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Natasha Baker: Supply Chain Transparency Inside the CAD Tool
02/14/2029 | Nolan Johnson, PCB007
The Electronic Component Shortage Crisis: A Veteran Engineer’s Perspective
02/14/2029 | John Watson, CID, Legrand Inc.
Words of Advice: What Concerns You About the Future?
02/14/2029 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
A Drone's-eye View of the IPC APEX EXPO Show Floor
02/14/2019 | Real Time with...IPC
TUM Hyperloop Team Learns PCB Design on Way to Setting World Speed Record
02/14/2019 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
Natasha Baker: Supply Chain Transparency Inside the CAD Tool
Natasha Baker, CEO and founder of SnapEDA, an online parts library, discusses the benefits of transparency in online libraries to designers, and discusses strategies on how to solve supply chain challenges, and more.
The Electronic Component Shortage Crisis: A Veteran Engineer’s Perspective
From where we stand now, at the beginning of 2019, we see lead times for some components in the short range of up to 16 weeks; medium-to-high is 32 weeks, and long lead times are as far out as 80 weeks. In other words, if we ordered a component today, it would arrive in over a year a half from now (maybe). This all started with the capacitors (we will see why later), but we now see other component series being sucked into this problem.
Words of Advice: What Concerns You About the Future?
In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What concerns do you have about the future? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.
A Drone's-eye View of the IPC APEX EXPO Show Floor
If you couldn't make it to IPC APEX EXPO in San Diego, don't worry. We have full coverage of this annual must-attend event, from the opening ceremony to the close of the final day. To get a sense of the size of this year's show, check out our drone's-eye view of the show floor. Can we name our drone Air007?
TUM Hyperloop Team Learns PCB Design on Way to Setting World Speed Record
At AltiumLive Munich, I met with Tobias Bobrzik, a Technical University of Munich student and member of the TUM Hyperloop team. In 2018, the TUM Hyperloop team’s prototype pod set the world speed record of 290 miles per hour, which lead to their meeting with Musk. Tobias designed some of the PCBs used in that vehicle, so I asked him to tell us more about this experience, and what he hopes to do after graduation.
Words of Advice: Flex Design and Manufacturing Training
In a recent survey, we asked the following question: Where do your technologists acquire training or expertise regarding flexible circuits? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.
Joe Clark Discusses DownStream’s Updated Tool Lineup and IPC-2581
DownStream Technologies recently revamped their entire product line, from CAM350 through BluePrint-PCB. DownStream co-founder Joseph Clark and Guest Editor Kelly Dack discuss some of these updates, including a new GUI and capabilities such as 3D analysis, as well as news about IPC-2581.
RTW IPC APEX EXPO 2019: Oren Manor Details New Camstar Electronics Suite
In this video interview, Nolan Johnson meets with Oren Manor—director of business development for Mentor, a Siemens Business—to discuss the introduction of their new Camstar Electronics Suite software, an innovative manufacturing execution system (MES) for electronics.
RTW IPC APEX EXPO 2019: For Elmatica, the Future is All About Data
At this year's IPC APEX EXPO, guest editor Judy Warner sits down with Elmatica CEO Didrik Bech to discuss the company's business model and CircuitData, their award-winning open-source PCB design data language.
The Designers Council: A Chapter Primer From the Ground Up
Thinking it might be a way to make new contacts with PCB designers in Orange County, I attended a couple of Designers Council meetings. The chapter president at that time was Paul Fleming, who asked me to be part of his steering committee because he learned that I had spent decades in fabrication. Within a few months, he had gotten a job transfer to Arizona, so he twisted my arm to take over as the chapter president. I agreed, but little did I know that this would become a major turning point in my PCB career.
Words of Advice: Flex Design Problems
In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What are your biggest problems related to flex design? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity. How many of you would agree that "educating the customer" is your biggest challenge?
AltiumLive Munich: Day 1 Keynotes
The weather forecast was wrong! Despite my apprehension and winter clothes, there was very little snow at the Hilton Munich Airport. It could have been any season of the year inside the splendid convention facility, which was also the venue for the second European AltiumLive design summit. AltiumLive brought together a family of over 220 electronics engineers and designers eager to learn from top industry experts and applications specialists who were equally eager to share their knowledge and experience freely.
Happy Anniversary, Gerber Format: Looking Ahead to Digital Innovation
This year, we celebrate the 55th anniversary of the introduction of the Gerber machine language format. We can thank H. Joseph Gerber, the man who took manual PCB design to the next level with the automated photoplotter, for giving us this format in 1964. Gerber immigrated to the United States in 1940 with his mother following the death of his father during the Holocaust. Gerber started Gerber Scientific Instrument Company in 1948 to commercialize his first patented invention—the variable scale.
Words of Advice: Advice for Systems Designers
In a recent Design007 survey, we asked the following question: What advice would you give an OEM system designer? Here are just a few of the replies, slightly edited for clarity.
AltiumLive Munich Draws Designers from Around Europe
I’m finally unpacked after last week’s AltiumLive PCB design summit in Munich. Much like the AltiumLive event I attended in San Diego last October, the conference drew hundreds of PCB designers. This marked the second AltiumLive PCB design summit held in Munich, and Altium seems to have it down to a science. I spoke with designers from Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and Belgium, just to name a few countries. Many of them were involved in the automotive segment but some were in medical and industrial controls as well. It’s great to be at an event that is full of PCB designers, because designers are few and far between at most PCB industry events.
CES 2019 Showstoppers, the Show Floor, and Some Neat Stuff
CES 2019 is over, and those of us who spent four to five days trying to see and hear as much as possible are in recovery mode. There were over 182,000 attendees, and 6,600 of us were media all trying to get to as much of the 2.9-million-square-feet exhibit space as possible.
The Quest for Perfect Design Data Packages
There’s an ongoing problem in the PCB industry: fabrication shops are receiving incomplete or inadequate design data packages, leaving manufacturers scrambling to fill in the blanks. For a quick-turn prototype shop like Washington-based Prototron, with over 5,000 customers and up to 60% of orders coming from new customers each month, that can add up to a lot of wasted time and effort just in the quoting stage. Dave Ryder, Prototron president, and Mark Thompson, engineering support, delve into this continuing issue and more.
Altium Prepares for Munich Show as Growth Continues
It’s been just two months since the AltiumLive event drew several hundred designers to San Diego, California, and Altium is already gearing up for the next show in Munich, Germany (January 15–17, 2019). I recently spoke with Chris Donato, VP of global sales for Altium, about the upcoming AltiumLive show as well as the company’s growth over the past few years.
Alun Morgan Discusses AltiumLive Munich Keynote
EIPC Chairman Alun Morgan will deliver a keynote speech at this week’s AltiumLive event in Munich, Germany. He gave us a quick preview of his keynote, and explained what his new job entails as technology ambassador with Ventec International Group.
January 2019 Issue of Design007 Magazine Available Now
The component shortage is getting crazy. Some PCB designers are finding their favorite capacitors on 50-week and 80-week lead times, or worse. How do you design a board today when the components you need won’t be available for a year or more? In the January 2019 issue of Design007 Magazine, we asked our expert contributors to explain the current component shortage, as well as some of the workarounds that can help you get your next design out the door sooner rather than later.
A Fractal Conversation with Jim Howard and Greg Lucas
Veteran PCB technologists Jim Howard and Greg Lucas have made an interesting discovery: Certain shapes of copper planes make a PCB run more efficiently than other shapes, a process they dubbed fractal design. It doesn’t appear to cost a penny more, and testing suggests that fractal design techniques could eliminate edge noise. Barry Matties and Andy Shaughnessy asked Jim and Greg to discuss the fractal design process, and the advantages of using this technique.
Words of Advice: Streamlining Your Design Process
In a recent Design007 Survey, we asked the following question: What would help you streamline your design process? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.
Rainer Beerhalter Discusses His AltiumLive Munich Presentation
Rainer Beerhalter is a physicist, and according to his design bureau’s website, “founder, owner, and mastermind” of B GMBH. Rainer attended the first AltiumLive in Munich in 2017, and he’s returning to this year’s event in Munich January 15–17. I asked him to tell us about the class he’ll be teaching in Munich, and why he decided to come back for the sophomore AltiumLive show.
Birds of a Feather: PCB Carolina and the RTP Designers Council
At PCB Carolina 2018, I met with show founders Tony Cosentino, Randy Faucette, and Lance Olive, who are all employees at the Better Boards service bureau in nearby Cary. I asked the trio to discuss the show’s history, its relationship to the Research Triangle Park (RTP) North Carolina Chapter of the IPC Designers Council, as well as the show’s tremendous growth over the past few years.
Words of Advice: Design Challenges
In a recent Design007 survey, we asked the following question: "What are your biggest design challenges?" Here are just a few of the replies, edited slightly for clarity.
Top 10 Most-Read PCB Design Articles of 2018
Every year, we like to take a look back at the most popular PCB design news, articles, interviews, and columns. Without further ado, here are the top 10 most-read PCB design articles from the past year. Check them out.
Dan Beeker on His AltiumLive Munich Keynote and Battle With the Status Quo
Dan Beeker, senior principal engineer with NXP Semiconductors, was one of the speakers at the first AltiumLive event in San Diego in 2017. Now, he returns to AltiumLive 2019 in Munich from January 15–17 with a keynote titled, “It’s All About the Space.” Here, he discusses his keynote, which focuses on the need for designers to understand the behavior of electromagnetic fields, and why the status quo for advanced PCB design must change from, “We are going to fail,” to, “We are going to pass.”
Susy Webb: The History and Future of the Designers Council
When we started planning this issue on the IPC Designers Council, I knew I’d have to speak with design instructor Susy Webb, a longtime DC member and currently an executive board officer. I asked Susy to discuss how she first got involved with the DC, why designers should join their local chapter, and what the future holds for this group.
Calculation of Frequency-Dependent Effective Roughness Dielectric Parameters for Copper Foil Using Equivalent Capacitance Models
Knowledge of the correct parameters of laminate PCB dielectrics refined from any copper foil roughness impact and the proper foil roughness characterization are important constituents of modeling high-speed digital electronics designs.
In Medical PCB Design, Innovation Never Stops
Medical electronics is an exciting field to be working in right now with new ideas coming online almost daily. We last interviewed medical PCB designer Kenneth MacCallum in 2015. Recently, I asked him to give us an update on trends he sees in medical electronics, and some of the challenges in adapting the latest technology to this segment of the industry.
Effects of PCB Fiber Weave on High-Speed Signal Integrity
This article studies the effect of PCB fiber weave on signal integrity in terms of mode conversion and differential channel loss due to intra-pair skew. The study used Keysight ADS 2DEM simulation to observe s-parameter (i.e., insertion loss and differential to common-mode conversion) and an eye diagram for signal transmission at 1 Gbps and 10 Gbps.
