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3DEM Modeling: Influence of Metal Plating on PCB Channel Loss and Impedance
03/21/2019 | Chang Fei Yee, Keysight Technologies
Bert Simonovich on Modeling Copper Roughness
03/21/2019 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
Mentor’s Cristian Filip Discusses His Award-winning DesignCon Paper
03/21/2019 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
EMA: Cadence Moves Simulation Further Up in the Design Cycle
03/15/2019 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
Electromagnetic Analysis Design Insight: Effects of Meshed Reference Planes on Interconnects
03/13/2019 | Yuriy Shlepnev, Simberian
Beyond Design: Mastering “Black Magic” with Howard Johnson’s Seminars
Dr. Howard Johnson, the world’s foremost authority on signal integrity, has recently released his High-Speed Digital Design (HSDD) Collection. I recently reviewed all three of the seminars in this collection, a total of 36 hours of viewing time. If you want to gain some of Dr. Johnson's enthusiasm and master the art of high-speed design, then the collection is a must-have.
Making Digital and Analog “Play Nice” at Peavey
Most guitarists have owned a Peavey Electronics amplifier or instrument at some point in their lives. Peavey originally drew accolades for their line-up of high-quality, budget-friendly products. Now the company also develops high-end instruments, amps, and live sound equipment. Peavey was also the last major American musical equipment maker to have product manufactured overseas. I met with Tom Stuckman, an electrical engineer at Peavey, during NAMM and asked him about the technical challenges he faces and what it’s like working at Peavey.
Designing With Tighter Tolerances
David Ledger-Thomas is a PCB design engineer with Honeywell Aerospace. He’s spent decades designing PCBs for a variety of applications, including defense, aerospace, computers, and high-performance audio. I asked David to share some of his thoughts on designing high-tech boards with increasingly finer spaces, traces and pitch.
Lightning Speed Laminates: The Dilemma--Soldermask for High-Frequency PCBs
Typically, PCBs with RF traces on the outer layers have minimal or no soldermask in the RF circuitry areas. Many times the soldermask is applied in areas where components are soldered to the PCB but the soldermask is developed away in the areas where conductors have critical RF performance. There are many reasons to avoid soldermask coverage on RF conductors, due to inherent soldermask properties.
Designing with Fine Lines and Features
Albert Gaines is the owner and senior PCB designer at HiGain Design Services in Norcross, Georgia. He’s been a PCB designer since 1981; he's designed a variety of boards in that time. I asked Albert to talk about some of the finer lines and features that come through his shop, as well as some design techniques for boards with tight tolerances.
Taylor Guitars Protected with Analog, RF Circuitry
Trenton Blizzard is an electrical engineer at Taylor Guitars and part of the team that developed the TaylorSense shock and climate change protection system. At the NAMM show, Trenton spoke with me, along with Editors Dick Crowe and Dan Feinberg, about this new device, and what it’s like being an electrical engineer for a “woodworking shop.”
From the CAM Shop: Tight Tolerance Design Tips
After you finish your design, it winds up in the hands of people like Mark Thompson, the man who runs the CAM department at Prototron Circuits in Redmond, Washington. He sees CAD data firsthand, and often has to address errors and inconsistencies in PCB designs. For this issue, we asked Mark to discuss the today’s tight tolerances, some of the problems they can cause PCB designers, and what designers can do when dealing with shrinking features.
The State of the Electronic Design Automation Nation
We are the automation nation. We are the high-speed demons, the low-frequency artists, the mixed-signal designers that make up the electronic design automation industry. We spend most of our working lives behind software, delivered to our fingertips with the promise of making things easier, faster, better, and getting us to our deadlines ever faster.
Designers Notebook: Specifying Lead-Free Compatible Surface Finish and Coating for Solderability and Surface Protection
A majority of the components furnished for electronic assembly are designed for solder attachment to metalized land patterns specifically designed for each device type. Providing a solder process-compatible surface finish on these land patterns is vital; however, selection of the surface finish on the circuit structure, whether plated or coated, can be greatly influenced by the components’ terminal metalization and the specific alloy composition used for the assembly process.
