Article Highlights
PCB Carolina 2018 Draws a Crowd of Technologists
11/14/2018 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
Julie Ellis: Communication and Fabrication Knowledge Critical for Designers
11/14/2018 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
Max Seeley’s PCB Design Career is No Fish Story
11/14/2018 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
Pulsonix Expands into North America with Version 10 Release
11/14/2018 | Tim Haag and Barry Matties, I-Connect007
Amway Sells Beauty Products—and Designs its Own PCBs
11/12/2018 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine

Latest Articles

Designers Notebook: Flex and Rigid-Flex Circuit Design Principles, Part 2

In this installment of "Designers Notebook," Vern Solberg discusses supplier assessment, planning of the flexible circuit outline, and various circuit routing principles. Communication between designer and fabricator is paramount, as well as an understanding of IPC-2223, which sets the specific requirements for the design of flex circuits.

Justifying the Need to Outsource Design Work

Mehul Dave and H.D. Shreenivasa of Entelechy Global discuss the many benefits of outsourcing and why it should not be thought of as a four-letter word. They also talk about the huge gap between design and manufacturing, and how their company can help customers address that issue.

American Standard Circuits: Leading the Way in Medical Electronics

When it comes to innovative fabricators, American Standard Circuits is always at the front of the pack. Naturally, when Editor Andy Shaughnessy asked me to interview a fabricator about PCBs for the medical market, ASC was the one company that immediately came to mind. I spoke with CEO Anaya Vardya about fabricating medical PCBs, the medical electronics market, and the future of this fast-growing segment.

Fabrication Drawings and Electrical Test— Reading the Fine Print

When a new PCB design is born, designers envision what the product will provide when completed. Whether the product is for the consumer, aerospace, military, medical or countless other markets, the designers—or more likely, the customers—expect certain deliverables on the commodity they wish to purchase.

Innovative Circuits Sees Healthy Medical Market

Medical electronics is one of the fastest growing segments of our industry. Alpharetta, Georgia-based Innovative Circuits is at the forefront of fabricating medical PCBs, both flex and rigid. I asked Innovative Business Development Manager Amir Davoud to give us a solid diagnosis of the world of medical PCBs.

Beyond Design: Plane Crazy, Part 2

In my recent four-part series on stackup planning, I described the best configurations for various stackup requirements. But I did not have the opportunity to delve into the use of planar capacitance to reduce AC impedance at frequencies above 1GHz, which is the region wherein bypass and decoupling capacitors dramatically lose their impact. In this column, I will flesh out this topic, and consider the effects of plane resonance on the power distribution network (PDN).

Medical PCB Design: Not Just Another High-Rel Board

Some of the coolest new electronic products have come courtesy of the medical market. I wanted to find out more about this fast-growing segment, so I contacted Kenneth MacCallum, an engineering physicist with StarFish Medical. MacCallum, an engineering physicist who designs PCBs for medical applications, explained why medical PCBs are not quite like other high-reliability boards.

Systematic Estimation of Worst-Case PDN Noise: Target Impedance and Rogue Waves

In the dark ages of power distribution design, the typical advice was to use a bulk capacitor and one 0.1uF bypass capacitor for every power pin on the digital circuit. This was very unscientific, but served the industry reasonably well in low-density and low-speed circuits. As the designs got more demanding, the target impedance concept was developed. Using a target impedance, designers had a metric and a design goal to guarantee that the voltage transients stay within specified limits.

Designers Notebook: Flex and Rigid-Flex Circuit Design Principles, Part 1

In his new Designers Notebook column, Verb Solberg discusses primary flex circuit structures, proper design for operating environment, and base material selection. The design guidelines for flexible circuits, although similar to those for rigid circuits, have distinctive differences that are influenced by specific applications and the intended operating use environments. Communication with your fabricator is paramount when designing flex and rigid-flex circuits.

IPC Designers Council Viewpoint: Gary Ferrari

As co-founder and longtime executive director of the Designers Council, Gary Ferrari has dedicated a big part of his career to PCB design. After decades of service, he was inducted into the IPC Hall of Fame at IPC APEX EXPO this year. I caught up with Gary and asked him to fill us in on the creation of the Designers Council, and some of the changes he’s seen in the last 24 years.

Lightning Speed Laminates: Why Do Different Test Methods Yield Different Electrical Values?

A variety of different test methods may be used for any one electrical concern. This article will discuss the issues related to determining the dielectric constant (Dk) and dissipation factor (Df or Tan-Delta). On a data sheet, a designer may see a Dk value for a material to be 3.5, as an example. Once the designer buys the material and performs necessary evaluations, it may be found that the Dk of the material is 3.8. In some applications this difference in Dk is probably not meaningful; however, for many RF and high-speed digital applications, this difference could be very significant.

IPC Designers Council Viewpoint: Mike Creeden

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

Electrical Design Challenges for Automotive PCBs

A recent article in this magazine by Monica Andrei of Continental Automotive Systems emphasized the systemic nature of an automobile and discussed the characteristics and adoption of software design tools to enable such system-level design. Recognizing that electrical challenges are part of the automotive system-level discussion, this article will present more detail on signal integrity. Future discussion is planned regarding EMI, power integrity, and thermal integrity.

McCurdy: How to Build a Successful IPC Designers Council Chapter

When Scott McCurdy made his transition from PCB fabrication to a PCB layout focus about 13 years ago, he accepted an invitation to attend our local IPC Designer’s Council. Shortly after, he was recruited to serve on the group’s steering committee. At that time, 20–25 people were regularly attending the meetings. When the chapter president moved, he asked Scott to take his place. Now, Orange County chapter meetings often draw close to 100 attendees.

IPC Designers Council: Serving PCB Designers for Almost 25 Years

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

Beyond Design: Plane Crazy, Part 1

A high-speed digital power distribution network (PDN) must provide a low inductance, low impedance path between all ICs on the PCB that need to communicate. In order to reduce the inductance, we must also minimize the loop area enclosed by the current flow. Obviously, the most practical way to achieve this is to use power and ground planes in a multilayer stackup. In this two-part column, I will look at the alternatives to planes, why planes are used for high-speed design, and the best combination for your application.

IPC Designers Council Viewpoint: Rick Hartley

Rick Hartley has been in involved in PCB design and design education for decades, so it’s no surprise that he started working with the IPC Designers Council early on. Now retired from his day job at L-3, Rick still teaches PCB design and shows no sign of slowing down. I asked him to discuss his work with the Designers Council, and what the group means to the design community.

The Shaughnessy Report: Are You Drowning in Data?

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

DownStream Takes on Data Documentation Management

Most designers will tell you that, as much as they enjoy laying out boards, they dislike the final data documentation step, which often involves various formats, including handwritten notes. Enter DownStream Technologies, a company founded 14 years ago to address the challenges related to post-processing the design. Senior Product Marketing Manager Mark Gallant recently discussed the company’s efforts to take the pain out of data documentation, even as data becomes more complex.

Why Autorouters Don’t Work: The Mindset!

Ask any group of PCB designers what they think of autorouters and the majority will say that they do not use them because they do not work. I have been battling this mindset for over 20 years now and it still persists today, even with the dramatic advances in routing technology. This way of thinking generally comes from those designers who use the entry-level tools. But even the most primitive autorouter may have some useful features. It’s all about changing that mindset of the designer and having a crack at it.

Rogers Scales up Production and Integrates Arlon Range

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

EMA: Helping Technologists Manage Disparate Data

Today’s EDA tools are better than ever, but managing design data, from schematics through Gerbers, can be an unwieldly task. I recently interviewed Manny Marcano, president and CEO of EMA Design Automation. He discusses EMA’s approach to managing a variety of types of complex data, the need for seamless data processes, and the future of compliance-aware design.

Pulsonix Poised to Take More EDA Market Share

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

SnapEDA: The Female-Owned Startup Revolutionizing CAD Data

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

Orange County IPC Designers Council Meeting Draws Record Crowd

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

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

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

The Gerber Guide, Chapter 3: The PCB Profile

The profile defines a simple region in the 2D plane. The proper way to do this is to specify a closed contour: The inside of the contour is the PCB, and the outside is not. It is that simple. Note that such a simple region is solid, without holes. By definition then, a profile cannot have holes intentionally placed within it. These are superfluous and represent an unnecessary and complicated duplication given that drill holes are well defined in the drill/rout file. One can view cut-outs in a PCB as still part of the PCB, just as much as the drill holes are.

Beyond Design: Stackup Planning, Part 4

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

Polar Instruments Fine-Tunes Layer Stackup Management

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

Speeding up the Design Cycle: 10 Things to Remember

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

Arlon’s John Wright Discusses New High-Performance Materials

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

Lightning Speed Laminates: Impact of Final Plated Finish on PCB Loss

A variety of plated finishes are used in the PCB industry. Depending on the circuit construction and other variables, the plated finish can cause an increase in PCB insertion loss. The plated finish used on the outer ground planes of a stripline circuit have minimal or no impact on insertion loss. However, microstrip or grounded coplanar waveguide circuits, which are common on the outer layers of multilayer high-frequency PCBs, can be impacted by the plated finish for increasing the insertion loss.

Accelerating the PCB Design Cycle

An area of communications that is often underappreciated, but has become vitally important to design efficiency, is the dialogue with the PCB fabricator. It’s critical to engage the fabricator very early in the design process to nail down the proper materials and stack-up. With so many options for via structures, it is critical to select the most appropriate structure for the design. Adding blind and/or buried vias as an afterthought can limit their utilization and drive up the printed circuit board cost.

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

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

The Readers Speak: Tips on Accelerating your Design Cycle

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

The Material Witness: Nonwoven Aramid Reinforcement is Back

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

Insulectro Hosts Silicon Valley Designers Council Meeting

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

The Shaughnessy Report: Squeezing Seconds Out of the Design Cycle

When you’re designing a board, time is always your enemy. That’s what we learned when we surveyed our readers recently. PCB designers said that time pressure was one of their least favorite parts of the job, and in some cases, they were ready to retire just to avoid design cycle challenges. I imagine that many of you near retirement, and that’s quite a few of you, feel the same way.

The Challenges of Being Competitive in Automotive Electronics Manufacturing

Simple electronics were gradually introduced into automobiles from the earliest times. At first, these were just simple electro-mechanical devices to make cars work without manual effort, such as to start the engine and keep windshields clear. But in this past decade, we have seen the effects of the gradual growth of issues with electronics systems, with recalls caused by safety issues that cost automotive manufacturers millions of dollars. Electronics within an automotive environment today requires a new approach to ensure a higher level of quality perfection.

Top Gear: PADS Professional Road Test

In this column, Barry Olney test drives the newest version of the Mentor Graphics PADS Professional EDA tool. "Based on Xpedition technology, PADS Professional is a major improvement over the previous PADS suite of tools. utilizes xDX Designer as the front-end design entry tool. The latest routing technology is fast, smooth to drive, and hugs the corners well, with all the horsepower you need for the most demanding design."

