Article Highlights
EDADOC: A Driving Force in China's Automotive Electronics Design
05/16/2018 | Edy Yu, I-Connect007
American Standard Circuits Discusses New RF/Microwave eBook
05/16/2018 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
Show & Tell: IPC APEX EXPO 2018 is on the Books!
05/14/2018 | Happy Holden
Expert Discussion: Dan Feinberg on Automotive Electronics
05/09/2018 | I-Connect007 Editorial Team
Zuken Pulling Ahead in Automotive PCB Design
05/07/2018 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine

Latest Articles

EDADOC: A Driving Force in China's Automotive Electronics Design

EDADOC is one of the biggest providers of PCB design and manufacturing services in China, with a long history in automotive electronics design and manufacturing. China Editor Edy Yu recently conducted an email interview with EDADOC R&D Technical Research Manager William Zhou and Brand Planning Specialist Wen Ling, who collaborated on their answers. We discussed the challenges related to designing and fabricating automotive PCBs, the opportunities in this segment, and the trends they see in the market for autonomous and electric vehicles.

American Standard Circuits Discusses New RF/Microwave eBook

During DesignCon 2018, I met with Anaya Vardya and John Bushie of American Standard Circuits. Anaya and John recently co-wrote an eBook, published by I-Connect007, titled "The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to Fundamentals of RF/Microwave PCBs." We discussed their goals and the scope of this handy microbook, which features plenty of information that even high-speed digital designers can benefit from.

Show & Tell: IPC APEX EXPO 2018 is on the Books!

I-Connect007's Happy Holden reviewed the recently concluded IPC APEX EXPO 2018. Among the highlights: Less than 10% of all new orders arrive at the PCB fabricator’s facility with complete, accurate design data. Most have missing or incorrect data.

Expert Discussion: Dan Feinberg on Automotive Electronics

A fixture at the Consumer Electronics Show, Dan Feinberg has been covering autonomous, hybrid and electric vehicles for years, along with the rapid growth of high-tech electronic gadgetry in traditional vehicles. In this freewheeling expert discussion, Dan spoke with Barry Matties, Patty Goldman, and Happy Holden about the future of auto electronics and what it all means to the PCB industry.

Zuken Pulling Ahead in Automotive PCB Design

Zuken has been developing PCB design tools for the automotive market for years. With automotive electronics worth over $200 billion globally, and growing every day, Zuken is preparing for a brave new world of smart cars, and autonomous and electric vehicles. I spoke with Humair Mandavia, chief strategy officer with Zuken, and asked him about the challenges facing automotive PCB designers, and the trends he’s seeing in this constantly evolving segment of the industry.

Interview: Incoming and Outgoing Presidents of Polar Instruments

Polar Instruments has hired some talented technologists recently, including a new president, Dorine Gurney. At DesignCon, I had the opportunity to sit down for an interview with Dorine and Ken Taylor, Polar’s outgoing president. We talked about Dorine’s objectives for the company and Ken’s plans for life after Polar.

Porsche Engineering…by Design

Thomas Wischnack of Porsche Engineering is currently designing the high-power charging infrastructure that will go inside the next generation of automobiles. Thomas was a keynote speaker at AltiumLive 2017 in Munich, Germany. Barry Matties met with him to learn more about Porsche’s hardware and circuit development and what Porsche does to continually bring new designers into the fold.

Estonia a Hot Spot for New Technology

Most Westerners know very little about Estonia. A former Soviet Bloc country, Estonia has come a long way since restoring its independence in 1991. Electronics companies are thriving in this tiny EU member country, and capital city Tallinn has been called “Silicon Valley on the Baltic Sea.” During productronica, I met with Arno Kolk, general manager of the Estonian Electronics Industries Association, and we discussed the explosion of new technology in this “Baltic Tiger” country?

Fadi Deek Discusses Mentor’s New Power Integrity eBook

At DesignCon 2018, I ran into Mentor’s Fadi Deek, the author of both of Mentor’s I-Connect007 eBooks: the newest, "The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to Power Integrity by Example," and their first book, "The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to Signal Integrity by Example." We sat down and discussed how the idea for the books came about, as well as some of the power integrity challenges facing PCB designers and engineers.

Jan Pedersen: CircuitData Enhances Current Data Formats

During the Design Forum at IPC APEX EXPO 2018, Jan Pedersen, senior technical advisor for the PCB broker Elmatica, gave a presentation on CircuitData. The language is designed to help facilitate other design data transfer formats such as Gerber, ODB++, and IPC-2581. Jan spoke with Managing Editor Andy Shaughnessy and Contributing Technical Editor Happy Holden about how this open language works with the existing data formats, as well as the need to eliminate paper documents from design process, and how the industry can help shape this open-source language.


Martin Cotton Discusses Ventec’s New Book and Low-Loss Materials

During DesignCon 2018, Andy Shaughnessy sat down for an interview with Martin Cotton, director of OEM projects for Ventec. Martin was a PCB designer for years, so he has experience on both sides of the desk. They discussed Ventec’s reasons for coming to DesignCon, their expansion into low-loss materials, and Ventec’s new I-Connect007 book, The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to Thermal Management with Insulated Metal Substrates.

Mentor’s HyperLynx Automates SERDES Channel Design

Mentor recently released the newest version of its HyperLynx signal integrity software. This version may be the first SI tool in the industry to fully automate SERDES design channel validation. I spoke recently with Chuck Ferry, product marketing manager with Mentor, about the new HyperLynx and some of the new serial link design capabilities that customers have been demanding.

Julie Ellis: TTM’s Interface Between Designer and Fabricator

As a field application engineer for TTM, Julie Ellis sees the problems that can occur between circuit board designers and manufacturers. Barry Matties spoke with Julie at the AltiumLive event in Munich about the age-old problem of throwing designs “over the wall,” the trend towards HDI, and what advice she would give new designers.

Cadence’s Sigrity Automates Power Integrity Simulation Earlier in Design Cycle

DesignCon is always a great place to check out the latest PCB layout and simulation software tools. During DesignCon 2018, Guest Editor Kelly Dack met with Sam Chitwood, a product engineer with Cadence. Sam explained how the Cadence Sigrity simulation software now allows users to make decisions early in the design process, and how this can help optimize the design of the power delivery network and ensure signal integrity in complex PCBs.

South African Electronics Industry Going Strong

EDA Technologies is a South African company that offers PCB design engineering services, mainly for the domestic electronics market, which makes up a surprising 12.5% of South Africa’s GDP. Barry Matties recently spoke to founder Nechan Naicker about the benefits of outsourcing to South Africa, the market segments they service there, and any advice he had to offer from his 20+ years in the industry.

SnapEDA Harnesses Technology in Providing Verified Parts

Like many young entrepreneurs, Natasha Baker knew she wanted to run her own company years before she finally pulled the trigger. But she waited until the time was right, developed a business plan, and stuck to it. Now, five years after SnapEDA was launched, the company continues to expand its library parts and symbol creation services, with the help of some of today’s most cutting-edge technology. I recently caught up with Natasha, and we discussed how her team utilizes technology that has helped SnapEDA to become a major player in this space.

Worldwide Systems Consulting: Tools, Process, People

In Munich for productronica, Editor Andy Shaughnessy and Publisher Barry Matties sat down with Mentor’s Jay Gorajia, director of worldwide systems consulting. Gorajia discussed Mentor’s systems consulting business, their focus on the “digital twin,” and how their acquisition by Siemens is benefitting Mentor and their customers.

RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Ucamco's New Tools for Designers, Fabricators

European Editor Pete Starkey and Ucamco partner Luc Maesen discuss Ucamco's newest solutions for PCB designers and fabricators, YELO (Yield Enhancing Layout Optimizer) and Communic8tor. Both of these products were recently launched for users in the North American market.

Bridging the Customer-Supplier Gap

For the February issue of Design007 Magazine, we interviewed Nolan Johnson of Sunstone Circuits, and Dan Beaulieu of DB Management—our regular columnist—on the topics of knowing your customers, the challenges in dealing with customers, and providing excellent customer satisfaction.

IPC-2581 Demo Draws a Crowd at IPC APEX EXPO

During IPC APEX EXPO 2018, the IPC-2581 Consortium held a demo of this open-source data transfer standard, attracting numerous designers, fabricators and assembly providers. Jim Pierce of Axiom Electronics and Bob Miklosey of Aegis Software sat down to discuss the demo and their involvement with the consortium. Axiom now charges more for designs submitted in the Gerber format.


MakeHarvard 2018: The Super Bowl of Makeathons

The inaugural MakeHarvard event was everything one would expect from the title, and more. Sunstone Circuits’ Nolan Johnson and Dustin Jablonski served as both mentors and competition judges. Sunstone sponsored a prize for the best feats of reverse engineering and documentation. Sunstone’s reverse engineering competition was one of the most hotly contested. Judging was based on creativity, depth, technical difficulty, usability, scalability, and value to society.

Still Using 1980s Formats for Design Data Handoff?

The IPC-2581 format was created in the early 2000s with the merger of two competing formats: ODB++ and GENCAM. The new format, the brainchild of the late Dieter Bergman, languished with no adoption until 2011, when a small group of companies created the IPC-2581 Consortium with the goal of getting this open, neutral and intelligent format adopted. The consortium has been growing steadily in recent years. Its membership now includes more than 100 associate members in addition to its more than 90 corporate members.

RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Polar Instruments Discusses New Engineer, SpeedStack Upgrades

During IPC APEX EXPO 2018, Polar Instruments' Lupita Maurer and Geoffrey Hazelett sat down with Editor Andy Shaughnessy to discuss upgrades to their SpeedStack tool and Lupita's new position with the company.

RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Judy Warner Discusses EDA Market and Altium's Growth

Judy Warner, Altium's director of community engagement, discusses what it's like transitioning to the EDA software side of the business. Warner also highlights Altium's growth after reporting first-half earnings.

IoT: Let’s Put the “A” Back into EDA

If I say IoT, most people today will immediately conjure up some notion in their mind. This is especially true in the engineering community, where many of us are hanging the future of our careers on the Utopian vision of a clean, beautiful environment with hidden networks and sensors everywhere.

RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Valor Tool Benefits from Merging Mentor, Siemens Technologies

Oren Manor, director of business development, discusses the convergence of the electrical and mechanical discplines made possible through Mentor's merger with Siemens. Manor also explains how Mentor's Valor platform now utilizes Siemens' "digital twin" concept.

Barry Katz Discusses SiSoft's DesignCon Papers and Plans for 2018

SiSoft President and CTO Barry Katz sat down with Editor Andy Shaughnessy to share his thoughts on the company's papers presented during DesignCon 2018, as well as SiSoft's latest products and plans for 2018.

Frontline's InStack Viewer Helps Designers and Fabricators

Ben Quarles, software solultions business manager at Frontline, and Editor Andy Shaughnessy discuss the new InStack Viewer, which allows PCB designers and fabricators to investigate impedances, material properties, and other attributes of the correct stackup.

Part 2: EIPC’s 2018 Winter Conference in Lyon, Review of Day 1

We continue with the rest of Pete Starkey’s report on Day 1 of the EIPC Winter Conference in Lyon, France. Included in this segment are presentations by Ventec, Ericsson, TTM and others, plus photos of their evening tour of Alstom.

Real Time with... DesignCon: Mentor Partners with Sintecs on EU Project

During DesignCon 2018, Guest Editor Kelly Dack interviewed Sintecs' CEO Evert Pap and system architect Hans Klos in the Mentor booth. Sintecs used Mentor's software tools to design the dReDBox, a virtual prototype project funded by the European Union.


Real Time with... DesignCon: User Feedback Helped Shape Altium Designer 18

During DesignCon 2018, Altium’s Judy Warner sat down with Editor Kelly Dack for an update on Altium’s software tools. She explains how user feedback lead the company to fix the bugs in Designer 17 during the development of Designer 18, and how “community engagement” is more than a buzzword for Altium.

Entering—and Enjoying—the Industry

I was recently given the opportunity to write an article for our publication. Being somewhat new to this industry, I figured it would be a good idea to write an introduction on how I got into electronics—specifically the part most people my age don’t give thought to.

Out-of-the-Box Innovation Strikes a Chord at NAMM 2018

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) holds two shows each year; the first is in Anaheim in January, and the second in Nashville in July. The January show is huge, attracting 100,000 visitors during its four-day run. My friend and editor (and bass player) Dan Feinberg has discussed how difficult it was for him to cover the CES show in a few days, and I must echo that sentiment about NAMM. It is one gigantic show.

Who Really Owns the PCB Layout? Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, Paul Taubman made the bold statement that the PCB layout is just as much a mechanical effort as it is an electrical one. In Part 2, he threads the needle, explaining why he believes that a PCB truly a mechatronic design, and why mechanical engineers may be more prepared to take on the PCB layout.

EMA Cloud Lined with Capability

Editor Kelly Dack speaks with EMA Design Automation Marketing Manager Chris Banton about the company's new free cloud-based OrCAD schematic capture tool, OrCAD's design constraint manager, and the Sigrity electrical rule checker.

Rogers Continues Expansion into High-Speed Digital Materials

Mahyar Vahabzadeh discusses a paper presented by his colleague Dr. Allen Horn at DesignCon. He also explains some of the different characteristics Rogers has discovered as they move from RF into high-speed digital materials.

APCT’s Cartel Acquisition Adds Capacity, Technology and Certifications

APCT recently acquired Cartel Electronics and its affiliate, flex and rigid-flex maker Cirtech. During DesignCon 2018, I spoke with APCT President and CEO Steve Robinson about what this acquisition means for the San Jose-based fabricator.

Mentor Focusing on Power and Signal Integrity

Chuck Ferry is a product marketing manager at Mentor, and SI/PI product architect for HyperLynx tools. I spoke with Chuck recently during DesignCon 2018, and he shared some of his thoughts on the industry and Mentor’s plans for this year and beyond.