The Importance of Design for Profit (DFP)
In this interview, Interconnect Design Solutions’ Mike Brown and I took a few minutes during the recent Geek-A-Palooza event to discuss the importance of material selection and designing for profitability, how automation affects the design process, and the future of the design community.
Sensible Design: Coatings—Five Essentials for Designers
In an ideal world, PCB designs would not have an inherent weak point for corrosion; unfortunately, in the real world, they do. When a weak point is revealed, you are better equipped to deal with it. Often the spacing of components, board finish and distance to ground planes can be optimised for corrosion resistance.
Beyond Design: The Case for Artificial Intelligence in EDA Tools
There has been a lot of activity in the field of artificial intelligence recently, with such developments as voice recognition, unmanned autonomous vehicles and data mining to list a few. But how could AI possibly influence the PCB design process? This month, Barry Olney will take a look at the endless possibilities.
Changing the World of PCB Rapid Prototyping
Tony Tung is a recent graduate from Taiwan who has come up with a new way for PCB designers and makers to create breadboards using printed paper circuits. I caught up with Tony at the recent San Mateo Maker Faire and sat down with him to learn more about this project.
Rogers’ John Coonrod on Insertion Loss
John Coonrod of Rogers Corporation gave a keynote presentation at the recent Geek-A-Palooza trade show, concentrating on printed circuit board fabrication’s influences on insertion loss. I sat down with John to learn more about his presentation and what OEMs and designers need to be aware of to avoid insertion loss.
Tim’s Takeaways: The Basics of Hybrid Design, Part 3
The world of hybrid design is growing, and we have lots of hybrid-specific functionality built into our software that helps designers meet and conquer the unique hybrid design requirements that they are faced with. And yet many designers out there (and I used to be one of them) have no idea what is meant when people start talking about hybrid design.
Romanian Electronics Industry Celebrates 25th Anniversary of TIE
The high point of the Romanian TIE event was a competition among the students to design and layout a circuit for a specific product meeting to the maximum extent possible a long list of design and product requirements. The students had four hours to deliver a design which was then evaluated by a team comprised of a university instructor and a seasoned industry engineer.
EDA Tools: Automation vs. Control
Stephen V. Chavez, CID+, is currently the lead PCB designer for the Electronic Systems Center division of UTC Aerospace Systems (UTAS). He's also a frequent speaker at the IPC APEX EXPO Design Forum. I caught up with Stephen and asked for his thoughts on the EDA tools of today, and whether he’d prefer to have more control vs. more automation.
DownStream: What a Long EDA Trip it’s Been
No doubt about it: DownStream Technologies co-founder Joe Clark is an EDA veteran, with a history that dates back to the very beginning of EDA tools through the merger madness of the late ‘90s and beyond. I sat down with Joe during IPC APEX EXPO, and asked him about some of the changes he’s seen, and the direction of DownStream as it enters its 15th year.
The Shaughnessy Report: The Designer Roundtable Roundup
Every year, I attend SMTA Atlanta, just across town. You have to love a local trade show. No airlines, no jet lag, and no hotels. It’s a small show; it would fit in a school gymnasium. But for me, the highpoint of SMTA Atlanta is the Designers Roundtable. This year the roundtable had 15 attendees, up from 12 last year. Two of the new attendees were under 35, which surprised all of us "graybeards."
PADS Paper: 10 Things to Know about Thermal Design
As designs get smaller, power densities at all packaging levels increase dramatically. Removing heat is critical to the operation and long-term reliability of electronics, and component temperatures within specification are the universal criteria used to determine the acceptability of a design. This PADS paper discusses 10 things designers need to know about thermal design.
