The Future of the World Is Truly in the Hands of Our Youth
At I-Connect007, we are proud to once again sponsor the STEM Outreach Program at the upcoming IPC APEX EXPO 2020. Another way we support our youth is by sharing the stories of young people who are doing amazing things. Dylan Nguyen is a great student, musician, and creative thinker. Recently, he shared with me the details of his school science fair project, “Kite: Powering the Future,” which solved a problem that he faced. Dylan is a leader with a bright future, and the world is lucky to have kids like him.
Digi-Key on Adapting to the Changing Industry Landscape, Part 2
The I-Connect007 editorial team recently spoke with Chris Beeson, executive vice president of global suppliers and new business development at Digi-Key Electronics, about trends and the changing landscape of the industry. In the second half of this interview, Beeson discusses the EDA tools market, and how Digi-Key works with PCB designers to present the most efficient, seamless process for selecting components.
Designing for Complex PCBs
The I-Connect007 editorial team sat down with Freedom CAD’s Scott Miller to talk about the industry’s demand for more increasingly complex PCBs, and the challenges this presents. They also discuss Freedom CAD’s in-house training programs, the company’s recent book authored by Scott, and why communication is such an important tool in a PCB designer’s toolbox.
AltiumLive Frankfurt 2019: Carl Schattke Keynote
“How many here can remember manually taped artworks?” No more than three hands were raised in an audience of over 230 at the AltiumLive 2019 European PCB Design Summit in Frankfurt, Germany, as IPC Advanced Certified Interconnect Designer Carl Schattke introduced his keynote, entitled “Making and Breaking the Rules.” Schattke had learned PCB layout as his father’s apprentice, hand-taping several hundred PCB designs in the 1970s.
What Does Intelligent Routing Look Like?
Many PCB design projects miss schedule commitments by 70% due to delayed routing and lack of automation. Moreover, due to late-stage design changes, schedules are not met, and the addition of those new items takes 10 times longer or more to incorporate than if changes were added from the beginning. Fortunately, over the past several years, powerful routing capabilities have been added that allow designers to address a number of specific, critical tasks.
Digi-Key on Adapting to the Changing Industry Landscape, Pt. 1
The I-Connect007 editorial team recently spoke with Chris Beeson, executive vice president of global supplier and new business development at Digi-Key Electronics, about trends and the changing landscape of the industry. Beeson describes how Digi-Key is looking to continue growing its user community as a design service provider while providing greater services for the entire PCB.
Oren Manor on the Siemens-Mentor Integration
In this video interview, part of the productronica coverage, the I-Connect007 team speaks with Oren Manor, director of business development for Siemens, in the Siemens booth. Oren introduces us to the in-booth production equipment that integrates factory automation, motion controls, and MES solutions. He points out that the recent effort to automate SMT lines is now expanding into the areas of final assembly, box build, and manual assembly as well.
AltiumLive Frankfurt 2019: Rick Hartley Keynote
Introduced by Lawrence Romine, Altium’s VP of corporate marketing, as a “low impedance presenter with a passion for his topic,” Rick Hartley delivered the opening keynote at the AltiumLive 2019 European PCB Design Summit in Frankfurt, Germany. Pete Starkey provides an overview of Hartley's presentation, entitled “What Your Differential Pairs Wish You Knew."
A Radical New Design Perspective
Nolan Johnson recently interviewed Gordon Kruberg, CEO of Gumstix, which was acquired by Altium recently. While Gumstix designs and sells computer hardware products, Altium bought Gumstix for the Geppetto design software. Gordon discusses how the concepts of Geppetto are likely to influence future design methods in the Altium environment.
Flex Standards Update With Nick Koop
This month, I interviewed Nick Koop—director of flex technology at TTM Technologies, a veteran “flex guy” and instructor, and a leader of several IPC flex standards committees. Nick provides an update for the committees he’s involved with and discusses some of the challenges that he sees as more designers enter the world of flex.
University Rover Challenge Tests Student Teams
Jose Antelo, Luis Toledo, and Francisco Fernandez, members of the California State University (CSU) Fullerton Rover Challenge team, are working on building a competitive robotic platform to compete with other universities in a competition hosted by The Mars Society known as The University Rover Challenge.
Book Review: The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to…Executing Complex PCBs
If you are serious about designing complex PCBs (most designs today are far from elementary) and even more serious about doing it right the first time, then this is the book for you. Loaded with guidelines for designing cutting-edge PCBs, this book is filled with real-world examples and tips, tricks, and techniques by some of Freedom CAD’s most experienced designers.
