The Digital Layout: Footprints—Small Steps with a Giant Impact

In this month’s column, I celebrate the importance of the humble PCB component footprint. I suggest that creating and leaving positive professional footprints on all we do in the Printed Circuit Engineering Association is imperative to the success of the PCB industry. Next, I hand it off to PCEA Chairman Stephen Chavez to give us some inspiring words from PCEA as we tread into the new year. And as always, I’ll provide our readers with a list of upcoming events. 

PCEA Updates
Not a day goes by that I don’t come across hundreds of footprints. They are not all related to electronic components used in PCB design. As you might imagine, around a cattle ranch, some are left on the property by turkeys, deer, cattle, and other outdoor critters as they go about their daily business of foraging for food in the snow. Some footprints are my own, which I make as I go about my daily business of taking care of outside chores. Sometimes I make “bad” footprints, tracking them into the kitchen if I fail to shed my muck boots in the mudroom before entering. I’d like to point out that these are hardly lasting footprints. They are made without much thought and quickly fade with the next snowfall or the wipe of a mop across the floor.

Lasting footprints are quite different.


Over 50 years have passed since Neil Armstrong made the first footprint on the moon, July 20, 1969. As he climbed down the ladder from the lunar landing module Eagle, and prepared to hop down onto terra Luna, he made the profound statement: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” He took that step and made a footprint.

That iconic image of a footprint on the moon represents so much more than someone going about their daily business. The footprints made by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the dusty surface of the moon at Tranquility Base represent millions of actions and pieces of information—data, people, machinery, and processes. They also represent their mission-critical project stakeholder, Michael Collins, who stayed back to pilot Apollo 11’s spacecraft Columbia, and all those working behind the scenes at Mission Control. All aspects of the mission had to fit together perfectly to achieve a common goal of putting human footprints on the moon and returning to Earth safely.

Those of us working in printed circuit engineering know the importance of information and accuracy as it pertains to the footprints which are made to be placed—and forever remain—on the surface of our printed circuit boards. Component footprints must represent current, accurate information and feedback from all the PCBA’s project stakeholders. Representatives from circuit engineering, mechanical engineering, supplier management, component manufacturers, suppliers of solder paste, solder stencils and all the personnel who are in the business of looking at, considering, or having to place and inspect a part of the component footprint must be represented within its geometric imprint on the surface of the PCB.

The Printed Circuit Engineering Association recognizes that people from all the realms of electronics must come together for printed circuit assemblies to work properly. We consider this our mission. Our goal is to make significant, lasting footprints on the face of the electronics industry through meaningful collaboration between our membership and the electronics industry overall. We seek to make giant leaps in educating our membership over the next few years to “dock” with new technologies coming from beyond the horizons. We hope our actions will leave lasting footprints on the surface of the entire industry, and which will serve to inspire those who come after us.

Message From the Chairman by Stephen Chavez, MIT, CID+

steph_chavez300.jpgJanuary 2021 came and went. I feel it’s a month that always seems to fly by very quickly. Most or all of us in the industry hit the ground running at the beginning of each year. With new aspirations or continued focus on attaining our respective short- and long-term goals, we come off the holiday break eager to get in the mindset and attack the new year with refreshed and rejuvenated minds. Each of us approaches January in our own individual way. Some start off with an aggressive attitude and game plan for success, others may be a bit hesitant or cautious in their approach to the new year, and some simply take it one day at a time as they let the new year unfold. Whichever way you start your new year, my advice is to go after it with passion and a positive attitude for success. I believe by doing this, we set the tone for the entire year. PCEA is doing just that! 

PCEA hit the ground running in January and by the time the month ended, we were in full stride; I feel we had set the tone for the new year. As we headed into February, we continued to accelerate our momentum of success. We are doing it with great passion and with the most positive attitude as possible! I see this by the great activity within PCEA: Our individual members, existing regional chapters and newly formed chapters, new chapters in their infancy stages, newly added sponsors (Polar, American Standard Circuits, and NCAB Group) with others in the works, and finally our internal PCEA Executive Board members all continue to have lots of excitement; the PCEA buzz is in the air.