A Conversation with Dorine Gurney, New President of Polar Instruments

Dorine Gurney has recently been named president of Polar Instruments. With a 30-year resume that includes management positions at Mentor Graphics, Lattice Semiconductor and Tektronix, she takes the reins as Ken Taylor heads into retirement. I recently caught up with Dorine at DesignCon 2018 in Santa Clara, California.

Fully Automated Schematic Verification

Schematic verification is a part of the hardware engineer’s responsibility just as PCB layout verification is an accepted part of the PCB designer’s responsibility. However, with today’s circuit designs becoming more and more complex, time-consuming manual schematic verification is no longer an option. Manual verification of a complex circuit introduces significant risk by not identifying schematic design errors that are, in turn, passed to the downstream processes and ultimately to the fabricated board.


Pulsonix Ready for 2018

Pulsonix has been developing PCB design software for almost 20 years, establishing a reputation for its full-featured, low-cost design tools. Now, the UK-based company wants to break into the US market, and Pulsonix recently showcased its latest tools at PCB West. During the show, I spoke with Business Development Manager Ty Stephens about the company’s latest tools and plans to become a major player in the US market.

What’s New in EDA: The Experts Discussion

We wanted to find out what’s new in the world of EDA. Joining us on our experts conference call were Polar Instruments Managing Director Martyn Gaudion, DownStream Technologies founder Rick Almeida, and Director of Product Management Mark Hepburn and Product Management Group Director of Allegro Enterprise Products Hemant Shah, both with Cadence Design Systems. The group discussed the challenges and opportunities they see in our industry, as well as the need to bring new blood into the PCB design community.

Nano Dimension’s 3D Printing: Prototypes at the Push of a Button?

SICK AG is a global manufacturer of sensors and sensor solutions for industrial applications, with headquarters located in Waldkirch, Germany. After a demo of Nano Dimension’s new 3D printing machine at productronica, Barry Matties met with SICK’s Danny Wernet to discuss its pros and cons and get his overall impression of the technology. Are 3D prototypes really as simple as feeding in a Gerber file and pushing a button?

PCB Cooling Strategies, Part 2

In many PCB designs, component placement plays a decisive role in PCB cooling. But for some boards with areas of high heat and high current, the designer may have to utilize heat sinks, fans, and/or water cooling technology. There are a variety of cooling and heat dissipation options available now, but thermal management research still has a long way to go.

Thermal Management Update with Doug Brooks

I had the opportunity to talk with our contributor Doug Brooks recently. He has been doing some research on temperature effects on PCB traces over the last few years, and I wanted to check the status of his latest thermal efforts. He discussed his work with Dr. Johannes Adam, why temperature charts based on a trace in isolation are inaccurate, and how the industry remained so wrong about PCB temperatures for so long.

PCB Cooling Strategies, Part 1

With the development of communication and IT industries and the ever-increasing demand for information analysis, many chip makers have racked their brains trying to provide customers with better technology, such as increased computing power and storage capacity of chips as well as diversifying their product offerings.

Dr. Johannes Adam Gets Hot on Thermal Management

Thermal management expert Johannes Adam, PhD, was kind enough to take the train from his home in Leimen, Germany to meet with me during productronica in Munich. He is the creator of TRM (Thermal Risk Management) software and contributor, with Douglas G. Brooks, of "PCB Trace and Via Currents and Temperatures: The Complete Analysis, 2nd Edition." He’s also working on his own book on thermal management. Johannes sat down for an interview, and I asked him to share his views on the current state of thermal management for PCBs, and what the industry can do to put the spotlight on what’s hot in PCBs.

Mike Jouppi Discusses his Drive for Better Thermal Data

If you mention thermal management in a group of PCB designers and design engineers, Mike Jouppi’s name usually pops up. Mike is an engineer and founder of the Thermal Management LLC consulting firm. He spent years updating IPC’s charts on current-carrying capacity, which had been unchanged since the 1950s. I recently caught up with Mike and asked him to give us his views on the state of thermal management, as well as the tools and standards related to thermal design.

Streamlining Thermal Design of PCBs

When designing a PCB, thermal issues are often locked in at the point of selecting and laying out the chip package for the board. After that, only remedial actions are possible if the components are running too hot. Assumptions made about the uniformity of the airflow in these early design stages can mean a disaster for the commercial viability of a PCB if those assumptions are incorrect. A different approach is needed to improve reliability and to optimize board performance. Dr. John Parry of Mentor explains.

IEEE’s Romanian SIITME Show a Success

The 23rd annual IEEE International Symposium for Design and Technology in Electronic Packaging (SIITME) was held in Constanta, Romania, in October 2017. It attracted more than 190 participants from Romania, and 13 other counties. While there might be some who question the suitability of Romania as a venue for such a conference, the country has a long technological history and has produced some top innovators and pioneers in aviation including Aurel Vlaicu, Traian Vuia, Henri Coanda, who prototyped an early jet aircraft in 1910.


That’s Hot: Ventec’s Goodwin on Thermal Management

IPC’s fall committee meetings were held in conjunction with SMTA International, as has been the case for several years now. Patty Goldman sat in on some subcommittee meetings, including one on laminates, where she met up with Ventec COO Mark Goodwin for a discussion on thermal management from a laminate supplier’s perspective.

Tips & Tricks: Rule-Based PCB Layout

You’ll need to refer to your fab house, both to ensure that they can build what you need, and to get the final say on their design rules. Some fab houses even have downloadable design rules for various CAD packages. That makes setting things up a lot easier.

Mentor White Paper: Characteristic vs. Instantaneous Impedance

Successful signal integrity analysis depends on a fundamental concept: impedance. Without a thorough understanding of the impedance values that a signal encounters along the way, designers cannot maintain good signal quality from source to receiver.

The Impact of HDI on PCB Power Distribution

A key aspect of HDI technology is the use of microvias. For reference, the IPC HDI Design Committee has identified microvias as any hole equal to or less than 150 microns. Multiple types of HDI stack-ups associated with blind and buried microvias can be used to meet the density and cost requirements for today’s products. Design teams should develop stack-ups in conjunction with the fabricator to minimize cost and meet signal integrity requirements.

Heat Transfer and Thermal Conductivity: The Facts

In my first two columns, I presented a broad introduction to the subject of thermal management of electronic circuits. This month I’m taking a closer look at thermal interface materials—how they can be applied to achieve efficient heat transfer, and the significance of bulk thermal conductivity in relation to heat transfer and thermal resistance.

HDI PCBs: Make the Right Choice from Design to Volume

Modern electronic products are expected to offer evermore advanced functions, while the products themselves are becoming increasingly smaller. There are two key factors for the successful production of HDI PCBs: first, making the right choices at the design stage, and then carefully choosing the factory that can support the specific technical demands of the project. NCAB Group COO Chris Nutall explains.

Three Perspectives for HDI Design and Manufacturing Success

Mike Creeden has been in the PCB design industry for more than 40 years now. In June 2003, he founded San Diego PCB Inc., a design bureau serving a variety of industries, including industrial, automotive electronics, medical diagnostics, internet of things (IoT), defense, aerospace, and communications markets. So, we asked Creeden to share his insights about HDI, and how designers and manufacturers can address those issues.

Who Really Owns the PCB Layout?

In order to understand the current climate, we have to look at the division of labor that took place in electronic design about 40 years ago. The labor was divided into two processes, with the first being the design itself. This process was (and still is) owned by the electrical engineers. Though circuit design has changed, the methods for representing the circuit have not. Paul Taubman of Nine Dot Connects explains.

Lee Ritchey On the Future of PCB Design

I spoke with long-time PCB design instructor and Right the First Time author Lee Ritchey during the recent AltiumLive event in Germany. Lee and I discussed everything from the advice he offers to young PCB designers to his thoughts on where the industry is going and what’s missing from today’s electrical engineering curriculum.

Cannonballs, eBooks, and Signal Integrity

I-Connect007 editors Andy Shaughnessy and Pete Starkey recently met with Polar Instruments Managing Director Martyn Gaudion at productronica. They discussed the success of "The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to…Secrets of High-Speed PCBs," the ongoing challenge of facilitating communication between designers and fabricators, and the influence of chemical bond-enhancement processes on insertion loss.


Bay Area Circuits Updates InstantDFM Tool

Bay Area Circuits is on a quest to help PCB designers and design engineers. For the past few years, the company has been holding facility tours and open house events to help designers understand more about the fabrication process. Now, Bay Area Circuits has upgraded its free design tool, InstantDFM.com, which allows customers and non-customers alike to check manufacturability and request pricing of their jobs. At PCB West, Andy Shaughnessy spoke with President Stephen Garcia and COO Brian Paper about the new tool update, and some of the other services they offer for PCB designers.

Nancy Jaster Brings Manufacturing, Design Background to Designers Council

Nancy Jaster was recently named the head of the IPC Designers Council. At the recent AltiumLive 2017 event, I spoke with Nancy about her unique background in both design and manufacturing, and how she hopes to use that experience and mindset to revitalize the Designers Council going forward, particularly with the International and student chapters. We also discussed her plans to bring more young people, particularly women, into the industry.

Zuken Teams With Nano Dimension for 3D Printing Design Flow

At PCB West, Zuken shared a booth with Nano Dimension. Zuken has been working with Nano Dimension for some time, and adding support for 3D printing and nanotechnology to its design tool platforms. I sat down with Zuken’s Humair Mandavia and Nano Dimension’s Simon Fried to learn more about this alliance, and to find out more about this odd-looking box being demonstrated in Zuken’s booth.

Video from productronica 2017: Karel Tavernier on Ucamco's New Communic8tor

European Editor Pete Starkey and Ucamco Managing Director Karel Tavernier discuss Ucamco’s cloud-based Communic8tor platform which facilitates two-way communication between the CAM engineer and the PCB designer, or any other party involved in the manufacturing process. This gives real-time access to image data and annotations, enabling queries to be resolved, changes to be approved, and a full communications history to be maintained.

Signal Integrity: The Experts Weigh In

When we began planning the October issue on signal integrity, we arranged a conference call with a variety of industry experts. Mike Steinberger of SiSoft, Mark Thompson of Prototron Circuits, and Yogen and Sunny Patel of Candor Industries joined editors Andy Shaughnessy, Patty Goldman, Happy Holden and Publisher Barry Matties on the call for a spirited discussion about the challenges related to signal integrity and some of the tricks of the trade for helping ensure SI.

Happy Holden and Charles Pfeil Discuss the Past and Future of PCB Design, Part 2

In Part 2 of this feature interview, I continue my conversation with industry icons Happy Holden and Charles Pfeil at the recent AltiumLive 2017 event in San Diego. In this half of the interview, we discuss the potential for artificial intelligence in EDA software tools, the graying of the designer pool, and what can be done to draw more young people to PCB design.

AltiumLive Summit—Munich, Germany, Part 2

Pete Starkey continues with his review of the AltiumLive PCB Design Summit held recently in Munich, Germany. The second day commenced with a new product launch. “Working together is hard” it read on the screen. Statistics indicated that 33% of new products were late getting to market, of which 28% were late due to insufficient collaboration, and up to 50% of potential revenue could be lost through being late to market. Then the screen read “NEXUS makes it easy!”

Nine Dot Connects: Good Design Instruction is a True Value-Add

Nine Dot Connects has certainly blazed an interesting trail. The company started out as an Altium reseller, but in less than a decade, Nine Dot Connects has also become a design service bureau and a provider of PCB design instruction, training, and consulting services. I recently interviewed Paul Taubman, technical services director for Nine Dot Connects. We discussed the company’s expansion from VAR to service bureau and content provider, and the changing landscape of PCB design instruction.

AltiumLive Summit—Munich, Germany, Part 1

Altium held a very successful AltiumLive PCB Design Summit in San Diego, California at the beginning of October for the benefit of their North American design community, and followed it three weeks later with a counterpart European event in Munich. And what an eye-opener it proved to be—literally hundreds of delegates, a superbly organised and managed programme, billed as a completely immersive two-day interactive design experience on a theme of learning, connecting and getting inspired.

Happy Holden and Charles Pfeil Discuss the Past and Future of PCB Design, Part 1

When it comes to the PCB design community and the challenges facing it, as well as where design has been and where it’s heading, there aren’t many people as qualified to speak on the topic as long-time industry veterans Happy Holden and Charles Pfeil. Joined by I-Connect007’s Barry Matties at the recent AltiumLive 2017 event in San Diego, the three sat down for a discussion about the current state of PCB design, what the future holds, and what it means to be a designer.


Insulectro Teams with Isola to Address Signal Integrity Needs

Insulectro and Isola recently shared a combined booth during PCB West 2017. Insulectro has distributed Isola materials for years, and the companies wanted to focus on Isola’s line-up of high-speed, low-loss material sets. Insulectro’s Chris Hunrath, VP of Technology, and Norm Berry, Director of Laminates and OEM Marketing, sat down with me to discuss the challenges facing signal integrity engineers today, and some of the Isola low-loss, low-Dk materials that can help with their signal integrity requirements. You might find Chris and Norm speaking to a group of PCB designers near you.

AltiumLive 2017 Munich: Sold Out!

I recently sat down with Ted Pawela, Lawrence Romine, and Judy Warner of Altium to wrap up their sold-out AltiumLive 2017 PCB Design Summit in Munich, Germany. This conference, following on the heels of an AltiumLive event in San Diego, was packed full of PCB designers who attended a series of great keynotes and an excellent technical program. We discussed some of the highlights of the show, including designers’ reactions to a new version of Altium Designer 18 and the brand-new Altium Nexus tool.

SiSoft Preparing for DDR5 Simulation Next Year

DDR5 is expected to double the memory bandwidth and density of DDR4. Andy Shaughnessy recently spoke with SiSoft CTO Walter Katz about his company’s efforts to hit the market with this game-changing technology in 2018.

