Article Highlights
DFM 101: Final Finishes ENEPIG and IAg
09/29/2022 | Anaya Vardya, American Standard Circuits
Some Relief, But Hold Off on the Party
09/27/2022 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
A New Sourcing Paradigm
09/20/2022 | I-Connect007 Editorial Team
Altium’s EDDI Report Tracks Components’ Availability—Today and Historically
09/15/2022 | I-Connect007 Editorial Team
Ventec Thermal Management Book Excerpt: Chapter 1
09/05/2022 | Didier Mauve and Robert Art, Ventec

Latest Articles

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

This week, our five must-reads include the IPC report on the EMS industry and a report on ICs for the automotive market. Add to that Lockheed’s highest powered DoD laser yet, IPC’s APEX keynote announcement, and—for you conference and expo junkies—a calendar of upcoming industry events. I can’t help but notice that much of our news is about, well, something new. In this case, my editor’s picks for the week capture new technology, new perspectives, new ways to communicate content, and new developments that we can expect to see in our future daily life. To borrow a phrase from the TV show “Firefly,” everything is “shiny” this week. I will be at PCB West, the IPC Advanced Packaging symposium, SMTA International, and electronica. If you see me, say hello, and share something cool about the part of the industry you’re in.

DFM 101: Final Finishes ENEPIG and IAg

One of the biggest challenges facing PCB designers is not understanding the cost drivers in the PCB manufacturing process. This article is the latest in a series that will discuss these cost drivers (from the PCB manufacturer’s perspective) and the design decisions that will impact product reliability. Final finishes provide a surface for the component assembler to either solder, wire bond, or conductively attach a component pad or lead to a pad, hole, or area of a PCB. The other use for a final finish is to provide a known contact resistance and life cycle for connectors, keys, or switches. The primary purpose of a final finish is to create electrical and thermal continuity with a surface of the PCB.

Catching Up With John Johnson, New Director of Business Development at ASC

It’s always good to catch up with old friends, especially when you can start working together. I recently spoke with my friend John Johnson, who has joined American Standard Circuits as the director of business development. At ASC, John will be using the Averatek A-SAP process that he was previously involved with. He shares some of his background and provides insight on the best ways to use this semi-additive PCB fabrication process that opens the capability window for forming trace and space.

Book Excerpt: The Electronics Industry’s Guide to… The Evolving PCB NPI Process

The Electronics Industry’s Guide to… The Evolving PCB NPI Process is the first book in I-Connect007’s new The Electronics Industry’s Guide to… technical series. This valuable resource is for all segments of the electronics interconnect industry. What follows is an excerpt from Chapter 1: 'How the NPI Process Has Changed and Where We're Going'.

Some Relief, But Hold Off on the Party

To help PCB designers and design engineers get a clearer picture of the stress points in the industry, particularly from a company that deals directly with EMS providers, we reached out to CalcuQuote CEO Chintan Sutaria with a list of questions. The following Q&A explores trends in the PCB supply chain and heady advice for dealing with long lead times and counterfeit parts.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

It’s officially fall now, and in Atlanta the temperature has plummeted to the mid-80s. We’ve all bumped our air conditioners up to 74 degrees. That means it’s trade show season, and I’ve been busy looking for my suitcase. This week, we have an assortment of news about associations, education, and advocacy, as well as another installment of our Printed Electronics Roundtable. And if you’re looking for a job, you are in luck; our jobConnect007 section is chock-full of open positions at all levels in this industry.

Pack Your Bags! We’ve Got Your Trade Show Calendar Here

It’s officially fall, and that means it's time to start planning your trade show attendance. To help you make decisions about when and where to go, we’ve put together a list of industry trade shows. It has been two long years with no or few in-person trade shows, and we’ve felt it. So, now we’re back in business and ready to hit the road. Do you have a show or conference to add to our list? Let us know!

Part 2: The Printed Electronics Roundtable

We recently held a roundtable with a team of printed electronic circuit experts from companies that run the gamut: John Lee and Kevin Miller of Insulectro, Mike Wagner of Butler Technologies, Tom Bianchi of Eastprint, and John Voultos of Sheldahl Flexible Technologies. In the first part of this roundtable, the team dispelled a variety of myths surrounding PEC. In this second part of the roundtable, the participants discuss what designers and fabricators need to know to jump into printed electronics, and some of the drivers behind this growing technology.

IPC: Companies Are Intentional About Tracking Environmental and Social Risks

Leading companies in the electronics manufacturing industry are highly intentional about their environmental, social and governance (ESG) priorities, with climate change and energy use among the most closely scrutinized issues, an IPC analysis shows. As part of IPC’s ESG for Electronics initiative, IPC is interested in developing resources for members on the most common ESG methods and priorities of leading companies across the electronics value chain. In support of this, IPC has preliminarily analyzed the ESG reports of approximately a dozen companies in selected portions of the industry.

A New Sourcing Paradigm

We’ve seen many changes over the past few years, and nowhere are they more evident than in the world of sourcing components. Sourcing has become one of the biggest challenges facing PCB designers and design engineers today. Gone are the days of procuring parts from a single source, and communication between stakeholders and distributors is critical. But as we learned in a conversation with I-Connect007 columnist Kelly Dack, PCB designers can use certain layout strategies to plan for the unexpected, such as leaving extra real estate so that smaller components can be replaced by larger, readily available parts if the originals become “unobtainium.”


I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

“You are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with.” This saying is attributed to Jim Rohn, and I couldn’t help thinking of that quote as I put together this week’s listings. Hear me out: 1) There are five items on our list; 2) These items zoomed to the top based on reader interest; 3) Every single one of these news items has an “association” association—IPC, iNEMI, SMTA, and NextFlex are all represented in what you, dear reader, chose to explore this last week.

Altium’s EDDI Report Tracks Components’ Availability—Today and Historically

There’s one lesson that all designers have learned over the past few years: Components might be here today and gone tomorrow, so tracking your parts is more important than ever. Any resources that help you keep tabs on your required parts are invaluable in these days of 40-week lead times. Earlier this year, Altium released one such resource: the Electronic Design to Delivery Index (EDDI) report. Assembled from millions of bytes of data gleaned from the Octopart search engineer and the Nexar platform, the monthly EDDI report provides part availability histories going back years, as well as a real-time snapshot of global inventories.

Designing Through Supply Chain Pain

Engineers are accustomed to the demanding challenges of designing for miniaturization, cost reduction, cross platform compatibility, and harsh environments. What has proven to be the most painful experience of my career (and for many of my colleagues) is the sheer lack of components from which to build our designs. Development cycles—commercial, industrial, medical, avionics—have been severely impacted, from large enterprise corporations to small design/integration companies. Awareness of the situation is the first step to understanding the underlying problems faced by today’s design engineers industry wide. Here are a few of the situations I have faced in the last year alone.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

It feels like the first day of school. It’s September, and we’re all officially back at our desks, workstations, or kitchen tables. Even Les Vacances is over. Oui, c’est vrai! But instead of facing new teachers, we have to deal with diverse market forces, supply chain issues, and technology that never seems to stop evolving. Of course, that’s what makes this industry so interesting, isn’t it?

September 2022 Issue of Design007 Magazine Available Now

Supply chain management is a dynamic situation, with a number of global forces that can create pain for PCB designers. In this issue, we speak with a variety of experts and bring you up-to-the-minute insight about designing PCBs in this ever-changing environment.

Ventec Thermal Management Book Excerpt: Chapter 1

Regarding basic principles of thermal dissipation there are three ways of dissipating energy: Conduction, convection, and radiation. The integrated metal substrate (IMS) printed circuit boards rely predominantly on heat conduction all the way through the different layers of the substrates from a hot point (the base of the component) to a cold point (the furthest surface of the metal base) and, usually, thereafter, through a dissipator.

Material Conservation: The PCB Designer's Role

During these times of supply chain uncertainty, many product developers are considering new ways to conserve materials—from laminates to components, layer reduction, and everything in between. Barry Matties and Happy Holden recently spoke with Alun Morgan, president of EIPC and technology ambassador for Ventec, about material conservation strategies for today’s PCB designers and design engineers. Alun explained why this may be the perfect time to educate PCB designers about conserving materials: When a model is broken, the people involved are much more open to new ideas.

Designing for Material Conservation Means Changing Attitudes

It makes a lot of sense: During times when the supply chain is stretched to the breaking point—and the last few years certainly qualify—what if PCB designers created boards that used fewer components and less laminate? Do PCBs still have to be 0.062" thick? Why not reduce layer count while they’re at it? Andy Shaughnessy and Nolan Johnson spoke with I-Connect007 columnist Dana Korf about the idea of designing a PCB with material conservation in mind. Is it a great new idea, or are we opening a whole new can of worms and a separate group of problems?

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

This week we have quite a variety of articles for you. There has been so much electronics industry news coming out of Washington, D.C., that it can be hard to keep track of what’s going on. So, Editor Michelle Te compiled a handy-dandy reference guide to recent legislation news, including our exclusive coverage. We need to keep an eye on these senators and representatives. They’ve been talking about the importance of our industry for the past year, but this is an election year, after all. They’ve been known to say one thing and do another.

I-Connect007 eBook Introduction: The Evolving NPI Process

Thanks to marketing and advances in technology, we have all come to expect that the electronic products we buy will be closely aligned to our individual and specific lifestyle or business requirements. This expected variability, in personal function and style, as well as regulatory compliance and a changing global economic landscape, has made designing and producing new products a challenging prospect. And, on top of the resulting “high-mix, low-volume” production cycles, increasingly more products contain electronic components in varying levels that heighten the complexity of design and manufacturing.


Design Tips for Lowering Costs of Fab and Assembly

This is the million-dollar question of every project: How can I cut the cost of the PCB? There are about a thousand answers to this question. There are a few simple guidelines that everyone can follow to reduce costs. I talk about them in my IPC CID and CID+ courses. Designers, fabricators, and assemblers talk about them in a variety of articles. Some professionals who have published some great articles on cost-saving strategies include Tara Dunn, Happy Holden, Chris Church, Kella Knack, Judy Warner, Julie Ellis, Lars Wallin, and many, many others.

Happy’s Design Tips for Material Conservation

For this issue, Happy Holden provided a range of options for designers who are seeking to conserve materials in their next design. He also offered an example of the relative cost index, or RCI, that he developed at HP exclusively for PCB design. With this RCI, designers can figure out the relative cost of a new design compared to an eight-layer through-hole board. We hope you can use this handy formula on your next design job.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Can it be Friday already? Seems like I’ve just barely put away my Tuesday dishes. Some weeks, I wonder where my days went as they fly by so fast I hardly even realize it. As I looked back through the news for the week, it was clear why everything went so fast: There was a lot going on. The news this week had a nice feel to it. It seems like the industry is starting to gain some traction again with shows, mergers and acquisitions, and companies getting to do those “extras” that they wanted to do before the pandemic reared its ugly head. It had a little of that “back to normal” feel, even if we aren’t quite there yet. What do you think? Are we normal yet?

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

There was some good news this week, as Republicans and Democrats managed to cooperate long enough to pass the CHIPS Act. Members of the House and Senate don’t usually act until they get worried about being voted out of office, so pardon me if I’m not ready to sing “Happy Days Are Here Again” just yet. But this is still really good news; the politicians are on the record now, and we can hold them accountable.

Cadence Provides ‘Clarity’ in Design Tool

Nolan Johnson recently spoke with Brad Griffin, product marketing director for Cadence Design Systems, about Cadence’s Matrix solver technology. They discuss its use as a multi-disciplinary field solver as well as Cadence’s focus on thermal analysis and utilizing the power of the cloud.

Myths vs. Facts: The Printed Electronics Roundtable, Part 1

We recently held a roundtable with a team of printed electronic circuit experts from companies that run the gamut: John Lee and Kevin Miller of Insulectro, Mike Wagner of Butler Technologies, Tom Bianchi of Eastprint, and John Voultos of Sheldahl Flexible Technologies. In this first part of the roundtable, the participants dispel 10 common myths that have been floating around regarding printed electronic circuits (PEC). They also discuss the progress that’s been made in PEC development in just the past decade, and what the future may hold for this technology.

John Watson Wants You—to Sign Up for His PCB Design Class

I-Connect007 columnist John Watson is teaching an introductory class on PCB design at Palomar College this fall, but this is much more than a basic design class. But John has hit a slight snafu: He needs a few more students to sign up before Aug. 23, or the class will be cancelled. It’s an online class, so you don’t have to live in San Diego to attend. In this interview, John talks about the genesis for the class and its benefits.

Excerpt Chapter 5: 'The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to... Thermal Management with Insulated Metal Substrates, Vol. 2'

Chapter 5 of the 2nd Volume from The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... Thermal Managment with Insulated Metal Substrates provides examples of thermally enhanced prepregs and cores now available in the market with the versatility to solve a wide variety of challenges. Included in this chapter you will find examples of simple designs and more complex hybrid assemblies that combine multilayer and single-layer areas on the same board.

August Issue of Design007 Magazine Available Now

We’re seeing all sorts of interesting tactics for dealing with 50-week lead times. One of the most basic concepts that we’ve heard about lately is material conservation—why not just design PCBs with fewer parts? As we point out in this issue, sometimes less is more. Our experts share a variety of strategies and technologies to help reduce your overall material consumption, allowing you to lower costs and add competitive advantage.

IPC's I-Connect007 Acquisition Update With John Mitchell

Editor Nolan Johnson speaks with I-Connect007 Publisher Barry Matties and IPC President and CEO John Mitchell about IPC's acquisition of the publishing company, and what this means to I-Connect007's readers.