The Shaughnessy Report: Car Talk

The automotive electronics segment has exploded. Early cars didn’t have much in the way of electronics. Even in 1950, electronics made up only 1% of a car’s cost. But that figure is expected to hit 35% in 2020, and 50% in 2030. The global automotive electronics market is forecast to hit $314.4 billion by 2020, and that means a whole lot of PCBs.

Leo Lambert on EPTAC's Customized Training Plans

Andy Shaughnessy interviewed Leo Lambert, vice president and technical director of EPTAC, at SMTA International. Leo Lambert, vice president and technical director of EPTAC, explains how the New Hampshire-based company continues to provide customized training and IPC certification offerings, including its IPC Certified Interconnect Designer (CID) and CID+ classes.

The Gerber Guide, Chapter 2

Never mirror or flip layers! All layers must be viewed from the top of the PCB, which means that the text must be readable on the top layer and mirrored on the bottom layer. Alas, sometimes, in a mistaken attempt to be helpful, designers flip layers because they must anyway be mirrored on the photoplotter. This could be helpful in a world where the designer's files are used directly in fabrication, but these data layers are actually input for the CAM system.

Physics of Failure Durability Simulations for Automotive Electronics

Automotive electronics systems are becoming increasing complex and essential for the proper, safe operation of cars and trucks. Vehicle controls for basic operation and safety functions are increasingly being implemented by electronic modules. The ability of these electronic systems to function reliably is becoming a greater aspect of vehicle safety as was dramatically demonstrated by the 2009–2011 recall of over 9 million Toyota vehicles for unintended acceleration issues.

Jack Pattie Discusses New Ventec Facility

Jack Pattie, CEO of Ventec USA, discusses the company's newest laminate facility, which recently opened in Northern California. He explains how this location, the company's fourth, will help Ventec better serve customers in that region.

Automotive Systems Design: a Support Engineer’s Perspective

In a nutshell, the promise of the system design approach is to allow for hitting the “sweet spot” in terms of functionality, quality and reliability, in the shortest possible design time and with the lowest possible resource investments. In an industry that has a very long time to market (on average around 1,000 days), steadily increasing quality demands and an ever intensifying pressure to lower costs, all these promises become most attractive and compelling.

Mentor Graphics Helps Bridge Gap Between PCB and RF

Recently, Publisher Barry Matties met with Per Viklund, the director of IC packaging and RF product lines at Mentor Graphics, and Alex Caravajal, business development manager with Mentor. They discussed the challenges facing PCB designers working with RF and microwave technology, and Mentor’s efforts to help reduce the RF design cycle time.

Failure May Not Be an Option, but Sometimes It's a Reality

I’ve had mechanical engineers question why we are bothering with circuit boards instead of designing the circuitry into the plastic housing of the device. I’ve had manufacturing engineers demand that I shelve the electrical considerations in order to meet manufacturing requirements, and electrical engineers who could care less if the product could actually be built. I’ve had engineers hover over my shoulder watching each and every stroke of the mouse that I make, and others who are never available for important questions which ultimately brought the whole project to a grinding halt.

Failure Mode: Hole Wall Pullaway

This column is based on my experience in test reliability of interconnect stress test (IST) coupons. I am addressing HWPA that features moderate to severe outgassing. There may be HWPA due to thermal stressing of the board without any significant outgassing, but this type of HWPA is subtle, and it presents as a dark line between the plating and the dielectric of the hole wall. This type of HWPA is rarely detected.

Material Witness: Using Scaled Flow Data

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

Beyond Design: Stackup Planning, Part 3

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

Kelly Dack and Mark Thompson Unite in the War on Failure

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

Training the Next-Generation Engineer: When Does it Begin and End?

American engineering companies are seeing a severe shortage of the homegrown engineers required to compete globally. Just go into any company today and you’ll notice that increasingly, the engineers are foreign-born. Our local universities are seeing fewer and fewer American engineering students each year. Universities are also seeing a growth in female students. Over 50% of college student are now female, and women traditionally are not attracted to science and engineering majors. What is causing this imbalance?

Karel Tavernier: The Gerber Guide

It is possible to fabricate PCBs from the fabrication data sets currently being used—it's being done innumerable times every day. But is it being done in an efficient, reliable, automated and standardized manner? At this moment in time, the honest answer is no, because there is plenty of room for improvement in the way in which PCB fabrication data is currently transferred from design to fabrication.

Nick Barbin: From Designer to EMS Company Owner

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

Supply Chain Challenges and Opportunities

Let’s start by defining exactly what a supply chain is. It’s not a nautical term for an anchor chain, or a dynamic part of a chainsaw that never runs out of chain. No, it’s a key term used in the organization of resources which may form a system between entities. Now this sounds a little closer to something that may be utilized in producing an electronic end-item, in our case, a printed circuit board.

Fighting the War on Failure

No one in this industry sets out to fail, except failure analysis test engineers. But failure is a part of life for designers and manufacturers of electronics. Our reader surveys show that failure affects nearly everyone in the PCB industry: designers, fabricators, assembly providers, OEMs, and suppliers.

Gary Ferrari Shares His Thoughts on PCB Design and More

Recently, I spoke with Gary Ferrari, director of technical support at Firan Technology Group, about numerous topics related to PCB design. Our conversation ranged from CID training to the need for reaching high school students as a way of introducing more young people to career opportunities in our industry. We also covered strategies for helping customers design and build better product, and keeping designers provided with the most critical part of their supply chain—information.

Ten Considerations for Outsourcing PCB Designs

Outsourcing your design work is a big deal. How do you know that the end-result will be as you envisaged? Will you have full control of your design? Will it be done to the quality you expect and within the time frame required? Outsourcing can pose some fairly scary questions, so what are the key things to consider and what are the pitfalls to avoid? Steve Dobson of Quadra Solutions explains.

Material Witness: The Use of Fillers in Composites

The use of finely divided ceramic fillers in composites intended for use in printed wiring boards has a long history, but most people still associate the idea with reducing the cost of the product by loading it with an inexpensive inert filler. Nothing could be further from the truth...

Design and Manufacture of High-Voltage Electronics

This SMART Group webinar, presented by Ian Lake, director of engineering at Applied Kilovolts Ltd, and moderated by Bob Willis, explored the current technical barriers faced in high-voltage electronics design and manufacturing processes. Although he made it clear that within the timeframe of a webinar session he could only scratch the surface of the topic, Lake gave a valuable insight into basic concepts and drivers and set a perspective on current state of the art and future trends.

Strategies for Improving PCB Procurement

The PCB procurement process has certainly changed over the years. Some people are happy buying a board from a website, but for others the demands are different. Russ Adams should know; he’s the sales manager for Prototron Circuits, a PCB fabricator that has been in business for nearly 30 years, with facilities in Redmond, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona. I recently met up with Adams to discuss customers’ evolving requirements, along with his ideas for lowering the total procurement cost.

IPC-A-610: What's New With Rev F?

Why are new revisions created anyway? Can’t IPC just issue updates to the existing revision? Who defines what the changes are going to be and who approves of those changes? Why can’t they make changes for all the new technologies available? And the best question of all: Why does my product have some conditions that are not covered in the documents and specifications? Leo Lambert explains.

Fast Interconnect: Engineering Services for the Masses

Gary Griffin and Ana Rosique are co-founders of Fast Interconnect, an Arizona-based product engineering company designed to serve an underserved market: the small product developers, inventors, and anyone with an idea for a “cool gadget.” I caught up with Griffin recently to discuss the new company, its innovative business model, and the challenges facing smaller OEMs and product developers.

Max Maxfield Looks at the Future of Electronics

Clive “Max” Maxfield has worked for decades in this industry, and in a variety of capacities: Engineer, author, editor, columnist, blogger, and keynote speaker, just to name a few. I caught up with my former columnist recently and asked him what he’d been doing to stay out of trouble, and what sort of technology and futuristic electronic gadgets were piquing his interest right now.

Avoid Overbuilding your RF Printed Circuit Board

Today, many companies are overbuilding and “overmaterializing” their RF printed circuit boards. In this interview, James Hofer of Accurate Circuit Engineering (ACE) shares some strategies to avoid doing both, which will help lower the total cost of your PCB and improve the overall product quality. Hofer also discusses some of the challenges in the laminate supply chain.

Rigid-Flex PCB Right the First Time--Without Paper Dolls

The biggest problem with designing rigid-flex hybrid PCBs is making sure everything will fold in the right way, while maintaining good flex-circuit stability and lifespan. The next big problem to solve is the conveyance of the design to a fabricator who will clearly understand the design intent and therefore produce exactly what the designer/engineer intended.

The Past, Present, and Future of IPC-A-610

To understand the ultimate power of IPC-A-610, you need to first understand what is at the core of this standard. IPC-A-610 is a collection of visual quality acceptability requirements for electronic assemblies. It is utilized as a post-assembly acceptance standard to ensure that electronic assemblies meet acceptance requirements.

TTM: Consult Fabricators Early for PCB Designs

Recently, I attended the Designers Council “Lunch and Learn” at Broadcom’s office in Orange County, California. One of the speakers at this event was Julie Ellis, a field applications engineer with TTM Technologies. She sat down with me to discuss her presentation and some of the ways fabricators can assist PCB designers.

Kelly Dack Discusses His Recent Move

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

Cannonball Stack for Conductor Roughness Modeling

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

Electronic Design Training Crucial to Industry Growth

In the UK, the electronics industry contributes over £80 billion (approximately US$120 million) to the economy, representing 5.4% of UK GDP, employing over 850,000 people. There is, however, in many countries, a growing concern around labour shortages within the electronics industry, with worries over appropriate workforce skill levels growing.

The Composite Properties of Rigid vs. Multilayer PCBs

Most materials systems used in PWBs (aka PCBs) are composites of resins, fabric substrates and metal cladding. Each of these components has its own unique electrical and mechanical properties that contribute to the final characteristics of the finished laminates, prepregs and fabricated multilayer boards (MLBs). In most cases variables such as glass style and resin content have offsetting impacts on physical vs. electrical properties. Chet Guiles explains.

Broadcom PCB Design: Miniaturization on the Cutting Edge

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

Material Witness: Non-Woven Aramid Resurrected? Part 1

Among Jewish theologians of the 1st century AD, there was a significant debate about whether or not resurrection was possible. PCB designers in the early 21st century have had a similar concern about future availability of nonwoven aramid laminate and prepreg. The stakes may be somewhat less (depending on your theological bent), but the future of a wide variety of programs designed around the properties of (Dare I mention the name?) Thermount(R) hangs in the balance. What was Thermount exactly and why was there such a furor when DuPont announced its premature demise?

