Article Highlights
MakeHarvard 2018: The Super Bowl of Makeathons
03/14/2018 | Sunstone Circuits
Still Using 1980s Formats for Design Data Handoff?
03/09/2018 | Hemant Shah and Ed Acheson, Cadence Design Systems
RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Polar Instruments Discusses New Engineer, SpeedStack Upgrades
03/07/2018 | Real Time with...IPC
RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Judy Warner Discusses EDA Market and Altium's Growth
03/05/2018 | Real Time with...IPC
IoT: Let’s Put the “A” Back into EDA
03/03/2018 | Ben Jordan, Altium

Latest Articles

Polar Talks Impedance and Insertion Loss Testing

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

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

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

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

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

Material Witness: How About that Technical Roadmap!

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

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

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

Effective Decoupling Radius

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

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

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

Understanding DFM and its Role in PCB Layout

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

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

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

UTC Aerospace Systems’ Lead PCB Designer Presents at Designer Day

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

Hunter Technology’s Two Newest CID Recipients Discuss Certification

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

EMA Design Automation Connecting the Data with Arena PLM Software

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

Hunter Technology on Design Operations and Business Strategies

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

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

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

Material Witness: Low-Flow Prepregs–Defining the Process

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

Mentor Paper: 10 Tips for Streamlining PCB Thermal Design

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

Panasonic Meeting Market Needs with Higher-Performance Megtron 7

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

Effective Characteristic Impedance

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

Altium Talks 3D Flex Packaging Design

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

Cirexx Introduces Eclisp, An Alternative to Co-fired Ceramics

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

Clyde Coombs Publishing 7th Edition of Printed Circuits Handbook

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

EPTAC Expansion Includes CID Curriculum

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

Cadence’s Brad Griffin Digs Deep Into DDR

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

Sunstone Unveils Updates for PCB123

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

Download HyperLynx DRC White Paper

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

Polar Takes on China's Test Equipment Counterfeiters

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

Top 10 Most-read PCB Design Magazine Columns

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

Top 10 Most-read PCB Design Magazine Articles

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

HDI Layer Stackups for Large, Dense PCBs

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

Component Selection for Easier Design and Manufacture of Electronics

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

Component Selection for Easier Design and Manufacture of Electronics

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

Adding Value to Your Design Outsourcing Experience

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

The Virtual CAD Department: The Case for Outsourcing Designs

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

Bare Board ECOs, ECNs, and Design Modifications

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

Smart PCB Sourcing Concepts

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

And the Data Transfer Beat Goes On...

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

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

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

Sink or Swim at 28 Gbps

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

Thermal Characterization of LEDs: Enabling the Upcoming Lighting Revolution

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

Lightning Speed Laminates: Chilling Out with Conductive Adhesives

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

Beyond Design: Signal Integrity, Part 1 of 3

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

Sketch Routing, Part 2: Quality

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

IPC-2581 Adoption Update

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

What's New in ODB++?

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

The True Impact of Automation

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

Sketch Routing, Part 1: Control

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

Reader Response: Gerber - The Smartest Way Forward

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

PCB Laminates and AS9100C

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

The Survey Said: A Third of Designers Near Retirement Age

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

Choosing the Right PCBA Repair Shop

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

Basic Principles of Polymer Thick Film Flexible Circuits

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

Optimizing Collaboration for PCB Systems Design

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

Multisite Concurrent Design: Tips and Best Practices

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

Trends in Thermal Management Materials for Electronic Circuits

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

Advanced Thermal Management Solutions on PCBs for High-Power Applications

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

Providing Extra Value to Meet Customer Needs

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

Routing DDR3 Memory and CPU Fanout

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

Electronics Industry Business Outlook from Mentor's Manor

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

The Shaughnessy Report: The EDA Tool Conundrum

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

Valor's Lean NPI: Integrating Design and Fab

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

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

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

Customer Support: Not Just for Customers Anymore

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

Intercept's Hanzelka on Updated Pantheon Capabilities

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

What is DFM, Really?

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

What is DFM, Really?