I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

The Top 5 list this week contains industry analysis from IPC’s Shawn DuBravac, news on the passage of the U.S. “CHIPS Plus” bill, new materials from Ventec, news about a fab for sale, and a chemistry company completing their acquisition, plus a brand new book in the I-Connect007 eBooks series.

HyperLynx: There’s an App for That

I recently spoke with Todd Westerhoff, product marketing manager for signal integrity software tools at Siemens. We discussed a new capability called HyperLynx Apps that offers a new take on traditional signal and power integrity analysis, and how that fits in with the Siemens plan to put SI and PI tools into the hands of more designers early in the design cycle.

DFM 101: Final Finishes—ENIG and ENIPIG

One of the biggest challenges facing PCB designers is not understanding the cost drivers in the PCB manufacturing process. This article is the latest in a series that will discuss these cost drivers (from the PCB manufacturer’s perspective) and the design decisions that will impact product reliability. Final finishes provide a surface for the component assembler to either solder, wire bond, or conductively attach a component pad or lead to a pad, hole, or area of a PCB.

Q4 Concerns: Hold on to Your Hats

IPC Chief Economist Shawn DuBravac has plenty to share about the state of the U.S. economy and how the electronics manufacturing industry might weather the storms of high inflation, rising interest rates, and low unemployment. It’s an interesting situation to find ourselves in as the flurry of opinion on a 2023 recession starts to take shape. Does it make sense to invest in PCB fab now? And how does the rest of the world feel about it? Shawn gets to the bottom line.

Excerpt: 'The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to... Thermal Management with Insulated Metal Substrates, Vol. 2'

As the second in this two-part series, The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to... Thermal Management with Insulated Metal Substrates, Volume 2, by Didier Mauve and Robert Art builds on the material presented in the first book by describing up-to-the-minute products and design techniques for thermal management with IMS.

New Book from I-Connect007 Examines Evolution of Electronics Industry NPI

The Electronics Industry’s Guide to… The Evolving PCB NPI Process is the first book in I-Connect007’s new The Electronics Industry’s Guide to… technical series. This valuable resource is for all segments of the electronics interconnect industry.

Webinar Review: Thermal Integrity of High-Performance PCB Design

Electrical and mechanical engineers may be working on the same product development teams, but they speak different languages, and they have completely different objectives. As a result, these folks almost never use the same software tools. But Cadence’s new Celsius Thermal Solver is an exception to the rule. In a new CadenceTECHTALK webinar, “How Static and Dynamic IR Drop Analysis Can Help PCB Designs and Challenges,” product manager Melika Roshandell and SerDes SI/PI engineer Karthik Mahesh Rao explain how the EE and ME can both use the Celsius Thermal Solver to achieve their disparate objectives.

The Practical Side of Using EM Solvers

Electromagnetic (EM) solvers based on Maxwell’s equations have proven invaluable in the advancement of digital electronics and wireline communications. Plain and simple, electrical engineers need to know what a circuit or electrical interconnect will do when excited by a dynamic or varying signal. In the signal integrity world, an interconnect that passes a DC connectivity check can completely fail at higher frequencies. In the power integrity world, a power rail that measures the correct DC voltage could easily go into oscillation when a dynamic load is applied. Learning the basic skills to fire up an EM simulator, obtain qualitative answers in minutes, and higher fidelity answers in a few days, can be the difference between sleepless nights of product failures vs. robust designs with wide design margins.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Our biggest news this week: I-Connect007 has been acquired by IPC. Every member of the team, including founder and Publisher Barry Matties, is included in this deal. We’ve enjoyed working closely with IPC for decades, especially at events like IPC APEX EXPO, and we have four IPC columnists writing in our magazines and newsletters. This move makes sense for both parties. It enables us to take our magazine, newsletters, and book publishing to the next level, and IPC won’t have to spend years building a media company from the ground up. It really is a win-win.

IPC Acquires Media Company I-Connect007, Strengthening Relationship to Drive Growth and Innovation in the Electronics Industry

IPC, a global electronics manufacturing industry association, has acquired media company I-Connect007, a global source for news and original content serving the printed circuit design, fabrication and assembly/EMS markets.


The Great Divide in PCB Simulation Software

Today’s PCB design engineers have more layout and analysis tools at their disposal than ever before. Over the years we’ve seen layout tools become more automated, rules-driven, and more integrated. Now we even have integration between design tools from different vendors and ranging across domains, starting with basic circuit design, and spanning up to PLM and ERP integration. It really is a great time to be a designer.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

It’s always interesting how certain groups of news emerge in our most-read content. This week, reader interest seemed focused on two distinct themes: Mexico and awards. In this week’s list, we find the inaugural award recipients from iNEMI’s Project Leadership Awards. We also bring you the award recipients from the SEMI FlexTech conference held last week in San Francisco. News from Mexico includes a new Atotech facility, and an interview with IPC’s David Hernandez and Lorena Villanueva about IPC’s expanding presence in Mexico. Metcal’s new hot air rework system also got a lot of attention, with an abundance of reader interest.

The Importance of Rigid-Flex PCB Design Guidelines

I have the tendency to try to replicate the delicacies I’ve ordered at restaurants in my own kitchen. One of my latest attempts at creating restaurant-worthy dishes was a Korean pancake that’s crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. With my amateur cooking skills, it proved to be an impossible task—I could either make only a hard pancake or one that was total fluff. While I’m still struggling to figure out the trick to bringing together the different textures of a Korean pancake, I’ve had more success in bringing together the hardboard elements and flexible PCB elements of a rigid-flex PCB. Compared to making Korean pancakes, striking the right balance of flexibility and rigidity on a rigid-flex PCB is easy if you abide by rigid-flex PCB design guidelines.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

I’m getting a lot of out-of-office replies. Are you all on the beach now? It’s 91 degrees every day here in Atlanta lately, but each afternoon it rains like we’re in a horror movie, and that drops the temperature down to the subtropical arena. Still, I’ll take heat over freezing any day. Things are heating up in our industry too, as we see from my top five choices this week. First-quarter electronic design revenue is up year-on-year, but PCB revenue barely moved the needle YOY. Editor Nolan Johnson spent the week at SEMICON West and the FLEX Conference, and he brings us a review of these conferences, co-located at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. As he notes, printed electronic circuits are beginning to gain a foothold in the market.

Surveying the Land of Field Solvers

Electromagnetic field solvers have traditionally been used by a small slice of engineers—the full-time signal integrity experts—and their use has been limited to the most demanding designs. But as design speeds increase, problems requiring field solvers are becoming more mainstream and field solvers are popping up all over the place, including free or inexpensive solvers available through an internet search. Many companies are claiming that their field solvers can be used by hardware design engineers without the SI background that solvers once required.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

In more than one conversation while discussing the industry this week, the themes have included industry turmoil, lots of business opportunities, and the urgent need to build out to meet changing demands. In fact, our July issue of PCB007 Magazine, which publishes later this month, will focus on these very topics. It’s definitely one not to be missed! These themes also emerged in this week’s top five news items as well. Top stories include an acquisition in the soldering machinery space, sales and service expansion in Mexico, industry data from SIA on semiconductor global sales data, and strong financial numbers from two China-based manufacturers. Now, with the U.S. Congress putting its focus on the PCB industry, things could really heat up. It’s going to be an interesting year.

What Happens When You Assume?

What is design with manufacturing and what does true DWM look like in operation? In this interview, I-Connect007 columnist Dana Korf explains what it will take to achieve total communication among all the stakeholders in the PCB development cycle. He also stresses the need for everyone involved in PCB design and manufacturing to stop making assumptions, even at the risk of being labeled as “that guy” who asks too many questions.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

The summer is heating up, and our news this week is on fire, literally. Eltek has resumed making deliveries after a fire at their facility in Petach-Tikva, Israel. There’s never a dull moment in this industry. And we have some good news: EIPC’s conferences are now live events again, and Editor Pete Starkey is back in the saddle, bringing us a review of the two-day conference. I know Pete was getting tired of sitting around his house and watching these events on video.

Rambus Driving a CXL Memory Option

In this interview with Arjun Bangre, director of product for high-speed interface IPs for PCI Express and CXL at Rambus, the discussion revolves around new developments in CXL, PCI Express, and interoperable IP solutions that Rambus has developed.

Master the Art of Communication With Manufacturers

As mentioned in the May issue of Design007 Magazine, design is performed, at times, in a vacuum. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Whenever circumstances allow, design should be performed by communicating with all stakeholders throughout the design process, hence the emphasis on the word with in DWM. Communication can occur through personal correspondence such as email and voice conversations or through more formal design meetings—in person or through videoconferencing. No matter which means of communication you prefer, it’s important to communicate early and often with stakeholders involved in the downstream processes as you bring your project to realization.


EIPC Summer Conference 2022: Day 2 Review

Örebro, Sweden on June 15 brought a bright and early start to Day 2 of the EIPC Summer Conference for those who had enjoyed the previous evening’s networking dinner, but had resisted the temptation to over-indulge or to carry on their long-awaited catch-up conversations with old friends into the small hours. All but a few were in their seats for 9 a.m., awake and attentive for Session 4 of the conference, on the theme of new process technologies, moderated by Martyn Gaudion, CEO of Polar Instruments.

The U.S. Economy Needs the Bipartisan Innovation Act and the PCB Act

In this IPC-created interview between Dale Curtis, IPC Advocacy Communications and Chris Mitchell, IPC VP Global Government Relations, the importance of the semiconductor and PCB manufacturing legislation moving through US Congress is highlighted.

EIPC Summer Conference 2022: Day 1 Review

At last, a live EIPC conference and this time in the Swedish city of Örebro, “where history and contemporary culture converge,” a pleasant and convenient location for an event that included a privileged visit to the Ericsson facility in Kumla. Around 100 delegates made the journey and the Örebro Scandic Grand Hotel was an excellent conference venue for the June 14-15 conference.

Ventec’s Book on Thermal Management: The Summer Sequel You’ve Been Waiting For

I-Connect007 is excited to announce the release of the second title in Ventec’s series on thermal management, "The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Thermal Management with Insulated Metal Substrates, Volume 2." This second volume covers the latest developments in the field of thermal management, particularly in insulated metal substrates, using state-of-the-art products as examples, and focusing on specific solutions and enhanced properties of IMS.

Altimade Puts Designers and Manufacturers Together

Despite all of the talk about the need for communication between designers and manufacturers, many PCB designers still do not talk with their manufacturers for a variety of reasons. Altium and MacroFab aim to change this dynamic. In this interview, Ted Pawela, chief ecosystem officer of Altium and head of Altium’s Nexar Business Unit, and MacroFab CEO Misha Govshteyn, discuss the new Altimade manufacturing service that Altium is introducing in partnership with MacroFab. Ted and Misha provide an overview of the Altimade process, how it links designers to fabricators, assembly providers, and component distributors, and they explain how it could pave the way for true design with manufacturing, or DWM.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Market news was certainly big this week. While the U.S. stock market continues make some large swings, the PCB and PCBA are doing their own dance with the numbers. We’re still feeling the effects of the pandemic, but it seems to be more about playing catch up. Still, the industry is showing some instability, both in positive and negative ways.

The Survey Said: Why Don’t You Know Your Fabricator?

When we want to find out what challenges our readers are facing, we just ask. And they don’t mind sharing—the good, the bad, and the ugly. In a recent survey, we asked our PCB designer readers, “Why don’t you know who is going to manufacture your boards?” Here are some of more interesting replies we received, edited slightly for clarity. Do you see yourself in these replies?

Assemblers Play the ‘Revise or Wait’ Game With Designers

Nolan Johnson recently spoke with Duane Benson at Milwaukee Electronics and Screaming Circuits. Duane was pointing out a trend in moving designs into production, which he termed “revise or wait.” This excerpt provides a preview of our exploration of similar topics involving supply chain issues, lead times, and proceeding forward despite the supply challenges.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

We’re still not officially into summer yet, but Atlanta is bringing the heat, baby! It’s hit 97 degrees a few times this week, and I now have a fan aimed right at my face. At least it’s nice and humid too. I’m glad I don’t wear make-up. And it’s been a hot week in the circuit board community. This week, Eltek reported a fire at a board shop in Israel, and Flex committed to building a 145,000-square-foor facility in Jalisco, Mexico to serve the electric and autonomous vehicle segment.

Producing Diverse Designs in Concert With Manufacturing

There is a new acronym bubbling up in the design world: DWM, which stands for “design with manufacturing.” Why is this different than design for manufacturing, or DFM? With DWM, the emphasis is on integration between the design team and the manufacturers during the design process. DWM is much more than that. We are tasked with producing designs that meet various technical requirements, yet are cost-effective and manufacturable. We provide this service to hundreds of customers who have varying degrees of processes, tools, and manufacturing partners. Given this diversity, we have recognized the importance of designing with manufacturing to achieve the product development goals of manufacturability and technical excellence.


I-Connect007 Editor’s Picks: Five Must-Reads for the Week

PCB fabrication is back in the news this week and posting high readership numbers as well. Among the most-read news, we see industry leaders changing roles, capital equipment shipment milestones, operational cost efficiencies, and, last but not least, cybersecurity.

Passionate People Can Do Fantastic Things

Electrical engineer Marshall Massengill is the first to admit that he has a pretty sweet gig. Marshall serves as a mentor for the Zebracorns, a robotics team based at a STEM-oriented high school in North Carolina. And he’s not just a mentor: He’s also a graduate of North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, and a former member of one of the earliest robotics teams organized by FIRST. We recently spoke with Marshall about his work with the FIRST robotics team, and what it’s like teaching PCB design to juniors and seniors in high school.