Polar Talks Impedance Control and Insertion Loss Testing

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

How to Successfully Purchase PCBs

How do you go about purchasing reliable and durable PCBs at the lowest possible cost? A key success factor is to provide the prospective suppliers with accurate and clear specifications, and to keep a close eye on the quality of the boards once they are in production.

Polar Talks Impedance and Insertion Loss Testing

Product Specialists Michael Bode and Geoffrey Hazlett join Guest Editor Dan Feinberg to talk about controlled impedance and insertion loss testing.

The Future of Nickel in Nickel/Palladium/Gold Final Finishes

Final finishes can be subdivided into metallic and organic finishes. For the purpose of this article, the focus will be on the metallic finishes using the combinations of nickel (Ni) and/or palladium (Pd) and/or gold (Au). Variations on this theme are used extensively in the electronics market of today. The Ni/Pd/Au mutations are the inevitable result of technical requirement changes coupled with true and perceived acceptance within the industry.

IPC Plating Sub-committee 4-14: Surface Finish Specifications

IPC specifications are reference documents to be called out by designers and OEMs. Designers may take exception with one or more items in the specification to ensure that the product meets the requirements of its intended use. The acronym AAUBUS (as agreed upon between user and supplier) is part of any specification. Specifications are consensus documents. They are agreed upon by a panel of interested industry participants composed of suppliers, manufacturers, assembly houses (CMs) and end-users. The IPC Plating Sub-committee 4-14 is no exception.

Material Witness: How About that Technical Roadmap!

You may remember the movie "What About Bob?" If you do, you may recall the scene in which Bob (Bill Murray) confronts his psychiatrist (Richard Dreyfuss) and emotes, “I need! I need! I need! Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” As I thought recently about some of the drivers that IPC and others have incorporated into their technical roadmaps, I feel a bit like that befuddled psychiatrist.

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

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

Effective Decoupling Radius

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

Shax Engineering: The Biggest Little Board Shop in the Bay Area

In a recent visit to Shax Engineering, Barry Matties had the opportunity to interview Isam Shakour, founder and president of Shax Engineering. This little San Jose, California company is a complete turnkey operation, providing PCB layout, fabrication, and assembly services. We discussed the company’s growth since its 1998 founding, and Shakour’s plans for Shax going into the future.

Understanding DFM and its Role in PCB Layout

DFM is short for “design for manufacturability.” It is the process of arranging a PCB layout topology to mitigate problems that could be encountered during the PCB fabrication and assembly processes required to manufacture an electronic system. Addressing fabrication issues is what’s known as design for fabrication (DFF), and addressing assembly issues during design is known as design for assembly (DFA).

Make the Right Decisions at the Right Time in the PCB Design Process

The right decisions are not always the easiest decisions, but making them well and as early as possible often avoids errors and addition costs. This is certainly the case in PCB design and a key decision influencing the design process and the eventual outcome is the selection of material and of the materials vendor. This is even more important when the PCB requires significant performance parameters to be met, such as high speeds.

UTC Aerospace Systems’ Lead PCB Designer Presents at Designer Day

I-Connect007 Guest Editor Kelly Dack sat down with Stephen V. Chavez, lead electrical designer for UTC Aerospace Systems, at IPC APEX EXPO Designer Day, to discuss Chavez’s presentation at the event. Chavez, who provides leadership to a global team of PCB designers, spoke on the importance of workplace communication with international teams.

Hunter Technology’s Two Newest CID Recipients Discuss Certification

I-Connect007 Guest Editor Kelly Dack spent time at Hunter Technology’s Silicon Valley plant, where he had the opportunity to sit down with two recent CID certification recipients, Jeff Davidson and Zev Gross, who recently completed Dack’s CID training program. The two also discuss the benefits of achieving certification and their plans to take the advanced course.

EMA Design Automation Connecting the Data with Arena PLM Software

During IPC APEX EXPO 2015, Guest Editor Kelly Dack sat down with Chris Banton, marketing manager for EMA Design Automation to discuss EMA’s recent partnership with PLM software provider Arena Solutions. Banton explains how the alliance benefits companies that use both platforms, and why more and more CAD tool users are also taking advantage of PLM.

Hunter Technology on Design Operations and Business Strategies

Immediately following IPC APEX EXPO 2015, Guest Editor Kelly Dack paid a visit to Hunter Technology’s facility in Milpitas, California, where he interviewed Ian Grover, vice president of design engineering, and Chris Alessio, vice president of sales and programs. Discussed are Hunter’s design operations as well as the company’s overall business strategy.

Trending at Freedom CAD: New Crop of Next‐Gen Designers

Scott McCurdy, director of sales and marketing at Freedom CAD Services, expresses his vision for what North America is bringing to the table in the world of circuit design. I‐Connect007 Publisher Barry Matties and McCurdy also discuss China, trends in product design, tools, and more.

Material Witness: Low-Flow Prepregs–Defining the Process

Let’s try to define “low flow” in terms that will make sense to both suppliers and users of the products. A low-flow prepreg is a prepreg that flows sufficiently to wet out and adhere to bonding surfaces and to fill inner layer copper details, but does not flow so much as to fill in cut-out areas in a heat sink or run unevenly out of the interface between rigid and flexible elements of a rigid-flex PWB.

Mentor Paper: 10 Tips for Streamlining PCB Thermal Design

Timing issues are affected by temperature differences between components. Thermal issues with the PCB design are largely locked in during component selection and layout. This handy “how to” guide provides an overview of the key considerations in PCB thermal design and how to optimize the thermal layout.

Panasonic Meeting Market Needs with Higher-Performance Megtron 7

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

Effective Characteristic Impedance

Reflections can occur anytime there is an impedance mismatch on the line. Sources of mismatches are plentiful and include trace width changes, vias, stubs, reference plane changes, and even the so-called fiber weave effect. In this case, a trace can encounter a different dielectric constant depending on whether it is routed over glass or the epoxy resin in the dielectric material. In this investigation by Kirk Fabbri, it is the capacitive contribution of the different components that are of interest, and how they affect the characteristic impedance the driver sees.

Altium Talks 3D Flex Packaging Design

Altium Product Manager Ben Jordan and Editor Kelly Dack sat down at IPC APEX EXPO to discuss Altium’s new tools for designing flex and rigid-flex circuits. The new software allows users to model the design in 3D, eliminating the need for rigid-flex designers to create “paper dolls” for each design.

Cirexx Introduces Eclisp, An Alternative to Co-fired Ceramics

Al Wasserzug, SR Business Development Exec at Cirexx, talks about their new product, Eclisp. Developed in conjunction with Lockheed Martin, Eclisp is an alternative to co-fired ceramics and used to evacuate heat very efficiently with a low CTE. Wasserzug gave a paper on the new technology at IPC APEX EXPO.

Clyde Coombs Publishing 7th Edition of Printed Circuits Handbook

Clyde Coombs is ready to publish the latest edition of his "Bible of the Industry," the Printed Circuits Handbook. Andy Shaughnessy and Coombs discuss the upcoming 7th edition of this book, which now includes PCB design and supply chain content. Shaughnessy also plugs his own contribution to the book in the section dealing with EDA software tools.

EPTAC Expansion Includes CID Curriculum

Leo Lambert, vice president and technical director of EPTAC, discusses EPTAC's latest expansion, which includes IPC's certified interconnect designer (CID) curriculum.

Cadence’s Brad Griffin Digs Deep Into DDR

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

Sunstone Unveils Updates for PCB123

Guest Editor Kelly Dack sat down with Nolan Johnson, EDA product marketing manager for Sunstone Circuits, to discuss some big changes to the PCB123 design tool. One new feature: PCB123 will now allow user to download a Gerber file. But Johnson explains why Sunstone isn’t too worried about PCB designers taking their Gerbers to rival fabricators.

Download HyperLynx DRC White Paper

The HyperLynx DRC GUI automates your layout review process by checking a particular layout design against pre-defined DRC rule sets. Designers can integrate HyperLynx DRC into an automation flow for SI, PI or EMI analysis. Users can also perform any design check without involving any pre-defined rules, or interact with other EDA tools for cross-probing, etc. This white paper details how to use external automation with the HyperLynx DRC GUI.

Polar Takes on China's Test Equipment Counterfeiters

Recently, while in China, Barry Matties spoke with Jonson Jiang, country manager of Polar Instruments. They discussed the company's latest impedance test equipment offerings and the challenges Polar faces in China, including companies that create counterfeits of their testing equipment. Can legitimate companies rely on China's government to fight counterfeiting?

Top 10 Most-read PCB Design Magazine Columns

It's been a wild year in the PCB design community. Naturally, the top columns in The PCB Design Magazine during 2014 cover a maze of topics, from high-speed design to design for manufacture. So, without further ado, here are the Top 10 columns from The PCB Design Magazine of the past year.

Top 10 Most-read PCB Design Magazine Articles

When our contributors speak, people listen! We've compiled a list of 10 of the most-read PCB Design Magazine articles in 2014. Take another look and enjoy these gems one more time.

HDI Layer Stackups for Large, Dense PCBs

This article from Charles Pfeil and Happy Holden is intended to help those working with large, dense PCBs with multiple high pin-count BGAs, and finding standard laminate stackups inadequate to meet their cost and performance goals. Continue reading to determine which stackup methodology is best for your designs and why the alternatives may not be appropriate.

Component Selection for Easier Design and Manufacture of Electronics

In the world of high tech, simplicity is arguably one of the foundational objectives of most of the technologies that surround us today. Certainly this is true in terms of how product designers are trying to create interfaces that allow even the most non-technical users to get what they need from electronic products with a minimum of hassle.

Component Selection for Easier Design and Manufacture of Electronics

In the world of high tech, simplicity is arguably one of the foundational objectives of most of the technologies that surround us today. Certainly this is true in terms of how product designers are trying to create interfaces that allow even the most non-technical users to get what they need from electronic products with a minimum of hassle.

Adding Value to Your Design Outsourcing Experience

Author Kelly Dack writes, "The thought of sending work out to be designed by another can make one feel shaky or even feel a bit insecure. But the work belongs to your company, and the responsibility for meeting the schedule is a management call. Your job as a PCB designer is to support their decision and help in every way possible."

The Virtual CAD Department: The Case for Outsourcing Designs

Many have a preconceived idea about a subject prior to examination, or based upon a limited past experience. In every facet of development, there will always exist success stories and horror stories. Author Mike Creeden will look into some of the pros and cons of outsourcing to show that one size does not fit all and that today's issues may not be the issues we may face next year.

Bare Board ECOs, ECNs, and Design Modifications

There are many types of PCB ECOs on bare, unpopulated boards that require changing or modifying the physical aspects of the PCB. These cases are most commonly those in which there has been an error in the board layout, a PCB fabrication error, or a design oversight. Bob Wetterman of Best Inc. describes the physical rework most commonly performed on bare and populated PCBs.