The History of Predictive Engineering

It all started in 1983, at HP, when I complained to our group's vice president that our W. Edwards Deming and Total Quality Management (TQM) Six Sigma training was being concentrated in PCB manufacturing. We had eliminated final inspection and instead placed quality in the hands of the operators with a final electrical test. The electrical test was governed by what we learned from Deming.

Carl Schattke: I Started Designing Boards When I Was 12

Growing up with a father who owned a PCB design bureau, Carl Schattke, CID+, may have been predestined to design circuit boards for a living. In fact, he’s been designing boards for nearly his entire life. Carl gave a keynote speech at the recent AltiumLive event in San Diego, where I caught up with him to discuss a lifetime spent in PCB design, as well as the graying of the PCB design community and what might be done to inspire a youth movement in PCB design.

GCSI's James Kozich Discusses Industry Hiring Trends

James Kozich of Gilbert Consulting Services has been matching qualified technologists with the right jobs for decades, from the shop floor to C suite positions. During SMTA International, he sat down with Andy Shaughnessy to discuss the recent hiring trends he's seeing in electronics manufacturing.

Sunstone Integrates SnapEDA Libraries into PCB123

Sunstone Circuits and SnapEDA recently announced that SnapEDA’s parts library would be integrated into Sunstone’s PCB123 design tool. During PCB West, I interviewed EDA Product Manager Nolan Johnson of Sunstone Circuits and SnapEDA President Natasha Baker. We discussed their new partnership, the changing parts library landscape, and where the companies see this alliance heading in the future.

Meet One of the Industry’s Newest PCB Designers

Molly Knewtson is a recent graduate now working for a pharmaceutical company as a mechanical engineer. She was asked if she would consider learning PCB design and taking on some design projects. She agreed, though she had never considered circuit design as a career path. I sat down with Molly at PCB West to learn how she came to this position and what might be done to inspire more people from her generation to join the industry.

Polar Instruments’ Martyn Gaudion Discusses Tools and Books

Polar Instruments has pretty been busy lately. In the last year, Managing Director Martyn Gaudion has written two books for I-Connect007, and the company has been working to upgrade its tools, especially library functionality. I met with Martyn at PCB West. We discussed Polar’s newest tool updates, Martyn’s new side job as an author of technical books, and the continuing growth of the EDA segment, including among young people.

Dan Beeker’s AltiumLive Keynote: It's All about the Space

Dan Beeker of NXP Semiconductors was a keynote speaker at the recent AltiumLive 2017 event in San Diego. His presentation focused primarily on the design of three-dimensional structures and how it’s all about space. I caught up with Dan, and we discussed his presentation, his background and career, and what kind of advice he would give to young PCB designers.


PCB Signal Integrity Optimization Using X-ray Metrology

It happens again. A new backbone router/switch build or a line card upgrade is approaching completion when something goes wrong. The system won’t operate at the targeted data rate. Deadlines are looming and the root cause of the problem is buried somewhere in a big rack of electronic components.

AltiumLive 2017 Attracts Hundreds of Designers

Altium conducted its first-ever users conference, AltiumLive 2017: Annual PCB Design Summit, at the Hilton Resort and Spa on beautiful Mission Bay in San Diego. This conference included a lineup of notable speakers, including four keynote speeches over the two-day event. This conference drew hundreds of PCB designers, many of whom attended breakout sessions designed in accordance with the show’s motto, “Learn – Connect – Get Inspired.”

Altium Designer 18 Introduced at AltiumLive 2017

At the recent AltiumLive 2017 event in San Diego, I sat down for an interview with Dan Fernsebner, Altium’s global head of technical marketing. Dan discussed the upcoming release of Altium Designer 18, as well as the company’s corporate responsibility for giving back to the industry and bringing more young people into EDA. The event featured speakers such as Happy Holden, Dan Beeker, Charles Pfeil, and Tara Dunn, as well as a robot team competition.

Full Coverage of AltiumLive 2017

Altium recently conducted its first-ever users conference, AltiumLive 2017: Annual PCB Design Summit, at the Hilton Resort and Spa in San Diego. Speakers included Dan Beeker of NXP Semiconductors, Max Seeley of 3M Corporate R&D, Tara Dunn of OMNI PCB, Susy Webb of Fairfield Nodal, Charles Pfeil of Altium, and our own Happy Holden. This conference drew hundreds of PCB designers, and included a robot design challenge and battle. If you couldn’t make it, don’t worry. We shot a variety of video and still photos.

Predictive Engineering: Happy Holden Discusses True DFM

Happy Holden has been involved in DFM for over 45 years, since he first started working at HP and optimized their PCB design and manufacturing processes. Naturally, for this issue, Barry Matties and Andy Shaughnessy made it a priority to get Happy’s thoughts on DFM, and what true DFM entails.

It’s Not Your Father’s DFM Anymore

What does DFM look like today? Well, for one, it’s become more than DFM. We now expect our software tools to serve us more completely to take new designs to market. DFM has evolved to become an integral part of new product introductions (NPI). Today’s NPI software spans design and manufacturing to accelerate the optimization of a PCB for manufacturing. It looks at the entire design-to-manufacturing release process and deliverables, then streamlines them.

Sensible Design: Thermal Management—The Heat is On

Thermal management materials are designed to prolong equipment life and reduce incidences of failure. They also maintain equipment performance parameters and reduce energy consumption by reducing operating temperatures, and minimising the risk of damage to surrounding components. Indirectly, they maintain brand reputation, as the reliability of the equipment will be very dependent upon the effectiveness of the thermal management technique used.

RTW SMTAI: Judy Warner Discusses AltiumLive: 2017 and Her New Role

At SMTA International in Rosemont, Illinois, Judy Warner of Altium discusses her new role as director of community engagement. She also details AltiumLive: 2017, which takes place October 3-4 at the Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa. AltiumLive features Happy Holden and Charles Pfeil, as well as a robot design challenge and battle.

Fault-Finding: It’s All About Prevention, not Blame

There are thousands of things that can go wrong during the design and manufacture of a PCB assembly. One might say that it is an absolute miracle when a PCB goes through all of its phases—design, fabrication and assembly—and operates successfully. But there are some management and customer cultures who naively attempt to resolve problems by seeking out the culprits and shouting “Off with their heads!”

Whose Fault is That Bad Board?

Years ago, I held a position in an EMS company where projects were analysed before manufacturing. We found that even some of the best and most innovative circuits could not be manufactured. Why? Because the PCB designer, an electronic engineer, was not acquainted with the fabrication process. He had no idea about technological requirements necessary for electronic production. I know another designer who learned, finally, the importance of the thermal relief pad for heat restriction during reflow for a good soldering. His response? “Oh, was that what they were for? And to think I worked so much to remove them!”


Enough Blame to Go Around

The idea for this article began a few months ago when The PCB Design Magazine conducted a reader survey regarding the topic “Whose Fault is that Bad Board?” After some thought, I submitted my answers. After all, I must have some kind of input after over 25 years of PCB design. But still, whose fault is that bad board? OK, I know what you’re thinking: Don’t go there. We designers make mistakes too.

The International Paris Air Show with ASC’s Anaya Vardya

The International Paris Air show is the crème de la crème of the world’s trade shows. This is the big one, where all the aircraft, airline and defense aerospace companies meet to introduce new products, discuss the future of aviation, and make deals. This year I decided to talk to my friend Anaya Vardya, ASC’s president and CEO, about the show, why he goes and what it’s like.

Resins: Cutting Through the Technical Jargon

This month, I’m going to cut through some of the more heavy-going tech-speak, taking a few of my customers’ more frequently asked questions about resins to try to help you refine your selection process. There’s a lot of ground to cover, but for the purposes of this column, let’s concentrate on the PCB’s operating environment, caring for the components that are to be encapsulated, and the special needs of applications like LED lighting and RF systems.

New Challenges Facing Mil/Aero Segment

For this month's issue, we invited a sampling of professionals whose experience centers on the electronics industry in the military and aerospace world, including experts from design, PCB manufacturing, and the assembly arena to sit down with us for a frank discussion. Our discussion centered on the challenges associated with military work, including the new regulatory requirements for cybersecurity, dealing with leaded vs. lead-free components, and the differences and similarities with the commercial world.

Stephen V. Chavez Talks Mil/Aero PCB Design

Stephen V. Chavez, CID+, is the lead PCB designer for the Electronic Systems Center division of UTC Aerospace Systems (UTAS), a military contractor that builds all manner of cutting-edge tools for the American warfigher. He’s been designing military and aerospace PCBs for decades, and he’s a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. I caught up with Steph and asked for his thoughts on designing PCBs for the military and aerospace markets.

Orange Co. Designers Council Meeting Focuses on Embedded Passives

On July 19, the Orange County Chapter of the IPC Designer’s Council hosted a lunch-and-learn meeting in Tustin to discuss the benefits of embedded passives. Approximately 40 people were in attendance, which was lighter turnout than usual, most likely because of summer vacations. But the crowd was an enthusiastic one, as usual. The first speaker was Bruce Mahler of Ohmega Technologies, followed by Jin Hyun-Hwang of Dupont.

Trilogy Circuits: Mil/Aero Demands Technological, Regulatory Expertise

In the 16 years since its founding, Trilogy Circuits has become one of the go-to companies for mil/aero PCB design and manufacturing. I spoke with Charlie Capers, president and founder of the Richardson, Texas firm, about how he keeps ahead of the game. As he explains, succeeding with mil/aero PCB work requires not only mastery of the technological side, but of the regulations and certifications as well.

Using Vibration and Acceleration Analysis to Improve Reliability

Deriving the physical constraints and fatigue issues for a design prior to manufacturing is essential to reducing board failure and thereby improving product quality. In harsh environments, fatigue can be responsible for up to 20% of failures. Customers have come to expect reliability across the industry spectrum no matter where actual production occurs. Reliable products have less risk of failure, less field returns and less warranty claims, all of which contribute to higher profitability. It is a given that every product is expected to fail at some point, however premature failures can be mitigated through proper design with attention to potential issues due to vibration and acceleration.

PCB Designers Notebook: Embedding Components, Part 2

Technology and processes for embedding capacitor and inductor elements rely on several unique methodologies. Regarding providing capacitor functions, IPC-4821 defines two methodologies for forming capacitor elements within the PCB structure: laminate-based (copper-dielectric-copper) or planar process and non-laminate process using deposited dielectric materials.

Performance Evaluation of Thin-Film Embedded Resistors

Thin-film microstrip circuits have been widely applied in microwave communications, electronic countermeasures (ECM), and aerospace applications, etc. When manufacturing thin-film ICs, it is very important to apply deposited thin-film resistor material to fabricate high-accuracy and highly stable thin-film embedded resistors. Thin-film ICs call for thin-film resistors that meet stringent requirements.


Embedded Technology: A Useful Tool in Freedom CAD’s Toolbox

Freedom CAD has been designing and fabricating boards with embedded technology for years, and doing some pretty innovative work along the way. I asked Scott McCurdy, Freedom CAD’s director of sales and marketing, to share some details about their embedded processes, as well as the challenges and opportunities that embedded technology offers.

A Deep Look Into Embedded Technology

In preparation for this month’s magazine, we set up a conference call with the goal of uncovering the challenges and opportunities related to embedded technology. Invited were a handful of the industry’s heavy hitters in the embedded world: Retired technologist and I-Connect007 Contributing Editor Happy Holden, and Ohmega’s Technical Director Daniel Brandler and Design & Test Engineer Manuel Herrera.

Launching a New PCB Design Curriculum in Serbia

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.” 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 nobody ever asked me about charge carriers in p-n junctions.

Romania’s PCB Design Students Compete at TIE 2017

During the last week in April, the 26th Interconnection Techniques in Electronics (TIE) show was held at the Gheorghe Asachi Technical University in Iasi, Romaina, a wonderful hill town not unlike Rome. The event, a convention for the Romanian electronic packaging community, included a series of actions designed to draw smart young students to the electronics industry, which is clearly growing. Participants had only four hours to create this PCB design, which was generated by a team of professionals from Continental Automotive Romania Timisoara.

Must Work Well on a Team; CID a Bonus

Throughout my decades-long career in PCB design, I have been fortunate. I’ve only had to search for a job out of desperation once. I had no idea my IPC Certified Interconnect Designer credentials would come in handy when I hit the pavement. It also helped that I am known to "work well on a team." It turns out that being able to play well with others is a real plus in the PCB design community.

Whose Fault is it When the Board Fails?

In an upcoming issue of The PCB Design Magazine, we will discuss a question that you've undoubtedly faced in your job: Whose fault is it when the board fails? Of course, everyone likes to blame the PCB designer. But think about it. Is the board shop at fault, or perhaps the EMS provider? Is it the customer's fault, or does the designer bear some of the blame after all? Take this quick survey and let your voice be heard!

PCB Design in the Age of IoT

From the early days of printed circuit boards, the electronics industry has made huge strides in board materials, copper printing methods, miniaturization, rigid-flex, ELIC, EDA, and much more. Many of the devices we use in our homes, our vehicles, and in our workplaces would not be possible without this continuous evolution of PCB design and technology. And yet in 2017, we are poised to shift from evolution to revolution, driven by the idea of the Internet of Things.

SnapEDA: Recruiting Top Engineering Talent in an Amazon World

You don’t have to love EDA to work at SnapEDA, but it helps. This startup, founded by Natasha Baker, is on its way to creating the world’s largest parts library for PCB designers. Baker leads a small team of young, fiercely talented engineers—the kind of employees that are attractive to companies like Google and Facebook. I asked Natasha to explain her hiring process, and how she ensures that each employee is the right fit for SnapEDA.

