Reading time ( words)
Let me share with you an experience that I remember from my college days. When I was a student, I had a professor who was too proud of the fact that she was an academic.
“You don’t need to know how to manually solder electrical parts or how to design printed circuit boards,” she lectured. “It is important that you understand the formula for charge carrier currents in a p-n junction.”
This was her exciting example:
The allusion is clear. You engineers and researchers should focus on engineering, and let the technicians do the technical jobs! Indeed, from the first semester until the last one, we students did not take a single course covering printed circuit board design, nor did we learn how to manually solder during our laboratory hours.
Right after graduation, I started working as an R&D engineer for a Swiss company that developed and manufactured instruments for measuring magnetic fields and electrical currents. And guess what? Nobody ever asked me about charge carriers in p-n junctions.
Moreover, I was given a heated soldering iron, and from day one, I was asked to design, assemble, test and use many custom printed circuit boards of different shapes and different complexities. We were using the Protel 99 SE CAD tool, the older brother of Altium Designer. You can imagine my frustration and the trembling of my hands while holding a 300°C hot stick in one hand and soldering tweezers with an 0402 resistor in other hand. I felt the same way using my new PCB design tool—I spent months building my designing skills starting from the very basic tutorials (schematic and PCB design of a simple transistor-based multi-vibrator circuit) and finally on to some advanced PCB design techniques.
In the meantime, I moved from industry to academia. I was lucky enough to be part of many scientific research projects in many different fields, from FPGA-based digital design to ASIC design of custom hybrid memory cells. Indeed, I found that designing integrated circuits in Cadence tools, for example, was quite similar to PCB design: You have libraries with the components and a stack-up of layers, and vias that you use to properly interconnect them.
To read this entire article, which appeared in the May 2017 issue of The PCB Design Magazine, click here.