Smart PCB Sourcing Concepts

"The learning curve costs for your organization are minimized when you source through a fabless PCB provider. One of the fabless producer's added-value comes from being specialized in most efficiently managing a complementary pool of multiple PCB producers, because a fabless producer lives it and breathes it. It is his daily bread," writes Theo Langer of CML in Hong Kong and China.

And the Data Transfer Beat Goes On...

Karel Tavernier argues, "It makes no sense whatsoever to totally abandon something as good as Gerber's image format, which covers the most difficult and critical part of any PCB data archive, to resolve issues relating to the archive's far simpler elements. The industry intuitively senses this, and this is why it has stayed with the Gerber format."

The Shaughnessy Report: So You Want to Write an Article!

In his latest column, Editor Andy Shaughnessy offers a few tips for anyone considering writing articles or contributing press releases The PCB Design Nagazine, or any B2B pub, for that matter.

Sink or Swim at 28 Gbps

How do you know that your signal integrity software is qualified for the analysis of interconnects with signals running at 28 to 32 Gbps? The software vendor told you so? How does the vendor know? Most of the time, it is a "sink or swim" situation for the SI software user. The validation process may be simple in general, but some peculiarities are discussed in this article.

Thermal Characterization of LEDs: Enabling the Upcoming Lighting Revolution

This article describes a method that combines hardware measurement (a thermal transient tester), and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software to provide high measurement throughput, which enables systems integrators to verify a vendor’s thermal resistance data during design and to test incoming commercial off-the-shelf parts before they are introduced into production.

Lightning Speed Laminates: Chilling Out with Conductive Adhesives

"There are several options to attach heat sinks to PCBs, and TECA materials are being used more often. Even though the other options are usually higher in thermal conductive because they use metal or direct metal-to-metal interface, TECA is generally more consistent for heat flow path, relatively easy to apply, and comparable to the RF electrical performance of other options," writes columnist John Coonrod.

Beyond Design: Signal Integrity, Part 1 of 3

As system performance increases, the PCB designer’s challenges become more complex. The impact of lower core voltages, high frequencies, and faster edge rates has forced us into the high-speed digital domain. But in reality, these issues can be overcome by experience and good design techniques. If you don’t currently have the experience, then listen-up.

Sketch Routing, Part 2: Quality

Environments with interactive routing tools like plow and the sketch router are all focused on providing objective and subjective quality results. During the development of the sketch routing environment, considerable effort has been applied to ensure routing results have both the objective and subjective quality seen with manual routing. This enables the designer to get the desired results much faster.

IPC-2581 Adoption Update

A small group of companies created the IPC-2581 Consortium in mid-2011. Since then, many companies joined the effort to get IPC-2581--an open, neutral, intelligent format--adopted. It has been a wonderful journey that witnessed unprecedented collaboration amongst PCB design and supply chain companies, innovation with stack-up exchange, and steady progress toward adoption.

What's New in ODB++?

In the newest version of ODB++, v8, content has been added based on input received from the thousands of people who use ODB++ and solutions-development partners worldwide, either directly or through the technical support channels of CAD/CAM tool vendors.

The True Impact of Automation

A breakthrough opportunity may exist with the increase in effectiveness of software and electronics, where we are likely to see a rise in the use of more sophisticated robots, which are easier to program, easier to maintain, and are almost as flexible as current manual operations. Will this be the end of the manual operator, or is there more to the story?

Sketch Routing, Part 1: Control

This article is part one of a three-part series that will discuss a new routing tool that allows PCB designers to "sketch" the routing of traces and then routes along the path of the sketch. The articles discuss the core elements of effective PCB routing--control, quality, and performance--and how the sketch routing environment empowers the designer to succeed with each of these elements.

Reader Response: Gerber - The Smartest Way Forward

Ucamco's Karel Tavernier, in response to an item written by Mentor's Julian Coates, writes, "In order to promote ODB++, Coates unfortunately reverts to Gerber-bashing rather than explaining the strengths of ODB++. And his arguments are highly misleading, as they are based on some tired old fallacies that I would like to address here."

PCB Laminates and AS9100C

Legislation at the factory level, by way of procedures, can assist in reducing failures by making sure not to introduce a failure mechanism into the product. Laminators and PCB suppliers must share the responsibility for fostering a culture of cleanliness and quality.

The Survey Said: A Third of Designers Near Retirement Age

Editor Andy Shaughnessy writes, "One of the best parts of this job is keeping in touch with PCB designers. You all are an interesting bunch of people, to say the least. So, in July, we sent out a short three-question survey to get a snapshot of what's going on with our readers right now. Here are the results."

Choosing the Right PCBA Repair Shop

No matter what brand or board type you're working with, it's impossible to escape the reality that PCBs are inherently failure prone. Planning for when, rather than if, your circuit boards will malfunction is an approach that reduces costs and relieves future headaches.

Basic Principles of Polymer Thick Film Flexible Circuits

Polymer thick film circuits are similar to their rigid and flexible counterparts; however, because of the materials and processes, they have their own very specific design rules. Because most PTF processing is most commonly based on screen printing technology, the limits of design are intrinsically linked to the printed ink's processing considerations and limitations.

Optimizing Collaboration for PCB Systems Design

PCB systems design pressures can be broken down into the ubiquitous buckets of time, cost, and quality. Efficient design is about balancing the three. Push too hard to shrink the design time, and watch your costs go up while quality diminishes. Spend too much time optimizing a design, and watch your market window wave goodbye.

Multisite Concurrent Design: Tips and Best Practices

What does concurrent design mean to you? Chances are, if you ask six different engineers or designers you will get six different responses. Their responses will vary based on the types of industries they are in and their experience in this area. Author Craig Armenti examines the topic further.

Trends in Thermal Management Materials for Electronic Circuits

A big challenge facing the industry is matching different material sets used to ensure the highest thermal conductivity while keeping the thermal expansion of the various materials similar enough to prevent reliability issues. Keeping heat out of the device, or removing the heat and cooling it, is necessary for proper operation. Heat removal eliminates mismatched thermal performance which can cause operational failure.

Advanced Thermal Management Solutions on PCBs for High-Power Applications

With increasing power loss of electrical components, the thermal performance of an assembled device becomes one of the most important quality factors in electronic packaging. Due to the rapid advances in semiconductor technology the temperature dependence of long-term reliability is a critical parameter and has to be considered with the highest possible care during the design phase.

Providing Extra Value to Meet Customer Needs

Prototron's Head of Engineering Support Mark Thompson discusses added engineering support offered to customers on the front-end. With revisions constantly changing, he stresses that his company works with customers to ensure such updates do not hamper the function of the board, in other words, design as it pertains to the fabrication of a PCB.

Routing DDR3 Memory and CPU Fanout

DDR3 memory is so pervasive, it's almost inevitable that professional PCB designers will use it. This article from Robert Feranec advises how to properly fanout and route DDR3 interfaces, even in very high-density and tightly packed board designs.

Electronics Industry Business Outlook from Mentor's Manor

Oren Manor, director of business development for the Valor Division of Mentor Graphics joins Editor Andy Shaughnessy to discuss worldwide trends in electronics manufacturing. He sees a rise in semiconductor manufacturing, which drives up the production of PCBs, and a rise in hybrid solutions. Segments with the greatest growth potential include automotive and telecommunications.

The Shaughnessy Report: The EDA Tool Conundrum

Editor Andy Shaughnessy writes, "You've likely been using EDA tools for 30 years or so. And you probably use your PCB design software just about every day. Does your tool do what you want it to do?"

Valor's Lean NPI: Integrating Design and Fab

Michael Ford, senior marketing development manager for the Valor Division of Mentor Graphics, discusses a platform to optimize the new product introduction process. The Valor Lean NPI flow, featuring Xpedition PCB Layout, Valor NPI for manufacturing rule management, and Valor Process Preparation for comprehensive manufacturing process setup, uniquely supports the concept of global build.

The Lean NPI Flow: All in One, and Good for All

Despite the variation in companies, each has significant areas of commonality. One of the most important is the area of NPI. Even though companies have different products, markets, brands, and locations, there is much common ground when it comes to taking an electronics-based product from conception, through design, manufacturing, and to the market to become profitable.

Customer Support: Not Just for Customers Anymore

Columnist Tim Haag writes, "In my role as the customer support manager, I have seen plenty of examples of customer support. But my point here is not to focus on customer support as a function of a support technician. Instead, I want to explore the concept of how we should all strive to provide the best level of customer support in our jobs, no matter what we do."

Intercept's Hanzelka on Updated Pantheon Capabilities

Dale Hanzelka, North American sales director at Intercept Technology, joins Editor Andy Shaughnessy to discuss new developments with Pantheon, the company's electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and signal integrity (SI) solution. Updates include an improved impedance calendar and hybrid design applications.

What is DFM, Really?

Mark Thompson relates, "The term "design for manufacturability" has been used for many years now, but does everyone really understand this concept? For instance, do you design for 10%? Do you design for a specific manufacturer's capabilities, therefore making you less likely to seek alternative fabricators? How are your drawings worded?"

What is DFM, Really?

Mark Thompson relates, "The term "design for manufacturability" has been used for many years now, but does everyone really understand this concept? For instance, do you design for 10%? Do you design for a specific manufacturer's capabilities, therefore making you less likely to seek alternative fabricators? How are your drawings worded?"

Tackling Multiple Part Libraries

Mark Laing, product marketing manager for the Valor Division of Mentor Graphics, joins Editor Andy Shaughnessy to discuss problems arising from the use of multiple part libraries, which cause engineers to waste time and duplicate efforts. Laing's company is working to consolidate all this information into one data file.

Panel Discussion: File Transfer Formats

Moderator Ben Jordan, customer success manager at Altium, joins panelists Karel Tavernier, managing director, Ucamco; Dave Wiens, business development manager, Mentor Graphics; and Hemant Shah, product marketing director, Cadence Design Systems for the Gardien Group-sponsored IPC APEX EXPO 2014 panel, "File Transfer Formats."

Valor NPI: Intelligent Data for Concurrent DFM

Pat McGroff, marketing development manager for the Valor of Mentor Graphics, joins Editor Andy Shaughnessy to discuss concurrent DFM--a system where customers, while in the design process, can identify and address potential manufacturability issues. The earlier such issues are identified, the quicker solutions can be applied, something McGroff calls "left shift."

Developments in Glass Yarns & Fabric Constructions

The process of glass fibre production has remained largely unchanged over 50 years, but recent developments have enabled substrates made with woven glass fabrics to adapt to the changing requirements of circuit design. In particular, microvia technology needs, improving conductive anodic filamentation (CAF) requirements, and extending the usable frequency range of glass reinforced substrates.