Dock Brown on Succeeding at Failure Analysis
Dock Brown of DfR Solutions gave a keynote speech at SMTAI, “Requirements for Both Cleaning and Coating to Building Medical Hardware.” Barry Matties and Happy Holden sat down with Dock to discuss the current trends he sees in failure analysis, the concept of “rules versus tools,” and how predictive engineering software used early in the design cycle can help predict failures in components and microvias and drive cost down.
Randy Burcham Discusses New Techniques for BOM, Daughterboards
During AltiumLive, I spoke with IOTA Engineering's Randy Burcham, who taught several classes during the event. He explained his methodology for filtering BOM data as well as his new approach to working with daughterboards and how he was up and running on Altium tools after only three days.
The Readers Speak: The Design Data Format Survey
If you’re or designer or a design engineer, the odds are good that you have a few things to say regarding design data formats. We want to hear from you! Your participation in this design data survey would be much appreciated. We know that your time is valuable, and you’re getting ready for the holidays, so we’ve kept it short and sweet.
Martin Cotton’s Parting Shot
Martin Cotton is a unique personality in the PCB industry. As Cotton says, “I’m a designer—look at my haircut!” Cotton gave the keynote at the Institute of Circuit Technology’s 2018 Harrogate Seminar, challenging his audience to consider laminate dielectric properties in the context of power and cost in a presentation entitled 'The Effect of the Dk of a PCB Laminate on the Cost-effectiveness of Office Rental Space. Intrigued?' Read on!
Embedded Inductors with Laser Machined Gap
The power magnetics are often the largest and most expensive devices in the circuit. Integrating them into either a power converter module or system board can significantly reduce size and cost of the power converter function. This work presents the fabrication of embedded inductors and the experimental laser machining of gaps in the underlying ferrite structure.
Words of Advice: Streamlining Your Design Process
In a recent Design007 Survey, we asked the following question: What would help you streamline your design process? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.
Mentor Discusses New DFT, DFM, and Design Verification Tools
At electronica 2018, John McMillan, digital marketing program manager-Electronic Board Systems, and Mark Laing, business development manager-Valor Division of Mentor, a Siemens business, discuss new tools for PCB design verification, as well as design for manufacturing (DFM) and design for testing (DFT).
Rick Almeida Discusses DownStream's Latest News
At the 2018 electronica exhibition in Munich, Rick Almeida, founder of DownStream Technologies, brings Editor Pete Starkey up to speed with the company’s latest news.
Martyn Gaudion on Signal Integrity Modelling and Stackup Tools
The accuracy of signal integrity modelling continues to improve, and stackup tools are becoming widely used, which now include material suppliers' datasheet information. During the recent electronica show in Munich, Germany, Martyn Gaudion, managing director at Polar Instruments, explained how Polar often serves as a bridge between PCB design and fabrication, and why educating his customers is so critical.
Words of Advice: Fabricator Feedback?
In a recent Design007 Survey, we asked the following question: What is the most important feedback that you receive after your board is manufactured? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity.
New Grad Designs PCBs for Smart Baby Beds
The best ideas in the electronics industry improve the quality of our lives. At AltiumLive, I ran into Tamara Jovanovic, a new PCB designer and junior electrical engineer with Happiest Baby, a Los Angeles-based company that makes smart beds that can protect babies from crib death. After joking that I save the world from dangling participles while she’s saving babies, I asked Tamara to tell us more about smart baby beds, and how she got into PCB design in the first place.
New Designers Council Column: The Digital Layout
The IPC Designers Council is launching a new column in Design007 Magazine: “The Digital Layout.” I recently asked two IPC Designers Council (DC) Executive Board members, Mike Creeden and Stephen Chavez, to discuss the content and objective of their new column, and how this all ties in with the DC.
Stephen Chavez: Breaking the Design Data Bottleneck
When we started planning this issue on design data, I knew we’d have to speak with PCB designer and EPTAC design instructor Steph Chavez. In this interview, he explains some of the biggest issues related to good design data handoff, and he offers some ways forward.
Design Data: File Naming Conventions
Working for an EMS provider, I am often asked to make sense of customers’ PCB design data packages that must be audited for completeness and manufacturability. Quite often, EMS operations receive data to produce a PCB design and begin the auditing process, only to be called off due to customer changes. Sometimes the data is incomplete, or it is missing one or more of the data files required to fabricate the PCB at the supplier. There are also occasions where a customer has sent files that were supposed to be the updated version but were not changed at all.
Impact of Serpentine Routing on Multi-gigabit Signal Transmission
Serpentine is a technique to minimize skew or misalignment of differential pairs. The number of segments and intra-pair spacing of serpentining impacts the high-speed signal transmission. As the intra-pair gap is enlarged for serpentining, the characteristic impedance of the PCB trace in differential mode will rise. This leads to impedance discontinuity, signal reflection, and ultimately, attenuation. The signal attenuation is heavily dependent on the number of segments and intra-pair spacing of the serpentine.
At GreenSource, Lean and Green Starts on the Front End
GreenSource is the first new captive shop in American in decades, and one of the first waste-free board shops as well. The CAM engineers all work remotely, and they can launch a job without ever entering the facility. I spoke with JanNell Taylor and Andy Schilloff, who work at the CAM office in New York. We discussed what it’s like working for a company that plays by its own rules, and what they're doing to get ready for the day GreenSource goes commercial
Life Beyond 10 Gbps: Localize or Fail!
Ideally, all interconnects should look like uniform transmission lines (or wave-guiding structures) with the specified characteristic impedance. In reality, an interconnect link is typically composed of transmission lines of different types (microstrip, strip, coplanar, coaxial, etc.) and transitions between them such as vias, connectors, breakouts and so on. Transmission lines may be coupled to each other that cause crosstalk. The transitions may reflect and radiate energy due to discontinuities in signal and reference conductors. The crosstalk, reflections and radiation cause unwanted and sometime unpredictable signal degradation.
Achieving Minimal Crosstalk in Multi-board Interconnect
In an electronic system, the signal transmission exists in a closed-loop form. The forward current propagates from transmitter to receiver through the signal trace. On the other hand, for a single PCB, the return current travels backward from receiver to transmitter through the ground plane closest to the signal trace. Meanwhile, for multi-board interconnect (e.g., connectivity through flex or ribbon cable), the return current travels back to the transmitter through the ground or return wire, preferably as close as possible to the signal wire. The path of forward current and return current forms a loop inductance.
ESD Alliance Advisory Council to Shape ES Design West at SEMICON West
The Electronic System Design Alliance, a SEMI Strategic Association Partner, today hosted the first meeting of the Advisory Council of ES Design West co-located with SEMICON West 2019 West at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, July 9-11, 2019.
Julie Ellis: Communication and Fabrication Knowledge Critical for Designers
Field Application Engineer Julie Ellis of TTM sees it all: good designs, bad designs, and everything in between. Her classes on proper DFM techniques are always a big draw. She taught at the inaugural AltiumLive in 2017 and was back at this year’s event. I caught up with Julie and asked her to discuss some of the things she covered in class. As she points out, many issues could be eliminated if designers communicated with their fabricators and had a better understanding of how PCBs are manufactured.
PCB Carolina 2018 Draws a Crowd of Technologists
PCB Carolina 2018, the one-day tabletop show based in Raleigh, North Carolina, drew quite a crowd to the McKimmon Conference and Training Center at NC State University on November 7. Show managers Tony Cosentino, Randy Faucette, and Lance Olive (all employees of the Better Boards service bureau) said that this year’s event showed signs of growth compared to the 2017 show, which was also larger than the previous year. They estimated that about 1,000 people attended this year, and they expect another increase in attendance in 2019.
Max Seeley’s PCB Design Career is No Fish Story
Max Seeley, senior electrical, PCB, and manufacturing engineer with 3M, was an instructor at the first AltiumLive event in 2017, and he made a return visit to this year’s event in San Diego. I asked Max why he decided to come back to AltiumLive this year and to share the story of his rather circuitous journey into PCB design, which included a turn as a custom aquarium builder. Everyone in PCB design has a different backstory.
Pulsonix Expands into North America with Version 10 Release
At PCB West in Santa Clara, California, Guest Editor Tim Haag and Publisher Barry Matties sat down with Ty Stephens of Pulsonix on the eve of the software developer's much-anticipated version 10 release date. Stephens outlined many new updates in the upcoming release—which has been in development for over two years—and discussed the company’s desire to break into the highly competitive North American software market.
Amway Sells Beauty Products—and Designs its Own PCBs
During AltiumLive in San Diego, I met Dugan M. Karnazes, an associate electrical engineer and PCB designer at Amway. The company is famous for selling nutritional supplements and soap, but apparently Amway has been busy diversifying over the years. I was interested in finding out more about Amway’s electronics development. Dugan sat down with me to discuss his role at Amway, and how this company grew into an $8 billion global giant.
Cadence Presents New Software System and Technical Papers at PCB West 2018
During PCB West 2018, I spoke with Dan Fernsebner, product marketing group director, and Hemant Shah, product management group director for enterprise PCB products, both with Cadence Design Systems, about their new software launch—DesignTrue DFM Ecosystem. Fernsebner and Shah also address recent technical papers from Cadence on Industry 4.0, IPC-2581, system-level design, and return-path analysis and management.
Altium Designer Increasingly Used for High-Speed Design
I recently met with Mark Forbes, the director of technical marketing at Altium, during the AltiumLive event in San Diego. We discussed Mark’s class on MCAD/ECAD collaboration and the success of AltiumLive, as well as the growth of Altium users who design high-speed PCBs with Altium Designer.
Book Review: The Printed Circuit Board Designer’s Guide to… Producing the Perfect Data Package
Over the course of his career, Mark Thompson, CID+, engineering support at Prototron Circuits, has evaluated thousands of data packages and delivered numerous talks to designers and engineers about how to create the perfect package. In the spirit of “garbage in, garbage out,” data packages must be perfect to create quality boards. Learn all this and more in The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Producing the Perfect Data Package!
Catching up With Scott McCurdy and Freedom CAD
During PCB West, Scott McCurdy of Freedom CAD Services sat down with Technical Editor Tim Haag for an interview. We discussed Freedom CAD’s latest news, some trends in PCB design software tools, and the continuing need to draw more young people into a career in PCB design.
Rick Hartley is Bullish on PCB Design, 3D Printing
At the recent PCB West in Silicon Valley, Consulting Technical Editor Tim Haag met with long-time design industry veteran Rick Hartley to discuss the changing landscape of circuit board design, the layout designers of the future, and how designers can benefit from 3D printing of circuit boards.