The Survey Said: Designing Around Missing Data

One of the best tools we have for keeping our fingers on the pulse of the industry is the reader survey. When we want to find out what’s going on, we just ask. Fortunately, our readers are not a shy bunch of folks. They don’t mind sharing—the good, the bad, and the ugly. In a recent survey, we asked our PCB designer readers, “What missing information or data (impedance requirements, library data, etc.) do you find yourself having to ‘design around’?”

Designing in a Vacuum Q&A: Nick Barbin

Optimum Design Associates President Nick Barbin has worn a lot of hats in this industry, from PCB designer to EMS company owner. We asked Nick to share his thoughts on what it’s like to design in a vacuum, while offering some strategies for escaping the vacuum.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Things are heating up in the world of PCB design and manufacturing as well. In the past week, we published quite a bit of news—some good, some not so good. Some of the news is mixed, as we see with the EMS industry shipments rising YOY in April, but falling from the previous month. It’s nice to see NASA investing in American small businesses, but they didn’t really have a choice, did they?

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

I know I’m not alone in this behavior: Car advertisements during television commercial breaks are as good as invisible to me, until I’m thinking about getting a new car. Only then do I notice them. Rather, I see each one with all my attention and being. If that extends into our industry, then everybody must be itching to pick up some new equipment. This week’s must-reads includes a smattering of new product announcements, along with the news of the IPC European subsidiary.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

This week, we bring you an article about manufacturing training for veterans, and a review of a great signal integrity webinar. IPC honors its A-Teams with the coveted Golden Gnome Awards, and Technica discusses various ways for fabricators to increase ROI. Dan Beaulieu has a review of a really cool book: Back to Human—How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation. In spite of all the meetings on Teams and Zoom, it’s easy to feel disconnected. But great leaders find a way to foster that connectivity.

Altium Focusing on Educating Designers of Today and Tomorrow

We recently spoke with Rea Callender, Altium’s vice president of education, and Zach Peterson, founder of Northwest Engineering Solutions and a technical consultant for Altium’s educational programs. They discussed Altium’s curriculum—what drives the content development, the goals of their programs, and why there’s never been a better time to continue your PCB design education.

Pulsonix Collision Avoidance to Bring Mechanical Capabilities Into ECAD

The I-Connect Editorial Team recently spoke with Bob Williams, managing director of Pulsonix. He discussed some of the new features in the upcoming version of the Pulsonix PCB design tool, Version 12, including collision avoidance and other 3D options that allow certain MCAD functions within the ECAD environment.

A Textbook Look: Signal Integrity and Impedance

Believing that I knew a bit about signal integrity and controlled impedance, I was pleased to take the opportunity to connect with an educational webinar that I hoped would extend my knowledge. In the event I was surprised at how little I actually knew, and the webinar was an excellent learning opportunity. The webinar was introduced and expertly moderated by Anna Brockman of Phoenix Contact in Germany.


I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

The big news in the industry this week was the new bill introduced to the U.S. Congress in support of the PCB manufacturing industry. The Supporting American Printed Circuit Boards Act of 2022, which was introduced by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Blake Moore (R-UT), incentivizes “purchases of domestically produced PCBs as well as industry investments in factories, equipment, workforce training, and research and development.” The bill is a PCB-oriented complement to the semiconductor-oriented CHIPS Act of 2021.

Designing in a Vacuum Q&A: Mark Thompson

I-Connect007 Columnist Mark Thompson of Out of the Box Manufacturing has been in CAM engineering for decades, and he’s also worked as a PCB designer, so we knew he would have a few things to say about working in a vacuum. As he explains, the designer isn’t the only stakeholder in the process who feels like he’s working inside the dust bag of a Hoover upright.

Designing in a Vacuum Q&A: Carl Schattke

Not long ago, I caught up with Carl Schattke, CEO of PCB Product Development LLC and a longtime PCB designer, for his thoughts on “designing in a vacuum.” As Carl points out, if you follow PCB design best practices, knowing the identity of your fabricator is not a “must-have.” He also offers some communication tips for discovering the information you do need, including one old-fashioned technique—just asking for it.

Tips for Designing in—and Escaping From—the Vacuum

We asked Monsoon Solutions VP of Engineering Jen Kolar if she had any thoughts on “designing in a vacuum,” and her response was, “Absolutely!” In this wide-ranging discussion, Jen and Senior PCB Engineer and Director of Designer Development Cory Grunwald share some tips and techniques for designing PCBs in a vacuum, and a few methods for getting out of the Hoover’s dust bag. As Cory points out, “In the end, the communication is going to happen anyway. It’s just a matter of whether it happens at the end or in the beginning.”

Additive Manufacturing Requires Additive Design Techniques

Although I am not a designer by trade, I want to share my thoughts on what additive manufacturing means for designers, especially how it relates to solder mask. In this article, you will learn what topics I feel are the most important to address.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

This week, we have some M&A news from Summit Interconnect, and a variety of columns. Chris Bonsell discusses the lack of preventive maintenance planning in PCB manufacturing, and Kelly Dack lays out some solder mask guidelines for PCB designers. Duane Benson helps make sense of the quoting process in a time of 50-week lead times, and Dan Beaulieu has a great review of a book about how shareholder policies have caused many of the problems we see in corporations today.

I-Connect007 Editor's Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

It certainly seems that our times continue to be interesting, don’t they? Just how many different flavors of supply chain disruption can we come up with? Investment on the supply side needs to increase, but the size of the labor force needs to increase even more, if we want to accomplish the task of the buildout itself, let alone running the facilities properly.

DFM 101: Solder Mask and Legend

One of the biggest challenges facing PCB designers is understanding the cost drivers in the PCB manufacturing process. This article is the latest in a series that will discuss these cost drivers from the PCB manufacturer’s perspective, and the design decisions that will impact product reliability.

Designing PCBs With Additive Traces

Advances in technology have been clear to see within the component packaging industry, as the ball grid array (BGA) package sizes reduce from 1.0 mm pitch to 0.8 mm, 0.4 mm, and even beyond. However, while these improvements have occurred with component packages, it has become increasingly more difficult to break out and route the dense circuitry associated with these parts. Currently, the high-density interconnect (HDI) method typically used for the breakout of such parts has been to create the smallest possible subtractive-etched traces with microvias to allow for connections and escapes on the innerlayers of your PCB.

Designing Additive and Semi-Additive PCBs

With components getting smaller and electronic devices becoming more compact, we are reaching the physical limits of the typical etched fabrication processes. To address these limits, new additive and semi-additive processes are being developed to fit into the current fabricators’ production lines without too much disruption or extra cost.


I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

It’s been a busy week in this industry, and we have news and articles from the PCB design, fabrication, and assembly communities. The roller coaster ride continues, with whiplash-inducing news from IPC about March North American shipment—they’re up from February but down from the same period a year ago.

AltiumLive 2022: Tips and Tricks for Supply Chain Management

I recently spoke with Paul Ratner, a senior account executive at IHS Markit, about his AltiumLive presentation, which is now available online. Paul discusses some of the takeaways from his presentation, and he offers some advice for technologists who are grappling with long lead times on components, as well as some predictions for the rest of 2022 and beyond.

The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Stackups: The Design within the Design

If you have ever contemplated crosstalk, eye closure, power loss, or a list of other issues defined in this textbook, then you also need to understand what, why, and how stackups can and will impact your circuit’s performance. After all, the stackup is one of the few things that directly touches every single part of your design; therefore, you must set yourself up for the highest probability of success by establishing a strong foundation through a well-designed stackup.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Welcome to April 15, everyone! There are reasons we tend to cover topics in a continuous conversation. First, there are always developments and news in the industry. Second, you dear readers respond to that content by reading it. This week the news items that drew the most reader interest verify that our industry has ongoing interest in government involvement in industry infrastructure, supply chain issues, cybersecurity, and new technologies like additive in fabrication.

Cadence System Design Solutions Guide Available Now

You already have the I-Connect007 book "The System Designer's Guide to... System Analysis", written by Brad Griffin of Cadence Design Systems. Now, download the bonus companion guide, "The Cadence System Design Solutions Guide" for solutions to all your complex system analysis needs. Put Cadence’s expert knowledge into action!

A Definitive Review of New Expert Guide to High-Performance Materials

I am always surprised when a colleague produces a statement about PCB laminates that seems incorrect or out of date. This need not happen today as the specialists at Isola have written an excellent book about high performance materials, now available for download from I-Connect007. Author Michael Gay, a 25-year veteran of laminate manufacturing, meticulously guides readers through the most pertinent questions regarding rigid laminates. This is essential information for everyone, including the experts, because the materials and applications for laminates in printed circuits are constantly changing.

Altium Invests in Future Designers

While at IPC APEX EXPO, I stopped by the Altium booth to visit with Rea Callender, vice president of education at Altium. Rea shared information about the company’s recent design competition for students around the world, as well as a new curriculum that is drawing interest from some unique locations.

Additive Design: Same Steps, Different Order

We recently spoke with Dave Torp, CEO of Winonics, about the company’s additive and semi-additive processes and what PCB designers need to know if they’re considering designing boards with these new technologies. As Dave explains, additive design is not much different from traditional design, but the steps in the design cycle are out of order, and additive designers must communicate with their fabricators because so much of the new processes are still proprietary.

AltiumLive 2022 - Vince Mazur’s Supply Chain Advice: Always Have Alternatives

I had the chance to speak with Vince Mazur, a technical marketing engineer at Altium, about his AltiumLive presentation, “Avoiding Supply Chain Issues with Variants and Live Part Choices,” which is now available online. Vince discussed some of the high points of his talk, including the need for designers to pay closer attention to the supply chain than ever before, and to always have an alternative part or two as backup—just in case.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Spring has definitely sprung, and the trade show season continues to roll right along. Managing Editor Nolan Johnson just returned from DesignCon 2022, and as he says in his review, the attendance was up from last year’s event, which had been at the McEnery Convention Center in the waning days of the pandemic. I hope we’re getting back to normal, whatever that means. This week, we have a few articles about Industry 4.0, as well as a column on setting your priorities. We have a cool article about methods for measuring the breakdown of resins during multiple thermal laminations, and a conversation with an EMS company president who realized that he was actually running a data collection firm that happened to make circuit boards. Can you say the same about your own company?


DesignCon 2022: Back to Business as Usual

It was something of a homecoming as DesignCon returned to the Santa Clara Convention Center this week for DesignCon 2022. It’s been two years since the last DesignCon was held in this venue just before the pandemic began. I attended DesignCon 2021 at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in July of last year, and I could see a big improvement in attendance as DesignCon moved back into its usual venue.

AltiumLive 2022: Dwight Morse Offers a Supply Chain Primer

I recently spoke with Dwight Morse, channel marketing manager for SiliconExpert, about his AltiumLive presentation, “Getting the Information to Create Successful Designs Quickly,” which is available online now. Dwight offers advice to designers who are facing 50-week component lead times, and he discusses some of the trends he sees in the supply chain right now, including a view from the vantage point of the world’s top video game makers, who are having as much trouble finding parts as you are.

Does Copper Pour on a Signal Layer Decrease Signal-To-Signal Isolation?

Does putting a ground pour on PCB signal layers make the isolation better or worse? It can go either way, but with the proper knowledge and application, this technique will improve your designs. In this article, I’ll discuss how to simulate trace-to-trace isolation with true electromagnetic simulation software. We’ll also cover a variety of rules of thumb that can help you stay away from trouble.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

According to a quick look at history.com, “Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. In the Julian Calendar, as in the Hindu calendar, the new year began with the spring equinox around April 1.” All well and good, but why April Fools’? “People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes and were called “April fools.”

AltiumLive 2022: MacroFab Unites Design and Manufacturing in One Domain

I recently spoke with Joey Rodriguez, director of product management for MacroFab, which just announced a major partnership with Altium that brings supply chain information to Altium users much earlier in the design cycle. Joey and I discussed his AltiumLive presentation, now available online, which provides details about MacroFab’s efforts to “left-shift” supply chain information, and the need for designers to think holistically about the supply chain as early as possible in the design cycle.

Setting Goals for Your PCB Design Education

For our March issue of Design007 Magazine on planning your design education, we spoke with Bill Brooks of Nordson ASYMTEK, a long-time PCB designer, CID instructor, and fantastic sculptor. He is also one of the first to ever teach standalone PCB design courses in a college. After he earned his certification to teach the IPC CID workshops, Bill served as an adjunct instructor at Palomar College near San Diego, teaching beginning and advanced PCB design classes for 10 years. I asked Bill to share his thoughts on setting up a PCB design education career plan, and the need to stay on top of your game as a PCB designer.

AltiumLive 2022: Design for Availability

Andy Shaughnessy spoke with Rodrigo Contreras Lopez of SnapEDA about Rodrigo’s AltiumLive presentation, which is now available online. It’s a changing world, he says, and designers need to approach their designs from a different perspective: Creating designs with parts that may or may not be available now may just set up your design team and your customer for failure in a few years. Is Design For Availability going to enter the PCB design lexicon?

