as the USA, Canada and Russia, to the EIPC Summer Conference 2016 in Edinburgh, Scotland's cosmopolitan capital city.

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."

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.

Cadence Paper: Automating Inter-Layer In-Design Checks in Rigid-Flex PCBs

Flexible PCBs make it possible to create a variety of products that require small, lightweight form factors. As flexible PCB fabrication technology has matured, new design challenges have emerged. This paper discusses some of the key challenges and introduces a new PCB design approach that enhances productivity through in-design inter-layer checks.

The Partnership: Design Engineers and PCB Designers

Randy Faucette is founder, president and director of engineering at Better Boards Inc. in Cary, North Carolina. I asked Randy to talk about some of the occasional tension between PCB designers and design engineers, and what he thinks can be done to help open the lines of communication.

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.


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.

Sunstone Circuits R&D: 3D Printing Great for Prototyping

We’ve been hearing a lot about 3D printing for the past few years. But where does 3D printing fit in with traditional rigid circuit board development? Sunstone Circuits recently completed a project that focused on that very question. Sunstone Product Manager Nolan Johnson explains why 3D printing is a viable option when it comes to jigs and parts of the support infrastructure that are needed when prototyping today’s emerging technologies.

Brooks' Bits: How Many Vias Does It Take To…?

During 2015, I enjoyed a very productive collaboration with Dr. Johannes Adam, from Leimen, Germany. This resulted in several papers, but one in particular is relevant for this column, “Via Currents and Temperatures.” In that paper, we used a simulation tool, thermal risk management, developed by Dr. Adam, to simulate current flowing through a via and then determine the temperature of the via. Read on to find out how our results contradicted conventional wisdom.

Beyond FR-4: High-Performance Materials for Advanced Designs, Part 1

In the past 40-plus years of PCB manufacturing, the primary material of choice has overwhelmingly been e-glass supported FR-4 resin laminates. This is due to the excellent dimensional stability and reasonably acceptable thermal performance (based on glass transition temperature [Tg] and decomposition temperature [Td]). In general, these materials exhibit impressive performance and excellent cost for a wide range of applications.

Beyond Design: The Need for Speed—Strategies for Design Efficiency

Years of experience with one EDA tool obviously develops efficiency, whether the tool be high-end feature-packed or basic entry-level. And one becomes accustomed to the intricacies of all the good and bad features of their PCB design tool. However, there comes a time when one should really consider a change for the better to incorporate the latest methodologies. This month, I will look at productivity issues that impede the PCB design process.

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.

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.

IPC APEX EXPO: Gary Carter on First Board Manufactured With IPC-2581B

Gary Carter, senior manager of CAD engineering for Fujitsu Network Communications, discusses the first board fabricated and assembled using IPC-2581B. This 20-layer board features 21,000 component pins and 15,000 holes, with controlled impedance on all layers. He also gave a presentation on IPC-2581B during the Design Forum.

What’s New at Cadence?

Cadence Design Systems has released a variety of PCB design tools lately, and we wanted to find out a little more about what’s new at Cadence. I tracked down Product Marketing Director Brad Griffin and asked him to discuss some of the newest technology coming out of Cadence.

What’s New at Zuken?

Zuken has developed some innovative PCB design tools in the past few years, and I wanted to find out more about the company’s new and upcoming technologies. I caught up with Bob Potock, vice president of marketing for the Americas for Zuken USA, and asked him what was new at Zuken.


The PDN Bandini Mountain and Other Things I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know

Originally, Bandini Mountain referred to a mound of fertilizer built by the Bandini Fertilizer Company in California prior to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. When the company went bankrupt, this mound of fertilizer was left behind. Steve Weir coined this term to describe the large resonant frequency peak formed by the parallel combination of the on-die capacitance and the package lead inductance, as seen from the die looking into the PDN.

IPC APEX EXPO: Prototron Works with Customers to Stay on Top

Prototron Circuits Operations Manager Mike Graves explains how his company's focus on customer service, including helping with PCB designs, has made Prototron "America's Board Shop." He also discusses their expansion into flex and HDI technology, and their efforts to achieve AS9100 certification.