Steve Robinson Discusses APCT’s Tenfold Expansion

Steve Robinson, CEO of APCT, a PCB fabricator in Silicon Valley, has led the company to impressive growth since he acquired it nearly 10 years ago. I ran into Steve at DesignCon 2017, and we sat down to discuss the company’s remarkable transformation and his focus on working with PCB designers and engineers to create advanced, high-speed PCBs.

Altium Focuses on the Designer First

A few months before Judy Warner joined Altium, while she was still with I-Connect007, she sat down with Lawrence Romine to discuss the company’s drive to satisfy the individual PCB designer, and not necessarily the OEMs who employ them. Romine also explains what sets designers and engineers apart from the average person, and why some Altium users have a different primary EDA tool, but use Altium when they need a design done fast.


San Diego IPC Designers Council Meeting Held at Del Mar Show

The Del Mar Electronics and Manufacturing Show is a long-time favorite among PCB professionals. What better place to hold a meeting of the San Diego Chapter of the IPC Designers Council? Each year, the San Diego Chapter of the Designers Council hosts their largest meeting of the year at the Del Mar show. This year, approximately 50 PCB designers and electronics professionals attended the lunch-and-learn meeting.

Bruce Mahler Discusses Ohmega’s Resistive Material Technology

Bruce Mahler, vice president of Ohmega Technologies, sat down for an interview with me at DesignCon 2017. He discussed the company’s latest embedded resistive materials, as well as some of the drivers and challenges in that segment of the materials industry.

Sensible Design: Casting a Spotlight on Resin Applications

Over the last few columns, I’ve given readers pointers on virtually every aspect of potting and encapsulation resins, ranging from their formulations and special properties to their applications, benefits and limitations. It’s probably high time, therefore, to take a step back from the do's and don’ts and focus instead on how these resins are bringing very real benefits to practical electronic and electrical engineering applications. A good starting point is to look at the special requirements of an industry that is enjoying explosive growth: LED lighting.

TTM Shines a Light on Optical Interconnect

Are embedded optics on PCBs set to make a breakthrough in the upcoming years? According to Dr. Craig Davidson, VP of Corporate Technology at TTM, it might be closer than you’d expect. In a recent interview with the I-Connect007 team, Craig outlines TTM’s current pursuit of high-volume manufacturing lines able to deliver embedded optical interconnect, what that would mean for the PCB industry, and why he thinks there will be manufacturing production capability by 2020.

'Flexdude' Tom Woznicki Celebrates Company’s 25th Anniversary

Twenty-five years ago, Tom “Flexdude” Woznicki got laid off. A lot of people did, back during the mini-recession that helped bring Bill Clinton into the White House. So, he launched his own flex circuit design bureau and never looked back. Since then, he’s designed flex circuitry for everything under the sun, including the Mars Rover; the flex circuits he designed are visible in many of the Rover photos. I ran into Tom at DesignCon 2017 and we discussed the benefits of flex circuits, the expansion of the flex market, and his company’s first quarter-century in operation.

China High-Speed PCB Market Update with Polar's Simon Chan

During the recent CPCA Show in Shanghai, Editor Stephen Las Marias and Polar Instruments (China) Assistant Manager Simon Chan discussed the opportunities and challenges for Polar's customers in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as the current state of the high-speed PCB market in China.

Rigid-flex Design Tips and Best Practices

While the traditional “design-separately-then-assemble” approach minimized potential issues with the flex portions of the product, it also had several inherent disadvantages. These include the cost associated with the physical connectors; the space required for the physical connectors; the need to properly manage interconnects that have to transition between the separate rigid and flex PCBs (through the connectors); and, of course, the time and cost associated with assembly. The move to the current generation of rigid-flex technology mitigates these issues; however, they are replaced with a different set of challenges and concerns.

Perpetual or Subscription EDA Tool Licenses? That is the Question

After I began working at Altium, I started learning all I could about PCB design software licensing. I wondered about the pros and cons of perpetual vs. subscription licenses. I wanted to learn firsthand from PCB designers what kind of benefits they received and challenges they faced as a result of how EDA companies offered design tools. I reached out to a variety of sources to get a broad slice of insight into this evolving issue, and thus began my trip down the EDA licensing software rabbit hole.

Mentor Graphics Takes Best Paper Award at DesignCon

At DesignCon, I met with Dave Kohlmeier, senior product line director for Mentor Graphics. We discussed their Best Paper award and DesignCon sessions such as the Signal Integrity Boot Camp, as well as the new rigid-flex capabilities found in the HypeLynx suite.

A New Power Design Methodology for PCB Designs

Advanced PCB design is an iterative process of analysis-fix-analysis. Historically, this process is very time-consuming, requiring analysis experts and PCB designers to work together to find and fix layout problems. This article describes a new PCB design methodology that allows a PCB designer to perform the power design without having to run expert-level analysis tools. This methodology provides the setup automation for advanced analysis without the need to understand every minute parameter, and can be completed in a few steps.


Tom Hausherr Discusses PCB Libraries’ BOM Builder Service

PCB Libraries CEO Tom Hausherr and Editor Kelly Dack discuss PCB Libraries’ new BOM Builder service during IPC APEX EXPO. Equipped with the new LEAP technology, the BOM Builder can potentially save PCB designers days or weeks of time normally spent turning a BOM into a CAD library.

Catching up with Polar Instruments' Geoffrey Hazelett

Product specialist Geoffrey Hazelett discusses some of the latest developments at Polar Instruments, including a new tool that will allow fabricators to determine how copper roughness will affect the end-product. He also talks about Polar's upcoming eBook on signal integrity, soon to be published by I-Connect007. Talented young technologists like Geoffrey are the future of our industry.

Cadence’s Zhen Mu Discusses Her Power-Aware Analysis Solution White Paper

At DesignCon, I met with Zhen Mu, senior principal product engineer with Cadence Design Systems, and Brad Griffin, product marketing director for Cadence. We discussed Zhen’s new white paper, “Power-Aware Analysis Solution.”

Exciting New Technology: Thermal Risk Management

Two years ago I entered into a collaboration with Dr. Johannes Adam, from Leimen Germany. Johannes has written a software simulation tool called Thermal Risk Management (TRM). We used it to look at the thermal characteristics of PCB traces under a variety of conditions, and it is hard for me to contain my excitement and enthusiasm for what it does and what we learned about traces using it. Our collaboration resulted in the publication of numerous articles and a book. In this article, I’ll talk about some of the capabilities of TRM that really caught my attention.

Kelly Dack and Mike Creeden: Are We in a PCB Design Renaissance?

Technical Editor Kelly Dack and San Diego PCB founder Mike Creeden discuss some of the trends they're seeing in the PCB design community, including greater numbers of young people becoming designers and more EEs doing design work. They also focus on IPC's training and designer certification efforts, and the need for designers to get out of the office and visit a board shop once in a while.

Selling PCB Design Services in a First-World Country

As the business operations manager for Better Boards Inc., I see our company at the focal point for consolidation: a gathering of skilled board designers to create a center of excellence. It is at this point that we have the critical problem facing a PCB design services company: How do we effectively sell these services back to the companies that cast off their own skilled employees? How do we sell PCB design services into small companies that can barely afford the one overworked electrical engineer that they hired last year?

Real Time with...IPC: Jim Fuller Offers HDPUG Update

Sanmina's Jim Fuller gives his insight on how the High-Density Packaging User Group (HDPUG) shares the experience and resources of member companies to tackle projects and get results. Also, he reviews the study of the effect of copper bonding treatment on signal integrity

In Deep: The Art and Science of DFM with Gary Ferrari

When the topic of DFM techniques came up, I knew I had to talk with Gary Ferrari of FTG Corp. Gary has been involved with designing and manufacturing PCBs for decades, and he’s the past co-founder and executive director of the IPC Designers Council. I caught up with Gary between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we conducted the following interview.

The Evolution of PCB Design and Designers

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. Barry Matties 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.

True DFM: Taking Control of Your EDA Tool

We PCB designers are doing some truly great things with our layout tools. But we must remember that these tools are so powerful that they will sometimes allow us to design things that can’t be manufactured! We must collaborate with our fabricator and assembly brethren and embrace the best DFM practices, or face the consequences downstream.


IPC Designers Council San Diego Chapter Meeting: Flex Focus Fills the House

A report from the January meeting of the San Diego chapter of the IPC Designers Council. The meeting was hosted by the PCB design bureau San Diego PCB, with the featured guest speaker John Stine of Summit Interconnect. Stine’s presentation focused on flex and rigid-flex DFM, and he offered a variety of helpful design tips to the full house of 30-40 designers in attendance.

A Handy Compilation of Our Top 10 DFM Articles

When we started working on this DFM issue, I searched through our files and found that we’ve published some great DFM articles over the past year or so. While topics like signal integrity tend to get most of the limelight, in the end it all comes down to solid DFM practices. So, without further ado, we present this compilation of our Top 10 DFM articles and columns.

Flex and Rigid Sales and Marketing with Al Wasserzug

After decades in the PCB industry, Al Wasserzug of Cirexx International has seen marketing and sales trends come and go. I recently caught up with Al and interviewed him via email about the latest sales and marketing techniques, the value of traditional methods such as trade shows and conferences, and the particular characteristics of marketing flex circuits.

Altium’s Sales Plan: Deal Directly with Designers

Altium has been shaking up the EDA world for quite some time. The Australian company once slashed the cost of Altium Designer by 75% to grow market share, and who could forget their famous (or infamous) “Bunny” ad campaign? In this email interview with Lawrence Romine, Altium’s global head of field marketing, he shares his views on sales and marketing in the EDA world, as well as Altium’s philosophy on selling EDA tools.

Top 10 Most-Read Design Articles of 2016

Every January, I like to go back through the last year and see which articles had the highest number of views. They're usually the articles that bring you PCB design and industry information that's relevant to your job. Check out the most-read PCB design articles from 2016.

Sales and Marketing with DownStream Technologies

From its inception, DownStream Technologies has been a new kind of software tool company. DownStream’s post-processing tools address one of the most unpopular parts of the design process: documentation. DownStream's CEO Rick Almeida discusses some of his firm’s marketing and sales methods, the trends that he sees, and the influence of the Internet on marketing.

Much Ado About Sales and Marketing

We recently surveyed our readers to get a better idea of what company leaders thought about sales and marketing. We sent this survey to several sales leaders; the results were informative, at times surprising, and even a bit disappointing, especially when participants reported that they had no sales and marketing plan at all. Does your company fall into that category?

Resins: Five Essentials to Achieve the Right Cure

Last month, I looked at some of the critical things you need to consider before selecting your resin. Of course, when it comes to the choice and application of resins, there’s a lot of information to take in, and over the following months I hope to distill this and provide some useful tips and design advice that will help you in your quest for reliable circuit protection.

SiSoft Discusses Signal Integrity Drivers and Challenges

In the last few years, SiSoft has launched a variety of innovative SI tools that help automate tasks that used to take weeks or months to complete. I recently interviewed CEO Barry Katz via email, and he detailed their customers’ challenges, and some of the market drivers in the world of signal integrity.

Sunstone Circuits Makes Shift in Strategy, Offerings

Sunstone Circuits, the Oregon-based online vendor of quickturn circuit boards, has recently made a shift in capabilities that will enable a move into the RF and microwave space. At PCB West, Publisher Barry Matties caught up with Sunstone’s David Warren, and they discussed details of this change and how they plan to approach such a competitive marketplace.


CAT’s David Wolf on Via Reliability Analysis

Conductor Analysis Technologies (CAT) has been analyzing test panels and coupon designs for over 20 years. CAT’s analysis provides valuable, quantitative data on PCB quality and reliability, which can help designers and manufacturers trace the source of defects and non-uniformities. Vice President of Technical Marketing David Wolf discusses some of the trends he’s seeing in via structures, and the common reliability and quality issues related to vias.

Sensible Design: Why are Resin Properties So Important?

Last month, I started this series of columns on resins by going back to basics, questioning the core rationale for potting and encapsulation with resins, their fundamental chemistries and how each resin type differs one from the other—indeed, how their individual properties can be exploited to maximise performance under a wide range of environmental conditions. I hope readers found this useful. Of course, when it comes to the choice and applications of resins, there’s a great deal more to discuss.

What’s the Difference Between a Manager and a True Leader?

The role of the manager is complex; it means balancing business needs with creative opportunity and flexibility, building trust and providing inspiration with a team. With the recruitment of Generation X, and now the millennials, the expectations of employees are changing, accompanied by an unprecedented growth of technology. How can today’s manager maintain an effective and motivated team?

DownStream Technologies: Building the Interface Between Designers and Fabricators

DownStream Technologies founder Rick Almeida speaks with Editor Pete Starkey about building the interface between the PCB designers and fabricators. He gives details on their design software and where most of the design community resides.

TTM SJ Hosts IPC Designers Council Meeting

The Silicon Valley Chapter of the IPC Designers Council was treated to a delicious barbecue lunch on October 13 at TTM’s San Jose facility. About 20 PCB designers and support professionals gathered for the tri-tip lunch-n-learn conference.

Leo Lambert Discusses EPTAC’s Evolving Mission

This month we’ve been dealing with challenges related to being a great manager and a great leader. One of the biggest problems a manager faces is training—getting employees trained, and keeping them current on constantly changing technologies. I asked Leo Lambert, VP and CTO of EPTAC, what his thoughts were on the subject of leadership, and more specifically, what strategies EPTAC embraces with regard to training—both initial and ongoing.

Lightning Speed Laminates: The Blending of High-Speed Digital and High-Frequency RF

When the terms high-speed and high-frequency are mentioned, people think they describe the same issue. But in reality, they can be two very different matters. The term high-speed generally refers to digital technology which transfers data at very high rates. But the term high-frequency is typically related to radio frequency (RF), which involves analog signals moving energy at high frequencies.