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

Tackling Multiple Part Libraries

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

Panel Discussion: File Transfer Formats

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

Valor NPI: Intelligent Data for Concurrent DFM

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

Developments in Glass Yarns & Fabric Constructions

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

Forensics Uncovers Elusive Defects & Saves PCB Designs

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

Strategies for Embedded Component Design

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

Conformal Coating Over No-clean Flux

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

Behavior of Materials in the Manufacturing Environment

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

Climatic Reliability of Electronic Devices and Components

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

The Influence of Electronic Design on Manufacturing

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

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

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

Mitigating the High Cost of PCB Documentation

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

Zuken Driving Chip-package Co-design

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

Properly Designing PCB Footprints

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

Hartley on the Future of PCB Design Education

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

The Shaughnessy Report: Back to Vegas

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

Altium's Ben Jordan on Version Control

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

Testing Your AMI Models

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

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

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

Trials, Tribulations, and Decisions at 100 Gb

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

An Introduction to Rigid-flex Design Best Practices

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

Design of Experiments: What's That?

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

On Board With Onshoring

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

EMA Simplifies DDR3 Simulation Data

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

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

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

What's Stopping the Signals?

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

Free Impedance Calculators May Not Cut It

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

Archambault Retired, But Still in EMC

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

Flex Design: Should You Do It Yourself?

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

Thermal Design: Still a Process Pinch Point?

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

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

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

It Takes a Team to Assure Power Integrity

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

Improve Your Design Cycle Through Manufacturing Flow

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

Process Preparation for World-class Competition

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

Design for Assembly: Components, Part 2

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

Quiet Power: Comparing Cable Shields

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

Top 10 Most-read PCB Design Magazine Articles of 2013

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

Qualifying a PCB Facility: Survey or Audit?

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

Design for Assembly: Components

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

FAQ: Qualifying Fabricators with Kelly Dack

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

Designed for Manufacture?

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

The Shaughnessy Report: PCB West a Good Omen for 2014

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

Improving Quality During Assembly with DFX

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

Design for Manufacture: A Tale of Two Materials

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

IPC-2581B Advances Data Transfer Standard

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

Key Factors Influencing Laminate Material Selection for Today's PCBs

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

Mentor Graphics Offers End-to-end Solutions

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

Board Design Moves Beyond Reach of In-Circuit Testers

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

Differential Signal Design, Part 2

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

Improved Thin-Film Resistor Material

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

EPTAC Expands Into Design Certification

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

The Bare (Board) Truth: A PCB Design Potpourri

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

Differential Signal Design, Part 1

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

Increase Productivity and Increase Profit: A Fresh Perspective

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

Designing for Profitability

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

Dynamic Supply Chain Visibility Cuts Re-spins

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

Connecting the Dots: The CAD Library

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

Next-Generation High-Speed Materials: An Updated List

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

Reid on Reliability: Cohesive Failures

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

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

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

Top 10 Key EMC Design Considerations

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

Design for Manufacturing: The Hidden Economy of HDI

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

HDI Technology: A Perspective for the Designer

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

Measuring Correlation to 50 GHz and Beyond

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

Increased Performance with Cost-effective HDI Technology

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

Is the Cloud a New Paradigm for Electronic Design?

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

Design for Profitability: Avoiding Fabrication Issues and Minimizing Costly Revisions

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

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

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

Design for Manufacturing: The 10 Commandments of Design for Assembly

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

ASTER Takes DFT to the Next Level

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

Cadence Integrates Sigrity Capabilities

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

Failure is the First Step on the Road to Success

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

Going Wild With Wild River Technologies

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

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

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

Automating the Design Process

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

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

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

Novel HDI Materials from Integral Technology

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

Acoustic Micro-imaging of Multilayer Ceramic & Polymer Capacitors

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

IPC Specifications and the Order of Precedence

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

A Tale of Two Loves

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

Design for Manufacturing: Dispense With the Gerbers Already

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

Twenty-Five Years of Simulation Stimulation

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

Simberian: High-End Simulation for Designers

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

Getting Active with Embedded Components

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

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

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

EPTAC's Leo Lambert on Counterfeit Training

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

The Shaughnessy Report: The State of PCB Design

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

Data, Data Everywhere. But...

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

Is the Cloud a New Paradigm for Electronic Design?

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

Micro-Waves, Macro-Challenges

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

The State of Embedded Component Technology

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

Sanmina: Leverage Your Fabricator's Knowledge!