Why Does the PCB Industry Still Use Gerber?
Every so often, I hear technologists ask why so many PCB designers still use Gerber. That is a fair question. Ucamco has over 35 years of experience in developing and supporting cutting-edge software and hardware solutions for the global PCB industry. Our customers—small, medium, and large PCB fabricators—include the electronics industry’s leading companies, and many of them have been with us for over 30 years. We are dedicated to our industry and excellence in everything we do, which includes our custodianship of the Gerber format.
Dugan Karnazes Discusses His New Startup
I caught up with Dugan Karnazes again this year and discussed his new startup, Velocity Research, which is a one-stop shop for design made up of technical creatives. The Grand Rapids company is already doing design work for a variety of customers, from individuals to multinational companies.
Explaining the QSFP-DD Data Center Interconnect Standard
According to Cisco’s report, most IP traffic either originates or terminates in data centers. Yet as massive as the flows between centers are becoming, the data managed within those same facilities is going even higher. All of this activity means that “hyperscale” is the word of the future. Roughly one-quarter of all servers installed in 2016 went to hyperscale facilities, but that number will grow to almost one-half by next year.
Meet Ray Prasad, SMT007 Columnist
Meet Ray Prasad, one of our SMT007 columnists! Prasad’s columns explore DFM, manufacturing processes, yield improvement, quality control, IPC standards, and much more.
Design For Excellence: Karen McConnell on Standards
During the IPC Summer Meetings, I spoke with Karen McConnell, senior staff CAD CAM engineer with Northrop Grumman Mission Systems. Karen is a veteran PCB designer as well as an IPC committee chair and mentor. She offered an update on some of the IPC committees she chairs, the need for more mentor programs in this industry, and why you can call something a ham sandwich if you define it correctly in the standard.
IPC-2581 Continues to Flourish
Because standards adoption in this industry tends to be akin to turning around a battleship, what is often seen as new has generally already been in production for 10 years or more. Often, there are outside influences and dependencies that cause this, so most of us tend to take a “wait-and-see” approach—let others shake out the issues. And even then, we only look at adoption if the mandate comes from higher-ups in the organization. It works the way we do it now, so why change?
Meet George Milad, I-Connect007 Columnist
Meet George Milad, one of our newest I-Connect007 columnists! George’s columns will cover PCB plating, IPC specifications, and more. George is the recipient of the 2009 IPC President’s Award, chairs the IPC Plating Committee, and is a permanent member of the IPC Technical Activities Executive Committee.
So Many Standards Committees, So Little Time
During the IPC Summer Meetings and Panelpalooza in Raleigh, North Carolina, I met with Leo Lambert, vice president and director of technology at EPTAC. We discussed IPC’s recent efforts to revamp the way standards are developed and interpreted as well as changes to training and education committees and a variety of methods for eliminating errors and duplicated comments when revising standards.
Happy Holden Previews His AltiumLive Frankfurt Keynote
I recently sat down for an interview with Happy Holden, who is slated to give a keynote speech at this year’s AltiumLive event in Frankfurt, Germany. Happy gives a preview of his presentation, which is focused on smart factories and automation, and why artificial intelligence might improve PCB design and fabrication in the future.
Communication, Part 2: Design Data Packages
The first part of this six-part series highlighted ways that PCB fabricators and designers can better communicate, starting with how to qualify a board shop. In Part 2, Bob Chandler and Mark Thompson talk about the importance of preparing, sending, and receiving comprehensive (and ideally, perfectly complete) design data packages.
ODB++: Transforming Ideas Into Products
The ODB format originated with the objective of delivering on this need. The format was originally introduced for use by PCB fabricators, eliminating the need for a collection of CAM files in multiple formats—such as Gerber, Excellon, IPC-356, or even IPC-350, which was an early attempt to simplify this process. The key to the success of ODB was that it obtained industry acceptance.
John Michael Pierobon Discusses His Flex Design Class
If you’re new to flex design, you might want to check out an online course offered by All Flex, a flex fabricator. The course, Designing Flexible Circuits, was created by John Michael Pierobon. I asked John Michael to discuss his flexible circuit design course, and whether online curriculum can ever replace good old-fashioned live instruction.
Leo Lambert on Training the Next Generation of Technologists
I sat down for an interview with Leo Lambert, VP of technical director for EPTAC Corporation, during the IPC Summer Meetings in Raleigh, North Carolina. We discussed the company’s growth, including plans to have training centers across different regions of the country to help cut down on students’ travel times, and why training methods must constantly evolve to remain effective.