IPC APEX EXPO: Hofer Discusses the Pros and Cons of Backdrilling

General Manager James Hofer of Accurate Circuit Engineering discusses the process of backdrilling vias, including the benefits and drawbacks. Backdrilling can improve signal integrity, but it can also create stubs that may act as unwanted antennas.

IPC APEX EXPO: Clyde Coombs Discusses the New Printed Circuits Handbook

In this interview that was shot during the IPC APEX EXPO 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Clyde Coombs discusses the latest edition of the Printed Circuits Handbook, which was published this week. The seventh edition, co-edited with Happy Holden, includes new sections on supply chain management and PCB design, with a chapter on EDA tools by Design007 Editor Andy Shaughnessy.

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.

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.

Beyond Design: Faster than a Speeding Bullet

In optical communications, electrons don’t carry the signal—photons do. And we all know that photons travel at the speed of light. So surely, optical fibers must transmit information much faster than copper wires or traces on a multilayer PCB? Actually, photons and electrons transmit data at the same speed. The limiting factor is the relative permittivity (dielectric constant) of the medium in which the signal propagates.

DuPont, Taconic and PFC Team Up For High-Speed Flex

At DesignCon, I sat down with three flex circuit specialists: Glenn Oliver of DuPont, Tom McCarthy of Taconic, and Steve Kelly of PFC Flexible Circuits. Our discussion covered a lot of territory, most notably the findings they described in the paper they were about to present later that day at DesignCon, and the future of flex, as they see it.

Catching up With Tom Hausherr of PCB Libraries

When fate placed Tom Hausherr and I at PCB West, we made sure to carve out some time together. Tom agreed to have a long breakfast with me so I could learn more about the challenges related to component libraries and how his company addresses these issues. So, pull up a chair and join us for a chat.

Enhancing Thermal Performance of CSP Integrated Circuits

In order to meet size and weight requirements, constraints of portable electronic designs often force PCB designers to reduce the size of components and PCB real estate area. To meet these demands, the use of CSP packages to shrink the PCB area needed is a common change in designs. As a result of the reduction of total PCB area, the available options to move heat and route high-power PCB traces is also reduced. Furthermore, the thermal performance cannot be matched when a QFN is compared to an equivalent CSP package.


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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

Pulsonix Poised to Take More EDA Market Share

Publisher Barry Matties met with Bob Williams, managing director and co-owner of Pulsonix, and Sales and Marketing Manager Tyrone Stephens to discuss the challenges facing the EDA tool market, and how they’re establishing this company in the global design tool marketplace.

SnapEDA: The Female-Owned Startup Revolutionizing CAD Data

SnapEDA founder Natasha Baker may mark the beginning of a new trend in EDA: young female entrepreneurs. (When was the last time we heard about an EDA startup?) As her company prepared for a major launch, Natasha took time to explain the philosophy behind SnapEDA, and how the company is helping designers and engineers manage an ever-increasing volume of CAD data.

Orange County IPC Designers Council Meeting Draws Record Crowd

On November 18, the Orange County Chapter of the IPC Designers Council held a “Lunch ‘n’ Learn” event at the Harvard Park Community Center in Irvine, California. Eighty-nine PCB designers and electronics industry professionals gathered to listen to a talk by Chris Heard, a signal integrity engineering consultant at CSH Consulting LLC.

Beyond Design: Stackup Planning, Part 4

In this final part of the Stackup Planning series, I will look at 10-plus layer counts. The methodology I have set out in previous columns can be used to construct higher layer-count boards. In general, these boards contain more planes and therefore the issues associated with split power planes can usually be avoided. Also, 10-plus layers require very thin dielectrics in order to reduce the total board thickness. This naturally provides tight coupling between adjacent signal and plane layers reducing crosstalk and electromagnetic emissions.

Speeding up the Design Cycle: 10 Things to Remember

Many people understand the value of a PCB, but do not understand the best way to interact with PCB manufacturers. Poor planning and communication with fabricators slows down the design cycle and increases overall costs for your project. In this column, Mark Thompson streamline the design cycle through fabrication. Following my tips will minimize the need for future revisions and ensure you get quality boards on time.