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

Kick-Starting a Revolution: IPC-2581 Meets Gerber

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

A New Layout Tool, From Russia With Love

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

EMA Design Automation Ready for 2013 and Beyond

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

Trace Currents and Temperature, Part 2: Empirical Results

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

Your Design Education, Your Responsibility

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

Lee Ritchey: Designing a PCB Stackup, Part 1

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

Collaborate, Innovate, Accelerate

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

Effective Modeling of PCB Structures

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

Maxed Out: Radiation vs. Your Embedded System

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

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

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

Partner Early for HDI Board Design

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

Training Day at Circuit Technology

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

The Millennials: Talking 'Bout my Generation

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

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

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

He Wrote the Book on PoP Technology

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

Maxed Out: A Great Time to be a Technology Geek

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

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

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

New Invensas Package: Smaller, Faster, Cheaper

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

Bringing Back Operations in North America

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

Tech Circuits: Everyone is in Customer Service

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

BGA Symposium Draws a Good Crowd

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

Metal in the Board: A Return to the Future

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

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

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

Nanomaterials Developments Yield Opportunities in PEC

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

Maxed Out: The Forgotten Magnetic Wire Recorder

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

Virtual Prototyping: A System Design Requirement

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

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

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

LED Market Drives Demand for New Laminates

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

L3 Communications Develops Reliability Training Programs

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

Printed Electronics Standards and Technology Update

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

Maxed Out: A Man on the Move

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

New Column: Six Keys to PCB Design Excellence

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

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

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

Brad Griffin: Cadence Allegro Update

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

Data Format Update: ODB++ Development Continues

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

From Concept to Manufacturing With Zuken

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

The Fabricator's Newest Tool: The Call Center

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

The Business and Technology Climate in China

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

A View of the European and Chinese Markets

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

Karel Tavernier: Gerber Definitely Not "Dumb" Data

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

Maxed Out: Ray Bradbury Takes Flight

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

Zuken Keeps its Eyes on the Cloud

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

Andy Kowalewski: Time for a Single Data File Format

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

HyperLynx: Not Just an SI Tool Anymore

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

Maxed Out: Of Birthdays and Treadmills

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

Pyralux TK Scores TKO on High-Speed Challenges

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

Maxed Out: Two Longs and a Short

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

Maxed Out: Apple Takes Over my Home

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

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

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

Maxed Out: In My Day, Part 2

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

Manufacturing Perspectives: Europe, US and China

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

Polar Enhances its Impedance Test System

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

Gary Ferrari Updates on IPC-2221 Design Standard

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

Benefits of Coplanar Waveguide Over Ground

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

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

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

Nippon Mektron Prepares for New Printed and Flex Products

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

PCB Libraries: A Global Library Vending Machine

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

Intercept's Design Software Moving Into 3-D

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

MIA: The Next Generation of Designers?

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

ODB++: An Open Alliance

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

Bruce Archambeault: EMC Issues A Fact of Life

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

PCBs: Not Old-Fashioned Technology After All

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

Business Drivers for Next-Generation Materials

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

Your AMI Model: A Peach or a Lemon?

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

The State of PCB Design, 2011

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

Cost Savings of Copper Wire Bonding

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

Practical Experience Manufacturing PCBs With Embedded Active and Passive Devices

The Advanced Multilayer process for embedded devices was developed in the mid-1990s and patented in 2004. Standard active and passive components are suitable for the AML process technique. The component attachment uses soldering or gluing with adhesives or any other technology like wire bonding, plating or sintering.

SMT Perspectives and Prospects

Over the last 10 years, Dr. Jennie S. Hwang has received many questions about best practices when a PCB comprises lead-free packages, tin-lead packages using lead-free solder paste, or lead-free solder paste. Concerns often arise regarding the resulting performance and reliability level in each scenario.

Thermal-Electrical and Mechanical Simulation of Packages

Kirsten Weide-Zaage offers a look at some new phenomena surrounding thermal-electrical and mechanical simulation of PoP, microBGA and TSV packages. Her department at the University of Hannover works with industry partners on a variety of projects related to advanced packaging.

The Bare (Board) Truth: What you Want vs. What you Get

This month, I hope to provide a better understanding of fabricator practices and preferences vs. design preferences. As Mick Jagger might say, "You can't always get what you want." But if you work with your fabricator, you'll usually get what you need anyway. Let's start with material selection and go from there.

Polar Fine-Tunes Flex-Rigid Stack-up Design Software

Martyn Gaudion, CEO of Polar Instruments and a PCBDesign007 columnist, tells Pete Starkey about the latest developments in design and documentation tools for flex-rigid stack-up. He discusses the background behind the development of Polar's Speedflex platform, and the need to keep such a potentially complex tool user-friendly.