Darwin E. George: Seeking PCB Design Job at Retirement Age
Some of us dream of living a life of leisure at 70. But not Darwin E. George. This septuagenarian wants to find a job designing PCBs. We met up with Darwin at AltiumLive, where he was networking and trying to get his foot in the door with one of the companies that are hiring now. Darwin told us about his career in PCB design, his experience learning a new EDA tool, and why he would rather design high-speed PCBs instead of playing shuffleboard for the rest of his life.
One-Question Survey, Part 2: What Advice Would You Offer a New Designer?
During AltiumLive 2018, the I-Connect007 editorial team asked some of the attendees to answer one question: What advice would you offer to a brand-new PCB designer? Here are just a few of the replies we received.
Mentor and TEXMAC Takaya Team up to Optimize DFT
At SMTAI, Mark Laing of Mentor, a Siemens Business, and Dave Levine of TEXMAC Takaya, sat down with Editor Nolan Johnson to discuss design for test, and their collaboration to improve DFT in PCB design tools and test machinery. They also traced the evolution of DFT over the past decade as it has begun to "left-shift" farther into the realm of the designer, all the way up to schematic entry.
Karl-Heinz Fritz on Cicor’s DenciTec Technology
In a recent interview, Karl-Heinz Fritz, VP of technology at Cicor, discusses the business, DenciTec technology, the impact of tariffs on trade, and applications for 3D printing and additive manufacturing, including potential new opportunities for PCB designers.
Leo Lambert Discusses IPC Training Program Updates
During SMTA International, EPTAC Technical Director Leo Lambert and Managing Editor Nolan Johnson discuss a variety of recent IPC educational program updates, many of which are designed to smooth out the training process. Lambert also explains how these changes will allow EPTAC instructors to optimize the way they present IPC classes, which include the CID and CID+.
Simon Fried: Additive Manufacturing Through Printed Electronics
Simon Fried, president of Nano Dimension, discusses how the company has taken the additive manufacturing process to the next level through printed electronics. He also shares his thoughts on the growing demand for 3D circuits, as well as how this could potentially be a game-changer for PCB designers.
Cadence: Bullish on AI
David White has been involved with artificial intelligence research for almost 30 years. Now, David is the senior group director of R&D for Cadence Design Systems, and I knew we’d have to speak with him for this issue on AI. In a recent interview, we discussed his decades of work in AI, Cadence’s research into AI and machine learning, and what he believes AI could mean for the EDA tools of the future.
Artificial Intelligence: The Future of EDA?
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been making inroads into a variety of industries in the past decade or so, from automobiles to medical devices. Naturally, EDA tool companies are taking a look at AI. Does AI offer a way forward for PCB design tool developers? I recently interviewed Paul Musto, director of marketing for the Board Systems Division of Mentor. We discussed Mentor’s plans for integrating AI into EDA tools, and why we may be at the very beginning of understanding the pros and cons of this new technology.
One-Question Survey: What Advice Would You Offer a New Designer?
During AltiumLive 2018, the I-Connect007 editorial team asked some of the attendees to answer one question: What advice would you offer to a brand-new PCB designer? Here are just a few of the replies we received.
Institute of Circuit Technology Hayling Island Seminar
After an extreme summer heat wave had left trees dehydrated and struggling to morph into their customary display of reds and golds, the leaves were brown and brittle as the great and good of the UK printed circuit board industry crossed the bridge from the mainland of the south coast of England to Hayling Island for the autumn seminar of the Institute of Circuit Technology on September 20, 2018.
AltiumLive 2018 a Mecca for PCB Designers
AltiumLive 2018 San Diego is now in the history books. This is the second annual AltiumLive (North America), and it was even better than the first. With nearly 300 hundred participants, from all parts of the country and industry, the event was a huge success.
John R. Watson Returns to AltiumLive in San Diego
When AltiumLive launched last year, John R. Watson, CID, of Legrand signed up as an instructor. He’ll be presenting at this week’s AltiumLive in San Diego as well. I spoke with John recently about his AltiumLive class, and the state of PCB design. He also discussed a few tricks for designing boards with components that are currently on an 80-week lead time, and why this problem is likely to get worse before it gets better.
AltiumLive to Feature Altium Designer 19 Release
This week, Altium Designer 19 will be officially launched to the public during AltiumLive, which takes place October 3-5 in San Diego. I asked Altium COO Ted Pawela to give us a preview of Altium Designer 19, and to explain how AD19 fits in with the company’s long-term plans. He also discusses Altium Live’s plan to provide PCB design content that is not vendor-specific to help support the entire industry, not just customers.
Front-End Expert Mark Thompson of Prototron Circuits Publishes Book on Producing the Perfect Data Package
Errors and inaccuracies slow the process down because the CAM department has to correct their data package or ask customers to clarify their intent. In the quick-turn prototype business where people pay for time, a slowdown on a three-day turn can be a disaster. I recently sat down with Thompson to find out more about his new book and discuss the quest for the perfect data package.
Artificial Intelligence: More Questions than Answers
I’ve been covering artificial intelligence (AI) and related technologies for years, particularly at events such as the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). As I write this, we are in the run-up to CES 2019, and the Artificial Intelligence Conference in San Francisco, so the AI landscape is likely to change—at an ever-accelerating rate. Let’s look at some of the challenges facing AI now, and then after CES 2019 we can take another look.
Lee Ritchey Returns to AltiumLive with 32 Gbps Design Class
Lee Ritchey was one of the instructors for last year’s inaugural AltiumLive event, which drew hundreds of PCB designers. Now, Lee is back, teaching a high-speed design class at next week’s AltiumLive in San Diego. That class is sold-out, but you can catch Lee teaching the same class at the January AltiumLive event in Germany. I asked Lee to explain what he plans to cover in this course, and why PCB designers and design engineers should consider attending one of the events.
Moving From 28 Gbps NRZ to 56 Gbps PAM-4: Is it a Free Lunch?
The usual way of signaling through PCB interconnects is a two-level pulse, an encoding of 1s and 0s or bits, named NRZ (non-return-to-zero) or PAM-2 line code type. Increasing the data rate with the NRZ code type presents some obstacles. For a 28 Gbps NRZ signal, the bit time is about 35.7 ps with the main spectral lobe below 28 GHz. For a 56 Gbps NRZ signal, the bit time is about 17. 86 ps, with the main spectral lobe below 56 GHz. One can feel the problem already: Getting PCB interconnect analysis and measurements up to 56 GHz and beyond is very challenging, to say the least.
Judy Warner: AltiumLive’s Second Year to Be Even Better Than First
Last year, Altium launched its AltiumLive event with shows in San Diego and Munich, Germany. This year, the event has expanded to include an extra day of classes. Altium is gearing up for the San Diego event in early October and the German show in January 2019. I recent spoke with Judy Warner, director of community engagement for Altium, about what designers should expect at both shows, and how the company can build on the success of the 2017 events going into the future.
PCB 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.
PCB Design Challenges: A Package Designer’s Perspective
The challenges faced by the PCB designers of today are significant. If we examine the breadth of designs, we find ever-increasing data rates and more high-speed signal routing that drive additional challenges meeting signal-quality requirements, including reflection signal loss and crosstalk issues. At the same time, designers are being asked to complete designs in shorter cycle times and in smaller form factors. They must come up with new and more complex routing strategies to better control impedance and crosstalk. Manual implementation is often time-consuming and prone to layout errors.
Managing the Challenges of Flex and Rigid-Flex Design
PCB designers working with flex or rigid-flex technology face many potential risks that can derail a project and cause costly design failures. As the name implies, flex and rigid-flex designs comprise a combination of rigid and flexible board technologies made up of multiple layers of flexible circuit substrates, attached internally and/or externally to one or more rigid boards. These combinations provide flexibility for the PCB designer working on dense designs that require a specific form factor. Rigid-flex allows the PCB design team to cost-efficiently apply greater functionality to a smaller volume of space, while providing the mechanical stability required by most applications.
Chuck Bauer Discusses the Future of Packaging
When we decided to cover the future of PCB packaging, we knew we would have to interview Charles Bauer, Ph.D., owner of TechLead Corporation. Chuck recently spoke with Happy Holden, Andy Shaughnessy and Barry Matties about current trends in packaging, the need for product designers and manufacturers to communicate, and why no matter how cool the technology is, cost is still king.
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.
The Impact of PCB Dielectric Thickness on Signal Crosstalk
Crosstalk is an unintentional electromagnetic (EM) field coupling between transmission lines on a PCB. This phenomenon becomes a major culprit in signal integrity (SI), contributing to the rise of bit error occurrence in data communications and electromagnetic interference (EMI). With the existence of mutual inductance and capacitance between two adjacent transmission lines on a PCB, crosstalk has become more severe due to the shorter signal rise/fall times at today’s higher data speed rates.
Mentor Preparing for Next-Gen PCB Designers
Millennials are the future of our industry. What does this mean for the PCB design community? How do we attract more of these smart young people to the world of PCB design? I asked Paul Musto, director of marketing for Mentor’s Board Systems Division, to explain the company’s initiatives aimed at drawing more young people into PCB design
In With the New at Cadence
The next generation of PCB designers is coming—slowly, but surely. What will this new group of designers mean for EDA vendors like Cadence Design Systems? Andy Shaughnessy recently interviewed Dan Fernsebner, product marketing group director and a veteran EDA guy, and Bryan LaPointe, lead product engineer and representative of the younger generation. They discussed the next generation of PCB designers, some of the best ways to draw smart young people into this industry, and why the PCB designers of the future may need to have a college degree just to get an interview.
Help Wanted: PCB Design Layout Specialist
I was told recently that the designer, aka the PCB layout specialist, is a dying breed soon to be extinct. I wish to reassure my fellow designers that, in my opinion, you are in the catbird seat. You are in hot demand and you should have great opportunities for the remainder of your career. By the way, after reading this article, you may feel empowered to go ask for a raise. Please don’t tell your manager that I sent you!
Advanced Stackup Planning with Impedance, Delay and Loss Validation
A typical PCB design usually starts with the material selection and stackup definition—the stackup planning or design exploration stage. How reliable are the data provided by the material vendors and PCB manufacturers? Can we use these data to predict trace width and spacing for the target trace impedance or to calculate delays or evaluate the loss budget?
Susy Webb: Training the New Generation of Designers
For years, I’ve been running into Susy Webb at PCB West, where one of the classes she teaches is PCB design basics. I always ask Susy about the class, especially the attendees’ backgrounds. Over the years, her class has begun drawing more and more degreed engineers, with fewer “traditional” PCB designers attending. I asked Susy to discuss the next generation of PCB designers, some of the trends she’s seeing among new PCB designers, and the need for designers to take charge of their own design training, whether their management agrees or not.
Thermal Management Materials: Easing the Decision-Making Process
There are many different types of thermally conductive materials, and choosing between them will be dictated by production requirements and application design, as well as critical performance factors that must be achieved.