Mentor Graphics’ PADS Platform Bridges Design and Manufacturing

At PCB West, Barry Matties spoke with Paul Musto about Mentor’s PADS environment and their introduction of scalable software tools to help design better boards, from the enterprise level down to the entry level and hobbyists. They also discussed the evolution of the design process infrastructure in North America vs. Asia, and what design engineers should focus on to increase their value.

The Shaughnessy Report: Leadership vs. Management

Is your manager one of the great ones, a true leader? Many of your colleagues would probably answer with a pointed “No.” In our reader surveys, we ask, “What is your biggest challenge?” Every time we've posed that question, we received replies along the lines of, “Management doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing.” Some replies are too salty to print.

Freedom CAD: Navigating the Unpredictable Design Marketplace

As COO of the design service bureau Freedom CAD, Scott Miller has a front-row seat to the challenges currently plaguing designers and the design community as a whole. He shared his views with me recently, offering insights on the importance of picking the right partners and customer relationships in an unforgiving and sometimes unpredictable design marketplace.


Altium ActiveRoute Debuts at PCB West: Routes Under One Second Per Connection

While at PCB West, Judy Warner had the chance to sit down with Charles Pfeil of Altium and learn more about their exciting new tool, ActiveRoute, that was introduced and demonstrated during PCB West 2016. She also learned a bit of background about Pfeil, who is a living history lesson in PCB design.

SnapEDA: Inspiring Millennials in the PCB Design Community

Natasha Baker, founder of SnapEDA, is part of the new breed of entrepreneurs. She manages a group of millennials who are not much younger than she is. Natasha discusses what it means to be a manager vs. a leader, what motivates millennial engineers, and some of the changes in the world of EDA that managers have to contend with to succeed.

Sensible Design: The Little Guide to Resins

I would like to start this series of columns by going back to basics, questioning the core rationale for potting and encapsulation with resins, their fundamental chemistries and how each resin type differs one from the other—indeed, how their individual properties can be exploited to maximise performance under a wide range of environmental conditions.

Beyond Design: How to Handle the Dreaded Danglers, Part 2

In Part 1, I deliberated on how dangling via stubs distort signals passing through an interconnect and also decrease the usable bandwidth of the signal. This is due to the via stub acting as a transmission line antenna, which has a resonant frequency determined by the quarter wavelength of the structure. The conventional solution to this problem is to back-drill (or control depth drill) the vias to bore out the via stub barrels, so that the via stubs are reduced in length if not completely removed. This month I will look into all the possible solutions.

Space: Still the Final Frontier

If this doesn’t make you feel like a “seasoned citizen,” I don’t know what will: "Star Trek" first aired 50 years ago, on Sept. 8, 1966. No one—not even the actors—thought the show would last, and it only ran for three seasons, drawing average ratings. But Captain Kirk and company are more popular than ever on their Golden Anniversary.

Flexdude Abides: PCB Design for Satellites

Tom Woznicki, aka “Flexdude,” has focused primarily on flex circuit design since he founded Flex Circuit Design Co. in the 1990s, and he designed flex circuits for the Mars rover. But recently, Tom designed rigid PCBs for the TESS satellite. I asked Tom to discuss his work with TESS, and what it’s like switching between flexible and rigid PCBs.

The Fundamentals of Improving PCB Thermal Design

Continental's automobile engineers have years of experience building critical parts and systems for automobiles. Making sure that automotive electronics are reliable, safe, and properly designed begins at the component level. Heat must be addressed early in the design process for these goals to be achieved. The most important thermal resistance for heat, outside the IC package, is the PCB.

Prototron Adding a Variety of Services and Certifications

Editor Judy Warner and Prototron Sales Manager Russ Adams discuss Prototron's new capabilities and certifications. The company recently added via fill and limited flex services, and is ready to pull the trigger on AS9100 once the new rev is finalized.

Quiet Power: Evaluating Evaluation Boards

Evaluation boards are very helpful. Manufacturers of complex circuits such as DC-DC converters provide boards with those circuits ready to try out, saving us time and effort to design the printed circuit board around them. Evaluation boards are supposed to help us to understand the capabilities of the device. But with the many potential user applications, what should a particular user expect and look for in an evaluation board? We need to know how to properly evaluate an evaluation board.

John Cardone on Designing Flex for Spacecraft

If you watched footage of the Mars rover driving all over the red planet, you’re familiar with some of John Cardone’s handiwork. He’s been designing rigid, flex, and rigid-flex circuitry for spacecraft since he joined JPL in the early ‘80s, and he’s worked on some of the more ground-breaking flex circuits along the way. Now John runs his own design service bureau, JMC Design Services, and he continues to design circuitry for things that blast off. I caught up with John recently and asked him to give us the straight scoop on designing boards for spacecraft.


Mike Creeden: Care and Training of Your Designers

The I-Connect007 team recently visited San Diego PCB Inc. and received a warm welcome from CEO Mike Creeden and his youthful-looking (relatively speaking) team of designers. Creeden spoke with Barry Matties and Judy Warner about what it takes to run a successful design service center, how to properly care for the PCB designers of today and tomorrow, and why IPC’s design training is paramount when training a new designer.

Sensible Design: Conformal Coatings - Beware the Boards that ‘Bare’ All!

This month, Phil Kinner departs from his usual format of providing five essential facts about conformal coatings. Instead, he provides an account of a customer’s problem—no company names mentioned, of course—that brought into question the adhesion performance of a coating that they had been using successfully for some time.

Transline Technology is Bullish on Design Engineers

At the International Microwave Symposium, I met with Chris Savalia, vice president and co-owner of Transline Technology. We discussed the California-based fabricator’s philosophy, the challenges of the RF and microwave markets, and the need to engage with young design engineers now.

Beyond Design: How to Handle the Dreaded Danglers, Part 1

Dangling via stubs can distort signals and decrease the usable bandwidth of the signal. A via stub acts as a transmission line antenna, and has a resonant frequency determined by the quarter wavelength of the structure. At this frequency, the transmitted signal is greatly attenuated, by up to 3dB. For low-frequency signals, this is not much of an issue, but for higher-frequency signals, this issue becomes a problem.

The Evolution of Altium: Road to a Record-Breaking Year

Chris Donato, VP of sales for Altium Americas, sat down with Judy Warner recently to discuss what he and Altium have been doing lately, where they came from (Australia) and what the future holds for Altium. This company has evolved from flying well under the radar during the acquisition frenzy of the ‘80s, to achieving a record $100 million in sales for fiscal year 2016.

Increasing Heat Dissipation in FPGAs

In recent years, the miniaturization and modularization of electronic products have led to the increased density of electronic components and the decrease of areas for effective heat dissipation. As a result, the thermal design of high-powered electronic components has become a major focus for electronics engineers. An effective solution for FPGA heat dissipation is critical. Thermal design of the PCB aims to decrease the temperature of both components and the board through suitable measures, so that the system is capable of working at a suitable temperature.

Orange Co. Designers Council Meeting Draws A Packed House

Speaker John Stine, VP of operations at Summit Interconnect’s Anaheim facility, gave a presentation on flex and rigid-flex design and fabrication. At least 75 electronics professionals listened as Stine, an expert in flex and rigid-flex technologies, discussed proper trace geometries, grounding, cover lay, adhesives, signal integrity, impedance control, book-bindings and much more in his 80-minute presentation.

The Shaughnessy Report: Voices of the Industry

We asked readers like you to share your thoughts about PCB design. Your replies were all over the map. Of course, as journalists, we are drawn to your complaints and challenges—our publications exist to help you address these challenges. And you were not shy about sharing your complaints! Designers’ complaints haven’t changed much since I've been covering this segment.

The Many Voices Over the Past Year

In line with our "Voices of the Industry" theme this month, we're publishing this handy index of all of the interviews we've conducted over the past year with the movers and shakers, managers, entrepreneurs, and and rank-and-file designers and design engineers. In case you missed them, here's another bite of the apple, alphabetized by interviewee's last name. Enjoy!

Lightning Speed Laminates: Smaller Circuits--Material Properties and Thermal Issues

Coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) is typically considered for PCB reliability, but it can also have an impact on circuit performance for applications exposed to varying temperatures. Due to CTE, a circuit will change physical dimensions when the temperature changes. If the circuit has small features or tightly coupled features, the physical change of the circuit dimensions can cause a shift in electrical performance.


Brooks' Bits: Your Traces Have Hot Spots!

The reasons for the temperature variation at high temperatures are not too hard to understand. There may be minor contamination under the trace or in the copper that accounts for it. Certainly, at higher temperatures (say above about 300°C) the board may begin to delaminate, severely disrupting its cooling characteristics. There may be small variations in trace width or thickness that help account for the delam, and these effects would be randomly distributed along the length of the trace.

Sensible Design: When Coatings Go Wrong

This month, I consider some of the more common, and often very frustrating, problems that may be encountered when coating electronic circuit boards and components. I also discuss some practical solutions. As we all know, nothing in life is straightforward.

Beyond Design: The Rise of the Independent Engineer

With the changing demographics, the old-timers in our industry—the master PCB designers—are about to retire and hand over the exacting job of PCB design to the Gen-X and Ys. These generations, shaped by technology, will tackle the most demanding designs without possessing the experience that we veterans benefit from. And to top it off, these up-and-coming designers will be degreed engineers who have to cope with both design and layout tasks as the specialized PCB designer’s positions are phased out.

Signal Integrity Tools and Design Methodology in the Modern Age

The PCB design process has traditionally been done in silos. One group creates the design intent (schematic), another group implements the logic on the PCB, and yet another group does some checking of the design using analysis tools. This traditional approach has run into a number of problems.

New SI Techniques for Large System Performance Tuning

In this DesignCon paper, Donald Telian of SiGuys and Michael Steinberger and Barry Katz of SiSoft describe newly-developed techniques for equalization tuning and discontinuity reduction, offering additional design margin. Cost reductions are also achieved as new signal integrity techniques demonstrate performance parity, removing non-essential re-timers and PCBs layers.

The Gerber Guide, Chapters 15 and 16

Before sending your Gerber files off to your fabricator, you are often advised to check them using a reputable Gerber viewer such as GC-Prevue. This is excellent advice. Note that this involves more than just verifying that the viewer displays your intended image: It is important that you check too that the file is valid.

Software Bytes: Having Fun With Impedance

About a year ago, I was assigned a new project: become an expert in impedance, more or less. I had no idea how much this research would bring out the nerd in me. Even if you don’t typically design controlled-impedance circuit boards, you probably will eventually. Read on!

Mentor Video: Impact of Power Integrity on Temperature

One of the most common outputs from a DC Drop simulation is a current density plot. But how much is too much current density? The answer depends on temperature rise, and requires a PI-thermal co-simulation to properly characterize.

Designing for Profitability: Don’t Over-Materialize

John Bushie, applications engineering manager at American Standard Circuits, spoke with Barry Matties recently about how designers can avoid over-materializing. He also outlined the benefits of designing for profitability.

Getting Signal Integrity Right by Design

As clock frequencies increase and active devices and interconnect traces shrink and are placed ever closer together, signal integrity becomes an increasing challenge. Today, SI is typically addressed late in the design process after the PCB layout has been completed by performing complex and time-consuming 3D extractions and simulations for high-speed lines. But with little attention being paid to SI during the layout process, simulation frequently identifies numerous SI problems.


Beyond Design: Mastering “Black Magic” with Howard Johnson’s Seminars

Dr. Howard Johnson, the world’s foremost authority on signal integrity, has recently released his High-Speed Digital Design (HSDD) Collection. I recently reviewed all three of the seminars in this collection, a total of 36 hours of viewing time. If you want to gain some of Dr. Johnson's enthusiasm and master the art of high-speed design, then the collection is a must-have.

Making Digital and Analog “Play Nice” at Peavey

Most guitarists have owned a Peavey Electronics amplifier or instrument at some point in their lives. Peavey originally drew accolades for their line-up of high-quality, budget-friendly products. Now the company also develops high-end instruments, amps, and live sound equipment. Peavey was also the last major American musical equipment maker to have product manufactured overseas. I met with Tom Stuckman, an electrical engineer at Peavey, during NAMM and asked him about the technical challenges he faces and what it’s like working at Peavey.

Designing With Tighter Tolerances

David Ledger-Thomas is a PCB design engineer with Honeywell Aerospace. He’s spent decades designing PCBs for a variety of applications, including defense, aerospace, computers, and high-performance audio. I asked David to share some of his thoughts on designing high-tech boards with increasingly finer spaces, traces and pitch.

Lightning Speed Laminates: The Dilemma--Soldermask for High-Frequency PCBs

Typically, PCBs with RF traces on the outer layers have minimal or no soldermask in the RF circuitry areas. Many times the soldermask is applied in areas where components are soldered to the PCB but the soldermask is developed away in the areas where conductors have critical RF performance. There are many reasons to avoid soldermask coverage on RF conductors, due to inherent soldermask properties.

Designing with Fine Lines and Features

Albert Gaines is the owner and senior PCB designer at HiGain Design Services in Norcross, Georgia. He’s been a PCB designer since 1981; he's designed a variety of boards in that time. I asked Albert to talk about some of the finer lines and features that come through his shop, as well as some design techniques for boards with tight tolerances.

Taylor Guitars Protected with Analog, RF Circuitry

Trenton Blizzard is an electrical engineer at Taylor Guitars and part of the team that developed the TaylorSense shock and climate change protection system. At the NAMM show, Trenton spoke with me, along with Editors Dick Crowe and Dan Feinberg, about this new device, and what it’s like being an electrical engineer for a “woodworking shop.”

From the CAM Shop: Tight Tolerance Design Tips

After you finish your design, it winds up in the hands of people like Mark Thompson, the man who runs the CAM department at Prototron Circuits in Redmond, Washington. He sees CAD data firsthand, and often has to address errors and inconsistencies in PCB designs. For this issue, we asked Mark to discuss the today’s tight tolerances, some of the problems they can cause PCB designers, and what designers can do when dealing with shrinking features.