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 Material Witness: Nonwoven Aramid Reinforcement is Back

In the 1st century AD, there was significant debate among Jewish theologians as to whether resurrection was possible. PCB designers in the early 21st century have had a similar concern about future availability of 85NT nonwoven aramid laminate and prepreg. The stakes may be somewhat less critical, but the future of a wide variety of programs designed around the properties of Thermount have been hanging in the balance.

Flex Circuit Shielding Design Options

Shielding may not be your company’s number one design concern when thinking about your interconnect designs. But if you have to shield circuits for EMI, then you will need to depend on your supplier to assist you with their favorite shielding technique and experience.

Insulectro Hosts Silicon Valley Designers Council Meeting

On October 15, about 25 people gathered for the IPC Designers Council Silicon Valley Chapter meeting at Insulectro's Mountain View facility. Carl Schattke, senior PCB design engineer at Tesla, was the main speaker. His presentation covered a variety of facets of PCB design, from shadowing to the location of component based on weight and surface finishes.

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.

Material Witness: Using Scaled Flow Data

Resin systems whose density is not very near 1.35 do not quite fit into the official IPC test method because all the stack weight data used assumes epoxy resin of a standard 1.35 density. Any resin whose density varies from that value requires a new set of calculated weights for various stack-ups in order to provide precise data. This is especially true of filled systems whose resin density now includes a ceramic component as well as the organic resins themselves and may have densities higher than standard.

Beyond Design: Stackup Planning, Part 3

Following on from the first Stackup Planning columns, this month’s Part 3 will look at higher layer-count stackups. The four- and six-layer configurations are not the best choice for high-speed design. In particular, each signal layer should be adjacent to, and closely coupled to, an uninterrupted reference plane, which creates a clear return path and eliminates broadside crosstalk. As the layer count increases, these rules become easier to implement but decisions regarding return current paths become more challenging.

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.

Nick Barbin: From Designer to EMS Company Owner

Many PCB designers would rather do just about anything than pore over a P&L spreadsheet. But Nick Barbin isn’t a typical designer. He co-founded the design bureau Optimum Design Associates over two decades ago, and the company later expanded into contract manufacturing and Lean processes. In this interview, Nick discussed how he wound up leading an EMS company on the Inc. 5000 list.

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.


Cannonball Stack for Conductor Roughness Modeling

In the GB/s regime, accurate modeling of conductor losses is a precursor to successful high-speed serial link designs. Failure to model roughness effects can ruin your day. The cannonball stack is an example of a cubic close-packing of equal spheres, and is the basis of modeling the surface roughness of a conductor in this article. So, what do cannonballs have to do with modeling copper roughness anyway? Bert Simonovich explains.

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.

Polar Talks Impedance Control and Insertion Loss Testing

During IPC APEX EXPO, Guest Editor Dan Feinberg sat down with Polar Instruments product specialists Michael Bode and Geoffrey Hazlett to talk about the company and its products and solutions. They also discussed some of the signal integrity technologies being enabled by the company, including controlled impedance and insertion loss testing.

HDPUG Demonstrates Benefits of Cooperative R&D

The High Density Packaging User Group (HDPUG) is a member-driven, non-profit, project-oriented industry consortium that addresses the integration of new electronics component packaging and interconnection technologies into the supply chains of its member companies.

Effective Decoupling Radius

Power distribution networks (PDN) are becoming an important topic. Many engineers are finding that properly designing the power supplies and providing adequate decoupling for devices is a challenge, especially since devices are switching faster and dimensions are shrinking. Engineers often focus on discrete decoupling capacitors placed local to switching devices in hopes of providing the required capacitance for these high current demands. Kirk Fabbri explains.

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.​

Panasonic Meeting Market Needs with Higher-Performance Megtron 7

I-Connect Technical Editor Pete Starkey sat down with Panasonic’s Tony Senese and Tomoyuki Abe at IPC APEX EXPO 2015 in San Diego--and high-speed digital materials, particularly those with very low-loss characteristics, was the focus of their discussion. Also noted were the positive responses from chemical process suppliers, and the realistic length of a product development cycle.

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.

Cadence’s Brad Griffin Digs Deep Into DDR

During DesignCon 2015, our roving reporter, Kelly Dack, stopped by to visit with Brad Griffen in the Cadence booth. What follows is their very interesting conversation that revolves around the evolution of DDR.
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