Forensics Uncovers Elusive Defects & Saves PCB Designs

Products and their supporting PCBs and packages have shrunk so much that it is considerably challenging to detect extremely small problems. But a forensic approach can help you uncover defects that traditional methods may miss says NexLogic's Zulki Khan.

Strategies for Embedded Component Design

Are you tired of overpopulating the surface of your boards? Steve Watt, senior applications engineer at Zuken, joins Guest Editor Kelly Dack to discuss the reasons a designer would turn to embedded components--mainly for real estate concerns, but hermeticity and IP protection also play a factor.

Conformal Coating Over No-clean Flux

As the proliferation of modern-day electronics continues to drive miniaturization and functionality, electronic designers and assemblers face the issue of environmental exposure and uncommon applications never previously contemplated.

Behavior of Materials in the Manufacturing Environment

This study was conducted to understand seven materials' reliability, behavior of dielectric constant, and dissipation factor over medium to high frequencies. A modified version of HDPUG design was used for evaluation. This test board contains IST, CAF, thermal cycling, and impedance (both microstrip and stripline) coupons.

Climatic Reliability of Electronic Devices and Components

This article provides an overview of the climatic reliability issues of electronic devices and components with a focus on the metals/alloys usage on PCBA surface together with cleanliness issues, humidity interaction on the PCBA surface, and PCBA design and device design aspects.

The Influence of Electronic Design on Manufacturing

Rainer Thuringer, chairman of the Professional Electronic Design Association (FED) and professor, joins Editor Andy Shaughnessy to discuss his goal of joining ideas when it comes to PCB design and manufacturing. Thuringer argues that the designer is the most important link in the process chain.

IPC's Greg Munie Discusses DFX and Quest for New Blood

IPC Director of Design Programs Greg Munie joins Editor Andy Shaughnessy to discuss a new DFX guideline his association is working on to carry everyone in the product realization process--from the initial design to getting a finished product out the door. IPC is also working to insure that the great design knowledge possessed by current industry veterans is passed on to the next generation.

Mitigating the High Cost of PCB Documentation

The goal of minimizing the time and cost for engineering a new product and getting it to market before the competition is a constant struggle for developers of leading-edge electronic products. Eliminating bottlenecks can dramatically reduce concept-to-production time in a product life cycle--the Holy Grail in the quest for corporate efficiency.

Zuken Driving Chip-package Co-design

Humair Mandavia, executive director, SOZO Center, and Steve Watt, senior application engineer, both of Zuken, join Editor Andy Shaughnessy to discuss chip-package co-design, a challenge many users face. Zuken is aiming to bridge the gap between the two technologies and leverage its tools to allow easier sharing of information and design a system in a cohesive environment.

Properly Designing PCB Footprints

Today the geometries of board-level circuits are being driven to optimize space, cost, and performance, resulting in a large selection of fine-pitch components, connectors, and integrated circuits. Overcoming the challenges and the complexities of the circuit is challenging enough without considering the obstacles of mass producing the end-product with extremely high yield expectations.

Hartley on the Future of PCB Design Education

Rick Hartley, senior principal engineer at L-3 Avionics, joins Editor Andy Shaughnessy to discuss the state of PCB design in general and the highlights of Designers Forum 2014, including a presentation on IPC-2581 standard for transferring design data.

The Shaughnessy Report: Back to Vegas

After three years, it'll be nice to get back to Vegas. It's a microcosm of America, a symbol of all that is positive and negative in the land of red, white, and blue. This town is a true dichotomy: gamblers can win big, or lose big. There are a lot of really happy people on the way up, and a lot of not-so-happy people on the way down.

Altium's Ben Jordan on Version Control

Ben Jordan, customer success manager for Altium, joins Editor Andy Shaughnessy at Designers Forum 2014 to discuss version control, software that keeps track of all revisions and makes it easy to build solid design habits with schematic pages, PCB documents, and outputs for fabrication and assembly.

Testing Your AMI Models

Todd Westerhoff, vice president of semiconductor relations for SiSoft, explains to Editor Andy Shaughnessy the challenges of testing AMI models and his idea that we're still learning from Mother Nature.

PCB and Packaging Design up to 50 GHz: Identifying Dielectric and Conductor Roughness Models

Dielectric and conductor roughness models are necessary for PCB and packaging interconnect analysis up to 50 GHz and beyond. This article from Simberian's Yuriy Shlepnev, provides an overview of a variety of methods for identifying these models.

Trials, Tribulations, and Decisions at 100 Gb

Richard Mellitz, principal engineer at Intel, discusses his DesignCon presentation on developing specifications for 100 Gb Ethernet cable and backplanes with Editor Andy Shaughnessy.

An Introduction to Rigid-flex Design Best Practices

Once considered too costly by many designers, rigid-flex circuits are becoming more prevalent every day. Now designers are learning how to deal with this seemingly schizophrenic product format.

Design of Experiments: What's That?

What happens when the task of simulating thousands of jobs has grown so tedious that determining solutions one by one would take years? How about sampling a few hundred cases and creating models that will simulate millions of cases in seconds! SiSoft is forging out successful DoE responsiveness modeling and has published a white paper to prove it.

On Board With Onshoring

Sulaiman Roy, vice president of Imagineering, explains to Editor Andy Shaughnessy his company's onshoring strategy, as he predicts 20 to 25% of offshore business will return to the U.S. Roy also describes the company's expanding focus on HDI boards.

EMA Simplifies DDR3 Simulation Data

Chris Banton, marketing manager with EMA Design Automation, discusses his company's efforts to integrate Sigrity's DDR technology into EMA's TimingDesigner. The result helps designers to better deal with the "gobs and gobs" of data generated by DDR3 simulation.

Influence of Via Stub Length and Antipad Size on the Insertion Loss Profile

What effect do via stub length and antipad size have on resonant frequency and insertion loss profile? This article, from Multek's Alexander Ippich, focuses on an investigation into these issues and offers recommendations for optimum via stub length.

What's Stopping the Signals?

What exactly is getting in the way of our signals, and what can we do about it? Lee Ritchey, president of Speeding Edge, and Guest Editor Glenn Oliver explore the technological roadblocks that are keeping our signals out.

Free Impedance Calculators May Not Cut It

Polar Instruments President Ken Taylor suggests that using a simple, free impedance calculator to design a stackup for today's fine-line technology is not a wise or accurate practice. He explains to Guest Editor Kelly Dack why designers get what they pay for--or don't.

Archambault Retired, But Still in EMC

Bruce Archambeault may have retired (more or less), but the IBM emeritus tells Editor Andy Shaughnessy he's still working with the IEEE EMC Society, which meets for a symposium this August in Raleigh, North Carolina and in Silicon Valley in 2015.

Flex Design: Should You Do It Yourself?

The urge to do it yourself is strong, whether fixing a faucet, cutting your child's hair, or designing a flex circuit. After all, how hard can it be? Here are four situations that might necessitate the skills of a dedicated flex designer according to Tom Woznicki.

Thermal Design: Still a Process Pinch Point?

Traditional methods of using correlations and simple design rules to perform thermal design are becoming more difficult to apply. But new CFD technology is now bringing thermal design to the generalist PCB designer and design engineers.

Painting Pads: The Scourge of CAD-to-CAM Communication

Often called the "backbone of the electronics industry," the Gerber format is the easiest and most reliable image data transfer format available to PCB designers and engineers. Unfortunately, this format is often used incorrectly, including one practice that PCB designers should cease immediately: painting pads and areas.

It Takes a Team to Assure Power Integrity

The proverb "It takes a village to raise a child" also applies to PCB power integrity, says author Brad Brim. Multiple design team members will contribute to assuring circuit board physical implementation as a design progresses from infancy of concept to a mature product.

Improve Your Design Cycle Through Manufacturing Flow

One of the most important steps when getting a product from the design stage to manufacturing is new product introduction (NPI). In this paper, Mark Laing discusses a more efficient flow to the NPI phase, identifying ways to streamline the NPI flow to improve both time to market and cost savings, especially concentrating on the process preparation tool.

Process Preparation for World-class Competition

Process preparation systems should be able to cope with all aspects and requirements of production--all machines, all processes--without mistakes and without confusion. Only in this way can one scale the flexibility and responsiveness of the production operation in line with customer and market expectations.

Design for Assembly: Components, Part 2

Every PCB layout must go through the component assembly process, and a PCB designer can do several things to make the assembly process easier. Author Tom Hausherr provides details in his second offering of this series.

Quiet Power: Comparing Cable Shields

In his last column, Istvan Novak looked at the importance of properly terminating cables even at low frequencies and also showed how much detail can be lost in PDN measurements when bad-quality cables are used. This month, he analyzes a step further the shield in cables.

Top 10 Most-read PCB Design Magazine Articles of 2013

When our contributors speak, people listen! We've compiled a list of 10 of the most-read PCB Design Magazine articles in 2013. Take another look and enjoy these gems one more time.

Qualifying a PCB Facility: Survey or Audit?

There are surveys, and then there are audits. For the PCB designers of today, working with an audited company will minimize bad results and provide a greater level of trust. If you're an OEM, you can also market the fact that your boards are fabricated by an independently audited facility.

Design for Assembly: Components

A PCB designer needs to design every layout to meet one of the IPC product classes so the manufacturer knows the category classification of the end electronic product being designed. Every PCB layout must go through the component assembly process, and a designer can do several things to make the process easier.

FAQ: Qualifying Fabricators with Kelly Dack

Kelly Dack, a senior PCB designer for a gaming technology company, is always on the lookout for good fabricators, occasionally conducting site visits to gauge a manufacturer’s qualifications and capabilities. We asked Kelly to give us a rundown on his process for qualifying fabricators and the criteria he uses.

Designed for Manufacture?

Good DFM practices can save a lot of time and questions in CAM engineering, while ensuring your boards are easier to make. Here are a few words of advice and techniques from Neil Day that can help with your next design.

The Shaughnessy Report: PCB West a Good Omen for 2014

"The exhibition opened on Wednesday, and attendees jammed the aisles for much of the day. I didn't see any real dead times, though traffic did slow down after lunch. At 5:00 p.m., EMA Design Automation turned on the margarita machine, Altium got the beer and wine flowing, and the place was packed again," writes Shaughnessy.

Improving Quality During Assembly with DFX

The number of DFM issues reported on a PCBA is inversely proportional to the components' pitch values. The authors discuss the problems facing designers who use cutting-edge BGAs, and the Flextronics DFX process that detected them before mass production.

Design for Manufacture: A Tale of Two Materials

The development of the optical waveguides and integrated photonics is driven largely by the capacity demands (as well as the power consumption) of high-performance routers and network switches, whose backplanes may span more than 20 inches. Columnist Amit Bahl explains.

IPC-2581B Advances Data Transfer Standard

The recent release of IPC-2581B, Generic Requirements for Printed Board Assembly Products Manufacturing Description Data and Transfer Methodology goes a long way toward automating file transfers, but the ever-changing needs of the electronics industry means there will be many more meetings to keep standards up to date.