Walt Custer Interprets the Market

This year, we've had the Fukishima disaster, the floods in Thailand, the U.S. debt and political stalemate, along with the financial crises facing Europe with the possible default of Greece and Italy. Market guru Walt Custer has had his hands full, but he sorts through all of the noise in this market update.

The Shaughnessy Report: Simplified Solutions Merges ECAD, MCAD

The gap between mechanical and electrical CAD continues to shrink. Keith Richman, president of Simplified Solutions, discusses his new IDF-To-3D tool. This free tool allows PCB designers and engineers to create 3D PCB designs without using MCAD software.

Travel Tips from RealTime's Unsung Hero, Kirk Wallace

Just in time for the holidays! I-Connect007 videographer Kirk Wallace, the unsung hero of the RealTime with...productronica team, offers his tips for transporting expensive camera equipment by air. Not to be missed for all you air travelers! For extra credit: Who do you think stole our camera - the airline or TSA?

Maxed Out: From Steam Engines to Wind Walkers

My degree is in control engineering, which means I studied electronics, mechanics, hydraulics and fluidics. But it's only been recently that I've come to appreciate mechanical systems as the things of beauty that they are. This week we'll take a look at a few mechanical systems that date to antiquity, and then focus like a laser (I should build a laser...) on my most recent project - The Wind Walker.

ODB++ Format Development Update

There's plenty of talk about data transfer standards these days. Mentor Graphics Business Development Manager Dave Wiens explains how ODB++ continues to evolve, thanks to a large installed base, and he also discusses the IPC-2581 transfer standard.

What is Trace Impedance and Why Do We Care?

When we hear the term "controlled impedance" trace, our first confusion might come from this question: Why does a trace have any impedance at all? And if it does, what does it mean that we somehow control it? And how is it that a trace has a potentially significant AC impedance? In this column, Doug Brooks examines these issues and much more.

Top 10 Issues In IBIS Models

Does your company perform incoming inspection on IBIS files? Incoming quality can be checked in a matter of minutes for many models. Once a file has passed QA, it can be placed in a shared model library. Familiarity with the IBIS website and the IBIS 5 spec can make troubleshooting models faster and easier. Here are the Top 10 problems encountered when using IBIS models. By Lynne Green.

Maxed Out: On the Road to Redmond

You never know what life may bring. I was just invited to give a talk at Microsoft's main campus as part of a really cool extravaganza on September 28. All I know for certain is that pianist Patrick Leonard (of Elton John and Madonna fame) will be performing, and I can speak about any topic I choose. Bill Gates may live to regret that!

Bridging the Design-Fab Gap

Yash Sutariya, Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Saturn Electronics, sits down with Editor Pete Starkey after his presentation "Bridging the Gap Between Design and Fabrication." Interestingly, most of the audience were fellow PCB fabricators--not the designers to which he'd intended on speaking.

Maxed Out: A Need for Mentoring Programs

My first employer, International Computers Limited, had a really good mentoring policy: Junior engineers like me were partnered with experienced team leaders. I'm pondering this now because I recently heard from a young design engineer at a large aerospace firm. The problem? No one is mentoring him. They just give him tasks and leave him to sink or swim. Does this sound like your company?

Mentor Graphics Embedding Valor Functionality

John Isaac of Mentor Graphics explains how the functionality of the Valor suite of DFM tools will be embedded into the Mentor Graphics PCB design tools, and how the two companies' cultures have meshed over the past year.

Be the "Go-To Person" at Your Company

Tellabs Principal Engineer Randy Cherry discusses why he's fired up about his job after watching a presentation by Rick Hartley at the Designers Forum in Las Vegas. He also details some of the challenges he faces qualifying new PCB fabricators and finding quality laminates at a reasonable price point.

Data May Not be Modified!

Or can it? Mike Tucker, Director of Engineering at Colonial Circuits, presented "Data May Not Be Modified" at this year's Designers Forum in Las Vegas. As he tells Guest Editor Kelly Dack, the presentation relates to how fabricators' hands are still tied due to PCB designers' requirements. Tucker has tips for breaking these ties that bind.

PCB Design, Fab and Assembly With Mass Design

Mass Design's founder Tony Bourassa explains the company's business which offers customers a rare service: Design, fabrication and assembly of PCBs in one location to help shorten time to market.

Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is power, and Germany wants to keep its educated designers from leaving. Professor Rainer Thuringer is a representative of the Federation of Electronic Design for Germany, Switzerland and Austria, and a university professor who teaches high-speed PCB design. He discusses the challenges in recruiting new European design students, his federation's partnership with IPC, and Germany's drive to keep electronics design talent in Germany.

Education Aspect Big Draw at Designers Forum

Chris Kershaw is principal PCB engineer at TAIT Radio Communications, a New Zealand-based company that builds two-way radios and infrastructure products. Kershaw explains how he passed his CID+ at APEX, and why he brought along staff members to learn new design techniques. He also discusses the company's help in the rescue effort after the Christchurch earthquake.

Zuken Claims Bigger Market Share

Second place is not such a bad place to be. Zuken Application Engineer Griff Derryberry believes Zuken's market share is rising, and he discusses an article that puts Zuken in the Number 2 spot worldwide.

Methods of Modeling Differential Vias

Accurate models for vias in a multilayer circuit board are necessary to predict link performance in the GHz regime. This paper describes a methodology to build a high-bandwidth, scalable first approximation circuit model using simple transmission lines of long vias typically used in thick backplane designs. Written by Bert Simonovich, Dr. Eric Bogatin and Dr. Yazi Cao.

Saving Time, Money with SI 'Simulation Lite'

Is it always necessary to conduct a lengthy signal integrity analysis when designing a multi-gigahertz PCB? Intel Principal Engineer Rich Mellitz says no. He discusses his DesignCon paper on "Simulation Lite," which describes a simpler method that can be just as accurate and far less time-consuming.

Engineering Startup on the Road to Success

There's no time like the present: When engineers Al Neves and James Bell had an idea for starting a new company, they didn't wait for the economy to improve. They launched Wild River Technology and never looked back. At DesignCon, Al sat down to discuss the founding of the company, the direction it's headed, and how their love of fly fishing shaped their plans.

Stadium Reports 27% Revenue Increase in 2010

Commenting on the company's outlook, Chairman Nick Brayshaw OBE said, "We remain optimistic that continued growth will be achieved from existing products and customers and will continue to win new business to increase our market share as the key to future success."

Estimating PCB Design Time and Complexity

One thing that I have had to do on my new PCB jobs is to make an estimate of how long the layout will take, or if it is even possible, given the PCB area. Most designers have some method of estimating design time, based on gut feel, past experience, or a spreadsheet. Here is a better way to estimate PCB design time and complexity.

DesignCon 2011 Show Wrapup

DesignCon 2011 is history, and this show seemed much busier than last year's event. This marked the first DesignCon since EE Time Group acquired the show last year. Sure, there were a few missteps - exhibitors complained that event staffers were unorganized, and speakers were furious over certain changes. But this show is a good omen for 2011.

IBIS AMI Standard Update With SiSoft

Todd Westerhoff, VP of software products for SiSoft, updates us on the ever-evolving IBIS AMI modeling standard, which SiSoft has taken a leading role in managing.

Designers' Guide to Lead-Free SMT

If you design boards for the European Union, this technical paper is for you. Vern Solberg addresses three issues designers need to consider during the planning phase of new product development: Component selection for lead-free applications, product exemption criteria and specifying compatible PCB material and finish. This paper was presented at IPC APEX EXPO 2009.

Maxed Out: Home is Where the Heart Is

Now that we've recovered from our vacation time and Snowpocalype 2011 has ended, we're all getting back in the swing of things. As usual, I'm running around in ever-decreasing circles and putting out fires, but I have an update or two for you.

Get it 'Right the First Time' With 3D STEP Models

PCB design tools are evolving, albeit slowly. Simulation tools now allow us to do amazing work before we build hardware. But we have been lacking this same tight integration from our CAD tools to the mechanical domain. Now this is changing, as more 3D STEP models are available, along with PCB design tools that can import them.

Tom Clifford: Science Fairs Offer View of Future Technologists

I recently judged a couple of junior high school science fairs. What an unforgettable experience! One youngster couldn't find any HP gages that were "good enough," so he wrapped a few coils around a hiker's compass, calibrated faint needle deflections, and captured the necessary data, now in micro-amps, accomplishing his purpose with elegant simplicity. The future is bright.