Design Automation Tools, Today and in the Future
Kelly Dack has been designing PCBs for over three decades, at OEMs of all kinds. Now a PCB designer with a Washington state contract manufacturer, Kelly enjoys waxing philosophic about PCB design and design automation in general. I asked Kelly about the direction EDA tools are headed, and whether he’d like to see more control, or more automation in his PCB design tools.
Beyond Design: DDR3/4 Fly-by vs. T-topology Routing
JEDEC introduced fly-by topology in the DDR3 specification for the differential clock, address, command and control signals. The advantage of fly-by topology is that it supports higher-frequency operation, reduces the quantity and length of stubs and consequently improves signal integrity and timing on heavily loaded signals. Fly-by topology also reduces simultaneous switching noise (SSN) by deliberately causing flight-time skew.
Designers and Design Engineers: Two Sides of the Same Coin
Andy and Sue Critcher have been the lead designers at Total Board Solutions Limited, a UK-based design bureau, since its founding in 1998. I asked Andy to share his opinion about the friction between some PCB designers and their engineers, and what can be done to improve communications between these groups.
Designers Notebook: Flexible and Rigid-Flex Circuit Design Principles, Part 6
The designer is generally under pressure to release the documentation and get the flexible circuit into production. There is, however, a great deal at risk. Setting up for medium-to-high volume manufacturing requires significant physical and monetary resources. To avoid potential heat from management, the designer must insist on prototyping the product and a thorough design review prior to release.
The Roles of the Designer and the Design Engineer
Steve Hageman has been designing electronics since elementary school. An engineer by trade, he has decades of experience performing PCB design and layout. I asked Steve to give us his opinion about the divide between some PCB designers and their engineers, and what can be done to solve this problem.
Cadence Paper: Automating Inter-Layer In-Design Checks in Rigid-Flex PCBs
Flexible PCBs make it possible to create a variety of products that require small, lightweight form factors. As flexible PCB fabrication technology has matured, new design challenges have emerged. This paper discusses some of the key challenges and introduces a new PCB design approach that enhances productivity through in-design inter-layer checks.
The Partnership: Design Engineers and PCB Designers
Randy Faucette is founder, president and director of engineering at Better Boards Inc. in Cary, North Carolina. I asked Randy to talk about some of the occasional tension between PCB designers and design engineers, and what he thinks can be done to help open the lines of communication.
SiSoft: Optimizing the State of the Art
In the 20 years since its founding, SiSoft has been at the forefront of signal integrity analysis tool development. Now, the company is leading the way with a new technology called OptimEye and tools for creating accurate IBIS-AMI models. Todd Westerhoff, VP of semiconductor relations, gives us an update on the company’s newest technologies.
Behind the Scenes: Adcom’s TLA Award-Winning Design
Adcom’s design team placed first in this year’s TLA program, taking the top spot for the category of “Computers, Blade & Servers, Memory Systems.” This board, like most PCBs today, is a complex system designed by a multi-disciplinary team of designers, striving to bring an operational product to the market on schedule.
Working With Circuit Design Engineers
Until the late 1980s, many PC board designers were converted technicians, mechanical designers, and artists who learned to read a schematic and mastered artwork taping. The EEs would often share their opinions, but you could listen to them or ignore them and the circuit would likely function either way. This era created some tension between designers and their EE counterparts, because they completely ignored each other’s ideas.
EMA is Bullish on Data Management
EMA Design Automation has evolved over the years, from a typical Cadence Design Systems VAR to a distributor that functions more like a part of Cadence. During DesignCon, I met with Greg Roberts, director of marketing for EMA, and asked him to discuss the company’s focus on data management tools, and why he’s giving away certain OrCAD tools.
Quiet Power: Dynamic Models for Passive Components
A year ago, my Quiet Power column described the possible large loss of capacitance in multilayer ceramic capacitors when DC bias voltage is applied. However, DC bias effect is not the only way we can lose capacitance. Temperature, aging, and the magnitude of the AC voltage across the ceramic capacitor also can change its capacitance. This column will provide all of the details.