Coming off a successful dual San Diego Chapter and Phoenix Chapter virtual event at the end of 2020, I was extremely excited to participate in our second multi-chapter virtual event in late January. The newly formed Minneapolis St. Paul Chapter, the Ontario, California Chapter, and the Greater Michigan Chapter held a successful tri-chapter virtual event, which was sponsored by American Standard Circuits. I highly recommend to any individuals in those respective local areas to get connected and involved with these local PCEA collectives. 

As PCEA continues our core mission to Collaborate, Inspire, and Educate within the industry, we are continuing to do our part to collaborate virtually with many in the industry while inspiring both industry veterans and the new generation of printed circuit engineers, and by adding valuable industry educational content and professional development in support of the evolution of today’s printed circuit engineer. When I think about all the industry educational content, both free and fee based, being offered through so many virtual events, it’s hard to open my inbox and not find a single virtual event or two being offered by one company or another, by an industry subject-matter expert (SME) here and there, or from one industry source or another offering up industry educational content. 

Because of how 2020 unfolded, since mid-year last year our inboxes have been filled with many educational content events being offered virtually. It’s hard enough to find time to attend at least one of these virtual events in each of our respective busy schedules. It’s even harder to know which event will provide the best or most valuable content. The challenge then becomes filtering out what is considered “good content” or “not so good content,” or what is considered just industry “noise.” Which virtual event is right for you to squeeze into your already busy schedule and attend? That’s the million-dollar question. I know this because it’s a daily dilemma as I go through my email inbox every day. Personally, if I had the time, I’d attend everything I could get my hands on related to printed circuit engineering. You never know where that golden nugget of knowledge will be found or perhaps an opportunity to sync up an individual who will add positive value or inspiration for you. 

With PCEA, we definitely do our very best professionally and with passionate due diligence to make sure our educational content and our virtual events are on point so that true industry collaboration is taking place. We aim to offer the latest, relevant industry educational content that is directly related to what’s going on within today’s ever evolving industry technology. Finally, with lots of passion and excitement, we continue to offer inspiration for growth, professional development, and success to every individual taking advantage of what PCEA has to offer. So, the next time you open your inbox and happen to come across that PCEA email, I highly recommend you open and read it so that you can take advantage of all PCEA opportunities we offer. Don’t just “swipe left!” From one printed circuit engineer to another—you won’t be disappointed. I’m sure of this!    

Refer to our column and the PCEA website to stay up to date with the up-and-coming industry events. There are many free webinars, so take advantage of these opportunities as much as you can. If you have not yet joined the PCEA collective, I highly encourage you to do so by visiting and becoming a PCEA member.       

I wish all of you health and safety. Best of success to all as 2021 unfolds.

Warmest Regards,



Next Month
We’ve got more PCEA Chapter meetings coming up to report on, with some exciting new chapters forming and I will be touching base with some of our international chapters to see what they are up to.

Upcoming Events
Below is a list of upcoming events which may lead you to mutate your thought process or at least provide you with antibodies to help ward off career stagnation.

  • March 6–11: IPC APEX EXPO (Virtual)
  • May 11–13, 2021: IPC High-Reliability Forum 2021 (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • August 16–18, 2021: DesignCon (San Jose, California)
  • November 10, 2021: PCB Carolina (Raleigh, North Carolina)

Spread the word. If you have a significant electronics industry event that you would like to announce, please send me the details at, and we will consider adding it to the list.

Refer to our column and the PCEA website to stay up to date with the up-and-coming industry events. If you have not yet joined the PCEA collective, please visit and find out how to become a PCEA member.

Whether we realize it or not, we leave footprints on every activity we take part in. We leave physical footprints from our walk into the office. We leave digital footprints on the internet while searching for data used to create component footprints for our PCB design libraries. Hopefully, the professional footprints we leave throughout our careers will not only show that we collected data to achieve our own personal goals, but our footprints will show interwoven paths to people we helped in order to achieve their goals along the way. Lasting footprints not only reflect two surfaces which happen to have met with one another. They reflect all the brilliance of the people and ideas above and below their contact surfaces.

See you next month or sooner!

This column originally appeared in the February issue of Design007 Magazine.



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