Multi-board Design with Altium’s Ben Jordan
Not too long ago, historically speaking, most electronic products contained only one PCB. But multi-board designs have become almost ubiquitous over the past decade, and EDA software companies are working to improve and simplify the multi-board design process. Editors Andy Shaughnessy and Stephen Las Marias spoke with Ben Jordan, director of product and persona marketing for Altium, about the company’s multi-board design tools, the challenges that customers face, and the numerous trade-offs that designers must contend with while performing multi-board design.
CPCA 2018 Seminar Overview
I had the good fortune to speak at a seminar sponsored by the CPCA and organized by the China Team of I-Connect007 in Shanghai. This full-day seminar was on one of today’s hot topics, “Automation in PCB Manufacturing.”
3D Convergence of Multiboard PCB and IC Packaging Design
A new generation of 3D multiboard product-level design tools offer major improvements by managing multiboard placement in both 2D and 3D, and enabling co-design of the chip, package and board in a single environment. Multiboard design makes it possible to create and validate a design with any combination of system-on-chips (SOCs), packages, and PCBs as a complete system.
Achieving Optimum Signal Integrity During Layer Transition on High-Speed PCBs
In electronic systems, signal transmission exists in a closed-loop form. The forward current propagates from transmitter to receiver through the signal trace. Meanwhile, the return current travels backward from receiver to transmitter through the power or ground plane directly underneath the signal trace that serves as the reference or return path. The path of forward current and return current forms a loop inductance. It is important to route the high-speed signal on a continuous reference plane so that the return current can propagate on the desired path beneath the signal trace.
Dave Wiens Discusses Multi-board Design Techniques
For our multi-board design issue, I interviewed Dave Wiens, product marketing manager for Mentor, a Siemens business. We discussed how the multi-board design technique differs from laying out single boards, along with the planning, simulation and analysis processes required to design multi-board systems.
Sensible Design: Protecting PCBs from Harsh, Challenging Environments
Think very carefully about the sort of environment your PCB is likely to encounter. It is easy to over-engineer a product so that it will survive the very worst of conditions, but worst conditions may only be fleeting or transient. Therefore, a resin solution with a lower temperature performance specification will often cope. Take temperature extremes, for example. Your application may experience occasional temperature spikes of up to 180°C, which you might feel deserves treatment with a special resin.
Paving the Way for 400Gb Ethernet and 5G
This article briefly introduces the 4-level pulse amplitude modulation (PAM-4) and its application in 400 Gigabit Ethernet (400GbE), to support the booming data traffic volume in conjunction with the deployment of 5G mobile communications. Furthermore, this article also highlights the essential pre-layout effort from signal integrity perspective for physical (PHY) link design on a PCB, including material selection, transmission line design and channel simulation to support 56Gbps data rate that paves the way for seamless communication in 400GbE.
Excerpt: The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to…Flex and Rigid-Flex Fundamentals
The design process is arguably the most important part of the flex circuit procurement process. The decisions made in the design process will have a lasting impact, for better or worse, throughout the manufacturing cycle. In advance of providing important details about the actual construction of the flex circuit, it is of value to provide some sort of understanding of the expected use environment for the finished product.
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.
Making the Most of PCB Materials for 5G Microwave and mmWave Amps
Ready or not, 5G is coming, and it will require the right circuit materials for many different types of high-frequency circuits, including power amplifiers. 5G represents the latest and greatest in wireless technology, and it will be challenging to design and fabricate, starting with the circuit board materials, because it will operate across many different frequencies, such as 6 GHz and below, as well as at millimeter-wave frequencies (typically 30 GHz and above).
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.
Field Trip: CID Class Sees How Flex is Made at Streamline Circuits
While I was teaching my CID class for EPTAC in Santa Clara, I learned that we were only a block away from Streamline Circuits. Streamline does a lot of military and aerospace work, as well as communications and industrial electronics. The company manufactures quite a bit of multilayer flex and rigid-flex circuits, in addition to rigid boards. This would make a great field trip for my CID class!
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.
Design and Manufacturing Perspectives from DISH Technology’s Les Beller
I recently interviewed Les Beller, a long-time PCB designer who is now a manufacturing engineer for DISH Technology. We discussed his company’s business shift towards 5G and streaming, and the stresses that puts on a design team. He also explains the greatest challenges that he’s facing with HDI and higher frequencies, and the added importance for designers to understand the manufacturing process and DFM tools.
ITEQ Ready for Autonomous and Electric Vehicles of the Future
During DesignCon 2018, I spoke with Tarun Amla, the executive vice president and CTO of ITEQ. We discussed ITEQ’s future plans, including the development of materials for cutting-edge technology needs, such as autonomous and electric vehicles, as well as 5G technology.
Geeking Out at Geek-A-Palooza MSP 2018
Kiersten Rohde, I-Connect007 editor, covers Geek-A-Palooza MSP 2018. Geek-A-Palooza "is a different kind of gathering that combines networking with a fun, relaxing atmosphere." This event provided an opportunity for local electronics geeks from every industry segment to gather for a professional social event that included great music, food, drinks, games, raffle prizes, and booths.
EDADOC: A Driving Force in China's Automotive Electronics Design
EDADOC is one of the biggest providers of PCB design and manufacturing services in China, with a long history in automotive electronics design and manufacturing. China Editor Edy Yu recently conducted an email interview with EDADOC R&D Technical Research Manager William Zhou and Brand Planning Specialist Wen Ling, who collaborated on their answers. We discussed the challenges related to designing and fabricating automotive PCBs, the opportunities in this segment, and the trends they see in the market for autonomous and electric vehicles.
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.
Show & Tell: IPC APEX EXPO 2018 is on the Books!
I-Connect007's Happy Holden reviewed the recently concluded IPC APEX EXPO 2018. Among the highlights: Less than 10% of all new orders arrive at the PCB fabricator’s facility with complete, accurate design data. Most have missing or incorrect data.
Expert Discussion: Dan Feinberg on Automotive Electronics
A fixture at the Consumer Electronics Show, Dan Feinberg has been covering autonomous, hybrid and electric vehicles for years, along with the rapid growth of high-tech electronic gadgetry in traditional vehicles. In this freewheeling expert discussion, Dan spoke with Barry Matties, Patty Goldman, and Happy Holden about the future of auto electronics and what it all means to the PCB industry.
Zuken Pulling Ahead in Automotive PCB Design
Zuken has been developing PCB design tools for the automotive market for years. With automotive electronics worth over $200 billion globally, and growing every day, Zuken is preparing for a brave new world of smart cars, and autonomous and electric vehicles. I spoke with Humair Mandavia, chief strategy officer with Zuken, and asked him about the challenges facing automotive PCB designers, and the trends he’s seeing in this constantly evolving segment of the industry.
Interview: Incoming and Outgoing Presidents of Polar Instruments
Polar Instruments has hired some talented technologists recently, including a new president, Dorine Gurney. At DesignCon, I had the opportunity to sit down for an interview with Dorine and Ken Taylor, Polar’s outgoing president. We talked about Dorine’s objectives for the company and Ken’s plans for life after Polar.
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?
Fadi Deek Discusses Mentor’s New Power Integrity eBook
At DesignCon 2018, I ran into Mentor’s Fadi Deek, the author of both of Mentor’s I-Connect007 eBooks: the newest, "The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to Power Integrity by Example," and their first book, "The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to Signal Integrity by Example." We sat down and discussed how the idea for the books came about, as well as some of the power integrity challenges facing PCB designers and engineers.
Jan Pedersen: CircuitData Enhances Current Data Formats
During the Design Forum at IPC APEX EXPO 2018, Jan Pedersen, senior technical advisor for the PCB broker Elmatica, gave a presentation on CircuitData. The language is designed to help facilitate other design data transfer formats such as Gerber, ODB++, and IPC-2581. Jan spoke with Managing Editor Andy Shaughnessy and Contributing Technical Editor Happy Holden about how this open language works with the existing data formats, as well as the need to eliminate paper documents from design process, and how the industry can help shape this open-source language.
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.
Mentor’s HyperLynx Automates SERDES Channel Design
Mentor recently released the newest version of its HyperLynx signal integrity software. This version may be the first SI tool in the industry to fully automate SERDES design channel validation. I spoke recently with Chuck Ferry, product marketing manager with Mentor, about the new HyperLynx and some of the new serial link design capabilities that customers have been demanding.
Julie Ellis: TTM’s Interface Between Designer and Fabricator
As a field application engineer for TTM, Julie Ellis sees the problems that can occur between circuit board designers and manufacturers. Barry Matties spoke with Julie at the AltiumLive event in Munich about the age-old problem of throwing designs “over the wall,” the trend towards HDI, and what advice she would give new designers.
Cadence’s Sigrity Automates Power Integrity Simulation Earlier in Design Cycle
DesignCon is always a great place to check out the latest PCB layout and simulation software tools. During DesignCon 2018, Guest Editor Kelly Dack met with Sam Chitwood, a product engineer with Cadence. Sam explained how the Cadence Sigrity simulation software now allows users to make decisions early in the design process, and how this can help optimize the design of the power delivery network and ensure signal integrity in complex PCBs.
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.
Worldwide Systems Consulting: Tools, Process, People
In Munich for productronica, Editor Andy Shaughnessy and Publisher Barry Matties sat down with Mentor’s Jay Gorajia, director of worldwide systems consulting. Gorajia discussed Mentor’s systems consulting business, their focus on the “digital twin,” and how their acquisition by Siemens is benefitting Mentor and their customers.
RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Ucamco's New Tools for Designers, Fabricators
European Editor Pete Starkey and Ucamco partner Luc Maesen discuss Ucamco's newest solutions for PCB designers and fabricators, YELO (Yield Enhancing Layout Optimizer) and Communic8tor. Both of these products were recently launched for users in the North American market.
Bridging the Customer-Supplier Gap
For the February issue of Design007 Magazine, we interviewed Nolan Johnson of Sunstone Circuits, and Dan Beaulieu of DB Management—our regular columnist—on the topics of knowing your customers, the challenges in dealing with customers, and providing excellent customer satisfaction.
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.
Still Using 1980s Formats for Design Data Handoff?
The IPC-2581 format was created in the early 2000s with the merger of two competing formats: ODB++ and GENCAM. The new format, the brainchild of the late Dieter Bergman, languished with no adoption until 2011, when a small group of companies created the IPC-2581 Consortium with the goal of getting this open, neutral and intelligent format adopted. The consortium has been growing steadily in recent years. Its membership now includes more than 100 associate members in addition to its more than 90 corporate members.
RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Polar Instruments Discusses New Engineer, SpeedStack Upgrades
During IPC APEX EXPO 2018, Polar Instruments' Lupita Maurer and Geoffrey Hazelett sat down with Editor Andy Shaughnessy to discuss upgrades to their SpeedStack tool and Lupita's new position with the company.
RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Judy Warner Discusses EDA Market and Altium's Growth
Judy Warner, Altium's director of community engagement, discusses what it's like transitioning to the EDA software side of the business. Warner also highlights Altium's growth after reporting first-half earnings.
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.
RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Valor Tool Benefits from Merging Mentor, Siemens Technologies
Oren Manor, director of business development, discusses the convergence of the electrical and mechanical discplines made possible through Mentor's merger with Siemens. Manor also explains how Mentor's Valor platform now utilizes Siemens' "digital twin" concept.
Barry Katz Discusses SiSoft's DesignCon Papers and Plans for 2018
SiSoft President and CTO Barry Katz sat down with Editor Andy Shaughnessy to share his thoughts on the company's papers presented during DesignCon 2018, as well as SiSoft's latest products and plans for 2018.
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.
Entering—and Enjoying—the Industry
I was recently given the opportunity to write an article for our publication. Being somewhat new to this industry, I figured it would be a good idea to write an introduction on how I got into electronics—specifically the part most people my age don’t give thought to.
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.
Mentor Focusing on Power and Signal Integrity
Chuck Ferry is a product marketing manager at Mentor, and SI/PI product architect for HyperLynx tools. I spoke with Chuck recently during DesignCon 2018, and he shared some of his thoughts on the industry and Mentor’s plans for this year and beyond.
A Conversation with Dorine Gurney, New President of Polar Instruments
Dorine Gurney has recently been named president of Polar Instruments. With a 30-year resume that includes management positions at Mentor Graphics, Lattice Semiconductor and Tektronix, she takes the reins as Ken Taylor heads into retirement. I recently caught up with Dorine at DesignCon 2018 in Santa Clara, California.
Fully Automated Schematic Verification
Schematic verification is a part of the hardware engineer’s responsibility just as PCB layout verification is an accepted part of the PCB designer’s responsibility. However, with today’s circuit designs becoming more and more complex, time-consuming manual schematic verification is no longer an option. Manual verification of a complex circuit introduces significant risk by not identifying schematic design errors that are, in turn, passed to the downstream processes and ultimately to the fabricated board.
Pulsonix Ready for 2018
Pulsonix has been developing PCB design software for almost 20 years, establishing a reputation for its full-featured, low-cost design tools. Now, the UK-based company wants to break into the US market, and Pulsonix recently showcased its latest tools at PCB West. During the show, I spoke with Business Development Manager Ty Stephens about the company’s latest tools and plans to become a major player in the US market.
What’s New in EDA: The Experts Discussion
We wanted to find out what’s new in the world of EDA. Joining us on our experts conference call were Polar Instruments Managing Director Martyn Gaudion, DownStream Technologies founder Rick Almeida, and Director of Product Management Mark Hepburn and Product Management Group Director of Allegro Enterprise Products Hemant Shah, both with Cadence Design Systems. The group discussed the challenges and opportunities they see in our industry, as well as the need to bring new blood into the PCB design community.
Nano Dimension’s 3D Printing: Prototypes at the Push of a Button?
SICK AG is a global manufacturer of sensors and sensor solutions for industrial applications, with headquarters located in Waldkirch, Germany. After a demo of Nano Dimension’s new 3D printing machine at productronica, Barry Matties met with SICK’s Danny Wernet to discuss its pros and cons and get his overall impression of the technology. Are 3D prototypes really as simple as feeding in a Gerber file and pushing a button?
PCB Cooling Strategies, Part 2
In many PCB designs, component placement plays a decisive role in PCB cooling. But for some boards with areas of high heat and high current, the designer may have to utilize heat sinks, fans, and/or water cooling technology. There are a variety of cooling and heat dissipation options available now, but thermal management research still has a long way to go.
Thermal Management Update with Doug Brooks
I had the opportunity to talk with our contributor Doug Brooks recently. He has been doing some research on temperature effects on PCB traces over the last few years, and I wanted to check the status of his latest thermal efforts. He discussed his work with Dr. Johannes Adam, why temperature charts based on a trace in isolation are inaccurate, and how the industry remained so wrong about PCB temperatures for so long.
PCB Cooling Strategies, Part 1
With the development of communication and IT industries and the ever-increasing demand for information analysis, many chip makers have racked their brains trying to provide customers with better technology, such as increased computing power and storage capacity of chips as well as diversifying their product offerings.
Dr. Johannes Adam Gets Hot on Thermal Management
Thermal management expert Johannes Adam, PhD, was kind enough to take the train from his home in Leimen, Germany to meet with me during productronica in Munich. He is the creator of TRM (Thermal Risk Management) software and contributor, with Douglas G. Brooks, of "PCB Trace and Via Currents and Temperatures: The Complete Analysis, 2nd Edition." He’s also working on his own book on thermal management. Johannes sat down for an interview, and I asked him to share his views on the current state of thermal management for PCBs, and what the industry can do to put the spotlight on what’s hot in PCBs.
Mike Jouppi Discusses his Drive for Better Thermal Data
If you mention thermal management in a group of PCB designers and design engineers, Mike Jouppi’s name usually pops up. Mike is an engineer and founder of the Thermal Management LLC consulting firm. He spent years updating IPC’s charts on current-carrying capacity, which had been unchanged since the 1950s. I recently caught up with Mike and asked him to give us his views on the state of thermal management, as well as the tools and standards related to thermal design.
Streamlining Thermal Design of PCBs
When designing a PCB, thermal issues are often locked in at the point of selecting and laying out the chip package for the board. After that, only remedial actions are possible if the components are running too hot. Assumptions made about the uniformity of the airflow in these early design stages can mean a disaster for the commercial viability of a PCB if those assumptions are incorrect. A different approach is needed to improve reliability and to optimize board performance. Dr. John Parry of Mentor explains.
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.
Tips & Tricks: Rule-Based PCB Layout
You’ll need to refer to your fab house, both to ensure that they can build what you need, and to get the final say on their design rules. Some fab houses even have downloadable design rules for various CAD packages. That makes setting things up a lot easier.
Mentor White Paper: Characteristic vs. Instantaneous Impedance
Successful signal integrity analysis depends on a fundamental concept: impedance. Without a thorough understanding of the impedance values that a signal encounters along the way, designers cannot maintain good signal quality from source to receiver.
The Impact of HDI on PCB Power Distribution
A key aspect of HDI technology is the use of microvias. For reference, the IPC HDI Design Committee has identified microvias as any hole equal to or less than 150 microns. Multiple types of HDI stack-ups associated with blind and buried microvias can be used to meet the density and cost requirements for today’s products. Design teams should develop stack-ups in conjunction with the fabricator to minimize cost and meet signal integrity requirements.
Heat Transfer and Thermal Conductivity: The Facts
In my first two columns, I presented a broad introduction to the subject of thermal management of electronic circuits. This month I’m taking a closer look at thermal interface materials—how they can be applied to achieve efficient heat transfer, and the significance of bulk thermal conductivity in relation to heat transfer and thermal resistance.
HDI PCBs: Make the Right Choice from Design to Volume
Modern electronic products are expected to offer evermore advanced functions, while the products themselves are becoming increasingly smaller. There are two key factors for the successful production of HDI PCBs: first, making the right choices at the design stage, and then carefully choosing the factory that can support the specific technical demands of the project. NCAB Group COO Chris Nutall explains.
Three Perspectives for HDI Design and Manufacturing Success
Mike Creeden has been in the PCB design industry for more than 40 years now. In June 2003, he founded San Diego PCB Inc., a design bureau serving a variety of industries, including industrial, automotive electronics, medical diagnostics, internet of things (IoT), defense, aerospace, and communications markets. So, we asked Creeden to share his insights about HDI, and how designers and manufacturers can address those issues.
Who Really Owns the PCB Layout?
In order to understand the current climate, we have to look at the division of labor that took place in electronic design about 40 years ago. The labor was divided into two processes, with the first being the design itself. This process was (and still is) owned by the electrical engineers. Though circuit design has changed, the methods for representing the circuit have not. Paul Taubman of Nine Dot Connects explains.
Lee Ritchey On the Future of PCB Design
I spoke with long-time PCB design instructor and Right the First Time author Lee Ritchey during the recent AltiumLive event in Germany. Lee and I discussed everything from the advice he offers to young PCB designers to his thoughts on where the industry is going and what’s missing from today’s electrical engineering curriculum.
Cannonballs, eBooks, and Signal Integrity
I-Connect007 editors Andy Shaughnessy and Pete Starkey recently met with Polar Instruments Managing Director Martyn Gaudion at productronica. They discussed the success of "The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to…Secrets of High-Speed PCBs," the ongoing challenge of facilitating communication between designers and fabricators, and the influence of chemical bond-enhancement processes on insertion loss.
Bay Area Circuits Updates InstantDFM Tool
Bay Area Circuits is on a quest to help PCB designers and design engineers. For the past few years, the company has been holding facility tours and open house events to help designers understand more about the fabrication process. Now, Bay Area Circuits has upgraded its free design tool, InstantDFM.com, which allows customers and non-customers alike to check manufacturability and request pricing of their jobs. At PCB West, Andy Shaughnessy spoke with President Stephen Garcia and COO Brian Paper about the new tool update, and some of the other services they offer for PCB designers.
Nancy Jaster Brings Manufacturing, Design Background to Designers Council
Nancy Jaster was recently named the head of the IPC Designers Council. At the recent AltiumLive 2017 event, I spoke with Nancy about her unique background in both design and manufacturing, and how she hopes to use that experience and mindset to revitalize the Designers Council going forward, particularly with the International and student chapters. We also discussed her plans to bring more young people, particularly women, into the industry.
Zuken Teams With Nano Dimension for 3D Printing Design Flow
At PCB West, Zuken shared a booth with Nano Dimension. Zuken has been working with Nano Dimension for some time, and adding support for 3D printing and nanotechnology to its design tool platforms. I sat down with Zuken’s Humair Mandavia and Nano Dimension’s Simon Fried to learn more about this alliance, and to find out more about this odd-looking box being demonstrated in Zuken’s booth.
Video from productronica 2017: Karel Tavernier on Ucamco's New Communic8tor
European Editor Pete Starkey and Ucamco Managing Director Karel Tavernier discuss Ucamco’s cloud-based Communic8tor platform which facilitates two-way communication between the CAM engineer and the PCB designer, or any other party involved in the manufacturing process. This gives real-time access to image data and annotations, enabling queries to be resolved, changes to be approved, and a full communications history to be maintained.
Signal Integrity: The Experts Weigh In
When we began planning the October issue on signal integrity, we arranged a conference call with a variety of industry experts. Mike Steinberger of SiSoft, Mark Thompson of Prototron Circuits, and Yogen and Sunny Patel of Candor Industries joined editors Andy Shaughnessy, Patty Goldman, Happy Holden and Publisher Barry Matties on the call for a spirited discussion about the challenges related to signal integrity and some of the tricks of the trade for helping ensure SI.