Design Strategies for Success—and Profit
In today’s economic environment, making money on a project is getting more and more challenging. Those years when businesses like mine were practically printing money are long gone. If you are under 30 years old, you probably do not have this point of reference; it’s been one downturn after another for your entire adult life. But for us older folks, times were really good back then. So, what happened? You happened, as well as a million others like you. In other words, the market is a little cramped now and much more competitive, which dilutes our profit per project.
Sunstone Circuits R&D: 3D Printing Great for Prototyping
We’ve been hearing a lot about 3D printing for the past few years. But where does 3D printing fit in with traditional rigid circuit board development? Sunstone Circuits recently completed a project that focused on that very question. Sunstone Product Manager Nolan Johnson explains why 3D printing is a viable option when it comes to jigs and parts of the support infrastructure that are needed when prototyping today’s emerging technologies.
Brooks' Bits: How Many Vias Does It Take To…?
During 2015, I enjoyed a very productive collaboration with Dr. Johannes Adam, from Leimen, Germany. This resulted in several papers, but one in particular is relevant for this column, “Via Currents and Temperatures.” In that paper, we used a simulation tool, thermal risk management, developed by Dr. Adam, to simulate current flowing through a via and then determine the temperature of the via. Read on to find out how our results contradicted conventional wisdom.
Beyond Design: The Need for Speed—Strategies for Design Efficiency
Years of experience with one EDA tool obviously develops efficiency, whether the tool be high-end feature-packed or basic entry-level. And one becomes accustomed to the intricacies of all the good and bad features of their PCB design tool. However, there comes a time when one should really consider a change for the better to incorporate the latest methodologies. This month, I will look at productivity issues that impede the PCB design process.
Designers Notebook: Flexible and Rigid-Flex Circuit Design Principles, Part 5
The outline profile of the flexible circuit is seldom uniform. One of the primary advantages of the flexible design is that the outline can be sculpted to fit into very oblique shapes. This month, Vern Solberg focuses on outline planning, physical reinforcement, and accommodating bends and folds in flexible and rigid-flex circuits.
Tim's Takeaways: The Principles of Hybrid Design, Part 1
What exactly is a hybrid design? We are seeing more and more of our customers exploring the world of hybrid design, and we are getting new customers for whom hybrid design is their sole focus. The world of hybrid design is growing and we have lots of hybrid-specific functionality built into our software that helps designers conquer the unique hybrid design requirements.
The Bare (Board) Truth: The Top 10 Ways Designers Can Increase Profits
So, can you truly increase profitability through PCB design practices? Prototron's Mark Thompson believes you can. And it starts with a philosophy that embraces DFM techniques. Then you must be ready for the initial release to a fabricator by ensuring that you are communicating all of your specifications and needs clearly to the fabrication house so that you get an accurate quote. Let’s dive in, starting with Number 10 and working our way to the most important way a designer can increase company profits.
Wild River: Simplifying SI so Engineers Can Focus on Design
Al Neves is founder and chief technologist of Wild River Technology, and he’s a signal integrity engineer who likes to tell it like it is. So when I bumped into Al during DesignCon, I asked him to sit down for an interview. We discussed the paper he co-wrote for DesignCon and the challenges SI engineers are facing, as well as Wild River’s efforts to take the black magic out of signal integrity.
RTW IPC APEX EXPO: HDP Users Group Update with Jack Fisher
Jack Fisher, technical director for the High-Density Packaging Group, discusses the latest projects that the consortium is focusing on. He explains that member companies have full access to all of the R&D data that is developed. One of the group's most interesting current efforts involves optoelectronics.
RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Geek-A-Palooza Coming to S. California May 12
Steve Williams sits down with Geek-A-Palooza founders Tara Dunn and Judy Warner to discuss their upcoming event in Irvine, California on May 12. The Geek-A-Palooza held in Minneapolis last year drew over 300 PCB designers, fabricators, assemblers and suppliers. Tara and Judy explain why this is not just another boring technical talk, and attendees will definitely enjoy themselves.
