The Evolution of PCB Design and Designers


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According to Rainer Asfalg of Altium, VP Sales EMEA, EDA companies owe it to their customers to provide much more than just a standard design tool. I met with Rainer at the recent electronica show to discuss the continued evolution of the design process towards automation, and what this might mean for the education and overall requirements of PCB designers going forward.


Barry Matties: Rainer, in our pre-interview discussion, you gave us a little bit of your background and it sounds comprehensive. You bring a lot of insight from multiple disciplines and product types, which gives you a good, diverse foundation to draw from.

Rainer Asfalg: Yes, I think this is important for understanding the markets and understanding customers. It puts me in a position to make the right judgment on what our customers are really asking for and what challenges they face.

Matties: You're also a printed circuit board designer. You have hands-on practical experience. How many years did you design for before you started working for the factories?

Asfalg: Five years. I worked at a service bureau, mainly doing classical digital design, but I also got involved in analog and RF applications.

Matties: That's a broad spectrum. Being in a design bureau gives you a great look at what's going on and a cross-section of current technology. One of the things that we hear about designers is that they don't have a deep understanding of the PCB manufacturing process. From the perspective of a designer, what do you think about that statement?

Asfalg: It’s correct. That’s why an EDA company's responsibility is to put automation in place to ensure quality, while freeing up designers from time otherwise spent on preparing manufacturing data. On top of this, when we look at how the profession has evolved, what actually is a designer today?

Matties: That's a great question. Can you answer that?

Asfalg: These days we deal with a completely different type of designer. In the past we had electrical engineers who captured the design on a piece of paper or, further down the line, were responsible for schematic entry. Then they handed this over to a PCB design department or a service bureau. Those PCB designers are now my age or older. So these classic PCB departments have gradually faded away. The new designers are now responsible for much, much more. It is not simply about capturing the design, rather they are responsible for the test strategy, the PCB design, and the manufacturing as well.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the January 2016 issue of The PCB Design Magazine, click here.

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