Insulectro and DuPont Experts Talk Flex Design
I recently spoke with Insulectro’s Chris Hunrath and DuPont’s Steven Bowles at the DuPont Technology and Innovation Center in Sunnyvale, California. We discussed a variety of topics related to flex design, including the support structure that’s needed in flex design, the everchanging world of flex materials, and the need for working with a flex fabricator as early as possible in the flex design cycle.
Design Rule Checks Cut Down Board Respins
PCB designs commonly undergo multiple respins as a result of inconspicuous signal integrity (SI), power integrity (PI), and electromagnetic interference (EMI) violations. At an average cost of nearly $28,000 per respin, ensuring that a given design meets its performance, time to market, and cost goals is imperative. To help eliminate complicated and difficult-to-diagnose layout violations, some PCB tool suites offer unique electrical design rule checks (DRC).
Pulsonix Is Bullish on Next-gen Designers
During a recent trip to the U.K., Barry Matties spoke with Bob Williams, the managing director of Pulsonix, about training the new generation of designers. He explained how the company reaches out to local high schools, colleges, universities, and user groups to advocate for careers in PCB design and manufacturing.
SimplifyDA’s Floorplanning Tool Optimizes Autorouting
Zen Liao, CEO of Simplify Design Automation, recently spoke with the I-Connect007 editorial team about his company’s high-level floorplanner for autorouting, which allows engineers to pass their ideas along to PCB designers. Zen discusses the floorplanning technology and his marketing strategies as well as the challenge of getting reluctant PCB designers to embrace autorouters.
AltiumLive Q&A With Keynote Speaker Eric Bogatin
It's show season again! The 2019 AltiumLive PCB Design Summit will be here before you know it, taking place October 9-11 in San Diego, California. Teledyne LeCroy’s Eric Bogatin, the “signal integrity evangelist,” will be giving a keynote presentation titled “Breaking Bad: A Downside of Open Source Designs.” Eric gives us a preview of his presentation and discuss some of the biggest design challenges he sees today.
Meet Our Newest Columnists From NCAB Group
Meet our newest I-Connect007 columnists from NCAB Group! Jeff Beauchamp, Ruben Contreras, and Harry Kennedy are field application engineers from NCAB Group's technical team. In their columns, they will explore fresh PCB concepts, including medical and telecommunications applications, topics related to RoHS, and much more.
Focusing on Surface Sensitivity for Reliability
At the recent IPC High-Reliability Forum and Microvia Summit, Customer Applications Scientist Elizabeth Kidd and Sales Engineer Alex Bien, both of BTG Labs, discuss with Andy Shaughnessy their presentation on the challenges of working with highly sensitive surfaces, such as the risk of contamination. They also talked about the various surface characterization techniques that BTG Labs uses to identify such contaminants.
IPC Reliability Forum Wrap-up With Brook Sandy-Smith
I attended the recent IPC High-Reliability Forum and Microvia Summit in Baltimore, Maryland. The speakers and panelists focused on a variety of topics, but one issue that kept popping up was the failure of some microvias on military and aerospace PCBs. Fortunately, some smart technologists are focusing on determining the cause of these via failures. I asked Brook Sandy-Smith, IPC’s technical education program manager, to give us a quick wrap-up of this event.
Altium Designer 19.0 Features Printed Electronics Design Functions
The newest version of Altium Designer—revision 19.0—includes functionality for designing printed electronic circuits. We wanted to get the scoop on Altium’s PEC tools, so we asked Nikolay Ponomarenko, Altium’s director of product management, to give us a tour of the new functions.
IPC High-reliability Forum and Microvia Summit Review, Part II
The Microvia Summit on May 16 was a special feature of the 2019 event in Baltimore, since microvia challenges and reliability issues have become of great concern to the PCB manufacturing industry. It provided updates on the work of members of the IPC V-TSL-MVIA Weak Interface Microvia Failures Technology Solutions Subcommittee and opportunities to learn about latest developments in methods to reveal and explain the presence of latent defects, identify causes and cures, and be able to consistently and confidently supply reliable products.
Mentor Tools: Optimized for Flex and Rigid-flex Design
With the launch of the new Flex007 section in Design007 Magazine, we asked David Wiens, product marketing manager with Mentor, a Siemens Business, to tell us about their tools’ flex and rigid-flex design capabilities. As David explains, today’s higher-end design software tools are optimized for flex design, making workarounds a thing of the past.