Steinberger Talks PAM4, the Next Generation of Modulation
I recently interviewed our old friend Michael Steinberger, SiSoft’s lead architect for serial channel products. Steinberger is always a great interview; he breaks down complex signal integrity simulation technology in ways that are simple and often humorous. Steinberger sat down and discussed a paper he presented at DesignCon, and some of the challenges his customers are facing.
IPC APEX EXPO: Isola Introduces New Products, Increases R&D
Ed Kelley, VP of global technology, sits down with Guest Editor Dan Beaulieu at IPC APEX EXPO to discuss the company's plans for the future. The company is launching new low-loss laminates and increasing its R&D activities around the globe. He also explains why Isola often works with designers at OEMs.
IPC APEX EXPO: Gary Carter on First Board Manufactured With IPC-2581B
Gary Carter, senior manager of CAD engineering for Fujitsu Network Communications, discusses the first board fabricated and assembled using IPC-2581B. This 20-layer board features 21,000 component pins and 15,000 holes, with controlled impedance on all layers. He also gave a presentation on IPC-2581B during the Design Forum.
What’s New at Cadence?
Cadence Design Systems has released a variety of PCB design tools lately, and we wanted to find out a little more about what’s new at Cadence. I tracked down Product Marketing Director Brad Griffin and asked him to discuss some of the newest technology coming out of Cadence.
IPC APEX EXPO: New Arlon Materials Address Design and Fab Challenges
Brad Foster, VP and general manager of Arlon, discusses some new laminates and pre-pregs that help designers and fabricators address a variety of challenges. He explains how Arlon works with customers to help them with stack-ups and other issues.
IPC APEX EXPO: Electrolube to Educate PCB Designers on Coatings
Phil Kinner, technical director of coatings for Electrolube, discusses a paper on condensation testing that he presented at IPC APEX EXPO, and his plans to educate PCB designers about conformal coatings to help them avoid problems during manufacturing.
What’s New at Zuken?
Zuken has developed some innovative PCB design tools in the past few years, and I wanted to find out more about the company’s new and upcoming technologies. I caught up with Bob Potock, vice president of marketing for the Americas for Zuken USA, and asked him what was new at Zuken.
The PDN Bandini Mountain and Other Things I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know
Originally, Bandini Mountain referred to a mound of fertilizer built by the Bandini Fertilizer Company in California prior to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. When the company went bankrupt, this mound of fertilizer was left behind. Steve Weir coined this term to describe the large resonant frequency peak formed by the parallel combination of the on-die capacitance and the package lead inductance, as seen from the die looking into the PDN.
Designers Notebook: Flexible and Rigid-Flex Circuit Design Principles, Part 4
All of the design rules for the glass reinforced-portion of the board (land pattern geometry for mounting surface mount devices, solder mask and the like) are now well-established. One unique facet of fabricating the rigid-flex product is how the flexible portion of the circuit is incorporated with the rigid portion of the circuit. As a general rule for multilayer PCB design, furnish a balanced structure by building up the circuit layers in pairs (4, 6, 8 and so on).
IPC APEX EXPO: Prototron Works with Customers to Stay on Top
Prototron Circuits Operations Manager Mike Graves explains how his company's focus on customer service, including helping with PCB designs, has made Prototron "America's Board Shop." He also discusses their expansion into flex and HDI technology, and their efforts to achieve AS9100 certification.
IPC APEX EXPO: Hofer Discusses the Pros and Cons of Backdrilling
General Manager James Hofer of Accurate Circuit Engineering discusses the process of backdrilling vias, including the benefits and drawbacks. Backdrilling can improve signal integrity, but it can also create stubs that may act as unwanted antennas.