Thank You to the I-Connect007 Team

During IPC APEX EXPO, the I-Connect007 team works very hard to bring you several great interviews that will keep you up to date on the latest industry activity. This year, we had Nolan Johnson, Andy Shaughnessy, Pete Starkey, and Happy Holden of I-Connect007 in front of the cameras. We also send out a very special thank you to our guest interviewers, who sat in the I-Connect007 show floor studio to conduct many interviews. The list includes Tara Dunn, Dick Crowe, Joe Fjelstad, Steve Williams, and Kelly Dack. Their contributions are greatly appreciated.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

It’s been a crazy week, with lots of bad news coming out of Ukraine. (I’m a news junkie by trade, but I confess that some days I just unplug from the news completely to avoid overdosing on negativity.) And, as you might have guessed, this is all having ill effects on our electronics supply chain, which is already stretched thin. This is reflected in our IPC news item that shows an uptick in PCB sales in February, but a drop in bookings YOY, in part due to the trouble in Eastern Europe. But there’s positive news in this week’s top reads. We have a NextFlex article about an innovative flexible technology called flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) and a great interview by Dan Beaulieu. We also have a column by Travis Kelly, who discusses PCBAA’s efforts to lobby for American manufacturing in Washington. And last but not least, let’s welcome our two newest columnists, Paige Fiet and Hannah Nelson, who discuss their excitement about entering this industry.

Strategizing a Design Education Plan With John Watson

Altium’s John Watson is a veteran PCB designer and instructor, as well as a Design007 columnist. He also recently accepted a professorship at Palomar College in San Marcos, California, teaching basic and advanced PCB design. John and I recently discussed his thoughts on setting up a PCB design education strategy, the need to continue your design education for your entire career, and the kind of attitude that makes someone a successful PCB designer.


Flexible Hybrid Electronics Design: Reducing Time to Market

Emerging innovations in the flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) domain are enabling new applications across multiple industries due to their highly flexible structures and additive manufacturing processes. The smaller form factor, lighter weight, and conformal capabilities are ideal for IoT edge devices in health and fitness monitoring, military asset identification and tracking, automotive displays and sensors, aerospace radar, and soft robotics. Significant industry research led by NextFlex is optimizing the processes from design through manufacture for FHE products.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

This week seems jam-packed with holidays, both major and minor, doesn’t it? We started with “International Pi Day” on March 14. With all the obligatory pricing specials on most all things “pie” here in the U.S., suffice it to say, I’ve got a short stack bake-at-home pizza “pi” in my freezer, thanks to the one-day-only sales price of $3.14. Personally, I’m glad they didn’t make the promotional price = pizza diameter * Pi.

AltiumLive 2022: Alex Sapp on How to Create a Better BOM

I recently spoke with Alex Sapp, director of API commercial strategy at Octopart, about his AltiumLive presentation, “How Resilient is Your BOM?” In this interview, Alex details the takeaways of his class, and some tips and techniques for creating more reliable BOMs and dealing with the current supply chain uncertainties.

Book Excerpt: 'The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… High Performance Materials', Chapter 1

Choosing the right material for your application can be a major challenge. These are “cost to performance” decisions that need to be made to select material that will meet the expected performance requirements and the desired cost targets. Selecting a material that meets cost targets but fails to perform in prototype development testing results in costly revision spins, cost increases and delays to market. Chapter 1 of this book helps readers understand what resin choices to make for optimal electrical performance.

Planning Your Design Education: Keep an Open Mind

Rea Callender is the new vice president of education for Altium. He brings a background in business development and entrepreneurship, along with experience in K-12 education. This seemed like a pretty good combination, so I asked Rea to share his thoughts on the best avenues for design education, as well as strategies for setting up a lifelong PCB design education plan.

Calumet is Bullish on Additive and Semi-Additive

Calumet Electronics has been a domestic pioneer with additive and semi-additive electronics manufacturing processes. We recently asked Calumet’s Todd Brassard and Meredith LaBeau to discuss the state of this technology, which traditional processes that they might replace, and some of the challenges facing OEMs or PCB shops that are considering these options.

RF and Microwave: No Black Magic

I caught up with Ben Jordan after his class on RF and microwave at IPC APEX EXPO. Ben, an electrical engineer, explained how sitting through previous classes on this topic led to him developing his own class. “I wanted to bridge the gap,” he says, “with a class that makes the material approachable and teaches the intuitive nature of fields and waves and how they work in circuit boards.”

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

It’s Friday, and I’ve spent the last few days breaking in my new laptop. It’s a Mac, and it’s been a while since I used one of these. It occurred to me that the last time I used a Mac, there was no email and no internet. I was editor of my college newspaper. I had just voted for Clinton, because that’s what you did in your 20s. We had Apple Classic II monitors with screens the size of a postcard, and we were on the cutting edge of desktop publishing. Students submitted articles on 3.5” loppy disks or on notebook paper, sometimes written in pencil. That’s where I learned to edit, and to do it quickly. We won awards every year. Good times.

AltiumLive 2022: Left-Shifting Modeling and Simulation

Harry Kennedy and Sarmad Khemmoro of Altair recently spoke with Andy Shaughnessy about their AltiumLive presentations, which are now available online. They discuss the need for modeling, simulation, and verification in PCB design, and why these actions should be performed as early in the design process as possible.

Planning Your Design Education Strategy

If you’re a new PCB designer, you might be asking yourself: How do I set up an education and training plan for my career in PCB design? We asked Eric Bogatin to weigh in with his thoughts. Eric has a unique viewpoint: He’s a veteran signal integrity instructor, as well as a professor in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In this interview, Eric lays out some of his planning strategies and the need for a degree in electrical engineering in the PCB design world.


Happy Holden Reflects on Successful IPC APEX EXPO 2022

The attendance at this year’s IPC APEX EXPO seemed higher than I expected, so thank you all for making the necessary arrangements to attend. However, we sorely missed many of our foreign contributors and friends. One of my cherished reunions was with Pete Starkey, who fought through the red tape of government restrictions to make his way from England for the show. Both of us were able to help conduct interviews with many of the industry’s business and technical leaders. For that, I am grateful.

IPC Student Director: Three Things IPC APEX EXPO Taught Me

IPC APEX EXPO 2022 was my first in-person APEX EXPO event, and it surely did not disappoint. The show this year was packed with high quality technical courses, engaging professional development courses and, of course, an admirable show floor exhibition. This year APEX EXPO really resonated with me, and I would like to leave you with three insights I learned while attending.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

In the news this week we found a synchrony of topics. Much of the world is aware of the speaking points from U.S. President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address this past Tuesday. In that speech, President Biden talked prominently about U.S. legislation in process to bring more technology manufacturing back to the states. In fact, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger was not only an invited guest, but was referred to directly in the speech as a positive example. I can only assume that President Biden meant that moment to be a motivator for other CEOs in the industry.

The IPC STEM Event Inspires

Once again, IPC APEX EXPO featured its successful STEM event, organized by the IPC Education Foundation, and sponsored by several companies, including I-Connect007. The event had nearly 80 students in person for a hands-on introduction to our industry. After the welcoming comments, the students broke into groups for different activities. While some enjoyed a guided tour of the show floor, upstairs the other students learned how to solder. Then they rotated so that they all had the same opportunities.

DFM 101: Plating Methods

One of the biggest challenges facing PCB designers is not understanding the cost drivers in the PCB manufacturing process. This article is the latest in a series that will discuss these cost drivers (from the PCB manufacturer’s perspective) and the design decisions that will impact product reliability. There are two methods of plating copper on PCBs—pattern plating and panel plating. The panel plating method eliminates most of the copper plating distribution issues, but because it adds copper thickness to the base layer, it makes maintaining fine line definition and consistency difficult.

David Pogue Keynote Opens IPC APEX EXPO 2022

There were just a few empty seats in the huge, main lecture hall of the San Diego Convention Center on January 25 as IPC APEX EXPO welcomed the opening keynote speaker, science and tech writer David Pogue. Despite the early time of 8:30 a.m., the crowd enjoyed his topic, “Disruptive technology and how it will affect your business: What’s coming by 2026?” Pogue took us on a short journey through some of the technological innovations that continue to accelerate the transformation of our lifestyles and gave us a preview of how we might succeed in a world we’ve never seen before.

AltiumLive 2022: Robert Feranec Takes Aim at 'Aha' Moments

I recently spoke with Robert Feranec, the founder and CEO of the FEDEVEL Academy. He’s a well-known hardware engineer and something of an industry “rock star” on YouTube; his channel provides tips and techniques on digital design and engineering, with some videos clocking 400,000 views. I asked Robert to discuss his AltiumLive 2022 presentation, “Aha, That’s How it Works.” As he explains, much of an engineer’s life involves making these little “Aha!” discoveries that challenge the way they look at electronics.

I-Connect007 Editor's Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Like many of you, for the past few months, we’ve been busier than a farmer with two rattlesnakes and one shovel. As soon as we got home from IPC APEX EXPO 2022 we started work on our post-show publication, Real Time with… IPC APEX EXPO 2022 Show & Tell Magazine. Now in its fifth year, Show & Tell is the best—and most exhaustive—source of in-depth information about IPC APEX EXPO. We published Show & Tell this week, and the response from industry leaders has been off the charts. Show & Tell gives the reader a taste of what it was like to be at the show, from ribbon-cutting and keynotes through the last conference classes.

AltiumLive 2022: No Shortcuts to Disciplined Library Management

I recently met with Altium’s John Watson for a discussion about his AltiumLive presentation on coping with design challenges, particularly in library management. As John explains, with library management, there’s no substitute for sitting down and doing the hard work, particularly during times like these, with a supply chain that is erratic at best. He also discusses his new job at Palomar College, teaching basic and advanced design techniques to students who are often seeking the “easy way out” in PCB design.

AltiumLive 2022: Power and Signal Integrity—Return to Sender

I recently spoke with Heidi Barnes and Stephen Slater, both engineers with Keysight Technologies, about their presentations at this year’s virtual AltiumLive. They discussed ways to avoid signal and power integrity challenges later by following simple board design practices early on, how SI and PI are interconnected, and why the return path must be more than an afterthought in high-speed designs.


Finally! A Book About PCB Stackups

‘The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Stackups: The Design within the Design’ is the latest addition to I-Connect007’s comprehensive, educational library. In this book, brought to readers by Siemens Digital Industries Software and I-007eBooks, author and stackups expert Bill Hargin discusses materials, laminate datasheets, impedance planning, and more. This book provides the reader with a broader understanding of stackup planning and material selection in an effort to comprehend what Hargin calls “the design within the design.”

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we’re now closer to the equinox than to the solstice; change is in the air. Where I live in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve had unseasonably mild and sunny weather, teasing us that spring might be right around the corner. Change is in the air in our news feeds, too. This week, we bring you on-the-grow news from NCAB and Aegis, some market reports on smart manufacturing, and a widely read column on cybersecurity from Mehul Davé. Now that’s something to warm up to.

Kris Moyer Discusses New IPC Design Role

The I-Connect007 Editorial Team spoke with Kris Moyer, a longtime PCB designer who has just joined IPC’s Education Foundation. Kris was one of the judges and creators of the IPC Design competition that culminated at IPC APEX EXPO, and he was eager to discuss his new job and the cutting-edge technology he’s seen lately, including additive, flex, and rigid-flex circuits. I-Connect007 is your source for coverage of IPC APEX EXPO 2022.

AltiumLive 2022: Don’t Phone It In - Reducing EMI in Wireless Applications

I recently spoke with Ken Wyatt, founder of Wyatt Technical Services and an expert on signal integrity and EMC. I asked him to discuss his AltiumLive 2022 presentation, which focuses on reducing EMI, particularly in the wireless arena, where self-generated emissions are often a fact of life.

I-Connect007 Editor's Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

This week’s picks comprise a potpourri of published articles, a hodgepodge of helpful hints, and a brood of business news. Our collection includes several interviews from IPC APEX EXPO; we filmed over 60 of these video interviews that week, all shot with our new anti-COVID protocol. The boom microphones, selected so that we wouldn’t have to attach clip-on mics to each interviewee, gave our booth/studio an air of 60 Minutes. But unlike what we see in most news shows, almost all the news at IPC APEX EXPO was positive as companies emerge from the pandemic with even more innovative software, services, and equipment than before. It’s looking like 2022 is going to be a really good year.

Real Time with... IPC APEX EXPO 2022: IPC Design Competition—Meet the Judges

In this interview from the show floor, Editor Andy Shaughnessy speaks with the designers who worked with IPC to create and judge the IPC Design Competition. Listen to Kris Moyer, Kevin Kusiak, Russ Steiner, and Steve Roy discuss their involvement in setting up the PCB design used for this competition, and what they looked for as judges of the contest.

Real Time with... IPC APEX EXPO 2022: AltiumLive Goes Virtual

Kelly Dack gives an update and discusses with Andy Shaughnessy the launch of AltiumLive 2022 Virtual. Kelly was the emcee of this online event, which ran at the same time as IPC APEX EXPO 2022. Kelly was often seen roaming the show floor, followed by his own camera "crew," documenting the activities for his viewers.

Real Time with... IPC APEX EXPO 2022: Disruptive Technologies Growing Business

Joe Clark, founder of DownStream Technologies, gives editor Andy Shaughnessy his report of what's been causing a 10% growth in his business during the past two years. Rigid-flex as a disruptive technology has been a focus of the latest phases to his software tools. If you didn't make it to IPC APEX EXPO, don't worry. We're bringing you coverage of the week's events in San Diego, from ribbon cutting to teardown.

Changes on the Horizon: Is Resistance Futile?

For printed circuit engineers, especially those of us who have been in the industry for some time now, change is inevitable. From customer requirements that lead to design changes and deadlines being pulled in, to decreasing budgets and resource reallocations, change is one area where we must be adaptable if we want to survive and be successful in today’s industry. Engineering change orders (ECOs), schematic/drawing redlines, component placement adjustments, and mechanical features modifications are among the changes that most of us usually deal with at one point or another during a project’s design cycle.