26 Meters of Flex!
Barry Matties spoke with Philip Johnston, managing director of Trackwise Designs, about the company’s patented length-unlimited multilayer printed circuits aimed at replacing conventional wire harnesses. Originally created for the aerospace industry, Trackwise has since seen growing interest from a number of different industries. Jake Kelly, managing director and chairman of Viking Test Ltd., also joined the conversation to discuss the importance of having a flexible equipment supplier when dealing with such a unique technology.
IPC High-reliability Forum and Microvia Summit Review, Part I
The IPC High-Reliability Forum and Microvia Summit covered a broad range of topics related to reliability and provided interactive opportunities to share expert knowledge and experience in determining and understanding the causes of failure and selecting the best design rules, materials, processes, and test methods to maximise product reliability.
PCB Reliability: Via Design
When considering the long-term reliability of a PCB, you must take into account any vias on your board. While an invaluable and essential part of board design, vias introduce weaknesses and affect solderability. This article will discuss vias, the potential concerns that are introduced into your board through their implementation, and how to minimize those concerns to acceptable levels.
Design Is a Pivotal Piece of the Puzzle
As a field applications engineer at TTM Technologies, which has fabrication and manufacturing locations around the world, Julie Ellis sees a wide variety of customer design requirements. In this interview with the I-Connect007 Editorial Team, Julie explains how PCB designers can influence the development of the PCB. She shares a variety of tips and tricks that designers can implement early in the design process to help optimize fabrication and assembly later on and keep small issues from becoming big problems downstream.
Pulsonix 10.5 Development Driven by Customer Demand
I recently spoke with Bob Williams, the managing director of Pulsonix, about the release of the EDA tool’s version 10.5. Bob explained how the company had made the tool more intuitive based on user input, and he discussed some of the more cutting-edge functionality not normally found in competitively priced tools.
Design for the Unknown
Our industry loves DFx, also known as the “Design Fors.” As PCB designers, we not only design for manufacturability (DFM) but we design for assembly, reliability, cost, test, and many more factors which we like to lump together as DFx. But now, I think it’s time we embrace a new DFx: Design for the Unknown, or DFU.
AWE 2019: Go XR, Be Awesome
Dan Feinberg attended and covered the recent 2019 Augmented World Expo (AWE) and conference in Santa Clara, California. The event featured the latest developments and technologies in augmented (AR), mixed (MR), virtual (VR), and extended virtual reality (many just call it all XR to make it simple). Here's a wrap-up of the event.
Stitching Capacitor: Crosstalk Mitigation for Return Path Discontinuity
When the return path is broken due to the switching of reference planes with different potential, e.g., from ground to power or vice versa after layer transition on PCB, the return current might detour and propagate on a longer path, which causes a rise in loop inductance. This might lead to the sharing of a common return path by different signals that pose a high risk of interference among the signals due to higher mutual inductance. This interference results in signal crosstalk. To mitigate the crosstalk due to return path discontinuity (RPD), stitching capacitors are mounted on the PCB to serve as a bridge between the two reference planes of interest on different PCB layers.
Design Rules Recipe: Solvability, Manufacturability, and Performance
One thing that we’ve noticed lately: Each designer seems to have his or her own way of using PCB design rules. There doesn’t seem to be much agreement about setting or using design rules. So, in this true experts panel, Mike Creeden of San Diego PCB joined Freedom CAD’s Scott McCurdy, Jay Carbone, and Rich Kluever to share their views on PCB design rules.
Wild River, eSilicon, and Samtec Team up for 112-Gbps Test Vehicle
During DesignCon, I sat down for an interview with Tim Horel from eSilicon, Al Neves of Wild River Technology, and Matt Burns from Samtec. They’ve recently teamed up to create a 112-Gbps test vehicle that may be the first of its kind of test fixture.
Mentor’s EDA Perspective on Managing Design Rules
I recently spoke with Dave Wiens, product manager, and Mike Santarini, EDA content director of corporate marketing, both of Mentor, a Siemens business, about design rules and constraints, and what their customers want regarding design rules. They explained how EDA companies like Mentor help designers constrain for performance while avoiding over-constraining and increasing the cost of the board and also being manufacturing-aware.
IMPACT Washington, D.C. 2019 Recap: Leaders Call for Action on USMCA Trade Deal
Top executives from electronics companies across the United States were in Washington, D.C., last week to call on the Trump administration and Congress to support policies that will drive the electronics industry’s future growth in North America and worldwide.