IPC APEX EXPO: Clyde Coombs Discusses the New Printed Circuits Handbook
In this interview that was shot during the IPC APEX EXPO 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Clyde Coombs discusses the latest edition of the Printed Circuits Handbook, which was published this week. The seventh edition, co-edited with Happy Holden, includes new sections on supply chain management and PCB design, with a chapter on EDA tools by Design007 Editor Andy Shaughnessy.
What’s New at DownStream?
Since its founding in the uncertain days of 2002, DownStream Technologies has made a name for itself with its line of PCB design post-processing tools. Founder Rick Almeida gives us an update on the latest innovations at DownStream, and he discusses some of the challenges and trends he sees in the PCB design segment.
IPC APEX EXPO: Glenn Oliver on His IPC 'Best Paper' on High-Frequency Materials
Glenn Oliver of DuPont discusses his award-winning paper, “Round Robin of High-Frequency Test Methods by IPC-D24C Task Group." Co-authors include Jonathan Weldon of DuPont, John Andresakis of Park Electrochemical, Chudy Nwachukwu of Isola, John Coonrod of Rogers Corporation, David L. Wynants of Taconic Advanced Dielectric Division, and Don DeGroot of Connected Community Networks. The paper looks at high-frequency offerings from a variety of materials providers.
Mark Thompson: It’s All About Communication
In engineering support at Prototron Circuits, Mark Thompson has seen it all. He ensures that each design is manufactured the way the designer intended, even if the CAD data is not crystal clear. During DesignCon, Barry Matties and Andy Shaughnessy talked with Thompson about why communication is paramount when designing and prototyping boards. Thompson also explained how designers can avoid making common mistakes that can set back an entire project.
Beyond Design: Faster than a Speeding Bullet
In optical communications, electrons don’t carry the signal—photons do. And we all know that photons travel at the speed of light. So surely, optical fibers must transmit information much faster than copper wires or traces on a multilayer PCB? Actually, photons and electrons transmit data at the same speed. The limiting factor is the relative permittivity (dielectric constant) of the medium in which the signal propagates.
Technology Outlook with Mentor Graphics
Mentor Graphics recently announced the winners of its PCB Technology Leadership Awards. Now in its 26th year, this program provides a great barometer for measuring the newest trends in cutting-edge PCB designs. I caught up with Product Marketing Manager David Wiens and asked him to give us an idea of the trends he’s seeing in PCB design and manufacturing, and what the industry has in store for us in the next few years.
Designers Notebook: Flexible and Rigid-Flex Circuit Design Principles, Part 3
This installment of "Designers Notebook" will focus on methods for specifying base materials, and also address copper foil variations and fabrication documentation. It is important to research the various products in order to choose the one that best meets the design requirements.
Catching up With Tom Hausherr of PCB Libraries
When fate placed Tom Hausherr and I at PCB West, we made sure to carve out some time together. Tom agreed to have a long breakfast with me so I could learn more about the challenges related to component libraries and how his company addresses these issues. So, pull up a chair and join us for a chat.
Enhancing Thermal Performance of CSP Integrated Circuits
In order to meet size and weight requirements, constraints of portable electronic designs often force PCB designers to reduce the size of components and PCB real estate area. To meet these demands, the use of CSP packages to shrink the PCB area needed is a common change in designs. As a result of the reduction of total PCB area, the available options to move heat and route high-power PCB traces is also reduced. Furthermore, the thermal performance cannot be matched when a QFN is compared to an equivalent CSP package.
The Shaughnessy Report: Doing My Part for Medical Electronics
One interesting aspect of having hernia surgery recently was the number of PCBs in the operating room. I’ve never seen so many electronic devices together in my life. I saw one Agilent monitor, and a bunch of others with names I couldn’t make out. It reminded me of the IT room in most companies. I guess they had to be set up to handle routine surgery like mine, and the not-so-routine operations as well. Medical electronics is doing fine, no doubt.
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.
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.
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