Happy Holden and Charles Pfeil Discuss the Past and Future of PCB Design, Part 2
In Part 2 of this feature interview, I continue my conversation with industry icons Happy Holden and Charles Pfeil at the recent AltiumLive 2017 event in San Diego. In this half of the interview, we discuss the potential for artificial intelligence in EDA software tools, the graying of the designer pool, and what can be done to draw more young people to PCB design.
AltiumLive Summit—Munich, Germany, Part 2
Pete Starkey continues with his review of the AltiumLive PCB Design Summit held recently in Munich, Germany. The second day commenced with a new product launch. “Working together is hard” it read on the screen. Statistics indicated that 33% of new products were late getting to market, of which 28% were late due to insufficient collaboration, and up to 50% of potential revenue could be lost through being late to market. Then the screen read “NEXUS makes it easy!”
Nine Dot Connects: Good Design Instruction is a True Value-Add
Nine Dot Connects has certainly blazed an interesting trail. The company started out as an Altium reseller, but in less than a decade, Nine Dot Connects has also become a design service bureau and a provider of PCB design instruction, training, and consulting services. I recently interviewed Paul Taubman, technical services director for Nine Dot Connects. We discussed the company’s expansion from VAR to service bureau and content provider, and the changing landscape of PCB design instruction.
AltiumLive Summit—Munich, Germany, Part 1
Altium held a very successful AltiumLive PCB Design Summit in San Diego, California at the beginning of October for the benefit of their North American design community, and followed it three weeks later with a counterpart European event in Munich. And what an eye-opener it proved to be—literally hundreds of delegates, a superbly organised and managed programme, billed as a completely immersive two-day interactive design experience on a theme of learning, connecting and getting inspired.
Happy Holden and Charles Pfeil Discuss the Past and Future of PCB Design, Part 1
When it comes to the PCB design community and the challenges facing it, as well as where design has been and where it’s heading, there aren’t many people as qualified to speak on the topic as long-time industry veterans Happy Holden and Charles Pfeil. Joined by I-Connect007’s Barry Matties at the recent AltiumLive 2017 event in San Diego, the three sat down for a discussion about the current state of PCB design, what the future holds, and what it means to be a designer.
Insulectro Teams with Isola to Address Signal Integrity Needs
Insulectro and Isola recently shared a combined booth during PCB West 2017. Insulectro has distributed Isola materials for years, and the companies wanted to focus on Isola’s line-up of high-speed, low-loss material sets. Insulectro’s Chris Hunrath, VP of Technology, and Norm Berry, Director of Laminates and OEM Marketing, sat down with me to discuss the challenges facing signal integrity engineers today, and some of the Isola low-loss, low-Dk materials that can help with their signal integrity requirements. You might find Chris and Norm speaking to a group of PCB designers near you.
AltiumLive 2017 Munich: Sold Out!
I recently sat down with Ted Pawela, Lawrence Romine, and Judy Warner of Altium to wrap up their sold-out AltiumLive 2017 PCB Design Summit in Munich, Germany. This conference, following on the heels of an AltiumLive event in San Diego, was packed full of PCB designers who attended a series of great keynotes and an excellent technical program. We discussed some of the highlights of the show, including designers’ reactions to a new version of Altium Designer 18 and the brand-new Altium Nexus tool.
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.
The History of Predictive Engineering
It all started in 1983, at HP, when I complained to our group's vice president that our W. Edwards Deming and Total Quality Management (TQM) Six Sigma training was being concentrated in PCB manufacturing. We had eliminated final inspection and instead placed quality in the hands of the operators with a final electrical test. The electrical test was governed by what we learned from Deming.
Carl Schattke: I Started Designing Boards When I Was 12
Growing up with a father who owned a PCB design bureau, Carl Schattke, CID+, may have been predestined to design circuit boards for a living. In fact, he’s been designing boards for nearly his entire life. Carl gave a keynote speech at the recent AltiumLive event in San Diego, where I caught up with him to discuss a lifetime spent in PCB design, as well as the graying of the PCB design community and what might be done to inspire a youth movement in PCB design.
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.
Polar Instruments’ Martyn Gaudion Discusses Tools and Books
Polar Instruments has pretty been busy lately. In the last year, Managing Director Martyn Gaudion has written two books for I-Connect007, and the company has been working to upgrade its tools, especially library functionality. I met with Martyn at PCB West. We discussed Polar’s newest tool updates, Martyn’s new side job as an author of technical books, and the continuing growth of the EDA segment, including among young people.
Dan Beeker’s AltiumLive Keynote: It's All about the Space
Dan Beeker of NXP Semiconductors was a keynote speaker at the recent AltiumLive 2017 event in San Diego. His presentation focused primarily on the design of three-dimensional structures and how it’s all about space. I caught up with Dan, and we discussed his presentation, his background and career, and what kind of advice he would give to young PCB designers.
PCB Signal Integrity Optimization Using X-ray Metrology
It happens again. A new backbone router/switch build or a line card upgrade is approaching completion when something goes wrong. The system won’t operate at the targeted data rate. Deadlines are looming and the root cause of the problem is buried somewhere in a big rack of electronic components.
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.
Full Coverage of AltiumLive 2017
Altium recently conducted its first-ever users conference, AltiumLive 2017: Annual PCB Design Summit, at the Hilton Resort and Spa in San Diego. Speakers included Dan Beeker of NXP Semiconductors, Max Seeley of 3M Corporate R&D, Tara Dunn of OMNI PCB, Susy Webb of Fairfield Nodal, Charles Pfeil of Altium, and our own Happy Holden. This conference drew hundreds of PCB designers, and included a robot design challenge and battle. If you couldn’t make it, don’t worry. We shot a variety of video and still photos.
Predictive Engineering: Happy Holden Discusses True DFM
Happy Holden has been involved in DFM for over 45 years, since he first started working at HP and optimized their PCB design and manufacturing processes. Naturally, for this issue, Barry Matties and Andy Shaughnessy made it a priority to get Happy’s thoughts on DFM, and what true DFM entails.
It’s Not Your Father’s DFM Anymore
What does DFM look like today? Well, for one, it’s become more than DFM. We now expect our software tools to serve us more completely to take new designs to market. DFM has evolved to become an integral part of new product introductions (NPI). Today’s NPI software spans design and manufacturing to accelerate the optimization of a PCB for manufacturing. It looks at the entire design-to-manufacturing release process and deliverables, then streamlines them.
Sensible Design: Thermal Management—The Heat is On
Thermal management materials are designed to prolong equipment life and reduce incidences of failure. They also maintain equipment performance parameters and reduce energy consumption by reducing operating temperatures, and minimising the risk of damage to surrounding components. Indirectly, they maintain brand reputation, as the reliability of the equipment will be very dependent upon the effectiveness of the thermal management technique used.
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!”
Whose Fault is That Bad Board?
Years ago, I held a position in an EMS company where projects were analysed before manufacturing. We found that even some of the best and most innovative circuits could not be manufactured. Why? Because the PCB designer, an electronic engineer, was not acquainted with the fabrication process. He had no idea about technological requirements necessary for electronic production. I know another designer who learned, finally, the importance of the thermal relief pad for heat restriction during reflow for a good soldering. His response? “Oh, was that what they were for? And to think I worked so much to remove them!”
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.
Resins: Cutting Through the Technical Jargon
This month, I’m going to cut through some of the more heavy-going tech-speak, taking a few of my customers’ more frequently asked questions about resins to try to help you refine your selection process. There’s a lot of ground to cover, but for the purposes of this column, let’s concentrate on the PCB’s operating environment, caring for the components that are to be encapsulated, and the special needs of applications like LED lighting and RF systems.
New Challenges Facing Mil/Aero Segment
For this month's issue, we invited a sampling of professionals whose experience centers on the electronics industry in the military and aerospace world, including experts from design, PCB manufacturing, and the assembly arena to sit down with us for a frank discussion. Our discussion centered on the challenges associated with military work, including the new regulatory requirements for cybersecurity, dealing with leaded vs. lead-free components, and the differences and similarities with the commercial world.
Stephen V. Chavez Talks Mil/Aero PCB Design
Stephen V. Chavez, CID+, is the lead PCB designer for the Electronic Systems Center division of UTC Aerospace Systems (UTAS), a military contractor that builds all manner of cutting-edge tools for the American warfigher. He’s been designing military and aerospace PCBs for decades, and he’s a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. I caught up with Steph and asked for his thoughts on designing PCBs for the military and aerospace markets.
Orange Co. Designers Council Meeting Focuses on Embedded Passives
On July 19, the Orange County Chapter of the IPC Designer’s Council hosted a lunch-and-learn meeting in Tustin to discuss the benefits of embedded passives. Approximately 40 people were in attendance, which was lighter turnout than usual, most likely because of summer vacations. But the crowd was an enthusiastic one, as usual. The first speaker was Bruce Mahler of Ohmega Technologies, followed by Jin Hyun-Hwang of Dupont.
Trilogy Circuits: Mil/Aero Demands Technological, Regulatory Expertise
In the 16 years since its founding, Trilogy Circuits has become one of the go-to companies for mil/aero PCB design and manufacturing. I spoke with Charlie Capers, president and founder of the Richardson, Texas firm, about how he keeps ahead of the game. As he explains, succeeding with mil/aero PCB work requires not only mastery of the technological side, but of the regulations and certifications as well.
Using Vibration and Acceleration Analysis to Improve Reliability
Deriving the physical constraints and fatigue issues for a design prior to manufacturing is essential to reducing board failure and thereby improving product quality. In harsh environments, fatigue can be responsible for up to 20% of failures. Customers have come to expect reliability across the industry spectrum no matter where actual production occurs. Reliable products have less risk of failure, less field returns and less warranty claims, all of which contribute to higher profitability. It is a given that every product is expected to fail at some point, however premature failures can be mitigated through proper design with attention to potential issues due to vibration and acceleration.
PCB Designers Notebook: Embedding Components, Part 2
Technology and processes for embedding capacitor and inductor elements rely on several unique methodologies. Regarding providing capacitor functions, IPC-4821 defines two methodologies for forming capacitor elements within the PCB structure: laminate-based (copper-dielectric-copper) or planar process and non-laminate process using deposited dielectric materials.
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.
Embedded Technology: A Useful Tool in Freedom CAD’s Toolbox
Freedom CAD has been designing and fabricating boards with embedded technology for years, and doing some pretty innovative work along the way. I asked Scott McCurdy, Freedom CAD’s director of sales and marketing, to share some details about their embedded processes, as well as the challenges and opportunities that embedded technology offers.