The State of the Electronic Design Automation Nation

We are the automation nation. We are the high-speed demons, the low-frequency artists, the mixed-signal designers that make up the electronic design automation industry. We spend most of our working lives behind software, delivered to our fingertips with the promise of making things easier, faster, better, and getting us to our deadlines ever faster.

Designers Notebook: Specifying Lead-Free Compatible Surface Finish and Coating for Solderability and Surface Protection

A majority of the components furnished for electronic assembly are designed for solder attachment to metalized land patterns specifically designed for each device type. Providing a solder process-compatible surface finish on these land patterns is vital; however, selection of the surface finish on the circuit structure, whether plated or coated, can be greatly influenced by the components’ terminal metalization and the specific alloy composition used for the assembly process.

The Importance of Design for Profit (DFP)

In this interview, Interconnect Design Solutions’ Mike Brown and I took a few minutes during the recent Geek-A-Palooza event to discuss the importance of material selection and designing for profitability, how automation affects the design process, and the future of the design community.


Sensible Design: Coatings—Five Essentials for Designers

In an ideal world, PCB designs would not have an inherent weak point for corrosion; unfortunately, in the real world, they do. When a weak point is revealed, you are better equipped to deal with it. Often the spacing of components, board finish and distance to ground planes can be optimised for corrosion resistance.

Beyond Design: The Case for Artificial Intelligence in EDA Tools

There has been a lot of activity in the field of artificial intelligence recently, with such developments as voice recognition, unmanned autonomous vehicles and data mining to list a few. But how could AI possibly influence the PCB design process? This month, Barry Olney will take a look at the endless possibilities.

Changing the World of PCB Rapid Prototyping

Tony Tung is a recent graduate from Taiwan who has come up with a new way for PCB designers and makers to create breadboards using printed paper circuits. I caught up with Tony at the recent San Mateo Maker Faire and sat down with him to learn more about this project.

Rogers’ John Coonrod on Insertion Loss

John Coonrod of Rogers Corporation gave a keynote presentation at the recent Geek-A-Palooza trade show, concentrating on printed circuit board fabrication’s influences on insertion loss. I sat down with John to learn more about his presentation and what OEMs and designers need to be aware of to avoid insertion loss.

Tim’s Takeaways: The Basics of Hybrid Design, Part 3

The world of hybrid design is growing, and we have lots of hybrid-specific functionality built into our software that helps designers meet and conquer the unique hybrid design requirements that they are faced with. And yet many designers out there (and I used to be one of them) have no idea what is meant when people start talking about hybrid design.

Romanian Electronics Industry Celebrates 25th Anniversary of TIE

The high point of the Romanian TIE event was a competition among the students to design and layout a circuit for a specific product meeting to the maximum extent possible a long list of design and product requirements. The students had four hours to deliver a design which was then evaluated by a team comprised of a university instructor and a seasoned industry engineer.

EDA Tools: Automation vs. Control

Stephen V. Chavez, CID+, is currently the lead PCB designer for the Electronic Systems Center division of UTC Aerospace Systems (UTAS). He's also a frequent speaker at the IPC APEX EXPO Design Forum. I caught up with Stephen and asked for his thoughts on the EDA tools of today, and whether he’d prefer to have more control vs. more automation.

DownStream: What a Long EDA Trip it’s Been

No doubt about it: DownStream Technologies co-founder Joe Clark is an EDA veteran, with a history that dates back to the very beginning of EDA tools through the merger madness of the late ‘90s and beyond. I sat down with Joe during IPC APEX EXPO, and asked him about some of the changes he’s seen, and the direction of DownStream as it enters its 15th year.

The Shaughnessy Report: The Designer Roundtable Roundup

Every year, I attend SMTA Atlanta, just across town. You have to love a local trade show. No airlines, no jet lag, and no hotels. It’s a small show; it would fit in a school gymnasium. But for me, the highpoint of SMTA Atlanta is the Designers Roundtable. This year the roundtable had 15 attendees, up from 12 last year. Two of the new attendees were under 35, which surprised all of us "graybeards."

PADS Paper: 10 Things to Know about Thermal Design

As designs get smaller, power densities at all packaging levels increase dramatically. Removing heat is critical to the operation and long-term reliability of electronics, and component temperatures within specification are the universal criteria used to determine the acceptability of a design. This PADS paper discusses 10 things designers need to know about thermal design.


Design Automation Tools, Today and in the Future

Kelly Dack has been designing PCBs for over three decades, at OEMs of all kinds. Now a PCB designer with a Washington state contract manufacturer, Kelly enjoys waxing philosophic about PCB design and design automation in general. I asked Kelly about the direction EDA tools are headed, and whether he’d like to see more control, or more automation in his PCB design tools.

Beyond Design: DDR3/4 Fly-by vs. T-topology Routing

JEDEC introduced fly-by topology in the DDR3 specification for the differential clock, address, command and control signals. The advantage of fly-by topology is that it supports higher-frequency operation, reduces the quantity and length of stubs and consequently improves signal integrity and timing on heavily loaded signals. Fly-by topology also reduces simultaneous switching noise (SSN) by deliberately causing flight-time skew.

Designers and Design Engineers: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Andy and Sue Critcher have been the lead designers at Total Board Solutions Limited, a UK-based design bureau, since its founding in 1998. I asked Andy to share his opinion about the friction between some PCB designers and their engineers, and what can be done to improve communications between these groups.

Designers Notebook: Flexible and Rigid-Flex Circuit Design Principles, Part 6

The designer is generally under pressure to release the documentation and get the flexible circuit into production. There is, however, a great deal at risk. Setting up for medium-to-high volume manufacturing requires significant physical and monetary resources. To avoid potential heat from management, the designer must insist on prototyping the product and a thorough design review prior to release.

The Roles of the Designer and the Design Engineer

Steve Hageman has been designing electronics since elementary school. An engineer by trade, he has decades of experience performing PCB design and layout. I asked Steve to give us his opinion about the divide between some PCB designers and their engineers, and what can be done to solve this problem.

Cadence Paper: Automating Inter-Layer In-Design Checks in Rigid-Flex PCBs

Flexible PCBs make it possible to create a variety of products that require small, lightweight form factors. As flexible PCB fabrication technology has matured, new design challenges have emerged. This paper discusses some of the key challenges and introduces a new PCB design approach that enhances productivity through in-design inter-layer checks.

The Partnership: Design Engineers and PCB Designers

Randy Faucette is founder, president and director of engineering at Better Boards Inc. in Cary, North Carolina. I asked Randy to talk about some of the occasional tension between PCB designers and design engineers, and what he thinks can be done to help open the lines of communication.

SiSoft: Optimizing the State of the Art

In the 20 years since its founding, SiSoft has been at the forefront of signal integrity analysis tool development. Now, the company is leading the way with a new technology called OptimEye and tools for creating accurate IBIS-AMI models. Todd Westerhoff, VP of semiconductor relations, gives us an update on the company’s newest technologies.

Behind the Scenes: Adcom’s TLA Award-Winning Design

Adcom’s design team placed first in this year’s TLA program, taking the top spot for the category of “Computers, Blade & Servers, Memory Systems.” This board, like most PCBs today, is a complex system designed by a multi-disciplinary team of designers, striving to bring an operational product to the market on schedule.

Working With Circuit Design Engineers

Until the late 1980s, many PC board designers were converted technicians, mechanical designers, and artists who learned to read a schematic and mastered artwork taping. The EEs would often share their opinions, but you could listen to them or ignore them and the circuit would likely function either way. This era created some tension between designers and their EE counterparts, because they completely ignored each other’s ideas.


EMA is Bullish on Data Management

EMA Design Automation has evolved over the years, from a typical Cadence Design Systems VAR to a distributor that functions more like a part of Cadence. During DesignCon, I met with Greg Roberts, director of marketing for EMA, and asked him to discuss the company’s focus on data management tools, and why he’s giving away certain OrCAD tools.

Quiet Power: Dynamic Models for Passive Components

A year ago, my Quiet Power column described the possible large loss of capacitance in multilayer ceramic capacitors when DC bias voltage is applied. However, DC bias effect is not the only way we can lose capacitance. Temperature, aging, and the magnitude of the AC voltage across the ceramic capacitor also can change its capacitance. This column will provide all of the details.

Design Strategies for Success—and Profit

In today’s economic environment, making money on a project is getting more and more challenging. Those years when businesses like mine were practically printing money are long gone. If you are under 30 years old, you probably do not have this point of reference; it’s been one downturn after another for your entire adult life. But for us older folks, times were really good back then. So, what happened? You happened, as well as a million others like you. In other words, the market is a little cramped now and much more competitive, which dilutes our profit per project.

Sunstone Circuits R&D: 3D Printing Great for Prototyping

We’ve been hearing a lot about 3D printing for the past few years. But where does 3D printing fit in with traditional rigid circuit board development? Sunstone Circuits recently completed a project that focused on that very question. Sunstone Product Manager Nolan Johnson explains why 3D printing is a viable option when it comes to jigs and parts of the support infrastructure that are needed when prototyping today’s emerging technologies.

Brooks' Bits: How Many Vias Does It Take To…?

During 2015, I enjoyed a very productive collaboration with Dr. Johannes Adam, from Leimen, Germany. This resulted in several papers, but one in particular is relevant for this column, “Via Currents and Temperatures.” In that paper, we used a simulation tool, thermal risk management, developed by Dr. Adam, to simulate current flowing through a via and then determine the temperature of the via. Read on to find out how our results contradicted conventional wisdom.

Beyond Design: The Need for Speed—Strategies for Design Efficiency

Years of experience with one EDA tool obviously develops efficiency, whether the tool be high-end feature-packed or basic entry-level. And one becomes accustomed to the intricacies of all the good and bad features of their PCB design tool. However, there comes a time when one should really consider a change for the better to incorporate the latest methodologies. This month, I will look at productivity issues that impede the PCB design process.

Designers Notebook: Flexible and Rigid-Flex Circuit Design Principles, Part 5

The outline profile of the flexible circuit is seldom uniform. One of the primary advantages of the flexible design is that the outline can be sculpted to fit into very oblique shapes. This month, Vern Solberg focuses on outline planning, physical reinforcement, and accommodating bends and folds in flexible and rigid-flex circuits.

Tim's Takeaways: The Principles of Hybrid Design, Part 1

What exactly is a hybrid design? We are seeing more and more of our customers exploring the world of hybrid design, and we are getting new customers for whom hybrid design is their sole focus. The world of hybrid design is growing and we have lots of hybrid-specific functionality built into our software that helps designers conquer the unique hybrid design requirements.

The Bare (Board) Truth: The Top 10 Ways Designers Can Increase Profits

So, can you truly increase profitability through PCB design practices? Prototron's Mark Thompson believes you can. And it starts with a philosophy that embraces DFM techniques. Then you must be ready for the initial release to a fabricator by ensuring that you are communicating all of your specifications and needs clearly to the fabrication house so that you get an accurate quote. Let’s dive in, starting with Number 10 and working our way to the most important way a designer can increase company profits.

Wild River: Simplifying SI so Engineers Can Focus on Design

Al Neves is founder and chief technologist of Wild River Technology, and he’s a signal integrity engineer who likes to tell it like it is. So when I bumped into Al during DesignCon, I asked him to sit down for an interview. We discussed the paper he co-wrote for DesignCon and the challenges SI engineers are facing, as well as Wild River’s efforts to take the black magic out of signal integrity.


RTW IPC APEX EXPO: HDP Users Group Update with Jack Fisher

Jack Fisher, technical director for the High-Density Packaging Group, discusses the latest projects that the consortium is focusing on. He explains that member companies have full access to all of the R&D data that is developed. One of the group's most interesting current efforts involves optoelectronics.

RTW IPC APEX EXPO: Geek-A-Palooza Coming to S. California May 12

Steve Williams sits down with Geek-A-Palooza founders Tara Dunn and Judy Warner to discuss their upcoming event in Irvine, California on May 12. The Geek-A-Palooza held in Minneapolis last year drew over 300 PCB designers, fabricators, assemblers and suppliers. Tara and Judy explain why this is not just another boring technical talk, and attendees will definitely enjoy themselves.

Steinberger Talks PAM4, the Next Generation of Modulation

I recently interviewed our old friend Michael Steinberger, SiSoft’s lead architect for serial channel products. Steinberger is always a great interview; he breaks down complex signal integrity simulation technology in ways that are simple and often humorous. Steinberger sat down and discussed a paper he presented at DesignCon, and some of the challenges his customers are facing.

IPC APEX EXPO: Isola Introduces New Products, Increases R&D

Ed Kelley, VP of global technology, sits down with Guest Editor Dan Beaulieu at IPC APEX EXPO to discuss the company's plans for the future. The company is launching new low-loss laminates and increasing its R&D activities around the globe. He also explains why Isola often works with designers at OEMs.

IPC APEX EXPO: Gary Carter on First Board Manufactured With IPC-2581B

Gary Carter, senior manager of CAD engineering for Fujitsu Network Communications, discusses the first board fabricated and assembled using IPC-2581B. This 20-layer board features 21,000 component pins and 15,000 holes, with controlled impedance on all layers. He also gave a presentation on IPC-2581B during the Design Forum.

What’s New at Cadence?

Cadence Design Systems has released a variety of PCB design tools lately, and we wanted to find out a little more about what’s new at Cadence. I tracked down Product Marketing Director Brad Griffin and asked him to discuss some of the newest technology coming out of Cadence.

IPC APEX EXPO: New Arlon Materials Address Design and Fab Challenges

Brad Foster, VP and general manager of Arlon, discusses some new laminates and pre-pregs that help designers and fabricators address a variety of challenges. He explains how Arlon works with customers to help them with stack-ups and other issues.