Key Factors Influencing Laminate Material Selection for Today's PCBs

Recently, a flurry of new and promising laminate materials have entered the market, coming from the four corners of the world. Sanmina's Steve Iketani and Brian Nelson offer their take on materials, from FR-4 to low-Df/Dk laminates, and much more.

Mentor Graphics Offers End-to-end Solutions

Stephan Hafele, director of worldwide sales, explains how Mentor Graphics has recognized and responded to the changing face of electronics manufacturing by offering a totally integrated end-to-end solution to supply chain management and control, from design through assembly.

Board Design Moves Beyond Reach of In-Circuit Testers

Although intrusive test technologies on the manufacturing floor such as ICT have been effective in the past, recent advancements in basic electronic technologies are disrupting legacy test methods. Now, non-intrusive board testing is replacing the intrusive types, such as in-circuit testing.

Differential Signal Design, Part 2

Lee Ritchey concludes his two-part series on differential signal design and design rules and he addresses the many misconceptions surrounding differential pair design.

Improved Thin-Film Resistor Material

Improvements in resistive alloys now allow for the creation of very small resistor elements that can be built within a logic trace. This results in improved electrical performance, improved reliability, more routing area and greater flexibility for PCB designers. Ohmega's Bruce Mahler reports.

EPTAC Expands Into Design Certification

Leo Lambert, vice president of EPTAC Corporation, says his company is on the move. After years of providing manufacturing training, EPTAC now offers IPC Certified Interconnect Designer training, with design instructor Gary Ferrari heading up the design effort. The company has also expanded into a variety of new locations, including Canada.

The Bare (Board) Truth: A PCB Design Potpourri

In this column, Mark Thompson revisits topics covered in some of his previous columns and fleshes them out with new, updated information. Thompson says, "In this job, I truly learn something every day, and I'm happy to share a few notable nuggets with you."

Differential Signal Design, Part 1

In its most basic form, a differential pair is made up of two transmission lines that have equal and opposite polarity signals traveling on them. But engineers and PCB designers have been flooded with misinformation about differential signal design. Lee Ritchey breaks down diff pair design and design rules in this two-part series.

Increase Productivity and Increase Profit: A Fresh Perspective

Increasing productivity will result in increasing profit all the way from engineering and PCB layout through fabrication and assembly. Increasing productivity can also make you more competitive, as well as help you earn a pay raise or a higher position in the company.

Designing for Profitability

What can designers do to increase the profitability of their designs? No list of do's and don'ts will work in every case, because each situation is just different enough that the list won't fit correctly and will need to be modified. But Steve Hageman shares some tips on virtual prototyping and other techniques that have made a real difference in his design process.

Dynamic Supply Chain Visibility Cuts Re-spins

Real-time supply chain information reduces risks, cuts design iterations, and accelerates time-to-market. When real-time supply chain data are visible to the design team, designers can reduce or eliminate expensive downstream design changes and re-spins.

Connecting the Dots: The CAD Library

Before looking at libraries, Columnist Jack Olson says it will be helpful to have a basic understanding of how circuit boards are fabricated. Offering a simple, 10-step guide to PCB fabrication, Olson then uses the example provided as a desired design goal.

Next-Generation High-Speed Materials: An Updated List

The evolution of high-speed PCB materials moves just as quickly as the circuit that passes through them. It is no surprise that sometimes a very busy product developer might be confused by, or simply be unaware of, the newest advancements in cutting-edge substrates.

Reid on Reliability: Cohesive Failures

When material damage occurs, it usually extends thermal cycles to failure, frequently giving false positive artifact results. Adhesive delamination and cohesive failures, however, can reduce the thermal cycles to failure. The crack may propagate starting in the epoxy and go through the copper in the barrels of the PTH, reducing the thermal cycle to failure, but this is a rare condition.

A 10-layer HDI PCB at a 4-Layer Cost: Why This is Not Going to Happen

As sales manager, Chris Ryder is often asked questions along these lines: "How much does it cost to upgrade from a 2-n-2 to a 3-n-3?" The answer, much to the annoyance of the PCB buyer, is "It depends." But with HDI, a little planning and communication goes a long way.

Top 10 Key EMC Design Considerations

For years, PCB designers didn't worry too much about EMC issues. But now, designers are realizing that proper design techniques can indeed help to eliminate EMI. Ashish Kumar and Pushek Madaan of Cypress Semiconductor have crafted a handy Top 10 list of EMC design tips.

Design for Manufacturing: The Hidden Economy of HDI

Many designers still believe that HDI is an expensive technology, but columnist Amit Bahl relates an experiment that illustrates how HDI is sometimes the most cost-effective stack-up for a design.

HDI Technology: A Perspective for the Designer

According to Joe Fjelstad, HDI technologies perform a vital service to the broader electronics interconnection industry by providing a platform which can reliably support the interconnection needs of today's highly-integrated and component-dense electronic assemblies. High-density interconnections are provided in a variety of ways and determining which is best depends on the application's technical needs.

Measuring Correlation to 50 GHz and Beyond

Four essential elements of electromagnetic signal integrity analysis guarantee successful design of PCB and packaging interconnects up to 50 GHz and beyond. Each element of the design flow leads to success, and neglecting or missing even one may compromise the entire project.

Increased Performance with Cost-effective HDI Technology

With enhanced signal routing and response conditioning, HDI technology enables greater wiring density and closer component spacing. All these improvements are possible thanks to the use of thin film, high-density multilayer substrates.

Is the Cloud a New Paradigm for Electronic Design?

There's a buzz surrounding the cloud, and how computing is moving to it. Most know that a cloud is a remote storage location to back up files, but is it more than that? What is the cloud in the context of computing, and what are the benefits for PCB design companies?

Design for Profitability: Avoiding Fabrication Issues and Minimizing Costly Revisions

At last, PCB designers are finally realizing the power they wield: They have the power to design profit into the board, or, conversely, increase costs and remove profit from the PCB. Mark Thompson reviews the challenges fabricators routinely face and presents typical DFP solutions affecting the bottom line.

Zen & the Collaborative Art of Designing, Manufacturing, & Implementing Low-loss, High-speed Flex Interconnects, Part 1

To maximize performance improvements and ensure the success of advanced flex materials, new design and fabrication trade-offs must be understood by material suppliers, OEMs, and fabricators. This article represents collaboration between an OEM, a fabricator, and a material supplier with the goal of broadening flex circuits in higher-speed applications.

Design for Manufacturing: The 10 Commandments of Design for Assembly

The best way for designers to avoid problems during assembly is to communicate thoroughly and frequently with their assembly providers. But, just in case that doesn't work, columnist Amit Bahl has created The 10 Commandments of DFA to aid in the process.

ASTER Takes DFT to the Next Level

Christophe Lotz, founder and chief executive officer of ASTER Technologies, joins Editor Andy Shaughnessy to explain how his company's DFT software helps designers make boards more testable, from the schematic level onward.

Cadence Integrates Sigrity Capabilities

Brad Griffin, product marketing director for Cadence Design Systems, discusses his company's acquisition of Sigrity with Editor Andy Shaughnessy. Griffin also details the fairly seamless blending of the two companies' cultures.

Failure is the First Step on the Road to Success

It is an inexorable fact of life that all electronic assemblies, from the most complex, densely interconnected systems to the cheapest mass-produced consumer devices, will eventually fail. As manufacturers, suppliers, and designers, there is so much more that can be learned from these failures; we need only spend the time and effort to uncover the root of the problem.

Going Wild With Wild River Technologies

Wild River Technologies co-founder Al Neves joins Editor Andy Shaughnessy to update us on his company's latest endeavors, including the CMP 28 and 32--a tool that allows improved simulations and measurement.

EMI: What it Is, Where it Comes From, and How to Control It

There are a variety of technical books that address EMI and EMC. However, none of them really gets down to the basics of where EMI comes from, what it really is, why it is an issue, and what to do about it. Lee Ritchey takes a closer look.

Automating the Design Process

Patrick Carrier, technical marketing engineer with Mentor Graphics, joins Editor Andy Shaughnessy to discuss his company's new HyperLynx DRC, which automates much of the printed circuit board design process.

A Small Leak can Sink a Great Ship: EMC Behavior of Traces Crossing Split Planes, Part I

Laying out a trace across a split or gap with reference planes is a major EMC design rule violation. But often, PCB designers have no alternative other than to place some signals that cross cutouts, gaps, or voids underneath or above the routing path. Zuken's Ralf Bruening takes a closer look.

Novel HDI Materials from Integral Technology

Ken Parent, president of Integral Technology, describes to Guest Editor Joe Fjelstad his company's Zeta material, which offers improved manufacturing and performance possibilities to those designing and manufacturing HDI circuitry.

Acoustic Micro-imaging of Multilayer Ceramic & Polymer Capacitors

They are inexpensive and relatively simple in design, but multilayer ceramic capacitors (MLCCs) are nevertheless capable of causing unanticipated field failures whose severity may range from very minor to catastrophic.

IPC Specifications and the Order of Precedence

Whether or not the initiator of the contract is an original OEM, or one building the product under its own name, a protocol exists for what specifications should be used to manufacture a product to ensure it meets the reliability and quality issues demanded by its design and operational cycle. EPTAC's Leo Lambert explains.

A Tale of Two Loves

Ruth Conner, resource representative with RAD Services, relates to Guest Editor Kelly Dack the two loves her life--her new husband and her career-long association with all things IPC. She also describes an HDI design disconnect and the knowledge base of designers who can get the job done.

Design for Manufacturing: Dispense With the Gerbers Already

Most PCB designs are still expressed with Gerber graphic files, despite the clear advantages of the ODB++ intelligent unified file format. Nonetheless, IPC-2581, the open format for PCB description being hammered out by IPC, is likely to become the delivery vehicle of choice.

Twenty-Five Years of Simulation Stimulation

Special Projects Editor Kelly Dack and Dave Kohlmeier, Director, Mentor Graphics, look back over the 25-year history of HyperLynx, a simulation tool that tests timing and has stood the test of time.

Simberian: High-End Simulation for Designers

Yuriy Shlepnev Ph.D., president and CEO of Simberian, discusses his company's latest release, Simbeor 2013, software for designing PCBs and packaging interconnects operating at 6 to 100 Gbs and beyond. Shlepnev also demonstrates one of his newest projects.

Getting Active with Embedded Components

Vern Solberg, senior consultant with Invensas, talks about his work on the IPC-7092 standard on embedded components, as well as the challenges fabricators face when beginning the process of embedding bare die.