Designers Notebook: Defining Package Variations, Part 1

To assist the PCB designer and assembly process engineer considering use of these package families, an IPC task group developed IPC-7093, a new document that furnishes both guidance and end-product requirements. This month, we look at the many package variations of bottom termination components covered by IPC-7093.

Training Trends With Blackfox

The last few years have been tough for everyone, especially in the world of high-tech training. But CEO Al Dill of Blackfox Training Institute believes the worst is over, and he explains why training is picking up again.

PCB Trends With David Wolf

The D-36 Subcommittee is responsible for the IPC PCQR2 Database of test results from fabricators worldwide. David Wolf, VP of technical marketing for Conductor Analysis Technologies, discusses the subcommittee's latest efforts and the technology trends he's seeing in global test coupons, including aggressive inner-layer aspect ratios and an increase in HDI use by the mil/aero segment.

Intel Strives for Compatibility at Board Level

Intel breaks technological ground at the chip level while working within the mainstream of PCB manufacturing and assembly. Process Development Engineer Steve Vandervoort sat down with Editor Andy Shaughnessy at SMTA International to explain how Intel negotiates this balancing act.

Gary Ferrari: Embedded Design Document Gets Active

Gary Ferrari, director of technical support for FTG Circuits, is working to improve IPC's embedded design guide. He discusses its focus on active components as well as passives, and the guide's trajectory toward becoming a full-fledged document.

Manage Your Vias, Manage Your Design

As a CID and CID+ instructor for IPC, Kate Mayer is fond of saying "Manage your vias and you manage your design." She explains how these little holes went from being "necessary evils" to the linchpin of the modern PCB, and offers designers tips on managing their vias.

Video: Designers Council Eliminates Fees

A designer once said, half-jokingly, that he'd love to join the IPC Designers Council, but the $50 annual fee would be better used to feed his family. But now you can join the DC without starving your children. Anne Marie Mulvihill, IPC's director of professional development and the Designers Council, discusses the elimination of the DC fee, as well as plans for Designers Day at APEX 2011.

Don DeGroot Goes High-Speed With D-24 Subcommittee

Don DeGroot, President of CCNi and chair of the D-24 High-Speed/High-Frequency Test Methods Subcommittee, details the group's latest efforts measuring characteristic impedance, dielectric constant and dielectric loss and more.

Vern Solberg Gets to Bottom of IPC-7093 Spec

Packaging guru Vern Solberg of STC and Guest Editor Kelly Dack get to the bottom of the new IPC-7093 specification that provides land pattern and other guidelines for bottom termination components. Learn how quickly a spec can be developed when it's on the "fast track."

Optimizing BNC PCB Footprints for Digital Video Equipment

Today's video equpment operates at gigabit rates, necessitating the use of large coaxial BNC connectors. Non-optimized BNC footrpints can cause impedance mismatches, reflections and signal loss. In this paper, Tsun-kit Chin of National Semiconductor discusses some common issues with BNC footprints, such as problems with the connector-to-board transition, and offers techniques for transparent footprint designs.

Microstrip Line Characteristic Impedance and TDR

The characteristic impedance of a microstrip line is a complex function of frequency. Impedance changes are usually measured with time TDR, but does the observed impedance value depend upon rise time? What impedance value is actually visible in TDR of a line segment? Yuriy Shlepnev investigates in this app note.

New Column: Kate Mayer's "Connect With Kate"

To often, OEMs push PCB design projects onto their electrical engineers, computer technicians -- basically, anyone but the PCB designer. But it usually winds up costing the company time and money. That's what happens when companies try to trivialize our profession!

Better Never Than Late

Engineers can now work concurrently--on the same database--entering schematics and constraints. As they are working, they can even see edits from other project engineers in real-time, set protection barriers, reduce wasted communication efforts and coordinate efforts to maximize productivity.

Crosshatched Planes in Impedance-Controlled Flex-Rigid PCBs

While RF purists may feel discomfort at the thought of using crosshatch as a high-frequency return, using crosshatched planes on flex and flex-rigid PCBs is a realistic method of keeping impedance-controlled traces at a manufacturable dimension and retaining the desired flexibility of the assembly.

Maxed Out: My Creative Juices are Flowing!

I'm signing in from jolly old England this week, as we prepare for my dear old mother's 80th birthday. But I'm currently vacationing without my luggage, with which I hope to soon be reunited, so I have time to update you all on my successful smoke test of the "Man vs. Woman Display-O-Meter." A lack of smoke is always a good thing!