Real Time with... IPC APEX EXPO 2022: New Materials for Additive Manufacturing

Trevor Polidore of Rogers Corporation and I-Connect007 Guest Editor Tara Dunn discuss the introduction of the new Rogers materials designed for use in 3D printing. They also look at the trends and challenges in materials for additive and semi-additive manufacturing. If you were unable to attend IPC APEX EXPO, don't worry. We're bringing you coverage of the week's events in San Diego, from ribbon cutting to teardown.


Keep the Change? No, Embrace It

In a world where technology is so quickly evolving, we really shouldn’t be surprised that companies and professional events have gone virtual. Change can be daunting, but as we all master navigating life in this “new normal” (don’t you hate that term?), we realize that not much of our professional lives has changed. You still have to go to work every day, but now you just do so from the comfort of your home, and you don’t interact with people in person. Obviously, the global pandemic had a massive impact on work culture. Even though the situation with the virus is slowly improving, a lot of companies are still maintaining a flexible workplace.

High-Voltage Circuit Design Guidelines and Materials

The Hubble telescope, the Cassini-Huygens mission, and other exploratory spacecraft utilize high-voltage DC power supplies for everything from vidicon camera tubes and mass spectrometers to radar and laser technologies. NASA has experienced performance problems with the 1.5 kV supplies because—as a 2006 report stated—“designers did not take the high-voltage problems seriously in the initial design.” The report cited very narrow parts parameters, electrical insulation problems in dielectrics, ceramics, bad geometries, small spacing, the use of the wrong insulating materials, and thermal expansion as causes for the power supply failures.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

The last time I was in this space, we were busy preparing for our extensive coverage of IPC APEX EXPO, so now I have the honors of compiling the news from the week following the event. We often use the phrase “busy news week” in these compendiums, but this week I have metrics—25% more news items published this week at I-Connect007 than our weekly average. All the more reason to read the website newsfeeds and newsletters, but also all the more reason for me to bring you the best of the best from the past week.

Real Time with... IPC APEX EXPO 2022: Selecting the Right Base Material

Steven Sekanina, Isola’s director of High Speed Digital Products, helps launch their new book, “The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… High Performance Materials.” Editor Andy Shaughnessy sat down with Steven to discuss the importance of selecting the right base material for your printed circuit board, and the criteria to consider when choosing high-speed PCB laminates. If you didn't make it to IPC APEX EXPO, don't worry. We're bringing you coverage of the week's events in San Diego, from ribbon cutting to teardown.

AltiumLive 2022: Stopping Your EMC Problems Before They Start

Todd H. Hubing has been working with EMC for decades. He began as an engineer at IBM, then served as a professor at the EMC lab at the University of Missouri-Rolla (now Missouri Science and Technology), and later moved to Clemson, where he founded the Vehicular Electronics Library. Now, Todd is focusing on his most recent endeavor, LearnEMC. At AltiumLive 2022, Todd shares his thoughts on how to avoid EMC issues before they have a chance to wreak havoc on your board, simply by making smart decisions early in the design process. As he points out in this interview, this is much better than waiting until you have EMC issues later on and possibly redesigning a board until you pass EMC.

Real Time with... IPC APEX EXPO: Fire Up the Inkjets

Technical Editor Pete Starkey sits down with Don Monn of Taiyo America to discuss the benefits of inkjet solder mask and how it helps streamline the manufacturing process. They also discuss the recent acquisition of Circuit Automation, a manufacturer of solder mask coating and vertical drying equipment. If you didn't make it to IPC APEX EXPO, don't worry. We're bringing you coverage of the week's events in San Diego, from ribbon cutting to teardown.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

We just wrapped up IPC APEX EXPO 2022, and I think it went better than anyone could have expected. I wasn’t sure the live show would actually take place. With the COVID protocols in California changing daily, no one knew for sure that a live show would even be allowed to open. But here's my picks for the week, both from the show and from the industry.

Real Time with... IPC APEX EXPO: PCB Manufacturing Today

Dick Crowe speaks with Kurt Palmer, president of Burkle North America, about the trends he sees in PCB manufacturing today. From LDI to laser drills, they discuss a wide range of concerns and opportunities. If you didn't make it to IPC APEX EXPO, don't worry. We're bringing you coverage of the week's events, from ribbon cutting to teardown.

Day 3: Lots of Action in San Diego

The perfect San Diego weather on Wednesday morning ushered in another full day at IPC APEX EXPO 2022. IPC President and CEO John W. Mitchell’s keynote presentation offered a roadmap for the organization and the future of the electronics manufacturing industry. IPC runs on the contributions of its tireless volunteers, and a group of these engineers and technologists were honored at yesterday’s Awards Luncheon. The traffic on the show floor was steady most of the day, and we saw a constant stream of visitors in the I-Connect007 booth and studio.

AltiumLive 2022: Keep Your Boards From Screaming with Eric Bogatin’s EMI Tips

I recently spoke with Eric Bogatin, the “signal integrity evangelist,” about his AltiumLive keynote presentation, “How to Keep Your Boards from Screaming Like a Banshee.” Eric explains how attention to board structures during the early stages of PCB layout can keep EMI from becoming a problem in your design. He also discusses a feature of Altium Designer that some designers may not know about—a 2D field solver that's part of the Simbeor high-end electromagnetic measurement tool, but with a simple GUI that most designers can master right away.


Day 2: Keynotes, Competitions, and a Busy Show Floor

Here in San Diego for IPC APEX EXPO, Tuesday saw the keynote address from tech author David Pogue, the ribbon cutting ceremony for the EXPO, the designer’s competition, and a full day of exhibition. Committee work and technical programs continued. We’re here, covering all the events, of course. Pogue stopped by our booth after the keynote. Barry Matties and I interviewed Pogue; look for that interview in our upcoming special edition magazine, Real Time with… IPC APEX EXPO Show & Tell.

Real Time with... IPC APEX EXPO: New Book on Stackup Design

Your stackup is basically the heart of your design. Now, there's a great new eBook that answers all of your questions about designing the perfect stackup: "The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... Stackup Design," written by Bill Hargin of Z-zero. In this IPC APEX EXPO interview, Happy Holden speaks with Bill about the importance of this topic and what readers can learn in his new book. Look for it in the I-007eBooks library. If you didn't make it to IPC APEX EXPO, don't worry. We're bringing you coverage of the week's events, from ribbon cutting to teardown.

Day 1: It's Show Time!

IPC APEX EXPO officially opens today, and as Crosby, Still and Nash once sang, “It’s been a long time coming.” The last live IPC APEX EXPO was held two years ago and was—for many of us—the last trade show we would attend before the pandemic hit. A lot has changed since then. But not everything has changed. After spending a few days watching the exhibitors set up, I have to say that it looks a lot like the show floor always does at IPC APEX EXPO. I was surprised at the amount of capital equipment on the floor. I thought that exhibitors might have scaled back their spending, afraid that attendance might be light, but I saw no evidence of that. Companies came here ready to strut their stuff!

IPC APEX EXPO: We’re Back, Masked, and Ready for Business

I-Connect007 is here in San Diego, setting up our booth on the show floor for the exhibition portion of IPC APEX EXPO. Technical conferences and programs start today, and the show floor has filled with all the biggest names in our industry. Registration has been smooth and everyone seems to be wearing masks.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Next week, we’ll be in San Diego. In fact, I fly down tomorrow morning to start preparations, along with most of the I-Connect007 team. The weather forecast says to expect sunny, with the occasional cloud, all week, with daytime temperatures around 70 degrees. That’ll be nice, as I’m sure COVID-related social distancing guidelines will encourage us to socialize outside as much as is feasible.

Kelly Dack Teases AltiumLive 2022

AltiumLive 2022 is just around the corner! Editor Nolan Johnson chats with Guest Editor and columnist Kelly Dack, one of the event hosts for AltiumLive Connect 2022. Kelly updates Nolan on the latest about the upcoming AltiumLive virtual conference, what's on the agenda, how it's connected with IPC APEX EXPO, and what attendees can expect to find.

AltiumLive 2022: Tamara Jovanovic Discusses Lessons Learned at AltiumLive

Shortly after graduating three years ago, design engineer Tamara Jovanovic attended her first AltiumLive in San Diego and discovered the global community of PCB designers. With a few years of experience designing PCBs for smart baby beds with Happiest Baby, Tamara is now working on her master's degree. In this interview, Tamara explains why she plans to attend AltiumLive again this year, and she discusses what it's like attending class as an experienced technologist.

Real Time with… IPC APEX EXPO: Siemens’ Supply Chain Solutions

Nolan Johnson speaks with Oren Manor of Siemens Digital Industries Software about the company’s booth at IPC APEX EXPO, which will highlight a DSI platform meant to help designers find and use components in their designs during these tough supply chain challenges. If you can’t make it to IPC APEX EXPO, don’t worry. We’ll be bringing you interviews with the engineers, managers and technologists who are making a difference in our industry.

New Book From Isola Highlights Importance of Material Selection

In "The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to... High Performance Materials," the latest release from I-007eBooks, readers will learn how to overcome challenges associated with choosing the right material for their specific application. Author Michael Gay of Isola provides a clearer picture of what to know when determining which material is the most desirable for which products. PCB materials and DFM expert Mark Thompson says, “I love this book, particularly the sections on the effects of the glass weave, the history of laminate, and the difference between Dk and effective Dk."

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

We’re driving headlong into 2022, and there’s a lot going on in the world of PCB design, fabrication, and assembly. It’s trade show season now. IPC APEX EXPO starts in less than two weeks, and we’re all getting ready for what is, for many, the first trade show in years. Do you know where you put your business cards after your last show in 2020? I keep half a box of biz cards in my glove compartment; I’m not going to make that mistake again.


Living in a Material World: High-Speed Design Strategies

Any discussion about high-speed PCB design techniques would be incomplete without considering the properties and requirements of the materials. Your material selection drives much of your design strategy when you’re operating at 28 gigabits per second or faster. We recently spoke with high-speed design expert Lee Ritchey of Speeding Edge, and electronic materials veteran Tarun Amla of Avishtech and Thintronics, about the relationship between advanced PCB materials and high-speed design techniques. They discuss the challenges facing designers and engineers working with materials at speeds that were considered unreachable not long ago, and what designers need to know about material selection as board speeds continue rising toward the stratosphere.

CES 2022: Half Virtual, Still Valuable, and Here’s Why

Another CES has wrapped up, and while not fully back to its glittery self, the show still managed to create quite a buzz in the electronics world. Attendance was about half of its typical 150,000 as hundreds of companies still touted their wares and I’m excited to share with you what I discovered. I reported on the show from the safety of my home office, which was a bit of a letdown because I really enjoy walking the aisles of the show, visiting the exhibits of both large and small companies.

A High-Voltage PCB Design Primer

Of all the different boards a designer can create, a high voltage PCB design can be complicated and requires strict attention to safety. If not laid out correctly these boards can be safety hazards or can fail to function on first power up, leaving a designer with wasted time and effort. In the best case, the board will function reliably for a long period of time thanks to correct layout practices. High-voltage PCB design can be as complex as any high-speed digital design. Boards for high-voltage systems can be space constrained and they carry important safety requirements. They also need to be highly reliable to ensure they will have a long life when run at high voltage and current.

Real Time with… IPC APEX EXPO 2022: Blackfox Mixes It Up with Training Opportunities

Andy Shaughnessy speaks with Jamie Noland, master IPC trainer and marketing manager for Blackfox Institute, about current and upcoming training opportunities and what you can expect from them at the show. Blackfox has expanded its offerings to reach a wider audience, including some very basic classes for beginners.

High-Voltage PCB Design: Beating Separation Anxiety

In recent surveys, PCB designers named high voltage among the issues causing problems in their designs. That led us to speak with Zuken USA’s Andy Buja, Wilmer Companioni, and Sanu Warrier about the challenges PCB designers and design engineers must confront when working with high-voltage designs. In this conversation, we discuss everything from the nuts and bolts of high-voltage design, such as the need to separate components of a high-voltage board, to the compliance problems companies like Tesla face when installing EV chargers around the world in countries with varying regulations.

Happy Holden’s Five Must-Reads of 2021

Over the past year, I-Connect007 has published more than 4,000 news items, nearly 300 articles, and 350 columns from the leading expert voices in the industry. We also have interviewed dozens of fabricators, assemblers, and designers on the most relevant and pressing topics in the ever-evolving printed circuit board industry. So, it only made sense to ask Happy Holden about his picks for the best reads at I-Connect007 in 2021.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

No matter how you look at it, we’re already off to a roaring start in 2022. Here on the West Coast of the U.S., heavy and persistent rains are doing what they can to fix years of drought through the southwest United States. The eastern seaboard is seeing plenty of rainy weather as well. As they say on the salt containers: When it rains, it pours. That adage is rather true in the news of the industry this week. Therefore, my must-reads include a celebration of longevity in business, the launch of our next space telescope, and the sale of equipment for the printing of electronics. On a more circumspect note, we also bring you the IPC’s report on rising material and labor costs, and an article on cybersecurity.