Altium’s Craig Arcuri on Design Rules: Past, Present, and Future
We recently spoke with Altium’s Craig Arcuri about his views on design and manufacturing rules. Craig has experience running both design and manufacturing companies, so he has a fairly circumspect view of constraints from both sides of the product realization process. Craig details some of the challenges with setting and managing hundreds of often divergent design and manufacturing rules, and how both design and manufacturing constraints need to evolve.
Technically Appropriate Material Choices are Key to Design Success
Materials are no longer a passive part of the design; they play an active role in the manufacturability, reliability, and speed of a PCB. I-Connect007’s Nolan Johnson and Mike Creeden, founder of San Diego PCB Design, discuss several key characteristics that designers should consider in their material selection process.
Words of Advice: Your Company’s Design Process
In a recent survey, we asked PCB designers to describe their company’s design process: Is it a rigid workflow they follow to the letter, or a process that allows for their individual techniques? Of course, the comments were illustrative. Only one respondent said, "We just wing it."
Learning to Be More Flexible: Case Studies on Improving FPC Design
As miniaturization requirements force manufacturers to pack more functionality into ever-smaller packages, it becomes more difficult to conform to IPC construction recommendations. Achieving robust FPCs requires frequent, iterative interaction internally among the mechanical, electrical, and PCB design teams, as well as with the fabricators and assemblers. The sooner in the design cycle you can engage the supplier and assembler, the better.
Smart Design Data Is Essential for Industry 4.0 Manufacturing
Almost all of the conversation regarding Industry 4.0 is centered on the manufacturing floor, which is where the effect of the initiative is most felt initially. Little attention is given to the starting data for manufacturing—the data that comes from design. However, you can’t have smart manufacturing if your process begins with dumb data. As Pink Floyd said, “You can’t have your pudding if you don’t eat your meat!”
Words of Advice: Long Component and Laminate Lead Times
In a recent survey, we asked the following question: What advice do you have regarding the current supply chain issues? Here are just a few of the answers, edited slightly for clarity. One reply really sticks out: "If the end customer is large, use their power."
XPLM: Using PLM to Integrate ECAD and MCAD Data
During AltiumLive in Munich, I met with Robert Huxel, XPLM’s director of business development for EMEA and APAC. XPLM offers data integration for some of the big EDA tool companies, and their tools can integrate ECAD and MCAD data into PLM systems. I asked Robert to tell us about the requirements of today’s PLM tools, the changing world of ECAD and MCAD integration, and whether these two types of data are ever going to converge.
IPC Asia President Phil Carmichael on China Trends
At the productronica China 2019 show in Shanghai, Barry Matties joined Phil Carmichael, president of IPC Asia, to discuss the continued growth of IPC in Asia, including the increasing emphasis on training. IPC China has grown from hosting two technical conferences five years ago to 32 in the past year. Phil also addresses current trends he’s seeing as well as trade tensions between China and the U.S.
Youth in the Industry Putting Training to Work
At a job fair on campus at George Fox University, Nolan Johnson sat down with Jake Whipple, a computer engineering senior, to discuss the GFU engineering program. This is one of the few engineering programs in the U.S. that gives students experience designing PCBs before they enter the work force.
An Experienced Millennial on Hiring the Next Generation
During DesignCon, I met with Geoffrey Hazelett, VP of sales for Polar Instruments. Even though he has been in EDA for a few years, Geoffrey is still in his thirties, which makes him a youthful cherub in this industry. I asked Geoffrey what he thinks about the new PCB designers and EEs entering this field, and what more can be done to expose young people to the world of PCBs.
Preparing to Enter the Workforce With PCB Design Experience
Nolan Johnson recently spoke with Alex Burt, a computer engineering student at George Fox University, at a well-attended college career fair on the GFU campus in Newberg, Oregon. In the interview, Alex discusses his PCB classwork, challenges of design, and how it has impacted his internship experience as he prepares to enter the workforce upon graduation in the spring semester of 2019.
George Fox University: Teaching PCB Design to EE Students
Gary Spivey is director of engineering projects at George Fox University, a Christian college in the Pacific Northwest, and his students learn to design and fabricate a PCB while also giving back to the community. Not surprisingly, these graduates get snapped up quickly. In this wide-ranging interview, Spivey discusses GFU’s engineering curriculum, their cutting-edge lab facilities, and the need to teach students to think critically.
PCB Design Is All in the Family With Nicole Pacino
I shared a flight with Nicole Pacino on the way to Altium Live in Munich, and she mentioned that her father was speaking at the show. I went down the list of speakers, and it turned out that her dad is Mike Creeden of San Diego PCB. In Germany, I asked Nicole to tell us about how she got into this industry, and what we could do to draw more young people into this career.