Understanding Propagation Loss

Guest Editor Mark Thompson chats with Richard Mellitz, Principal Engineer with Intel Corporation, about propagation loss--listen to discover exactly what propagation loss is, its significance and the future for specifications defining the issue.

Making the Circuit Design ECOsystem Work

The Circuit Design ECOsystem was created to help make life easier for design teams. But who are the typical customers, and how do they utilize the ECOsystem? Ray Rasmussen concludes our ESC Silicon Valley 2010 interviews with representatives of Screaming Circuits, Sunstone Circuits, NXP and National Instruments.

Does a Material's Dk Always Influence a Circuit?

John Coonrod, Market Development Engineer for Rogers Corporation, delivers a paper, "Laminate Dielectric Properties and Characterization," at APEX detailing Dk and its influence on high-frequency circuit construction. Test results found that, depending on how testing is done and how a circuit is designed, Dk may or may not influence the circuit.

Parker: Overcoming Embedded Capacitance Reluctance

The industry has been reluctant to use embedded capacitance materials. J. Lee Parker sits down with Mark Thompson to discuss why designers should look at buried capacitance, including EMI suppression, decoupling, and bypassing capacitance on top of the board in favor of less expensive innerlayer real estate.

Alternate Methodology for Measuring Loss Tangent of PCB Laminates

In a limited-scope laminate study, SUN Microsystems has looked at the dielectric loss tangent of a few materials. It became apparent that no one method that we looked at could accurately measure Df alone over a sufficiently wide band of frequencies due to various limitations of the associated method.

HDI is Coming--Are You Ready?

HDI design technologist Dan Smith, sometimes known as the "New Mr. HDI," is creating an HDI design certification for IPC. He and Andy Shaughnessy discuss his Designers Day class and the need for HDI design education, as well as his quest to build upon the works of HDI authors Happy Holden and Charles Pfeil.

It's Only Common Sense: Selling APEX

It never fails. At every trade show, you see exhibitors with booths manned by staffers who are busy reading newspapers, eating, or having deep conversations, while potential customers walk right by. There's an entire cottage industry devoted to studying the behavior of trade show attendees, and for good reason - a lot of companies don't know how to market themselves effectively at trade shows.

Physics-Based Via and Trace Models for SI/PI Co-Analysis

Physics-based models for vias and traces are applied to simulate multilayer interconnects on PCBs. In this DesignCon 2010 paper, a variety of interconnect structures are studied with model-to-hardware correlation. These models also enable efficient signal integrity and power integrity co-analysis with focus on modeling simultaneous switching noise coupled into high-speed signal nets as well as understanding the effects of decoupling capacitor placement.

Documentation Becoming More Important to Managers

DownStream Technologies exhibited at DesignCon for the first time. Founder Rick Almeida explains why, and he offers insights into how PCB documentation is becoming a greater concern for engineering managers-especially as designers and EEs spend more time doing documentation than designing PCBs.

Frequency-Dependent Material Properties

At DesignCon, I presented a paper on causal models for materials. Whenever you go from a frequency domain into the time domain, you have to worry about causality. If you care about high-speed serial links and use FR-4-like materials, you should care about frequency-dependent material properties.

Michael Steinberger on SiSoft's Model Strategy

The IBIS Algorithmic Modeling Interface has simplified the task of serial link simulations by - among other things - allowing models from different chip makers to work together. Dr. Michael Steinberger of SiSoft talks with Guest Editor Kelly Dack about SiSoft's work developing and fine-tuning the IBIS/AMI standard.

Maxed Out: Of Technology, Cells and Genes

In which we learn - amongst many other things - how the iPad fares in comparison to the Kindle, how much our genetic makeup can change in one generation, and whether Christopher Columbus did, in fact, discover America. Read on!

Telling the Whole Story With Sunstone

Good communication between design and fab is critical to your board's success. Sunstone product manager Nolan Johnson and Kelly Dack discuss what designers and fabricators must do to streamline communication in order to yield profitability.

HyperLynx Wins DesignVision Award

Mentor Graphics was a finalist in the DesignVision Awards at DesignCon 2009. But this year, Mentor's HyperLynx PI power integrity tool took home the gold in the System Modeling and Simulation Tool category. Steve Kaufer, director of engineering for HyperLynx products, has more on Mentor's big win.