The Art of Using Symmetry—and Asymmetry—in PCB Design

An empty board outline is a PCB designer’s empty canvas. Components are the designer’s paint palette, and the traces are the brush strokes used to blend and mesh the components together on the canvas. The subject matter is defined by the schematic entry and the tone is often set according to the purpose of the design. The subject matter’s form emerges during placement and takes shape when routed. The aesthetic nature of a PCB or PCBA is typically judged by the designer’s use of symmetry, focal points, and centers of interest. The enjoyment experienced by observing a bee (a bilaterally symmetric insect) symbiotically interact with a flower (a radially symmetric plant) is derived from the realization of two well-proportioned beings striking a mutually equitable existence, a classic win-win scenario.

If You’re Not Measuring Inductance, Ask Yourself: Do You Feel Lucky?

I recently ran into Dr. Bruce Archambeault at PCB Carolina in Raleigh, North Carolina. He’s retired from IBM now, but as he explains, he’s still teaching. He taught a class at the show that focused on layout considerations and inductance, and why inductance needs to be measured. There weren’t many empty seats in his class. I asked Bruce to discuss his class and why it’s so importance for designers and engineers to measure inductance. Bruce also discusses how he’s linked the study of inductance to the “Dirty Harry” movie franchise.

Field of Dreams: The Art and Science of Designing with Field Theory

For this issue of Design007 Magazine focusing on the art and science of PCB design, we sought input from Dan Beeker, senior principal engineer of NXP Semiconductors. Dan has spent years teaching designers about the need to focus on the electromagnetic fields around the traces, not the traces themselves, as the late Ralph Morrison advised. We asked Dan to share his thoughts on the art of designing PCBs, and how art and science figure into his views on field theory.


I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

I’m starting to get more and more out-of-office replies. Are you reading this on your phone while standing in line at Best Buy? But if you’re reading this, here’s to you! It’s been a pretty good year—much better than last year, though that’s a fairly low bar to clear. It’s a mixed bag this week, with news about trade shows, along with articles and interviews focusing on everything from education to methods for dealing with supply chain issues by staying flexible and taking action earlier in the process.

RealTime with... American Standard Circuits: Thermal Management

In the third of a series of three RealTime with... interviews, I-Connect007 managing editor Nolan Johnson received knowledgeable and informative answers from Anaya Vardya, John Bushie, and Dave Lackey of American Standard Circuits to his questions on the topic of thermal management. Anaya Vardya began by clarifying the terminology, describing thermal conductivity as a material property defining how quickly heat was transmitted through a piece of that material, whereas thermal management was about analysing the entire system, trying to understand how much heat was being generated, and using appropriate techniques to dissipate that heat as efficiently as possible.

Insulectro Passionate About Educational Programs

Ken Parent, Chris Hunrath, and Michelle Walsh discuss their educational and training vision, programs that they are bringing to the industry, and why. There’s a gap, they say, in the talent pool from entry level to engineers. “There’s a huge demand now,” says Chris Hunrath. “The quicker we can fill that gap and train new people, the more PCBs can be built and more of the new products and technology will be accepted into the industry.” We are living in a people-constrained business today.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Right now, it seems that almost everyone I know is talking about the future. Doesn’t matter whether it’s with my family, loved ones, friends, industry colleagues, or neighbors I meet on the street, conversations are almost entirely forward-looking. This being the holiday season, some reminiscing is to be expected, but I’m just not hearing it in the chatter all around me–this year is different somehow. And it shows in this edition of my must-reads for the week as well. This week we bring you forward-looking discussions with ,,,

The Mission of the New Printed Circuit Board Association of America

Barry Matties recently met with Travis Kelly to discuss the formation of the Printed Circuit Board Association of America (PCBAA), a consortium of U.S.-based companies he chairs to support U.S. domestic production of PCBs. PCBAA was established on three pillars, and Travis explains how they intertwine with each other—and with other similar organizations in the industry.

The Art and Science of DFM

"Education is widely available in art, which implies that it is something that can be taught and learned," said Altium's Vince Mazur. "However, I believe there is a limit to what a scientifically focused person can do in art. While anything is possible, one can pursue fluency in art, but they likely would have a difficult time becoming a Picasso or a Rodin. Just as either of these artists could likely learn more about science, they likely would not become an Einstein or a Tesla. But then there are those outliers that have extreme talent in both domains, such as Galileo."

ICT Autumn Seminar Review: Live in 2021!

Faced with the choice between a real or virtual event, Bill Wilkie took a calculated risk. It has been many long months since members of the Institute of Circuit Technology had gathered together under one roof, but a fair-sized bunch of industry stalwarts braved the weather and the threat of COVID, descended on the Manor Hotel in Meriden, UK, on Nov. 30, and applauded Bill’s decision to go live. They were not disappointed; the program was superb, the atmosphere upbeat, and the networking opportunity priceless.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

It hardly feels like the end of 2021, but here we are, looking at a new year and IPC APEX EXPO and AltiumLive coming up in less than two months. If you don’t count days lost during the holidays, it’s more like one month before showtime. Hey, at least we have some live events to attend now. This week, we have some association and trade show news, as well as articles on data management and the diminished role of U.S. chip makers in the global electronics supply chain. We’re almost behind the eight-ball here, folks, and we can’t build chip factories overnight. Let’s get a move on!

EIPC Technical Snapshot Review: Semi-additive Processes

The development of ultra-high-density PCBs and packaging substrates using semi-additive and additive manufacturing processes was the theme of the 13th Technical Snapshot webinar presented by EIPC on November 24. It was introduced and moderated by technical director Tarja Rapala-Virtanen. Daniel Schulze, application engineering manager at Dyconex in Switzerland, gave the opening presentation, “Advanced high density rigid packaging substrates for RF and miniaturization.” He explained that with their long-established capabilities in ultra-high-density PCBs in flex, rigid-flex and rigid multilayer technologies, it was logical for Dyconex to apply their expertise to the development of specialist IC substrates.

Alex Stepinski: A Philosophical View

"My philosophy is to rely more on sensors throughout the process to measure things non-destructively, then build a model for how you’re going to perform, and just validate against the model," said Alex Stepinski. "It’s the next step slowly happening worldwide. For instance, we’ve had 2D AOI for many years. Sometimes, this is complemented with electrical tests. Now, you start to see more 3D AOI happening. You see them putting more sensors on the AOI equipment for direct measurement. Then, you also have the traditional signal integrity testing."


Solid Data Management Key to Accurate Quotes

Data is omnipresent. At times it goes unnoticed, just waiting there for someone to collect, analyze, and make use of it to create value. Data that seemed irrelevant at the time might come in handy when you need to come up with a solution to a new challenge. When, for instance, you need a reliable quote that can accurately predict a product’s price, you need to base it on past actual operation machine time, raw materials cost, etc. Otherwise, guessing a new product’s price might result in unexpected spending, especially when it concerns sophisticated systems.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

If you’re in the United States like I am, and if you celebrated with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, like my family did, then you just might have fallen asleep sitting up in a chair (or in my case, stretched out on the couch) and missed some of the highlights in the news this week. Never fear, I woke up early to bring the top five news items you should know for this week. We have industry bookings and sales news from IPC, some news from the flex sector, an explanation of induction lamination from Happy Holden, and two different takes on “sustainability.”

Happy Thanksgiving From the I-Connect007 Team

In the United States, the Thanksgiving holiday is a celebration of gratitude and appreciation for the harvest and for the people close to us. Thankfulness, however, transcends just one day of official observance. The fourth Thursday of November is when the U.S. officially celebrates Thanksgiving Day and as we take time to observe this holiday, the I-Connect007 team wishes to offer our thanks to you, our global readers and contributors: designers, fabricators, engineers, assemblers, quality and process control gurus, chemists, physicists, supervisors, managers, entrepreneurs, business owners, standards writers, industry experts, and more. You breathe life into the vital, thriving, world-changing electronics industry. You are the real story.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

This month—and this year, really—has just flown by. As someone mentioned to me recently, “There are basically only three full work weeks before New Year’s Day.” Yikes. Thanksgiving is next week, which means most of your customers and suppliers will be hard to reach. Unless there’s a problem, that is! In that case, they’ll find you, even if you’re carving a turkey with the kids and grandkids. So, with a short week on the horizon, most of us are in overdrive now, trying to get ahead of the game.

New Methods for Quantifying PCB Design Weaknesses and Manufacturing Challenges

Gerry Partida explains, "The industry is at a new point in evolving how we look at building boards. Our industry has historically built boards and then tried to find a test for them. Then, when they found a test for it, they figured out that it needed to be analyzed before they built the board. We did this with electrical test. We built boards and down the road, as people started asking, “Why am I buying bad boards? We should electrically test them,” electrical test was introduced, reluctantly, into the test part of manufacturing printed circuit boards by suppliers or fabricators. Then they embraced it. But when we started testing boards, we did comparison tests."

RealTime with....American Standard Circuits: The Fundamentals of RF and Microwave PCBs

In the second of a series of three RealTime with... interviews, I-Connect007 managing editor Nolan Johnson received knowledgeable and informative answers from John Bushie, director of technology at American Standard Circuits, and Anaya Vardya, president and CEO, to his questions on the unique challenges of RF and microwave PCBs.

From DesignCon: What’s Old is New Again with Selective Heat Sinks

Andy Shaughnessy met with James Hofer, General Manager of Accurate Circuit Engineering, during DesignCon 2021 in San Jose. He discussed some of the new technology they’ve been working on, including copper coins. James explains the benefits of making copper coins—a technology that’s been around for years—in 3D and even laminating them into the board to control heat in one area. James explains, "What we’re doing now is milling and forming these selective heat sinks into different shapes and heights. Rather than put a flat, round, 30-mil thick copper coin into a board, we’ll instead make it with some podiums so that the heat sink gets mounted to the board and is below level, except in particular areas where you bring it flush to the surface of the board, or even higher."

A PCB Design Data Management Overview

In recent issues of Design007 Magazine, we’ve covered strategies for managing specific types of data. But in this issue, we’re looking into data management techniques from a company level. The I-Connect007 Editorial Team recently spoke with three PCB designers who have quite a bit to say about PCB data management: Altium’s John Watson, and Bissell’s Dugan Karnazes and Patryk Akhurst. They discussed their data management philosophies, the need for detailed processes that fit each company, and why data management techniques must undergo continuous improvement to be effective.

Pulsonix Discusses New Features, Including Design Reuse and Cross Probing

Jim Southward, executive account manager for SouthCom Technologies and head of the North American sales office for Pulsonix, recently met with Nolan Johnson to discuss what's been going on lately at Pulsonix. Jim walks us through some of the new features Pulsonix has added in recent releases, and he details a few handy functions that some users may not even be aware of.

I-Connect007 Editor's Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Welcome to Friday in mid-November. If you're celebrating Thanksgiving, have you made up your menu and bought the turkey? It will be here before you know it. Around here, we're talking financial news and I've selected my top five financial news items of the week. There was plenty to choose from and my picks this week highlight a few of the most-read financial news pieces from our industry, as well as a couple high-interest technology related pieces. We also released our latest webinar, an 11-part series from the expert at GEN3. Definitely check that one out!


Honoring Those Who Served

On this Veteran’s Day holiday, the I-Connect007 staff takes a moment to honor those men and women over the years, who served to protect and defend their country. Just on the I-Connect007 staff, we have loved ones who served, ranging from World War I to present-day active-duty military. The holiday isn’t intended to be a political statement, but rather a reflection on service, duty, and personal sacrifice. In some cases, the ultimate sacrifice. Our staff has submitted images of veterans who are near and dear to their hearts. Check them out!

Why Good PCB Data Management is Essential

Manufacturing data management consists of four primary components: data transfer, data storage, revision control, and data access. The PCB fabrication and assembly data management system and process is required to be robust to protect customer IP and ensure that the proper data is used to build the product. The entire process assumes that the provided designer data package can’t be built as-is. The design data must be updated/completed after it is received by the manufacturer. Powerful CAD/CAM software has made it easy for designers/companies to pass the final editing and revision control onto their manufacturers. Over time nefarious entities have significantly improved their ability to steal/copy data in parallel with this, thus complicating data transfer and management.

Manage Your Data and Document Everything

One of my biggest nightmares involves getting a call from my boss over the weekend; there’s a problem and they need documentation that I manage, but they can’t find it on our shared drive. At a small company, it’s important to have rules and guidelines about managing documentation. I’m sure bigger companies have full-time employees who oversee PLM systems and make sure every piece of work is documented in a clean and comprehensive way. In a startup environment, though, this type of work usually falls on engineers and the technologists doing the actual testing.

IPC-2581: An Open, Neutral, Efficient Data Transfer Format

PCB design and manufacture has become exponentially more complex as modern electronics providers strive to meet consumer demand for greater connectivity and performance. In the current process, two major pain points need to be overcome to achieve an efficient design and manufacturing process that results in first-time-right products that go to market quickly. The first pain point is time to manufacture—the flow from end of design to start of manufacturing is dependent on multiple communications and shared files between the design house and the manufacturing partner. The second pain point is the design for manufacturing (DFM) analysis that all manufacturers run on the data to see if the design violates any of their manufacturing rules/guidelines.

I-Connect007 Editor's Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

It’s merger mania! Yes, there’s been a lot of M&A activity lately in our industry over the past few months. This week was no different when it comes to merger activities. In this week’s selections, we have news about DuPont’s acquisition of Rogers, Nano Dimension’s merger with Essemtec, and NCAB’s acquisition of Elmatica. We also have news from SMTA International, and an interview with Joe Clark of DownStream Technologies about their new flex and rigid-flex technology.

