Chris Banton is Bullish on New Tech


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Chris Banton is the director of marketing for EMA Design Automation. We discussed the need to train the next generation of designers, advent technologies like AI and machine learning, and why companies like EMA are using these advancements to help designers with today’s complex PCBs.

Andy Shaughnessy: Chris, it’s good to see you again. What’s your view of the industry from your perspective as a design tools guy?

Chris Banton: Thanks for having me, Andy. I appreciate it. It feels like we’re in a state of transition in our industry, a lot of which has to do with the industry’s demographics; there seem to be many new people and perspectives entering the industry. There’s a high demand for electronics in all types of products. Companies we talk to can’t find experienced engineers fast enough for the work they have. It’s an exciting time. I believe the real question is, “How do we make sure we’re getting enough engineers interested in PCB design and hardware design who want to fuel this innovation?”

One way is to leverage new technologies in the design space. A lot of what we do in hardware design/EDA is a key driving factor in the computing infrastructure and cloud infrastructure needed for AI, machine learning, cloud computing, etc. However, as a design community, we’re just starting to think about how we use these new technologies to improve the hardware development process. It’s weirdly circular. How do we benefit from what we enabled? How do bringing on these new technologies make hardware engineering more attractive to a larger group of engineers?

Shaughnessy: You mentioned AI, which kind of goes back and forth. You have a lot of designers saying, “We’re the AI.” They don’t want to see more AI in the tools. What do you think? Banton: It all depends on how you use it. It’s like autorouters: one designer might say, “This is great. I can put my brain into the tool. It will figure out how to run it for me,” while another thinks it will never do what they need it to do. A lot of it has to do with personal preference, and it also depends on the designs you have. AI is the same way; it’s a tool, and it’s all about leveraging previous experience to automate the future. It’s not saying we’re going to replace the designer because you need to have the designer help teach it. Then, you don’t have to do repetitive tasks over and over because the system will understand the thought process the designer went through and how it would accomplish them.

To read this entire interview, which appeared in the November 2019 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.

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