A Tale of Two Properties

High-speed, high-frequency designs make your materials choice more important than ever. DuPont engineer Glenn Oliver explains how a new Kapton/Teflon composite can benefit those with challenging high-speed dielectric requirements.

Analyzing and Designing Vias for Multi-Gig Interconnects

Vias are a necessary evil in PCBs. They enable transitions for signals between layers. But if not designed correctly, vias can also be the weakest reliability link and the weakest signal integrity link. In this app note, Dr. Yuriy Shlepnev, the Electromagnetics Guru, walks us through a new way of thinking about the electrical performance of vias.

SERDES Modeling Using the AMI Standard

It has been difficult to simulate serial links if the driver and receiver are supplied by different vendors. But the Algorithmic Modeling Interface can solve this problem. This paper shows the use of AMI in modeling the behavior of the data path and adaptive control loops.

Six Questions: David Bergman Discusses China and IPC

PCB Design007 recently expanded into China with a Mandarin edition -- PCB Design007 China. We asked IPC Vice President of International Relations David Bergman a few questions about China, its electronics industry and the role of IPC China.

The European Design Market: Time to Optimize

Dirk Muller is president of the European Cadence rep FlowCAD. During Productronica, Dirk sat down with European Editor Stuart Hayton to discuss Europe's PCB design tool market.

Zuken Signs 3DVision as E3 WireWorks Distributor

Zuken has signed the first U.S. distributor for the new E3.WireWorks product family that integrates with the SolidWorks 3-D CAD environment. 3DVision Technologies, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, was selected for its years of experience working with SolidWorks.

Microvia Reliability Takes Center Stage

With the move to HDI, more and more microvia failures are rearing their ugly heads. Paul Reid of PWB Interconnect Solutions discusses some of the root causes for microvia failures and identifies some solutions.

Maxed Out: Next-Generation Displays (Part 1)

For decades, CRT-based computer monitors were the only game in town. But things don't stay the same forever; new display technologies are emerging all the time, and there are some mega-exciting possibilities for the future, including carbon nanotubes.

New Solder Attach Method Challenges BGA Paradigm

First-time SMTAI paper presenter Adam Stanczak, Global Technolology Manager for Molex, explains how a new solder attach method can help designers move away from traditional BGAs. His paper, aimed largely at PCB designers, explains design hardships and technology verifications for PCB assemblies.

Don DeGroot Discusses Test Methods Group Breakthrough

Don DeGroot, president of CCNi, is chairman of the High-Speed/High-Frequency Test Methods Subcommittee. Don explains how his subcommittee's work supports PCB designers and manufacturers, and the group's recent breakthrough: A test method that may appeal to everyone, from materials suppliers to OEMs.

Engineers Are People Too

Conventional wisdom tells us that engineers are serious, introspective people - nothing like their co-workers in marketing and sales. But as Indium's Rick Short explains, today's engineers have Twitter and Facebook pages, and they'd rather see a multimedia presentation than read a dry data sheet. Anyone working with - or marketing to - engineers should keep in mind that engineers are people too.

Maxed Out: Seeing Sounds and Tasting Colors

Do your eyes associate words or letters with certain colors? If you have a particular kind of synaeshtesia, the answer is yes. And if you're a synaeshtetic electrical engineer, you may perceive different colors when looking at a black-and-white gate-level schematic. How can this be, you ask? Let's dive in and see!

Chapter 1: Timing Analysis and Simulation for SI Engineers

IBM signal integrity engineer Greg Edlund recently authored "Timing Analysis and Simulation for Signal Integrity Engineers." This technical book was published by Prentice Hall as part of its Signal Integrity Library. Prentice Hall was kind enough to let us publish the first chapter.

Circuit Express Sets Bar High With Low Volumes

In these uncertain times, Circuit Express has found the recipe for steady growth: A direct sales force and a sharp focus on quickturns, prototypes and low-volume PCB manufacturing, particularly in the mil/aero segment.

The Future of Multiclock Systems

The clock requirements of high-performance systems vary from the chip to the circuit to the system level, but in every case the ideal is a fully synchronous system. This paper, written by Ransom Stephens of Ransom Notes and Jorge Gomez and Roman Boroditsky of NEL Frequency Controls and presented at DesignCon, introduces a new approach to synchronized clock architecture.

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