IPC APEX EXPO: Electrolube to Educate PCB Designers on Coatings

Phil Kinner, technical director of coatings for Electrolube, discusses a paper on condensation testing that he presented at IPC APEX EXPO, and his plans to educate PCB designers about conformal coatings to help them avoid problems during manufacturing.

What’s New at Zuken?

Zuken has developed some innovative PCB design tools in the past few years, and I wanted to find out more about the company’s new and upcoming technologies. I caught up with Bob Potock, vice president of marketing for the Americas for Zuken USA, and asked him what was new at Zuken.

The PDN Bandini Mountain and Other Things I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know

Originally, Bandini Mountain referred to a mound of fertilizer built by the Bandini Fertilizer Company in California prior to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. When the company went bankrupt, this mound of fertilizer was left behind. Steve Weir coined this term to describe the large resonant frequency peak formed by the parallel combination of the on-die capacitance and the package lead inductance, as seen from the die looking into the PDN.


Designers Notebook: Flexible and Rigid-Flex Circuit Design Principles, Part 4

All of the design rules for the glass reinforced-portion of the board (land pattern geometry for mounting surface mount devices, solder mask and the like) are now well-established. One unique facet of fabricating the rigid-flex product is how the flexible portion of the circuit is incorporated with the rigid portion of the circuit. As a general rule for multilayer PCB design, furnish a balanced structure by building up the circuit layers in pairs (4, 6, 8 and so on).

IPC APEX EXPO: Prototron Works with Customers to Stay on Top

Prototron Circuits Operations Manager Mike Graves explains how his company's focus on customer service, including helping with PCB designs, has made Prototron "America's Board Shop." He also discusses their expansion into flex and HDI technology, and their efforts to achieve AS9100 certification.

IPC APEX EXPO: Hofer Discusses the Pros and Cons of Backdrilling

General Manager James Hofer of Accurate Circuit Engineering discusses the process of backdrilling vias, including the benefits and drawbacks. Backdrilling can improve signal integrity, but it can also create stubs that may act as unwanted antennas.

IPC APEX EXPO: Clyde Coombs Discusses the New Printed Circuits Handbook

In this interview that was shot during the IPC APEX EXPO 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Clyde Coombs discusses the latest edition of the Printed Circuits Handbook, which was published this week. The seventh edition, co-edited with Happy Holden, includes new sections on supply chain management and PCB design, with a chapter on EDA tools by Design007 Editor Andy Shaughnessy.

What’s New at DownStream?

Since its founding in the uncertain days of 2002, DownStream Technologies has made a name for itself with its line of PCB design post-processing tools. Founder Rick Almeida gives us an update on the latest innovations at DownStream, and he discusses some of the challenges and trends he sees in the PCB design segment.

IPC APEX EXPO: Glenn Oliver on His IPC 'Best Paper' on High-Frequency Materials

Glenn Oliver of DuPont discusses his award-winning paper, “Round Robin of High-Frequency Test Methods by IPC-D24C Task Group." Co-authors include Jonathan Weldon of DuPont, John Andresakis of Park Electrochemical, Chudy Nwachukwu of Isola, John Coonrod of Rogers Corporation, David L. Wynants of Taconic Advanced Dielectric Division, and Don DeGroot of Connected Community Networks. The paper looks at high-frequency offerings from a variety of materials providers.

Mark Thompson: It’s All About Communication

In engineering support at Prototron Circuits, Mark Thompson has seen it all. He ensures that each design is manufactured the way the designer intended, even if the CAD data is not crystal clear. During DesignCon, Barry Matties and Andy Shaughnessy talked with Thompson about why communication is paramount when designing and prototyping boards. Thompson also explained how designers can avoid making common mistakes that can set back an entire project.

Beyond Design: Faster than a Speeding Bullet

In optical communications, electrons don’t carry the signal—photons do. And we all know that photons travel at the speed of light. So surely, optical fibers must transmit information much faster than copper wires or traces on a multilayer PCB? Actually, photons and electrons transmit data at the same speed. The limiting factor is the relative permittivity (dielectric constant) of the medium in which the signal propagates.

Technology Outlook with Mentor Graphics

Mentor Graphics recently announced the winners of its PCB Technology Leadership Awards. Now in its 26th year, this program provides a great barometer for measuring the newest trends in cutting-edge PCB designs. I caught up with Product Marketing Manager David Wiens and asked him to give us an idea of the trends he’s seeing in PCB design and manufacturing, and what the industry has in store for us in the next few years.

Designers Notebook: Flexible and Rigid-Flex Circuit Design Principles, Part 3

This installment of "Designers Notebook" will focus on methods for specifying base materials, and also address copper foil variations and fabrication documentation. It is important to research the various products in order to choose the one that best meets the design requirements.


Catching up With Tom Hausherr of PCB Libraries

When fate placed Tom Hausherr and I at PCB West, we made sure to carve out some time together. Tom agreed to have a long breakfast with me so I could learn more about the challenges related to component libraries and how his company addresses these issues. So, pull up a chair and join us for a chat.

Enhancing Thermal Performance of CSP Integrated Circuits

In order to meet size and weight requirements, constraints of portable electronic designs often force PCB designers to reduce the size of components and PCB real estate area. To meet these demands, the use of CSP packages to shrink the PCB area needed is a common change in designs. As a result of the reduction of total PCB area, the available options to move heat and route high-power PCB traces is also reduced. Furthermore, the thermal performance cannot be matched when a QFN is compared to an equivalent CSP package.

The Shaughnessy Report: Doing My Part for Medical Electronics

One interesting aspect of having hernia surgery recently was the number of PCBs in the operating room. I’ve never seen so many electronic devices together in my life. I saw one Agilent monitor, and a bunch of others with names I couldn’t make out. It reminded me of the IT room in most companies. I guess they had to be set up to handle routine surgery like mine, and the not-so-routine operations as well. Medical electronics is doing fine, no doubt.

Designers Notebook: Flex and Rigid-Flex Circuit Design Principles, Part 2

In this installment of "Designers Notebook," Vern Solberg discusses supplier assessment, planning of the flexible circuit outline, and various circuit routing principles. Communication between designer and fabricator is paramount, as well as an understanding of IPC-2223, which sets the specific requirements for the design of flex circuits.

Justifying the Need to Outsource Design Work

Mehul Dave and H.D. Shreenivasa of Entelechy Global discuss the many benefits of outsourcing and why it should not be thought of as a four-letter word. They also talk about the huge gap between design and manufacturing, and how their company can help customers address that issue.

American Standard Circuits: Leading the Way in Medical Electronics

When it comes to innovative fabricators, American Standard Circuits is always at the front of the pack. Naturally, when Editor Andy Shaughnessy asked me to interview a fabricator about PCBs for the medical market, ASC was the one company that immediately came to mind. I spoke with CEO Anaya Vardya about fabricating medical PCBs, the medical electronics market, and the future of this fast-growing segment.

Fabrication Drawings and Electrical Test— Reading the Fine Print

When a new PCB design is born, designers envision what the product will provide when completed. Whether the product is for the consumer, aerospace, military, medical or countless other markets, the designers—or more likely, the customers—expect certain deliverables on the commodity they wish to purchase.

Innovative Circuits Sees Healthy Medical Market

Medical electronics is one of the fastest growing segments of our industry. Alpharetta, Georgia-based Innovative Circuits is at the forefront of fabricating medical PCBs, both flex and rigid. I asked Innovative Business Development Manager Amir Davoud to give us a solid diagnosis of the world of medical PCBs.

Beyond Design: Plane Crazy, Part 2

In my recent four-part series on stackup planning, I described the best configurations for various stackup requirements. But I did not have the opportunity to delve into the use of planar capacitance to reduce AC impedance at frequencies above 1GHz, which is the region wherein bypass and decoupling capacitors dramatically lose their impact. In this column, I will flesh out this topic, and consider the effects of plane resonance on the power distribution network (PDN).

Medical PCB Design: Not Just Another High-Rel Board

Some of the coolest new electronic products have come courtesy of the medical market. I wanted to find out more about this fast-growing segment, so I contacted Kenneth MacCallum, an engineering physicist with StarFish Medical. MacCallum, an engineering physicist who designs PCBs for medical applications, explained why medical PCBs are not quite like other high-reliability boards.


Systematic Estimation of Worst-Case PDN Noise: Target Impedance and Rogue Waves

In the dark ages of power distribution design, the typical advice was to use a bulk capacitor and one 0.1uF bypass capacitor for every power pin on the digital circuit. This was very unscientific, but served the industry reasonably well in low-density and low-speed circuits. As the designs got more demanding, the target impedance concept was developed. Using a target impedance, designers had a metric and a design goal to guarantee that the voltage transients stay within specified limits.

Designers Notebook: Flex and Rigid-Flex Circuit Design Principles, Part 1

In his new Designers Notebook column, Verb Solberg discusses primary flex circuit structures, proper design for operating environment, and base material selection. The design guidelines for flexible circuits, although similar to those for rigid circuits, have distinctive differences that are influenced by specific applications and the intended operating use environments. Communication with your fabricator is paramount when designing flex and rigid-flex circuits.

IPC Designers Council Viewpoint: Gary Ferrari

As co-founder and longtime executive director of the Designers Council, Gary Ferrari has dedicated a big part of his career to PCB design. After decades of service, he was inducted into the IPC Hall of Fame at IPC APEX EXPO this year. I caught up with Gary and asked him to fill us in on the creation of the Designers Council, and some of the changes he’s seen in the last 24 years.

Lightning Speed Laminates: Why Do Different Test Methods Yield Different Electrical Values?

A variety of different test methods may be used for any one electrical concern. This article will discuss the issues related to determining the dielectric constant (Dk) and dissipation factor (Df or Tan-Delta). On a data sheet, a designer may see a Dk value for a material to be 3.5, as an example. Once the designer buys the material and performs necessary evaluations, it may be found that the Dk of the material is 3.8. In some applications this difference in Dk is probably not meaningful; however, for many RF and high-speed digital applications, this difference could be very significant.

IPC Designers Council Viewpoint: Mike Creeden

When covering the IPC Designers Council, one quickly learns that it’s the volunteers who make the train run on time. San Diego PCB CEO Mike Creeden, CID+, is one such volunteer, and as a member of the Designers Council’s Executive Board, he was a must-have for this issue. I tracked him down and asked him to give us a rundown of his involvement with the DC, and to explain why designers might want to get involved with their local DC chapters.

Electrical Design Challenges for Automotive PCBs

A recent article in this magazine by Monica Andrei of Continental Automotive Systems emphasized the systemic nature of an automobile and discussed the characteristics and adoption of software design tools to enable such system-level design. Recognizing that electrical challenges are part of the automotive system-level discussion, this article will present more detail on signal integrity. Future discussion is planned regarding EMI, power integrity, and thermal integrity.

McCurdy: How to Build a Successful IPC Designers Council Chapter

When Scott McCurdy made his transition from PCB fabrication to a PCB layout focus about 13 years ago, he accepted an invitation to attend our local IPC Designer’s Council. Shortly after, he was recruited to serve on the group’s steering committee. At that time, 20–25 people were regularly attending the meetings. When the chapter president moved, he asked Scott to take his place. Now, Orange County chapter meetings often draw close to 100 attendees.

IPC Designers Council: Serving PCB Designers for Almost 25 Years

You may have seen Anne Marie Mulvihill at the Design Forum during IPC APEX EXPO, rounding up speakers with a sarcastic comment or two. As PCB design program manager for IPC, Anne Marie makes the design train run on time. When I told Anne Marie that we were covering the Designers Council for this issue, she jumped at the chance to help us.

Beyond Design: Plane Crazy, Part 1

A high-speed digital power distribution network (PDN) must provide a low inductance, low impedance path between all ICs on the PCB that need to communicate. In order to reduce the inductance, we must also minimize the loop area enclosed by the current flow. Obviously, the most practical way to achieve this is to use power and ground planes in a multilayer stackup. In this two-part column, I will look at the alternatives to planes, why planes are used for high-speed design, and the best combination for your application.

IPC Designers Council Viewpoint: Rick Hartley

Rick Hartley has been in involved in PCB design and design education for decades, so it’s no surprise that he started working with the IPC Designers Council early on. Now retired from his day job at L-3, Rick still teaches PCB design and shows no sign of slowing down. I asked him to discuss his work with the Designers Council, and what the group means to the design community.


The Shaughnessy Report: Are You Drowning in Data?

Data management was so much simpler during the days of Mylar and Bishop Graphics tape. Data was handwritten. All you had to do was keep track of your paperwork and you were golden. Now, you’re all much more productive, but you have data coming out of your ears; slowly but surely, incrementally, data has become much more complicated. How do designers and engineers wind up managing all of this data? With kluged-together processes and software tools, and the occasional handwritten notes.

DownStream Takes on Data Documentation Management

Most designers will tell you that, as much as they enjoy laying out boards, they dislike the final data documentation step, which often involves various formats, including handwritten notes. Enter DownStream Technologies, a company founded 14 years ago to address the challenges related to post-processing the design. Senior Product Marketing Manager Mark Gallant recently discussed the company’s efforts to take the pain out of data documentation, even as data becomes more complex.

Why Autorouters Don’t Work: The Mindset!

Ask any group of PCB designers what they think of autorouters and the majority will say that they do not use them because they do not work. I have been battling this mindset for over 20 years now and it still persists today, even with the dramatic advances in routing technology. This way of thinking generally comes from those designers who use the entry-level tools. But even the most primitive autorouter may have some useful features. It’s all about changing that mindset of the designer and having a crack at it.

Rogers Scales up Production and Integrates Arlon Range

Editor Pete Starkey interviews Rogers European Sales Manager John Hendricks at productronica 2015. Hendricks updates us on Rogers’ acquisition of Arlon, and explains how the Arlon products are complementary to Rogers’ existing materials.