Project MARCH Students’ Exoskeleton Helps Paraplegics Walk Again
Project MARCH student volunteers design and build futuristic exoskeletons that can help paraplegics walk. The students do most of the work themselves, including designing the various PCBs. I saw their latest exoskeleton up close at AltiumLive in Munich, and I had to find out more about this program. Delft Students Martijn van der Marel and Roy Arriens sat down with me to discuss their work on the exoskeleton, including their PCB design experience, and whether they plan to pursue PCB design as a career.
From Spain to Austria: A Student’s Drive to Be a Professor
The AltiumLive event in Munich drew several hundred PCB designers from around Europe, including engineering students interested in PCB design. I spoke with Pablo Sanchez Martinez, a student at FH Joanneum in Austria who is working toward being a full professor in hardware design. Pablo discussed his studies in engineering and PCB design, the classes he’s teaching, and his plans for teaching the young engineers of the future.
Sunstone's Terry Heilman Discusses the Evolving Industry
For the last 14 years, CEO Terry Heilman has been one of the key leaders in driving the expansive growth at Mulino, Oregon-based Sunstone Circuits, growing from a traditional PCB manufacturer to a PCB solutions provider with online ordering and a free PCB design tool. At IPC APEX EXPO 2019, Terry discusses the importance of serving the customer, how customers are shaping companies today, and the impact this will have on companies in the future.
Andy Johnson: EDA a Great Field for Young People
At the AltiumLive event in Munich, Germany, I sat down for an interview with Altium’s Andy Johnson. Andy is 25 and just a few years out of college, so I asked for his thoughts on working in this industry and what we can do to draw more young people into the PCB design community.
Kelly Dack at IPC APEX EXPO: The Attendees Speak!
During IPC APEX EXPO, Guest Editor Kelly Dack and the I-Connect team roamed the show floor, recorders in hand. They asked various attendees for their impressions of the show, and any new tools and technology that may have caught their attention. These are their stories.
Dan Gamota Discusses Flex and Alternative Substrates
As the VP of manufacturing technology and innovation for Jabil, Dan gave us his take on the current state of flex and alternative substrates and explained why modeling, automation, and process controls are likely to be key ingredients in the recipe for manufacturing non-FR-4 boards in the future.
Nano Dimension Offers Update on Dragonfly 3D Printer a Year After Launch
The Nano Dimension Dragonfly 3D printer arrived in much fanfare a little over a year ago. The company has been selling them to customers around the world, many of whom are using them to print antennas, sensors, and PCBs. At AltiumLive in Munich, I asked Product Manager Robert Even to discuss what they’ve learned in the year since the Dragonfly debuted, and some potential uses for 3D printing technology.
Bert Simonovich on Modeling Copper Roughness
I met with one of our contributors, Bert Simonovich of Lamsim Enterprises, at DesignCon 2019. Bert’s paper on interconnect modeling was nominated as a Best Paper finalist, so I asked him to discuss his paper and some of the challenges that engineers and their customers are facing right now.
3DEM Modeling: Influence of Metal Plating on PCB Channel Loss and Impedance
This article briefly introduces different types of metal plating commonly used in PCB fabrication. Subsequently, the influence of metal plating on PCB channel loss (i.e., insertion loss or S21) and impedance (i.e., time domain reflectometry or TDR) is studied with 3DEM modeling,
Mentor’s Cristian Filip Discusses His Award-winning DesignCon Paper
During DesignCon, I met with Cristian Filip, a senior product architect with Mentor, a Siemens business. Cristian had just received word that his paper had won a DesignCon Best Paper award—his second such award in three years. I asked Cristian to discuss his paper and how this technology can help improve manufacturing yields at high volumes.
EMA: Cadence Moves Simulation Further Up in the Design Cycle
Cadence Design Systems recently integrated more of its Sigrity capabilities into the front end of its PCB design tools. During DesignCon, Chris Banton of EMA Design Automation spoke with me about how this drive for “model-less analysis” benefits the PCB designer who can now access signal and power integrity, DFM, and electrical rule checking functionality early in the design process and have fewer issues later.
Cherie Litson on ECAD/MCAD and Training the Next Generation
Cherie Litson, CID+, was one of the instructors at AltiumLive Munich. I asked her to discuss some of the topics she covered in her class, and what the future of PCB design will look like. How are we going to pass down all of this design knowledge to the next generation?