A Deep Look Into Embedded Technology
In preparation for this month’s magazine, we set up a conference call with the goal of uncovering the challenges and opportunities related to embedded technology. Invited were a handful of the industry’s heavy hitters in the embedded world: Retired technologist and I-Connect007 Contributing Editor Happy Holden, and Ohmega’s Technical Director Daniel Brandler and Design & Test Engineer Manuel Herrera.
Launching a New PCB Design Curriculum in Serbia
Let me share with you an experience that I remember from my college days. When I was a student, I had a professor who was too proud of the fact that she was an academic. “You don’t need to know how to manually solder electrical parts or how to design printed circuit boards,” she lectured. “It is important that you understand the formula for charge carrier currents in a p-n junction.” I started working as an R&D engineer for a Swiss company that developed and manufactured instruments for measuring magnetic fields and electrical currents. And nobody ever asked me about charge carriers in p-n junctions.
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.
Must Work Well on a Team; CID a Bonus
Throughout my decades-long career in PCB design, I have been fortunate. I’ve only had to search for a job out of desperation once. I had no idea my IPC Certified Interconnect Designer credentials would come in handy when I hit the pavement. It also helped that I am known to "work well on a team." It turns out that being able to play well with others is a real plus in the PCB design community.
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!
PCB Design in the Age of IoT
From the early days of printed circuit boards, the electronics industry has made huge strides in board materials, copper printing methods, miniaturization, rigid-flex, ELIC, EDA, and much more. Many of the devices we use in our homes, our vehicles, and in our workplaces would not be possible without this continuous evolution of PCB design and technology. And yet in 2017, we are poised to shift from evolution to revolution, driven by the idea of the Internet of Things.
SnapEDA: Recruiting Top Engineering Talent in an Amazon World
You don’t have to love EDA to work at SnapEDA, but it helps. This startup, founded by Natasha Baker, is on its way to creating the world’s largest parts library for PCB designers. Baker leads a small team of young, fiercely talented engineers—the kind of employees that are attractive to companies like Google and Facebook. I asked Natasha to explain her hiring process, and how she ensures that each employee is the right fit for SnapEDA.
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.
Bruce Mahler Discusses Ohmega’s Resistive Material Technology
Bruce Mahler, vice president of Ohmega Technologies, sat down for an interview with me at DesignCon 2017. He discussed the company’s latest embedded resistive materials, as well as some of the drivers and challenges in that segment of the materials industry.
Sensible Design: Casting a Spotlight on Resin Applications
Over the last few columns, I’ve given readers pointers on virtually every aspect of potting and encapsulation resins, ranging from their formulations and special properties to their applications, benefits and limitations. It’s probably high time, therefore, to take a step back from the do's and don’ts and focus instead on how these resins are bringing very real benefits to practical electronic and electrical engineering applications. A good starting point is to look at the special requirements of an industry that is enjoying explosive growth: LED lighting.
TTM Shines a Light on Optical Interconnect
Are embedded optics on PCBs set to make a breakthrough in the upcoming years? According to Dr. Craig Davidson, VP of Corporate Technology at TTM, it might be closer than you’d expect. In a recent interview with the I-Connect007 team, Craig outlines TTM’s current pursuit of high-volume manufacturing lines able to deliver embedded optical interconnect, what that would mean for the PCB industry, and why he thinks there will be manufacturing production capability by 2020.
'Flexdude' Tom Woznicki Celebrates Company’s 25th Anniversary
Twenty-five years ago, Tom “Flexdude” Woznicki got laid off. A lot of people did, back during the mini-recession that helped bring Bill Clinton into the White House. So, he launched his own flex circuit design bureau and never looked back. Since then, he’s designed flex circuitry for everything under the sun, including the Mars Rover; the flex circuits he designed are visible in many of the Rover photos. I ran into Tom at DesignCon 2017 and we discussed the benefits of flex circuits, the expansion of the flex market, and his company’s first quarter-century in operation.
China High-Speed PCB Market Update with Polar's Simon Chan
During the recent CPCA Show in Shanghai, Editor Stephen Las Marias and Polar Instruments (China) Assistant Manager Simon Chan discussed the opportunities and challenges for Polar's customers in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as the current state of the high-speed PCB market in China.
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.
Perpetual or Subscription EDA Tool Licenses? That is the Question
After I began working at Altium, I started learning all I could about PCB design software licensing. I wondered about the pros and cons of perpetual vs. subscription licenses. I wanted to learn firsthand from PCB designers what kind of benefits they received and challenges they faced as a result of how EDA companies offered design tools. I reached out to a variety of sources to get a broad slice of insight into this evolving issue, and thus began my trip down the EDA licensing software rabbit hole.
Mentor Graphics Takes Best Paper Award at DesignCon
At DesignCon, I met with Dave Kohlmeier, senior product line director for Mentor Graphics. We discussed their Best Paper award and DesignCon sessions such as the Signal Integrity Boot Camp, as well as the new rigid-flex capabilities found in the HypeLynx suite.
A New Power Design Methodology for PCB Designs
Advanced PCB design is an iterative process of analysis-fix-analysis. Historically, this process is very time-consuming, requiring analysis experts and PCB designers to work together to find and fix layout problems. This article describes a new PCB design methodology that allows a PCB designer to perform the power design without having to run expert-level analysis tools. This methodology provides the setup automation for advanced analysis without the need to understand every minute parameter, and can be completed in a few steps.
Tom Hausherr Discusses PCB Libraries’ BOM Builder Service
PCB Libraries CEO Tom Hausherr and Editor Kelly Dack discuss PCB Libraries’ new BOM Builder service during IPC APEX EXPO. Equipped with the new LEAP technology, the BOM Builder can potentially save PCB designers days or weeks of time normally spent turning a BOM into a CAD library.
Catching up with Polar Instruments' Geoffrey Hazelett
Product specialist Geoffrey Hazelett discusses some of the latest developments at Polar Instruments, including a new tool that will allow fabricators to determine how copper roughness will affect the end-product. He also talks about Polar's upcoming eBook on signal integrity, soon to be published by I-Connect007. Talented young technologists like Geoffrey are the future of our industry.
Cadence’s Zhen Mu Discusses Her Power-Aware Analysis Solution White Paper
At DesignCon, I met with Zhen Mu, senior principal product engineer with Cadence Design Systems, and Brad Griffin, product marketing director for Cadence. We discussed Zhen’s new white paper, “Power-Aware Analysis Solution.”
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.
Kelly Dack and Mike Creeden: Are We in a PCB Design Renaissance?
Technical Editor Kelly Dack and San Diego PCB founder Mike Creeden discuss some of the trends they're seeing in the PCB design community, including greater numbers of young people becoming designers and more EEs doing design work. They also focus on IPC's training and designer certification efforts, and the need for designers to get out of the office and visit a board shop once in a while.
Selling PCB Design Services in a First-World Country
As the business operations manager for Better Boards Inc., I see our company at the focal point for consolidation: a gathering of skilled board designers to create a center of excellence. It is at this point that we have the critical problem facing a PCB design services company: How do we effectively sell these services back to the companies that cast off their own skilled employees? How do we sell PCB design services into small companies that can barely afford the one overworked electrical engineer that they hired last year?
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
In Deep: The Art and Science of DFM with Gary Ferrari
When the topic of DFM techniques came up, I knew I had to talk with Gary Ferrari of FTG Corp. Gary has been involved with designing and manufacturing PCBs for decades, and he’s the past co-founder and executive director of the IPC Designers Council. I caught up with Gary between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we conducted the following interview.
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.
IPC Designers Council San Diego Chapter Meeting: Flex Focus Fills the House
A report from the January meeting of the San Diego chapter of the IPC Designers Council. The meeting was hosted by the PCB design bureau San Diego PCB, with the featured guest speaker John Stine of Summit Interconnect. Stine’s presentation focused on flex and rigid-flex DFM, and he offered a variety of helpful design tips to the full house of 30-40 designers in attendance.
A Handy Compilation of Our Top 10 DFM Articles
When we started working on this DFM issue, I searched through our files and found that we’ve published some great DFM articles over the past year or so. While topics like signal integrity tend to get most of the limelight, in the end it all comes down to solid DFM practices. So, without further ado, we present this compilation of our Top 10 DFM articles and columns.
Flex and Rigid Sales and Marketing with Al Wasserzug
After decades in the PCB industry, Al Wasserzug of Cirexx International has seen marketing and sales trends come and go. I recently caught up with Al and interviewed him via email about the latest sales and marketing techniques, the value of traditional methods such as trade shows and conferences, and the particular characteristics of marketing flex circuits.
Altium’s Sales Plan: Deal Directly with Designers
Altium has been shaking up the EDA world for quite some time. The Australian company once slashed the cost of Altium Designer by 75% to grow market share, and who could forget their famous (or infamous) “Bunny” ad campaign? In this email interview with Lawrence Romine, Altium’s global head of field marketing, he shares his views on sales and marketing in the EDA world, as well as Altium’s philosophy on selling EDA tools.
Top 10 Most-Read Design Articles of 2016
Every January, I like to go back through the last year and see which articles had the highest number of views. They're usually the articles that bring you PCB design and industry information that's relevant to your job. Check out the most-read PCB design articles from 2016.
Sales and Marketing with DownStream Technologies
From its inception, DownStream Technologies has been a new kind of software tool company. DownStream’s post-processing tools address one of the most unpopular parts of the design process: documentation. DownStream's CEO Rick Almeida discusses some of his firm’s marketing and sales methods, the trends that he sees, and the influence of the Internet on marketing.
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?
Resins: Five Essentials to Achieve the Right Cure
Last month, I looked at some of the critical things you need to consider before selecting your resin. Of course, when it comes to the choice and application of resins, there’s a lot of information to take in, and over the following months I hope to distill this and provide some useful tips and design advice that will help you in your quest for reliable circuit protection.
SiSoft Discusses Signal Integrity Drivers and Challenges
In the last few years, SiSoft has launched a variety of innovative SI tools that help automate tasks that used to take weeks or months to complete. I recently interviewed CEO Barry Katz via email, and he detailed their customers’ challenges, and some of the market drivers in the world of signal integrity.
Sunstone Circuits Makes Shift in Strategy, Offerings
Sunstone Circuits, the Oregon-based online vendor of quickturn circuit boards, has recently made a shift in capabilities that will enable a move into the RF and microwave space. At PCB West, Publisher Barry Matties caught up with Sunstone’s David Warren, and they discussed details of this change and how they plan to approach such a competitive marketplace.
CAT’s David Wolf on Via Reliability Analysis
Conductor Analysis Technologies (CAT) has been analyzing test panels and coupon designs for over 20 years. CAT’s analysis provides valuable, quantitative data on PCB quality and reliability, which can help designers and manufacturers trace the source of defects and non-uniformities. Vice President of Technical Marketing David Wolf discusses some of the trends he’s seeing in via structures, and the common reliability and quality issues related to vias.