EMA: Helping Technologists Manage Disparate Data

Today’s EDA tools are better than ever, but managing design data, from schematics through Gerbers, can be an unwieldly task. I recently interviewed Manny Marcano, president and CEO of EMA Design Automation. He discusses EMA’s approach to managing a variety of types of complex data, the need for seamless data processes, and the future of compliance-aware design.

Pulsonix Poised to Take More EDA Market Share

Publisher Barry Matties met with Bob Williams, managing director and co-owner of Pulsonix, and Sales and Marketing Manager Tyrone Stephens to discuss the challenges facing the EDA tool market, and how they’re establishing this company in the global design tool marketplace.

SnapEDA: The Female-Owned Startup Revolutionizing CAD Data

SnapEDA founder Natasha Baker may mark the beginning of a new trend in EDA: young female entrepreneurs. (When was the last time we heard about an EDA startup?) As her company prepared for a major launch, Natasha took time to explain the philosophy behind SnapEDA, and how the company is helping designers and engineers manage an ever-increasing volume of CAD data.

Orange County IPC Designers Council Meeting Draws Record Crowd

On November 18, the Orange County Chapter of the IPC Designers Council held a “Lunch ‘n’ Learn” event at the Harvard Park Community Center in Irvine, California. Eighty-nine PCB designers and electronics industry professionals gathered to listen to a talk by Chris Heard, a signal integrity engineering consultant at CSH Consulting LLC.

Good in, Good out: Bay Area Circuits Discusses Data Strategies

A lot of companies talk about the importance of good data management, but for some firms, this amounts to little more than lip service. Then there are companies like fabricator Bay Area Circuits. I recently sat down with Bay Area Circuits President Stephen Garcia and COO Brian Paper to discuss how automating and upgrading their data systems has significantly cut down overall process time, as well as their drive to educate young PCB designers and actively promote the industry to the emerging electronics industry workforce.

The Gerber Guide, Chapter 3: The PCB Profile

The profile defines a simple region in the 2D plane. The proper way to do this is to specify a closed contour: The inside of the contour is the PCB, and the outside is not. It is that simple. Note that such a simple region is solid, without holes. By definition then, a profile cannot have holes intentionally placed within it. These are superfluous and represent an unnecessary and complicated duplication given that drill holes are well defined in the drill/rout file. One can view cut-outs in a PCB as still part of the PCB, just as much as the drill holes are.


Beyond Design: Stackup Planning, Part 4

In this final part of the Stackup Planning series, I will look at 10-plus layer counts. The methodology I have set out in previous columns can be used to construct higher layer-count boards. In general, these boards contain more planes and therefore the issues associated with split power planes can usually be avoided. Also, 10-plus layers require very thin dielectrics in order to reduce the total board thickness. This naturally provides tight coupling between adjacent signal and plane layers reducing crosstalk and electromagnetic emissions.

Polar Instruments Fine-Tunes Layer Stackup Management

Polar Instruments CEO Martyn Gaudion and Technical Editor Pete Starkey discuss Polar’s efforts to simplify specification issues related to the supply chain. Designing PCBs with mixed materials makes layer stackup management more difficult than ever, but Gaudion explains how Polar works closely with materials providers and CAD tool vendors in order to provide users with constantly updated information.

Speeding up the Design Cycle: 10 Things to Remember

Many people understand the value of a PCB, but do not understand the best way to interact with PCB manufacturers. Poor planning and communication with fabricators slows down the design cycle and increases overall costs for your project. In this column, Mark Thompson streamline the design cycle through fabrication. Following my tips will minimize the need for future revisions and ensure you get quality boards on time.

Arlon’s John Wright Discusses New High-Performance Materials

During productronica, European Editor Pete Starkey interviewed Engineering/Quality Manager John Wright of Arlon. They discussed Arlon’s new 85HP ceramic-filled polyimide, as well as a non-woven aramid material, suitable for space applications, that is a drop-in replacement for a similar material discontinued by a competitor in 2006.

Lightning Speed Laminates: Impact of Final Plated Finish on PCB Loss

A variety of plated finishes are used in the PCB industry. Depending on the circuit construction and other variables, the plated finish can cause an increase in PCB insertion loss. The plated finish used on the outer ground planes of a stripline circuit have minimal or no impact on insertion loss. However, microstrip or grounded coplanar waveguide circuits, which are common on the outer layers of multilayer high-frequency PCBs, can be impacted by the plated finish for increasing the insertion loss.

Accelerating the PCB Design Cycle

An area of communications that is often underappreciated, but has become vitally important to design efficiency, is the dialogue with the PCB fabricator. It’s critical to engage the fabricator very early in the design process to nail down the proper materials and stack-up. With so many options for via structures, it is critical to select the most appropriate structure for the design. Adding blind and/or buried vias as an afterthought can limit their utilization and drive up the printed circuit board cost.

Accelerating the Design Cycle : Moving from Discipline-Centric to Product-Centric Design

Today, the design process in most cases fans out from the requirements as defined by marketing into multiple independent design threads that converge at the prototype. There is usually no systematic method for these different disciplines to communicate their work to the other disciplines. This lack of communication often leads to conflicting design decisions, such as when an electrical engineer or purchaser selects a component without having any way of knowing that it interferes with the enclosure. Extra design turns are often needed to resolve these conflicts at the prototype stage.

The Readers Speak: Tips on Accelerating your Design Cycle

This month, in addition to publishing feature articles by well-known experts in the field, we decided to collect feedback from the readers—PCB designers and engineers working in the trenches each day. We asked our readers to provide their favorite tips, tricks, and techniques for speeding up the PCB design cycle. Here are 10 tips for cutting your design time, courtesy of designers just like you.

The Material Witness: Nonwoven Aramid Reinforcement is Back

In the 1st century AD, there was significant debate among Jewish theologians as to whether resurrection was possible. PCB designers in the early 21st century have had a similar concern about future availability of 85NT nonwoven aramid laminate and prepreg. The stakes may be somewhat less critical, but the future of a wide variety of programs designed around the properties of Thermount have been hanging in the balance.

Insulectro Hosts Silicon Valley Designers Council Meeting

On October 15, about 25 people gathered for the IPC Designers Council Silicon Valley Chapter meeting at Insulectro's Mountain View facility. Carl Schattke, senior PCB design engineer at Tesla, was the main speaker. His presentation covered a variety of facets of PCB design, from shadowing to the location of component based on weight and surface finishes.


The Shaughnessy Report: Squeezing Seconds Out of the Design Cycle

When you’re designing a board, time is always your enemy. That’s what we learned when we surveyed our readers recently. PCB designers said that time pressure was one of their least favorite parts of the job, and in some cases, they were ready to retire just to avoid design cycle challenges. I imagine that many of you near retirement, and that’s quite a few of you, feel the same way.

The Challenges of Being Competitive in Automotive Electronics Manufacturing

Simple electronics were gradually introduced into automobiles from the earliest times. At first, these were just simple electro-mechanical devices to make cars work without manual effort, such as to start the engine and keep windshields clear. But in this past decade, we have seen the effects of the gradual growth of issues with electronics systems, with recalls caused by safety issues that cost automotive manufacturers millions of dollars. Electronics within an automotive environment today requires a new approach to ensure a higher level of quality perfection.

Top Gear: PADS Professional Road Test

In this column, Barry Olney test drives the newest version of the Mentor Graphics PADS Professional EDA tool. "Based on Xpedition technology, PADS Professional is a major improvement over the previous PADS suite of tools. utilizes xDX Designer as the front-end design entry tool. The latest routing technology is fast, smooth to drive, and hugs the corners well, with all the horsepower you need for the most demanding design."

The Shaughnessy Report: Car Talk

The automotive electronics segment has exploded. Early cars didn’t have much in the way of electronics. Even in 1950, electronics made up only 1% of a car’s cost. But that figure is expected to hit 35% in 2020, and 50% in 2030. The global automotive electronics market is forecast to hit $314.4 billion by 2020, and that means a whole lot of PCBs.

Leo Lambert on EPTAC's Customized Training Plans

Andy Shaughnessy interviewed Leo Lambert, vice president and technical director of EPTAC, at SMTA International. Leo Lambert, vice president and technical director of EPTAC, explains how the New Hampshire-based company continues to provide customized training and IPC certification offerings, including its IPC Certified Interconnect Designer (CID) and CID+ classes.

The Gerber Guide, Chapter 2

Never mirror or flip layers! All layers must be viewed from the top of the PCB, which means that the text must be readable on the top layer and mirrored on the bottom layer. Alas, sometimes, in a mistaken attempt to be helpful, designers flip layers because they must anyway be mirrored on the photoplotter. This could be helpful in a world where the designer's files are used directly in fabrication, but these data layers are actually input for the CAM system.

Physics of Failure Durability Simulations for Automotive Electronics

Automotive electronics systems are becoming increasing complex and essential for the proper, safe operation of cars and trucks. Vehicle controls for basic operation and safety functions are increasingly being implemented by electronic modules. The ability of these electronic systems to function reliably is becoming a greater aspect of vehicle safety as was dramatically demonstrated by the 2009–2011 recall of over 9 million Toyota vehicles for unintended acceleration issues.

Jack Pattie Discusses New Ventec Facility

Jack Pattie, CEO of Ventec USA, discusses the company's newest laminate facility, which recently opened in Northern California. He explains how this location, the company's fourth, will help Ventec better serve customers in that region.

Automotive Systems Design: a Support Engineer’s Perspective

In a nutshell, the promise of the system design approach is to allow for hitting the “sweet spot” in terms of functionality, quality and reliability, in the shortest possible design time and with the lowest possible resource investments. In an industry that has a very long time to market (on average around 1,000 days), steadily increasing quality demands and an ever intensifying pressure to lower costs, all these promises become most attractive and compelling.

Mentor Graphics Helps Bridge Gap Between PCB and RF

Recently, Publisher Barry Matties met with Per Viklund, the director of IC packaging and RF product lines at Mentor Graphics, and Alex Caravajal, business development manager with Mentor. They discussed the challenges facing PCB designers working with RF and microwave technology, and Mentor’s efforts to help reduce the RF design cycle time.


Failure May not be an Option, but Sometimes it's a Reality

I’ve had mechanical engineers question why we are bothering with circuit boards instead of designing the circuitry into the plastic housing of the device. I’ve had manufacturing engineers demand that I shelve the electrical considerations in order to meet manufacturing requirements, and electrical engineers who could care less if the product could actually be built. I’ve had engineers hover over my shoulder watching each and every stroke of the mouse that I make, and others who are never available for important questions which ultimately brought the whole project to a grinding halt.

Failure Mode: Hole Wall Pullaway

This column is based on my experience in test reliability of interconnect stress test (IST) coupons. I am addressing HWPA that features moderate to severe outgassing. There may be HWPA due to thermal stressing of the board without any significant outgassing, but this type of HWPA is subtle, and it presents as a dark line between the plating and the dielectric of the hole wall. This type of HWPA is rarely detected.

Material Witness: Using Scaled Flow Data

Resin systems whose density is not very near 1.35 do not quite fit into the official IPC test method because all the stack weight data used assumes epoxy resin of a standard 1.35 density. Any resin whose density varies from that value requires a new set of calculated weights for various stack-ups in order to provide precise data. This is especially true of filled systems whose resin density now includes a ceramic component as well as the organic resins themselves and may have densities higher than standard.

Beyond Design: Stackup Planning, Part 3

Following on from the first Stackup Planning columns, this month’s Part 3 will look at higher layer-count stackups. The four- and six-layer configurations are not the best choice for high-speed design. In particular, each signal layer should be adjacent to, and closely coupled to, an uninterrupted reference plane, which creates a clear return path and eliminates broadside crosstalk. As the layer count increases, these rules become easier to implement but decisions regarding return current paths become more challenging.

Kelly Dack and Mark Thompson Unite in the War on Failure

There’s been a lot of talk about fighting the war on failure in the PCB industry. But what strategies should our generals follow to prosecute this war? What exactly constitutes a failure in the first place? Is this war even winnable? I recently spoke with longtime designer Kelly Dack and CAM support veteran Mark Thompson of Prototron Circuits about the best battle plans for beating failure, and why designers and manufacturers must team up against this common enemy.

Training the Next-Generation Engineer: When Does it Begin and End?

American engineering companies are seeing a severe shortage of the homegrown engineers required to compete globally. Just go into any company today and you’ll notice that increasingly, the engineers are foreign-born. Our local universities are seeing fewer and fewer American engineering students each year. Universities are also seeing a growth in female students. Over 50% of college student are now female, and women traditionally are not attracted to science and engineering majors. What is causing this imbalance?

Karel Tavernier: The Gerber Guide

It is possible to fabricate PCBs from the fabrication data sets currently being used—it's being done innumerable times every day. But is it being done in an efficient, reliable, automated and standardized manner? At this moment in time, the honest answer is no, because there is plenty of room for improvement in the way in which PCB fabrication data is currently transferred from design to fabrication.

Nick Barbin: From Designer to EMS Company Owner

Many PCB designers would rather do just about anything than pore over a P&L spreadsheet. But Nick Barbin isn’t a typical designer. He co-founded the design bureau Optimum Design Associates over two decades ago, and the company later expanded into contract manufacturing and Lean processes. In this interview, Nick discussed how he wound up leading an EMS company on the Inc. 5000 list.

Supply Chain Challenges and Opportunities

Let’s start by defining exactly what a supply chain is. It’s not a nautical term for an anchor chain, or a dynamic part of a chainsaw that never runs out of chain. No, it’s a key term used in the organization of resources which may form a system between entities. Now this sounds a little closer to something that may be utilized in producing an electronic end-item, in our case, a printed circuit board.

Fighting the War on Failure

No one in this industry sets out to fail, except failure analysis test engineers. But failure is a part of life for designers and manufacturers of electronics. Our reader surveys show that failure affects nearly everyone in the PCB industry: designers, fabricators, assembly providers, OEMs, and suppliers.


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