Todd Westerhoff Discusses His New Position and Much More
At DesignCon, I met with our old friend Todd Westerhoff, a veteran signal integrity engineer. Todd joined Mentor, a Siemens Business, since we last spoke. We discussed his new job responsibilities, his drive to get more designers and engineers to use SI tools, and the increasing value of cost-reduced design techniques versus overdesigning PCBs.
RTW IPC APEX EXPO 2019: Judy Warner on Altium's Transformative Vision
During IPC APEX EXPO, Guest Editor Kelly Dack sat down for an interview with Judy Warner, Altium's director of community engagement. They discussed Altium's efforts to educate PCB designers, regardless of their CAD tools, and the company's plan to transform the industry by bringing together PCB design and manufacturing.
Carl Schattke on Stackup Design and Managing the Component Shortage
At AltiumLive, I met Carl Schattke, CID+, a lead PCB designer with an American automaker. Carl and TTM’s Julie Ellis taught a packed class on good stackup practices complete with plenty of slides showing examples of all kinds of stackups. After class, Carl explained why the stackup is often the root of manufacturing problems downstream, and why today’s discrete component shortages are likely to be around for quite some time.
Inspiring the Next Generation of Industry Leaders: IPC STEM Student Outreach Program
At IPC APEX EXPO 2019, I-Connect007 Managing Editor Patty Goldman spoke with Colette Buscemi, IPC's senior director for education programs, about the success and expansion of the IPC STEM Student Outreach Program, activities and scholarship opportunities for students through sponsor support—including I-Connect007—and feedback she received on the event.
Casper van Doorne Discusses His AltiumLive Class, IoT, and More
What’s in a name? When PCB designer Casper van Doorne needed to choose a name for his service bureau, only one name would do—Doofenshmirtz Evil Incorporated, a villainous name familiar to fans of Walt Disney. At AltiumLive Munich, I spoke with Casper about his company, the class he presented in Munich, and some of the benefits and ramifications of the growth of IoT.
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.
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.
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.
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.
CES 2019: More Show Floor Favorites
In my final piece covering CES 2019, I will review more automotive technology, updates on 3D printing, and some trending devices such as smartwatches and new computer components for those that either need or just want to have extremely powerful and impressive-looking computers.
IPC APEX EXPO 2019: It's a Wrap!
The IPC APEX EXPO 2019 show floor closed yesterday with applause. After three days of meetings, networking, and tire kicking, if you will, exhibitors head back to their offices with a list of leads, to-do lists, and stories to share. Meanwhile, attendees now head home with important decisions to make about what they learned and who they want to do business with.
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.
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.
AltiumLive Munich: Day 2 Keynotes
Having enjoyed the conference dinner and robot battles of the previous evening, a good night’s sleep, and a hearty breakfast, Altium’s family of over 220 electronics engineers and designers eagerly returned to the conference room. Many jostled to secure the best seats for the second day of the European AltiumLive design summit in Munich, keen to make the most of the “learn, connect, and get inspired” opportunity it offered.
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.
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.
STEM: The Future of Our Industry
Facing a growing shortage of talented labor with which to fill the employment positions in America, IPC is working to help solve this problem. Colette Buscemi, senior director of IPC’s education programs, is encouraging IPC members to better engage pre-college and post-secondary college students at the local level. Barry Matties spoke with Colette about the educational programs IPC has put in place to invest in future generations, including the STEM program at this year’s IPC APEX EXPO.
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.
Mentor and Seica Partner for Data Prep and Testing Big Boards
Mark Laing, business development manager of the Valor division at Mentor, a Siemens company, and Luca Corli, director of sales at Seica, speaks with I-Connect007 Technical Editor Pete Starkey about the partnership between their two companies, which enables efficient data preparation for testing big boards, and accelerates new product introduction (NPI) cycles.
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.
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.
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.
Robert Art on the Importance of Thermal Management
Robert Art, global account manager for IMS materials at Ventec International Group, discusses future market requirements for thermal management materials, the need for a better understanding of the concept of thermal impedance, and an initiative to propose a consistent industry-standard method for measuring thermal conductivity while at electronica 2018.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Strategies to Manage Your China Business Through Turbulence
While the United States may be the world’s most open market, China remains the most competitive, and is still viewed by most U.S. and EU companies as the "last great opportunity for growth.” Many companies want to gain entry to the Chinese market share for their products or services. Thus, the competition for sales of products or services is correspondingly intense. Here's how to succeed in the world's second largest economy.
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.
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.
RTW SMTAI: PalPilot on Adding Value to Design and Assembly
Tim Sullivan, vice president of sales at PalPilot International Corp., speaks with I-Connect007 Managing Editor Nolan Johnson about their services, and how they add value to their customers from design to assembly/manufacturing. He also talks about their online platform called FootPrintKu, which help designers when it comes to footprints of their design.