Letter: Let's Reestablish the U.S. PCB Design Community

Dan Smith may have been sniffing paint fumes, but that didn't stop him from writing a letter to the editor after reading a recent "Shaughnessy Report". He asks, "What will it take to reestablish the U.S. PCB design community as a significant new product contributor? More education? Smarter tools? Intelligent factories?"

EPTAC's Leo Lambert on Counterfeit Training

Leo Lambert, vice president and technical director of solder training and IPC certification corporation EPTAC, discusses the firm's newest training program developed with the help of IDEA, one designed to help customers better identify counterfeit parts.

The Shaughnessy Report: The State of PCB Design

Once again, it's the season for trade shows and conferences. After attending events like DesignCon and the Designers Forum at IPC APEX EXPO, I can safely say that the state of PCB design is sound, for now. The "graybearding" of the design community continues unabated, but the designers I met with at both shows are as enthusiastic as ever.

Data, Data Everywhere. But...

Transferring PCB data has been a big part of my career, especially for the last 10 years or so. From concept through assembly, a lot of data is used to describe the various aspects of a PCB, the components and final assembly. But I'd like to point out that in reality, there's not enough data. We actually need more.

Is the Cloud a New Paradigm for Electronic Design?

There's a buzz surrounding the cloud, and how computing is moving to it. Most know that a cloud is a remote storage location to back up files, but is it more than that? What is the cloud in the context of computing, and what are the benefits for PCB design companies? Dr. Raul Camposano and Steven McKinney shine some sunlight on the cloud.

Micro-Waves, Macro-Challenges

Development Engineer John Coonrod discusses Rogers Corporation's high-frequency laminates and his paper concerning the topic of insertion loss and how his company's materials, combined with prudent design and manufacturing methods, can solve the industry's most challenging microwave challenges.

The State of Embedded Component Technology

EIPC Technical Director Michael Weinhold; AT&S Group Manager of Technology Johannes Stahr; and Somacis CTO Giacomo Angeloni hold a technical panel to discuss the state of embedded component technology today.

Sanmina: Leverage Your Fabricator's Knowledge!

Brian Nelson, NPI manager for PCB fabrication processes at Sanmina, discusses some of the issues his customers face every day. He encourages designers to take advantage of their fabricators' years of manufacturing experience.

Kick-Starting a Revolution: IPC-2581 Meets Gerber

The all-or-nothing approach to improving the CAD-to-CAM workflow benefits nobody. Karel Tavernier of Ucamco proposes keeping what works in Gerber (the image data format), and changing what doesn't work, such as the stackup data format. And stackup is an area in which IPC-2581 excels. Other IPC-2581 sections could be integrated with Gerber, and "good old Gerber" could eventually be retired.

A New Layout Tool, From Russia With Love

Renowned for its coding expertise, team DipTrace of Ukraine debuts a new PCB layout tool with full features at an entry-level price. Guest Editor Kelly Dack engages in a little detente with Novarm CEO Stanislav Ruev, and learns some Russian along the way. Da, comrade!

EMA Design Automation Ready for 2013 and Beyond

EMA Design Automation's Greg Roberts discusses the latest developments in the OrCAD tool family, and he explains how Cadence's acquisition of Sigrity benefits the entire Cadence tool family.

Trace Currents and Temperature, Part 2: Empirical Results

In this second of a four-part series on trace currents and temperature, Doug Brooks explores various results that have been empirically obtained. Subsequent parts will explore how we can use the melting temperature of a trace to our advantage, and how to deal with vias.

Your Design Education, Your Responsibility

Rick Hartley, senior principal engineer with L-3 Avionics, discusses several classes he presented at IPC APEX EXPO 2013 and The Designers Forum. He explains why designers and engineers should continue their design education throughout their lives and how colleges so often drop the ball when it comes to teaching design.

Lee Ritchey: Designing a PCB Stackup, Part 1

The challenge in designing a PCB stackup is to satisfy its many demands. Information in this article is drawn from Lee Ritchey's experience gained by designing more than 2,000 PCB stackups for products as simple as video games and as complex as the highest-performance backplanes used in supercomputers and routers

Collaborate, Innovate, Accelerate

SiSoft Vice President of Software Products Todd Westerhoff discusses the company's new motto, "Collaborate, Innovate, Accelerate." He explains that by working closely with customers, SiSoft can help push companies to faster speeds than ever thought possible.

Effective Modeling of PCB Structures

Mentor Graphics Market Development Manager Rod Dudzinski describes electromagnetic circuit simulation using HyperLynx 3D EM. Vias and other structures can be simulated efficiently, effectively taking the guesswork out of modeling PCB structures.

Maxed Out: Radiation vs. Your Embedded System

Max Maxfield's Design West presentation will explain how radiation can affect components and systems, slowing things down over time and causing functional errors. It's surprising how little most folks know about radiation. When Max asked his wife what she knew about radiation, she replied, "Only that I don't want to be in the same room as it!" But many engineers and designers would agree with her.

Connecting the Dots: So You Want to be a Designer?

Welcome to the first in a series of short tutorials by Jack Olson focusing on becoming a circuit board designer. If you're new, there's a lot to learn. We'll explore the PCB design process one step at a time, explaining the terminology and adding more pieces to the puzzle from month to month.

Partner Early for HDI Board Design

When customers want to design boards that are as compact as possible, there is often very little reliable guidance from the chip vendors. Heed the warnings of Texas Instruments: Consult board manufacturers from the start of any projects involving BGAs with a pin pitch of 0.4 mm and smaller.

Training Day at Circuit Technology

Bob Doetzer, president of Circuit Technology, explains why his IPC-certified training center has become a training partner for its customers. Companies now want his company to provide the training eliminated in the past few years. Doetzer expects to see a continued need for Mil/Aero training going forward.

The Millennials: Talking 'Bout my Generation

Nordson DAGE's Hal Hendrickson serves on the SMTA Board of Directors, and he's been studying the generational differences between baby boomers and the much younger "millennials." He points out that there are nearly as many millennials as baby boomers. What will our industry look like when it's run by people born in the 1980s? Get a glimpse of the future.

PCB Insertion Loss Variation in Manufacturing: A New Low-Cost Metrology

Signal integrity analysis has shown that PCB insertion loss is a key factor in high-speed channel performance. Determining and controlling PCB insertion loss have thus become critical production requirements for achieving multi-gigabit-per-second data rates.

He Wrote the Book on PoP Technology

Industry veteran Bob Willis sits down with Editor Andy Shaughnessy to talk about his upcoming book covering package-on-package (PoP) technology. This detailed e-book will go through each stage of the manufacturing process: Components, design, assembly, quality control, reliability, and much more.

Maxed Out: A Great Time to be a Technology Geek

There's a good chance that, if you're reading this, you may be a technology geek. But geeks are cool now. Even the word itself no longer has the negative connotation that it used to have. In fact, it's a great time to be a geek. There are so many cool electronic products and gadgets, and so little time!

A Time-Dependent Analytical Analysis of Heat Transfer in a PCB During a Thermal Excursion

A great deal of work has already been done to determine the equilibrium temperature of a PCB when exposed to a heat source such as the thermal environment of reflow soldering. This study by J. Lee Parker goes beyond the equilibrium condition to explore the temperature-time distribution of a PCB when a variable-temperature heat source is applied to both outer surfaces.

New Invensas Package: Smaller, Faster, Cheaper

Veteran technologist Vern Solberg is now a consultant with Invensas, a subsidiary of Tessera, his former employer of many years. Vern discusses a paper he gave at SMTAI detailing Invensas' new package technology that is faster, smaller and cheaper than other package options.

Bringing Back Operations in North America

"About 11% of electronics manufacturers in North America have brought operations back since 2009, while nearly 20% created new operations in North America instead of establishing them elsewhere," said Sharon Starr, director of market research for IPC. On-shoring isn't a huge trend, but it accounts for significant revenues and many jobs.

Tech Circuits: Everyone is in Customer Service

If you visit your fabricator, can you speak with the person who handles your specific designs? Stephanie Zarrella explains why Tech Circuits' customers can always speak directly to the technologists working on their boards. She also discusses Tech Circuits' preparation of prototype boards for volume production offshore.

BGA Symposium Draws a Good Crowd

BEST held a successful BGA symposium at IPC Midwest 2012. President Bob Wetterman discusses the content and "takeaways" from the event, as well as attendees' concerns, including DFM for BGAs.

Metal in the Board: A Return to the Future

The combination of package developments in power applications and a focus on energy efficiency is giving rise to major growth opportunities for metal in the board technology (MiB) around the world. The thermal dissipation capabilities in particular are making MiB an essential contributor to the solid-state lighting revolution. Nick Pearne and Bill Burr explain.

John Isaac: "Left-Shift" to Improve Complex PCB Designs

The most efficient way to design electronic products is by taking the entire process, from the spark of idea through shipping product out the door, and left-shifting it as far forward in the process as possible. By considering specific issues far in advance, re-spins of the PCB and issues that could cause product recall are minimized or eliminated before a PCB is etched and drilled.

Nanomaterials Developments Yield Opportunities in PEC

The development of nanomaterials for printed electronics is creating exciting new structures--making it possible to improve applications that rely on traditional materials. Mainstream applications for non-electronic structures have existed for many years and Dr. Alan Rae explains that mainstream electronic products are improved by nanomaterials' unique properties.

Maxed Out: The Forgotten Magnetic Wire Recorder

If I were to ask you what cool invention came along after the gramophone, I wouldn't be surprised if you said, "Surely, it would be the tape recorder." But you would be wrong! Before the magnetic tape recorder appeared in our lives, there were these nifty little things called magnetic wire recorders. And I've managed to acquire some of this old wire. Read on!

Virtual Prototyping: A System Design Requirement

Virtual prototyping is rapidly becoming the standard for complex system design. There are many advantages to virtual prototyping over physical prototyping. These include product quality, product competitiveness, and reduction in design cycle time. The days of using physical prototypes for debugging are limited!

Accelerated Reliability Testing: Interconnect Stress Testing vs. Accelerated Thermal Cycling

The High Density Packaging User Group's extensive testing of plating through-hole reliability with PCB test vehicles made of 20 different lead-free laminate materials proves that interconnect stress testing can be used in place of accelerated thermal cycling for long-term reliability estimates, delivering results up to an order of magnitude faster. Joe Smetana explains.

LED Market Drives Demand for New Laminates

Ventec's Bruce Hurley discusses how the LED market has driven the demand for materials that transfer heat efficiently. Standards need to be further developed in this area. Apples to apples product comparisons are a challenge right now and long-term reliability studies need continue to be conducted.

L3 Communications Develops Reliability Training Programs

L3 Communications has embarked on a series of training programs designed to enhance its aerospace products' reliability and productivity. Supervisor and Master IPC Trainer Rob Fornefeld talks with Editor Ray Rasmussen about the program, how it began, and where it stands today.