Averatek Moves Ahead With A-SAP™, ASAP

During DesignCon, the I-Connect007 Editorial Team spoke with Mike Vinson and Paul Dennig of Averatek. They discussed the company’s latest advances in air cavities and semi-additive processes, and what this new technology will mean to the industry, especially PCB designers. Vinson said, "Over the next 12 months, I think you’ll see more involvement from a number of areas—everything from sensors to the actual printed circuit boards themselves and miniaturization. This technology can enable the more advanced packages and the smaller components to be used on the printed circuit board without a great deal of expensive modification."

DownStream Adding More Flex, Rigid-Flex Functionality

I recently spoke with Joe Clark, one of the co-founders for DownStream Technologies. We discussed the company’s latest software release, which adds more flex and rigid-flex capabilities, as well as updates to the scripting in DownStream’s tools.As Joe explained, "With our current release of software, we focused in on rigid-flex designs, which is becoming a common design challenge for our customers. We’ve implemented support for rigid-flex embedded components going to the next level now, and we’re working with some large companies to define the design for manufacturing checks that would be necessary for verifying these advanced designs. So that’s coming in our DFM release that will be out later this year."

Dan Beeker: Follow the Geometry and Control the EM Fields

Senior principal engineer Dan Beeker of NXP Semiconductor became something of an industry rock star a few years ago with his remake of the Meghan Trainor song “All About That Bass.” With “All About the Space,” Dan had his class attendees humming a tune that reminded them that signals travel in the spaces around the traces, not the traces themselves. Now, Dan is on a mission to spread the gospel of the late Ralph Morrison, who spent much of his career writing and teaching about electromagnetic field theory. In this DesignCon interview, Dan explains why the PCB design community needs to embrace Morrison’s teachings, which he believes could save the industry hundreds of millions of dollars in respins.

Sunny Patel on Design Data Formats

For this issue on design data file formats, we wanted to speak with someone who has experience using Gerber, IPC-2581, and ODB++. Sunny Patel of Candor Industries has used all three of these formats over the years, so we asked him to share his opinion of each format. He also points out why it might be more important to focus on flexibility than any one specific format. As Sunny says, "With Gerbers there’s a lot more opportunity to put different types of data into our pre-CAM software. That could be just us, but we haven’t had any issues so far, knock on wood, with any of the file formats. I just feel like there’s more opportunity to edit and make micro-adjustments on the HDI side with Gerber. But let’s see what happens. Everyone is always improving their file formats."

NCAB Discusses Recent Merger with Elmatica

I-Connect007’s Nolan Johnson catches up with Anders Forsén, chief financial officer at NCAB Group, to get an update on the recently announced acquisition of Elmatica by NCAB. In this audio interview from the NCAB headquarters in Sweden, Anders details how he sees Elmatica and NCAB working together to deliver a stronger solution for customers.


The Case for IPC-2581: Interview with Ed Acheson

Over the last few years, IPC-2581 has hit several milestones: Revision C was released in late 2020 and it now includes complete build intent for rigid-flex circuits. It is also integrated with IPC’s Connected Factory Exchange assembly format. To learn more, the I-Connect007 Editorial Team spoke with Ed Acheson, a senior principal product engineer with Cadence Design Systems. Ed is also one of the developers behind the IPC-2581 design data transfer format. He walks us through the ins and outs of IPC-2581, and explains why he believes this open-source format could be just what PCB designers and fabricators need today and tomorrow.

DFM 101: PCB Via Structures

One of the biggest challenges facing PCB designers is not understanding the cost drivers in the PCB manufacturing process. This article is the latest in a series that will discuss these cost drivers (from the PCB manufacturer’s perspective) and the design decisions that will impact product reliability.

Who Selects the Design Data Format, and Why?

For this issue on design data formats, I wanted some feedback from a PCB design bureau, so I spoke with Jen Kolar, VP of engineering at Monsoon Solutions in Bellevue, Washington. I asked Jen who decides on the design data format at Monsoon, and why.

Polar Instruments: Pandemic and Parts Shortage Lead to More R&D Time

During PCB West, I met with Geoffrey Hazelett, VP of sales for Polar Instruments. He explained how the pandemic actually helped Polar’s R&D in the long run, and why the current parts shortages may offer a similar benefit for OEMs, who can now spend more time in what he calls “forced R&D.”

Test Strategies and Pain Points

In this interview with Bert Horner of The Test Connection, Inc., a test engineering service provider, he shares his insights on the trends and challenges for test and inspection. This discussion is centered around common challenges in the industry, and the importance of setting up your test and inspection strategy. Bert states, "The biggest challenge is giving access to the key points and understanding a test strategy prior to the assembly being built."

Excerpt: The System Designer’s Guide to… System Analysis, Chapter 3

The third chapter of this book, "Limitations of Today's Electronic System Design," focuses on the variety of limitations that today’s electronics system designers face as data becomes evermore complex and the industry seeks alternatives past Moore’s law.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must Reads for the Week

This week’s top picks, as influenced by readership interest, don’t seem to hold to a particular theme. Previously, I’ve referred to this as a potpourri, and now that I’ve done that once, I can’t really do so again, can I? How about a mixed bag? No, I don’t think so. While the news is certainly a diverse assortment, this just feels too obvious.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

There’s a lot going on in the industry this week, and my top five picks have a little bit of everything.

The Case for Gerber: Interview with Karel Tavernier and Dirk Stans

The I-Connect007 Editorial Team recently spoke with Karel Tavernier, managing director of Ucamco, which now takes care of the Gerber format; and Gerber advocate Dirk Stans, managing director of Eurocircuits. They discuss why Gerber continues to be the most popular format for PCB designers, the advantages it offers designers and fabricators, and what the future holds for this resilient format.

Soldering to Aluminum With Mina

At DesignCon, I caught up with Divyakant Kadiwala of Averatek Corporation. He spent a few minutes explaining a special process developed by Averatek that allows technologists to solder to aluminum.


Ken Wyatt: Think of Circuit Traces as Wave Guides

We spoke with Ken Wyatt of Wyatt Technical Services during DesignCon 2021. In this interview, Ken discusses his DesignCon tutorial and how proper stackup planning can help in the fight against radiated emissions. He also points out that many PCB designers lack a true understanding of EMC and radiated emissions in general, and why some knowledge of physics is so important to today’s PCB designers.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Well, William Shatner finally did the field research for his role as Captain James T. Kirk this week, going sub-orbital on the Blue Origin launch platform. No, I’m not making fun of Shatner’s flight, quite the contrary. He’s the first actor in the entire Star Trek franchise to go into space while still living. And at 90 years old, he’s now the oldest person to make the trip as well!

The Case for ODB++: Interview with Pat McGoff and Max Clark

To learn more about ODB++, we spoke with Pat McGoff and Max Clark of Siemens Digital Industries Software, two developers who have been working on the format for years. In this interview, they explain how ODB++ works, why they believe designers and manufacturers should switch to this format, and what’s next for ODB++.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

This week we have quite a potpourri for you. Our newest columnist, Kim O’Neil of Prototron Circuits, offers details on setting up your own quality management system (QMS). Emmy-winning tech writer David Pogue will be a keynote at IPC APEX EXPO, which I think is a great move on the part of IPC. We have an article from Brent Fischthal of Koh Young America on the value of investing in the latest AOI equipment, which can save you time and money by eliminating false calls.

Tribal Knowledge and Design Data Formats

I recently began to investigate “tribal knowledge” in PCB and PCBA operations. My goal was to determine whether anything of value would be lost if it were not recorded or preserved for future industry technologists. In the face of modern material science and industry standards, the descriptive title “tribal knowledge” suggests that one must determine what is fact, what is fiction, and what may just be plain embellishment, coincidence, or even magic. In many cases, tribal knowledge seems to be composed of memories of problems solved due to trial and error, coupled with observations of resulting causes and effects.

Sunstone Circuits: Use the Design Data Format That Gives You Best Results

To get some feedback from a PCB prototype manufacturer about design data formats, we asked Matt Stevenson, Sunstone’s VP of sales and marketing, to weigh in. As Matt explains, his company is equally at home using Gerber or ODB++, but it’s not the fabricator’s job to convince customers to use one data format over another. In the end, you should use the format that gives you the best results.

Excerpt: The System Designer’s Guide to… System Analysis, Chapter 2

In Chapter 2 of this book, the subject involves the challenges in the design and development of data center systems. With the exponential growth in data center infrastructure for IT networking, numerous challenges have emerged, from limited ecosystems to high-performance computing issues. There are many constraints to building data centers and updating the equipment in them. Planning is critical in managing increased capacity in the existing data center space.

Collaboration by Design: The Role of EDA Tools

Rapidly designing and building successful electronic circuit boards is always helped by good communication and collaboration among engineering teams (internal and/or external), purchasing departments, and EMS providers. Collaborating effectively and efficiently with colleagues throughout the design cycle leads to better results.

PCEA Approaches Two-Year Anniversary with New Members and Classes

I recently spoke with PCEA’s Mike Creeden at DesignCon 2021. As PCEA closes in on its two-year anniversary, Mike provides an update on the organization’s growth and plans to continue connecting and educating PCB designers and design engineers.

Applying DFM Analysis to Flexible PCBs

Flex circuit designs have unique properties and materials that separate them from rigid printed circuit boards. The flex circuits’ thinness makes them more delicate, and they are more susceptible to accidental damage during manufacturing. This negatively affects the yield, increasing the per-item cost. Let us explore why running concurrent DFM is even more important with flexible circuitry than for rigid PCBs.


I-Connect007 Editor's Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Once again, seemingly like clockwork, the controversy erupts. It’s such a divisive issue, and it seems no one can be undecided in this debate; each of us is expected to take a stand. All of society—including the media—asks, “Which side are you on?”

Real Time with... American Standard Circuits: Flex and Rigid-Flex PCBs

In the first of a series of three Real Time with…ASC interviews, I-Connect007 Managing Editor Nolan Johnson got some no-nonsense answers from Anaya Vardya and Dave Lackey on the topic of flex and rigid-flex PCBs. I was impressed by ASC’s generosity in sharing knowledge and technology.

24 Essential Skills for Engineers: The Story Behind the Book

In this interview with I-Connect007’s own Happy Holden about his newest book, 24 Essential Skills for Engineers, which he wrote over the span of his career, he highlights some particular moments from his time working at HP and as CTO of Foxconn which inspired many of the book’s chapters. Happy explains why he covered engineering skills as well as “soft skills” such as problem-solving and communication—skills which are keys to succeeding as an engineer.

EIPC Technical Snapshot: Updates, Methods, and Interconnections

Not a lot happens in August, when European industry traditionally takes its summer holidays, ready to bounce back re-energised and invigorated in September. EIPC, the European Institute for the PCB Community, got the autumn webinar season off to a flying start with the 11th in their series of Technical Snapshots.

From DesignCon: Electro Rent Beats High Cost of Test Equipment

At DesignCon, I spoke with Rachael Lee, Western regional manager of Electro Rent. This company rents out test and measurement equipment like oscilloscopes and spectrum analyzers—machines that can cost six figures to purchase. In this interview, Rachael explains how the company operates and why certain companies choose to rent test equipment for the long term instead of buying.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Every fall, the action in the world of PCB design and manufacturing begins to pick up again. No more out-of-office email replies; summer vacation is over, and it’s time to get back at it. This week’s Top Five is a veritable pastiche of columns, articles, and news from the electronics industry.

BOMs and the Supply Chain from an Assembler's Point of View

Duane Benson of Screaming Circuits speaks with Nolan Johnson about issues assemblers encounter with BOMs and part shortages. Duane gives advice on how to avoid some common pitfalls.

From DesignCon: Bringing the Power of Simulation to a Wider Audience

Andy Shaughnessy ran into Siemens EDA Product Marketing Manager Todd Westerhoff during DesignCon 2021 and asked him for an update on his company’s simulation and analysis tools. They discussed Siemens’ ongoing efforts to bring the power of simulation to more PCB designers and run simulation earlier in the design process, as well as the challenges Siemens faces in developing tools that appeal to both signal integrity experts and mainstream hardware design engineers.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

In some weeks, readership numbers are pretty even, which means I make my picks based on “excellence” or “achievement” of some sort. Other weeks, you readers “go viral” on a few key news items, making the selection process numerically driven. This was one of those weeks. Here, then, are the five most-read news items. Of course, leading the way are our esteemed technical editors, Pete Starkey and Dan Feinberg. These gentlemen are examples of my opening statement, as both enjoy huge popularity with readers precisely because they are so good at reporting on the industry.

From DesignCon: EMA Helps Get DFM, Analysis Info to Designers Early in the Process

Andy Shaughnessy recently spoke with Chris Banton, Director of Marketing for EMA Design Automation, during DesignCon 2021 in San Jose, California. He explained how EMA helps Cadence Design Systems push more DFM and signal integrity information into designers’ hands earlier in the design cycle, as well as how they are blurring the lines between PCB and RF design functions. He also discussed the company’s increased efforts creating design education modules for customers who hire inexperienced PCB designers.


The Power of Designer and Manufacturer Collaboration

Whether you are beginning board layout, building the first run of a prototype, or you’re making a change to a mature product several years into its life span, there is no incorrect time to consult your PCB manufacturer. Circuit boards today are dense with features that push the limits of manufacturing technology, and as designers employ these technological advances it’s easy to venture off the well-documented path of standard manufacturing.

From DesignCon: Rogers’ Products at the Right Place and Time

Nolan Johnson recently spoke with Dean Marquart, product manager at Rogers Corporation about his role in managing parts so that customers are getting what they need—and when they need it.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

The kids and grandkids are back in school, and fall is on the way. During this busy week, we published a variety of articles, covering everything from trade shows to mergers. It’s hard to argue with IPC’s plans to require proof of vaccine or a negative COVID test to enter IPC APEX EXPO; you can expect other trade shows to follow suit in the future. We’d hate for a show to become a super-spreader event.