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.
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.
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 Design Challenges: A Package Designer’s Perspective
The challenges faced by the PCB designers of today are significant. If we examine the breadth of designs, we find ever-increasing data rates and more high-speed signal routing that drive additional challenges meeting signal-quality requirements, including reflection signal loss and crosstalk issues. At the same time, designers are being asked to complete designs in shorter cycle times and in smaller form factors. They must come up with new and more complex routing strategies to better control impedance and crosstalk. Manual implementation is often time-consuming and prone to layout errors.
Managing the Challenges of Flex and Rigid-Flex Design
PCB designers working with flex or rigid-flex technology face many potential risks that can derail a project and cause costly design failures. As the name implies, flex and rigid-flex designs comprise a combination of rigid and flexible board technologies made up of multiple layers of flexible circuit substrates, attached internally and/or externally to one or more rigid boards. These combinations provide flexibility for the PCB designer working on dense designs that require a specific form factor. Rigid-flex allows the PCB design team to cost-efficiently apply greater functionality to a smaller volume of space, while providing the mechanical stability required by most applications.
Chuck Bauer Discusses the Future of Packaging
When we decided to cover the future of PCB packaging, we knew we would have to interview Charles Bauer, Ph.D., owner of TechLead Corporation. Chuck recently spoke with Happy Holden, Andy Shaughnessy and Barry Matties about current trends in packaging, the need for product designers and manufacturers to communicate, and why no matter how cool the technology is, cost is still king.
In With the New at Cadence
The next generation of PCB designers is coming—slowly, but surely. What will this new group of designers mean for EDA vendors like Cadence Design Systems? Andy Shaughnessy recently interviewed Dan Fernsebner, product marketing group director and a veteran EDA guy, and Bryan LaPointe, lead product engineer and representative of the younger generation. They discussed the next generation of PCB designers, some of the best ways to draw smart young people into this industry, and why the PCB designers of the future may need to have a college degree just to get an interview.
Help Wanted: PCB Design Layout Specialist
I was told recently that the designer, aka the PCB layout specialist, is a dying breed soon to be extinct. I wish to reassure my fellow designers that, in my opinion, you are in the catbird seat. You are in hot demand and you should have great opportunities for the remainder of your career. By the way, after reading this article, you may feel empowered to go ask for a raise. Please don’t tell your manager that I sent you!
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.
Multi-board Design with Altium’s Ben Jordan
Not too long ago, historically speaking, most electronic products contained only one PCB. But multi-board designs have become almost ubiquitous over the past decade, and EDA software companies are working to improve and simplify the multi-board design process. Editors Andy Shaughnessy and Stephen Las Marias spoke with Ben Jordan, director of product and persona marketing for Altium, about the company’s multi-board design tools, the challenges that customers face, and the numerous trade-offs that designers must contend with while performing multi-board design.
3D Convergence of Multiboard PCB and IC Packaging Design
A new generation of 3D multiboard product-level design tools offer major improvements by managing multiboard placement in both 2D and 3D, and enabling co-design of the chip, package and board in a single environment. Multiboard design makes it possible to create and validate a design with any combination of system-on-chips (SOCs), packages, and PCBs as a complete system.
EIPC 50th Anniversary Conference Day 2: The Past, the Present and the Future, Pt. 2
Alun Morgan wrapped-up the proceedings, thanking delegates for their attention, speakers for sharing their knowledge and sponsors for their generous support. Special thanks and good wishes to Michael Weinhold for his enormous contribution over the years, and to Kirsten Smit-Westenberg and Carol Pelzers for their calm and professional organisation and management of another superb event.
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.
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.
The Survey Said: Industry Optimistic After Strong 2017
During recent trade shows and conferences, we spoke with a variety of fabricators and assembly providers. They had one thing in common: Every company achieved strong growth in 2017, and shared a positive outlook about the future. This year, the industry is optimistic, driven by positive economic outlook, growing customer demand, and new technologies and vertical markets, among others.
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.
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.
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.
Succeeding at the Velocity of Technology: An IPC APEX EXPO 2018 Wrap-Up
After many months of planning, IPC APEX EXPO 2018 proved to be a success. From revolutionary advancements displayed on the show floor to expert insights conveyed in technical conference sessions and professional development courses, IPC APEX EXPO provided the learning and connections that helped 4,574 attendees from 43 countries prepare for the future.
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.
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.
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.