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.
TTM SJ Hosts IPC Designers Council Meeting
The Silicon Valley Chapter of the IPC Designers Council was treated to a delicious barbecue lunch on October 13 at TTM’s San Jose facility. About 20 PCB designers and support professionals gathered for the tri-tip lunch-n-learn conference.
Leo Lambert Discusses EPTAC’s Evolving Mission
This month we’ve been dealing with challenges related to being a great manager and a great leader. One of the biggest problems a manager faces is training—getting employees trained, and keeping them current on constantly changing technologies. I asked Leo Lambert, VP and CTO of EPTAC, what his thoughts were on the subject of leadership, and more specifically, what strategies EPTAC embraces with regard to training—both initial and ongoing.
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.
SnapEDA: Inspiring Millennials in the PCB Design Community
Natasha Baker, founder of SnapEDA, is part of the new breed of entrepreneurs. She manages a group of millennials who are not much younger than she is. Natasha discusses what it means to be a manager vs. a leader, what motivates millennial engineers, and some of the changes in the world of EDA that managers have to contend with to succeed.
Sensible Design: The Little Guide to Resins
I would like to start this series of columns 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.
Beyond Design: How to Handle the Dreaded Danglers, Part 2
In Part 1, I deliberated on how dangling via stubs distort signals passing through an interconnect and also decrease the usable bandwidth of the signal. This is due to the via stub acting as a transmission line antenna, which has a resonant frequency determined by the quarter wavelength of the structure. The conventional solution to this problem is to back-drill (or control depth drill) the vias to bore out the via stub barrels, so that the via stubs are reduced in length if not completely removed. This month I will look into all the possible solutions.
Space: Still the Final Frontier
If this doesn’t make you feel like a “seasoned citizen,” I don’t know what will: "Star Trek" first aired 50 years ago, on Sept. 8, 1966. No one—not even the actors—thought the show would last, and it only ran for three seasons, drawing average ratings. But Captain Kirk and company are more popular than ever on their Golden Anniversary.
Flexdude Abides: PCB Design for Satellites
Tom Woznicki, aka “Flexdude,” has focused primarily on flex circuit design since he founded Flex Circuit Design Co. in the 1990s, and he designed flex circuits for the Mars rover. But recently, Tom designed rigid PCBs for the TESS satellite. I asked Tom to discuss his work with TESS, and what it’s like switching between flexible and rigid PCBs.
The Fundamentals of Improving PCB Thermal Design
Continental's automobile engineers have years of experience building critical parts and systems for automobiles. Making sure that automotive electronics are reliable, safe, and properly designed begins at the component level. Heat must be addressed early in the design process for these goals to be achieved. The most important thermal resistance for heat, outside the IC package, is the PCB.
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.
Quiet Power: Evaluating Evaluation Boards
Evaluation boards are very helpful. Manufacturers of complex circuits such as DC-DC converters provide boards with those circuits ready to try out, saving us time and effort to design the printed circuit board around them. Evaluation boards are supposed to help us to understand the capabilities of the device. But with the many potential user applications, what should a particular user expect and look for in an evaluation board? We need to know how to properly evaluate an evaluation board.
John Cardone on Designing Flex for Spacecraft
If you watched footage of the Mars rover driving all over the red planet, you’re familiar with some of John Cardone’s handiwork. He’s been designing rigid, flex, and rigid-flex circuitry for spacecraft since he joined JPL in the early ‘80s, and he’s worked on some of the more ground-breaking flex circuits along the way. Now John runs his own design service bureau, JMC Design Services, and he continues to design circuitry for things that blast off. I caught up with John recently and asked him to give us the straight scoop on designing boards for spacecraft.
Mike Creeden: Care and Training of Your Designers
The I-Connect007 team recently visited San Diego PCB Inc. and received a warm welcome from CEO Mike Creeden and his youthful-looking (relatively speaking) team of designers. Creeden spoke with Barry Matties and Judy Warner about what it takes to run a successful design service center, how to properly care for the PCB designers of today and tomorrow, and why IPC’s design training is paramount when training a new designer.
Sensible Design: Conformal Coatings - Beware the Boards that ‘Bare’ All!
This month, Phil Kinner departs from his usual format of providing five essential facts about conformal coatings. Instead, he provides an account of a customer’s problem—no company names mentioned, of course—that brought into question the adhesion performance of a coating that they had been using successfully for some time.
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 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!
Lightning Speed Laminates: Smaller Circuits--Material Properties and Thermal Issues
Coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) is typically considered for PCB reliability, but it can also have an impact on circuit performance for applications exposed to varying temperatures. Due to CTE, a circuit will change physical dimensions when the temperature changes. If the circuit has small features or tightly coupled features, the physical change of the circuit dimensions can cause a shift in electrical performance.
Brooks' Bits: Your Traces Have Hot Spots!
The reasons for the temperature variation at high temperatures are not too hard to understand. There may be minor contamination under the trace or in the copper that accounts for it. Certainly, at higher temperatures (say above about 300°C) the board may begin to delaminate, severely disrupting its cooling characteristics. There may be small variations in trace width or thickness that help account for the delam, and these effects would be randomly distributed along the length of the trace.
Sensible Design: When Coatings Go Wrong
This month, I consider some of the more common, and often very frustrating, problems that may be encountered when coating electronic circuit boards and components. I also discuss some practical solutions. As we all know, nothing in life is straightforward.
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.
The Gerber Guide, Chapters 15 and 16
Before sending your Gerber files off to your fabricator, you are often advised to check them using a reputable Gerber viewer such as GC-Prevue. This is excellent advice. Note that this involves more than just verifying that the viewer displays your intended image: It is important that you check too that the file is valid.
Software Bytes: Having Fun With Impedance
About a year ago, I was assigned a new project: become an expert in impedance, more or less. I had no idea how much this research would bring out the nerd in me. Even if you don’t typically design controlled-impedance circuit boards, you probably will eventually. Read on!
Mentor Video: Impact of Power Integrity on Temperature
One of the most common outputs from a DC Drop simulation is a current density plot. But how much is too much current density? The answer depends on temperature rise, and requires a PI-thermal co-simulation to properly characterize.
Designing for Profitability: Don’t Over-Materialize
John Bushie, applications engineering manager at American Standard Circuits, spoke with Barry Matties recently about how designers can avoid over-materializing. He also outlined the benefits of designing for profitability.
Getting Signal Integrity Right by Design
As clock frequencies increase and active devices and interconnect traces shrink and are placed ever closer together, signal integrity becomes an increasing challenge. Today, SI is typically addressed late in the design process after the PCB layout has been completed by performing complex and time-consuming 3D extractions and simulations for high-speed lines. But with little attention being paid to SI during the layout process, simulation frequently identifies numerous SI problems.
Beyond Design: Mastering “Black Magic” with Howard Johnson’s Seminars
Dr. Howard Johnson, the world’s foremost authority on signal integrity, has recently released his High-Speed Digital Design (HSDD) Collection. I recently reviewed all three of the seminars in this collection, a total of 36 hours of viewing time. If you want to gain some of Dr. Johnson's enthusiasm and master the art of high-speed design, then the collection is a must-have.
Making Digital and Analog “Play Nice” at Peavey
Most guitarists have owned a Peavey Electronics amplifier or instrument at some point in their lives. Peavey originally drew accolades for their line-up of high-quality, budget-friendly products. Now the company also develops high-end instruments, amps, and live sound equipment. Peavey was also the last major American musical equipment maker to have product manufactured overseas. I met with Tom Stuckman, an electrical engineer at Peavey, during NAMM and asked him about the technical challenges he faces and what it’s like working at Peavey.
Designing With Tighter Tolerances
David Ledger-Thomas is a PCB design engineer with Honeywell Aerospace. He’s spent decades designing PCBs for a variety of applications, including defense, aerospace, computers, and high-performance audio. I asked David to share some of his thoughts on designing high-tech boards with increasingly finer spaces, traces and pitch.
Lightning Speed Laminates: The Dilemma--Soldermask for High-Frequency PCBs
Typically, PCBs with RF traces on the outer layers have minimal or no soldermask in the RF circuitry areas. Many times the soldermask is applied in areas where components are soldered to the PCB but the soldermask is developed away in the areas where conductors have critical RF performance. There are many reasons to avoid soldermask coverage on RF conductors, due to inherent soldermask properties.
Designing with Fine Lines and Features
Albert Gaines is the owner and senior PCB designer at HiGain Design Services in Norcross, Georgia. He’s been a PCB designer since 1981; he's designed a variety of boards in that time. I asked Albert to talk about some of the finer lines and features that come through his shop, as well as some design techniques for boards with tight tolerances.
Taylor Guitars Protected with Analog, RF Circuitry
Trenton Blizzard is an electrical engineer at Taylor Guitars and part of the team that developed the TaylorSense shock and climate change protection system. At the NAMM show, Trenton spoke with me, along with Editors Dick Crowe and Dan Feinberg, about this new device, and what it’s like being an electrical engineer for a “woodworking shop.”
From the CAM Shop: Tight Tolerance Design Tips
After you finish your design, it winds up in the hands of people like Mark Thompson, the man who runs the CAM department at Prototron Circuits in Redmond, Washington. He sees CAD data firsthand, and often has to address errors and inconsistencies in PCB designs. For this issue, we asked Mark to discuss the today’s tight tolerances, some of the problems they can cause PCB designers, and what designers can do when dealing with shrinking features.
The State of the Electronic Design Automation Nation
We are the automation nation. We are the high-speed demons, the low-frequency artists, the mixed-signal designers that make up the electronic design automation industry. We spend most of our working lives behind software, delivered to our fingertips with the promise of making things easier, faster, better, and getting us to our deadlines ever faster.
Designers Notebook: Specifying Lead-Free Compatible Surface Finish and Coating for Solderability and Surface Protection
A majority of the components furnished for electronic assembly are designed for solder attachment to metalized land patterns specifically designed for each device type. Providing a solder process-compatible surface finish on these land patterns is vital; however, selection of the surface finish on the circuit structure, whether plated or coated, can be greatly influenced by the components’ terminal metalization and the specific alloy composition used for the assembly process.
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.
Sensible Design: Coatings—Five Essentials for Designers
In an ideal world, PCB designs would not have an inherent weak point for corrosion; unfortunately, in the real world, they do. When a weak point is revealed, you are better equipped to deal with it. Often the spacing of components, board finish and distance to ground planes can be optimised for corrosion resistance.
Beyond Design: The Case for Artificial Intelligence in EDA Tools
There has been a lot of activity in the field of artificial intelligence recently, with such developments as voice recognition, unmanned autonomous vehicles and data mining to list a few. But how could AI possibly influence the PCB design process? This month, Barry Olney will take a look at the endless possibilities.
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.
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