Printed Electronics Standards and Technology Update

John Andresakis talks with Ray Rasmussen about the expanding printed electronics market. IPC has made printed electronics a technology priority, and Andresakis delves into some of the progress the organization has made with standards and technologies for the PEC industry.

Maxed Out: A Man on the Move

Boy, am I exhausted. I am in the process of moving my office. You wouldn't think this would be too much trouble, considering the fact that I'm only moving from one bay to another in the same building, but the task is proving to be harder than expected. And where did I get all of this stuff? Boxes upon boxes, and a lot of it is going in the trash. Naturally, the lift in the building broke down last week. Give me strength!

New Column: Six Keys to PCB Design Excellence

This column begins a series of six that will discuss a variety of PCB design and manufacturing problems, and possible solutions. John Isaac kicks off the series by discussing management of intellectual property.

Maxed Out: I'm Radioactive, But in a Good Way

Work continues on my huge mosaic of Van Gogh's "Starry Night," with a little help from a type of glass I just found out about: Van Gogh glass. And testing my homemade Geiger counter became much easier when I discovered that Amazon does, in fact, sell handy-dandy cans of radioactive uranium ore. Is there anything Amazon doesn't sell?

Brad Griffin: Cadence Allegro Update

Guest Editor Kelly Dack interviews Brad Griffin, product marketing director for Cadence Design Systems, to find out more about Cadence's recent enhancements to its Allegro tool suite.

Data Format Update: ODB++ Development Continues

During NEPCON China 2012, PCBDesign007 China Editor Edy Yu sat down with Ji Wei, channel capability manager with Mentor Graphics. They discussed the current and future development of the ODB++ data transfer format, which has been in the news quite a bit lately.

From Concept to Manufacturing With Zuken

Guest Editor Kelly Dack queries Zuken's Senior Technical Marketing Manager, Humair Mandavia, about Zuken's new CR-8000 suite of tools that promises a fresh approach to design solutions, from concept to manufacture.

The Fabricator's Newest Tool: The Call Center

For many prototype PCB makers, survival has depended upon being nimble, resourceful and of high value to design teams. The emergence of the e-commerce model meant that a local fabricator could develop a global customer base. But e-commerce-based board makers have a reputation for being difficult to reach. Now, the savvy PCB manufacturer is investing in the latest, greatest tool in a company's toolkit: the 24/7 call center.

The Business and Technology Climate in China

Rich Chenoweth, VP of global sales and marketing for Maskless Lithography, talks with Guest Editor Marcy LaRont about the business climate in China, as well as technology trends there. He sees an expansion of Chinese companies that serve the China market.

A View of the European and Chinese Markets

Erhard Hofmann, managing director of AdoptSMT Group, discusses the European and Chinese PCB markets. Based in Europe, AdoptSMT Group is a global supplier of previously owned equipment and spare parts.

Karel Tavernier: Gerber Definitely Not "Dumb" Data

Karel Tavernier, managing director of Ucamco, owner and caretaker of the Gerber format, replies to Julian Coates' letter: "First, what is Gerber? It is an image description language used specifically by the bare board industry that enables PCB designers to transfer accurately and reliably even the most complex PCB design data, including drill data. It is a superlative image description format. No more, no less."

Maxed Out: Ray Bradbury Takes Flight

There were a number of science fiction authors whose works I devoured when I was growing up, such as Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clark. And, of course, the works of Ray Bradbury were a cornerstone of my collection. Ray had a unique style that really set him apart from the crowd.

Zuken Keeps its Eyes on the Cloud

Zuken Senior Technical Marketing Manager Humair Mandavia and Editor Andy Shaughnessy discuss the company's plans to utilize cloud computing for its tool sets, now and into the future.

Andy Kowalewski: Time for a Single Data File Format

Some design files go overseas, some stay local and all need to have thought put into them. Mistakes can happen easily; I've been embarrassed more than once to discover the wrong files were sent, or files were missing. The single, standard file format is an absolute blessing, right up there with food, clothing, shelter and quality red wine. By Andy Kowalewski.

HyperLynx: Not Just an SI Tool Anymore

Steve McKinney of Mentor Graphics describes the evolution of the HyperLynx tool. In just a few years, HyperLynx has gone from a signal integrity tool to a full PCB design analysis suite.

Maxed Out: Of Birthdays and Treadmills

Well, as usual, I'm bouncing off the walls with excitement. I just celebrated a birthday (I'm now middle-aged, assuming I live to be 110) and I've decided to stop being a "desk potato" and get some exercise. I invested in a super cool treadmill desk that allows you to work on your laptop while walking on the treadmill. Before you know it, I'll have 6-pack abs!

Pyralux TK Scores TKO on High-Speed Challenges

Guest Editor Kelly Dack speaks with DuPont's Glenn Oliver and Mark Dirks about their new Teflon/Kapton laminate system that's used worldwide to address signal integrity issues.

Maxed Out: Two Longs and a Short

We columnists love to get e-mails from grateful readers. This week I'll share an e-mail from a reader whose story may sound familiar to you, especially if you've been in the industry long enough to have "senior" in your title! And we have some recommendations from Max's Book Club; it's not a popular as Oprah's Book Club (yet), but hope springs eternal!

Maxed Out: Apple Takes Over my Home

I don't know why, but for some reason I thought that Apple TV referred to a digital TV that was in some way "Apple-compliant" or "Apple-friendly." Oh, was I wrong. Apple TV actually refers to a little box that sits next to your regular digital TV and connects to it via an HDMI cable. The Apple TV also connects to your wireless router, thereby allowing you to stream content from the Internet and/or from your iPad or whatever. Apple continues its conquest apace!

Letter to the Editor: Gerber's "Dumb" Data is no Advantage

Last week's column about the recent SMTA Atlanta Designers' Roundtable held struck a chord. The section about data transfer formats (everyone in the room used Gerber, and many used both Gerber and ODB++) drew this letter to the editor from Julian Coates of Mentor Graphics. Are there really any advantages to using Gerber?

Maxed Out: In My Day, Part 2

This week, Max posts a bit of fan mail and continues to look at advances in telephone and television technology. We forget how far TVs have advanced in a few decades. In the old analog days, it was common for the TV image to move so that the upper part of the picture disappeared and reappeared at the bottom of the screen. You might be watching "I Love Lucy" with her head and torso at the bottom of the screen and her legs walking around above her. Some of you remember!

Manufacturing Perspectives: Europe, US and China

Guest Editor Michael Weinhold of the EIPC talks to industry veteran Gene Weiner. They compare the recent lineup of industry trade shows and discuss their differing views on the state of the industry's growth and the world's economies.

Polar Enhances its Impedance Test System

Polar Instruments' Ken Taylor chats with Guest Editor Mark Thompson during IPC APEX EXPO about the company's Controlled Impedance Test System and Polar's outlook for the future.

Gary Ferrari Updates on IPC-2221 Design Standard

Gary Ferrari, director of technical support at FTG Circuits and IPC Designers Council founding member, speaks with Guest Editor Bob Neves about the activities of the council and the upcoming revision to the IPC-2221 Design Standard.

Benefits of Coplanar Waveguide Over Ground

Why should we consider using coplanar waveguide over ground (CPWG)? It allows us to narrow the trace almost arbitrarily for a given layer thickness while maintaining a 50 or 75 ohm impedance. CPWG also allows less current into the air than a microstrip structure, because the topside ground copper shunts the field current locally to the topside ground. By Steve Hageman.

Chip and PCB Co-design: Cut Costs and Improve Quality

Nearly every IC finds its way onto a PCB. Despite this fact, most PCB designs are an afterthought and never considered in the planning of the chip. The PCB is difficult to complete on a minimal number of layers and signal integrity is often compromised. But these problems can be solved by implementing a cross-domain co-design methodology that considers the layout requirements of the PCB (without looking over the package substrate) in the context of floor-planning the chip.

Nippon Mektron Prepares for New Printed and Flex Products

Nippon Mektron's Dr. Hirofui Matsumoto provides a glimpse of several printed and flexible electronics products that the company has been developing. His company has established a robust supply chain of printed electronic materials suppliers to ensure new product introduction success. Nippon Mektron, a 40-year old company, is excited about the potential of printed electronics product opportunities and actively pursuing them.

PCB Libraries: A Global Library Vending Machine

PCB Libraries is back! And, as PCB Libraries President Tom Hausherr explains, the "new and improved" PCB Libraries is on track to become the world's first Global Library Vending Machine, $1.00 at a time. Why shouldn't designers who spend hours creating library parts earn royalties for these parts?

Intercept's Design Software Moving Into 3-D

Intercept Technology recently revamped the GUI of their Pantheon design suite. North American Sales Director Dale Hanzelka chats with Editor Andy Shaughnessy about the new interface, the challenges their customers are facing, and the drivers behind Intercept's journey into the third dimension.

MIA: The Next Generation of Designers?

San Diego design icon Mike Creeden discusses the morning presentations here at the Designers Forum, including his take on the critical need for PCB design education. He also outlines plans for Tuesday night's Designers Council meeting hosted by his company, San Diego PCB.

ODB++: An Open Alliance

ODB++ has long been considered a de facto standard as a CAD database exchange format. But is it an open format? Julian Coates of Mentor Graphics explains why the term "alliance" is used to describe how ODB++ serves as a data hub for any software tool that must work with other tools to bring a design from layout to manufacture.

Bruce Archambeault: EMC Issues A Fact of Life

Dr. Bruce Archambeault, distinguished engineer with IBM, discusses the state of EMC, and why so many designers and engineers of all stripes attend DesignCon for help with analysis.

PCBs: Not Old-Fashioned Technology After All

Noted author and blogger Brian Bailey discusses the many characteristics that the worlds of ICs and PCBs have in common, and why PCBs should not be considered old technology.

Business Drivers for Next-Generation Materials

It's said that nothing happens in a vacuum. Oak-Mitsui's Bob Carter, Director of Business Development and Technology, explains how advancements to the next generation in one component often drive changes in other areas, including materials developed by his company.

Your AMI Model: A Peach or a Lemon?

Dr. Michael Steinberger, lead architect of serial channel products at SiSoft, discusses his hit DesignCon tutorial, "AMI Models: How to Tell a Peach From a Lemon." He and Todd Westerhoff, SiSoft's VP of software products, led the half-day tutorial, which drew a big crowd.

The State of PCB Design, 2011

While the economy slouched through 2011, the electronics industry, and PCB design and fabrication in particular, and showed signs of recovery. Is this market segment a bellwether of the economy? That's best left to the economists, but hopefully the rest of the economy will indeed increase its crawl from recession.

Cost Savings of Copper Wire Bonding

Copper wire bonding offers a substantial cost saving over gold wire bonding in packaging applications. Mustafa Ozkok, Atotech's Global Product Manager, Selective Finishing, tells Editor Pete Starkey how electroless palladium direct on copper offers an ideal substrate finish.

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