Collaboration: The Key to Streamlining Your Design Process

We recently spoke with Patrick Davis, product management director of Cadence Design Systems, about the benefits of collaboration between PCB designers and fabricators—and the drawbacks to throwing designs “over the wall.” Patrick explains why designers and fabricators often seem to be talking past each other, the role that EDA software companies can play in facilitating collaboration, and why IPC-2581 may be the right means for connecting all of design’s stakeholders.

From DesignCon: Insulectro Educating Designers About New Materials

I recently met with Insulectro VP of Technology Chris Hunrath at DesignCon 2021. We discussed a variety of new laminates that Insulectro is distributing, as well as some newer processes and the need to educate designers on the ins and outs of cutting-edge laminates.

Seeking Out Design Education Resources

I’ve been doing PCB design for about 15 years. I started in high school, drawing out simple circuits in an image editor and raiding the local Radio Shack for ferric chloride and copper-clad boards for toner transfer etching. The results were crude, and often didn’t work, but the process was fascinating—and truthfully still is. For as empowering as it can be, PCB design has a shockingly low barrier to entry.

How to Use Panelization Planning to Save Money and Resources

In this interview, Siemens’ Patrick McGoff speaks with Nolan Johnson about strategies to utilize panelization planning to save money and resources.

Paying it Forward: DFM Education for Engineering Grads

Every day, I had the opportunity to drive to several Seattle-based design companies and meet with their engineering staffs, usually full of young, recently graduated electrical engineers. Almost every company I visited had employed several recent EE graduates (all named Zach, Ian, or Ashley, it seemed) who were tasked with laying out PCBs. I could tell in a heartbeat that these kids were smart.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

The past couple weeks have delivered quite a bit of PCB manufacturing industry news, to be sure. If you haven’t already seen this news piece from USPAE, “Electronics Industry Summit With US DoD Spawns More Dialogue, Collaboration,” I’d like to bring it to your attention one more time.

Altium’s Nexar Platform Unites Design, Supply Chain, and Manufacturing, Part 1

The I-Connect007 Editorial Team recently spoke with Ted Pawela, chief ecosystem officer and head of the Nexar business unit at Altium. Ted discussed Altium’s new Nexar cloud platform which aims to build an ecosystem that connects designers, supply chain companies, and manufacturers.


The Impact of Via Structures on Multi-Gigabit Signal Transmission

This article briefly introduces various via structures on the PCB for layer transition purposes. It also investigates the impact of these via structures on multi-gigabit transmission by analysing time domain reflectometry (TDR), differential insertion loss (Sdd21), and eye diagrams.

From DesignCon: Isola Navigating a Challenging Supply Stream

Nolan Johnson and Andy Shaughnessy visited with Jim Hartzell of Isola to learn about how the company has thrived in the past 18 months, despite some real supply chain backlogs. Jim also talks about new products, and what’s on the horizon for Isola.

DFM from the Fabricator’s Point of View

What do you think of when you hear the term DFM? The I-Connect007 Editorial Team posed this question to a trio of design and fabrication experts: DownStream Technologies co-founders Joe Clark and Rick Almeida, and Max Clark, business unit manager for Valor at Siemens EDA. We think you’ll enjoy this wide-ranging conversation.

I-Connect007 Editor's Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

This week, we’ve covered a variety of topics in our newsletters and websites. In my Top Five picks, we have quite a mixed bag of industry news and articles. In market reports, there’s good news from the North American PCB side of things, but bad news from the EMS segment, driven by long lead times and material shortages. We also have an article that gets down to the root cause, or causes, of the six-month lead time and price increases.

Review: Siemens PCB Stackup Planning Webinar

I love getting to know new tools in the industry, especially when they address issues that haven’t been included into the layout software yet. This Siemens webinar on stackup design, presented by Z-zero founder and HyperLynx alum Bill Hargin, offers a variety of tips for designers and design engineers. I totally agree with Bill’s statement, “The PCB stackup is the central nervous system of the design.”

Unfolding Altium’s Design Education Platforms

For the August issue on PCB design education, we knew we had to speak with Judy Warner, director of community and industry engagement for Altium. Judy has been heavily involved with Altium’s educational programs, including the technical presentations for their annual conference, AltiumLive. The I-Connect007 Editorial Team asked Judy to discuss Altium’s educational plans going forward, specifically AltiumLive’s transition back to live, in-person shows soon to be offered in a new hybrid format.

The EMS/Designer Relationship: Kelly's Story

In a recent discussion with John Vaughan and Kelly Dack, we explored how parts availability information can reverberate back to the design team in unexpected ways. In this part of the interview, Dack details how a parts availability issue can restart the design all the way back with the OEM design team.

Designing With the End in Mind—How the Meaning of DFM Will Transform in the Future

Designers of today’s complex printed circuit boards occasionally encounter setbacks due to their lack of early planning. Such consequences for apathy in preparation and awareness will continue to escalate along the growth curve of complexity that the industry continues to experience. In this article, Altium's Vince Mazur explains how designers can be served by a design for manufacturing (DFM) mindset to help assure first-pass success.

You Can’t Learn PCB Design on Your Own

When Editor Andy Shaughnessy asked me to comment on the best path for new PCB designers to learn the trade, I had one immediate thought: I don’t think anyone can learn PCB design on their own. It’s just not possible today. There’s always more to learn in PCB design, and more than one way to learn.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Picks: Five Must-Reads for the Week

I’m at DesignCon as I start pen this week’s must-reads. It’s good to be back in the convention centers, I have to say. In my last installment, I expressed the anticipation; I can now confirm that taking the pulse of our industry is so much easier when one is nearer the heartbeat.


DesignCon Day 2: PCB Exhibitors and Sessions Aplenty

The first day of DesignCon, held at the McEnery Center in San Jose, seemed to be more lightly attended than in previous years. While that may seem like bad news, word from exhibitors was that those in attendance are here to do business. Likewise, the technical conference seems to be delivering on its promise.

DesignCon 2021 Kicks Off With a Family Reunion

It’s been a long 18 months since DesignCon 2020, and we’re all different people, and a different industry. So, it seems only fitting that DesignCon 2021 held a Family Reunion banquet at the end of the first day of the conference at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California.

My Road to Becoming a Great Designer

It was halfway into 2009, I had recently graduated from the University of Guelph with a bachelor of engineering in systems and computing, and the options for employment were slim. Unfortunately, I had entered the workforce during the very tail end of the 2008 financial crisis and was having difficulty finding employment in any field. It would be the better part of a year before I was able to start in the first position in my field as a junior electronics engineer.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Well, we’re officially in the trade show season. Delta variant or not, Editor Nolan Johnson and I are going to DesignCon next week. I’m flying on Delta, which I think is a harbinger of good luck. I did get flight insurance, though. I’m definitely ready to fly somewhere.

My PCB Design Education: A Continuous Process

Being under pressure to deliver functioning boards, on time, made me aware of what could go wrong, and it forced me to employ a systematic approach to every design I work on. I started keeping notes of the tricks I learned along the way and because of that, I ensured that I wouldn’t make the same mistakes again. Here are some of the design practices that I’ve been following while designing boards.

Design Education and Training for Today and Tomorrow

PCB design and design engineering are evolving constantly, and design education and training must also evolve to meet the needs of tomorrow’s young designers—yes, there are young designers again. The I-Connect007 Editorial Team recently spoke about this issue with design instructor Susy Webb, CID. We asked Susy to discuss how design and training have changed in the last few decades, where design education is headed, and how today’s crop of new designers differs from the “graybeards” who are planning their retirements. She also recommends design education resources from a variety of media formats.

Ask the Experts: Why Are Fabricators Reluctant to Share Capabilities with Designers?

Q: No offense to your experts; I love your publication. But wouldn’t designers be better off posing questions to fabricators’ CAM departments? But they won’t answer them anyway! Which begs a question: Why don’t most fabricators share their capabilities, Valor settings, etc., with designers? And then they complain?

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

This week’s must-reads include: a recently-run interview with Travis Kelly from Isola; IPC Chief Economist Shawn DuBravac discussing economic trends that will touch the industry; new high-speed materials; technique for copper pour from Design007’s recent “Just Ask…” series; and maintaining continuous manufacturing knowledge throughout your enterprise.

Ask the Experts: Replacing the Retiring 'Graybeards'

Q: Our company’s senior designers and EEs, including me, are heading for retirement and pickleball. How can we attract new/young people into PCB design?

Excerpt: The System Designer’s Guide to… System Analysis, Chapter 1

System designers for 5G, automotive, high-performance computing (HPC), IoT, and other advanced applications have been facing growing challenges in EM interference and thermal issues. These are prevalent in all electronic devices. Data centers play a key role in this high-performance computing (HPC) era, and EMI/thermal issues have a huge impact on the performance of data centers. This book explains scenarios and issues based on the context of data center electronic systems.


DFM 101: PCB Controlled Impedance

One of the biggest challenges facing PCB designers is not understanding the cost drivers in the PCB manufacturing process. This article is the latest in a series that will discuss these cost drivers (from the PCB manufacturer’s perspective) and the design decisions that will impact product reliability.

Ask the Experts: Copper Pour on Unused Layer Sections?

Q: Is it best practice to flood with copper (tying all areas to GND as needed) all unused portions of all layers?

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

In the past week, we published quite a bit of news—some good, some not so good. The supply chain is likely to be a challenge for the next year or so. But in this industry, technologists always seem to find a workaround.

Ask the Experts: Determining Amount of Copper for Heat Dissipation

Q: When a datasheet calls out an area of copper for heat dissipation, how do I interpret that requirement for my board?

Whizz Systems: The Silicon Valley CM

The I-Connect007 Editorial Team spoke with Whizz Systems in the months prior to COVID. As we come out of lockdown, we decided to check in with Muhammad Irfan and Dan Williams of Whizz Systems. In this part of the interview, they discuss Whizz Systems’ unique methods for navigating the many handoffs involved in the design and manufacturing process, as well as their drive to educate their customers about this process. They also share their thoughts on the trends they’ve seen as a CM working out of Silicon Valley.

Rogers Technology Update

At the IEEE International Microwave Symposium (IMS) show in Atlanta, I met with John Coonrod, technical marketing manager with Rogers Corporation and a Design007 columnist. I asked John to discuss the papers he presented at IMS and to give us an update on Rogers’ materials and technology.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

In this week’s top five: a high profile surprise merger between Autodesk and Altium, which had been in the works, resolved this week; financial news from fabs and assemblers around the globe is reporting strong bookings and sales as the industry bounces back from pandemic-related shutdowns; component demands continue to exert pull pressures on the semiconductor suppliers, keeping the market (overly?) competitive pricewise. The tiles are indeed being stirred. Which pieces will you be dealt?

Siemens Webinar: Rigid-Flex Design Without Respins

Rigid-flex circuits have become almost ubiquitous over the past decade; most personal electronic devices contain at least one rigid-flex circuit. But there’s a downside to rigid-flex: Respins are almost a given with rigid-flex designs. And rigid-flex respins can be quite expensive, since this technology costs quite a bit more, on average, than flex or rigid boards.

Ask the Experts: Tying Vias

Q. What is the best method for tying vias to ground and power planes for bypass capacitors when using multiple caps of different values for one component power pin?

Anaya Vardya Discusses ASC’s Move into Additive Processes

It’s been far too long since I’ve been at a live trade show, so I jumped on the chance to attend the IEEE International Microwave Symposium (IMS) show in Atlanta. I ran into Anaya Vardya, CEO of American Standard Circuits, and asked him to give us an update on ASC’s new technologies.


I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Trade show season is around the corner, and we’re talking about real, in-person trade shows. The virtual shows served their purpose, and we may see more virtual shows in tandem with live events, but I’ll be glad to get back on the show floor and see what’s “really” going on out there. It's great to see IPC’s hand soldering competitions returning to Europe this fall.

The Survey Said: Most Common Design Mistakes

In a recent I-Connect007 survey to designers and design engineers, we asked the following question: What are the most common design mistakes that your company encounters?

Ask the Experts: 12-Layer Stackups With Multiple Powers and Grounds

Question: We’re having lots of problems designing good stackups for 6-, 8-, 10- and 12-layer boards with multiple powers and grounds. Any suggestions?

Averatek Pushing Boundaries of Additive and Semi-Additive Processes

At the IEEE International Microwave Symposium show in Atlanta, I met with Tara Dunn, I-Connect007 columnist and VP of marketing and business development for Averatek. We sat down at the show and discussed the past year and a half, and after joking about how we felt like we were on an episode of The Twilight Zone, Tara gave me an update on Averatek’s continuing research into additive and semi-additive technologies.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

This may be a global industry, but the effect is very real: holidays in the U.S. will drive the industry news cycle. In fact, I can even (unscientifically) rank the major U.S. holidays by their silencing effect on the news. Christmas leads the way, of course, followed by New Year’s, Thanksgiving, Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. Here's a wrap-up of the biggest stories of the past week, starting before Independence Day weekend.

Ask the Experts: Crosstalk Solutions

Question: Crosstalk is getting worse, after we had it under control. It’s not just transmission lines anymore. It’s almost laughable, but it’s costing us money. What can be done?

It’s FR-4, Jim, But Not as We Know It!

As Star Trek was responsible for adding terms such as photon torpedo, dilithium crystal, and warp drive to our language, so NEMA were responsible for the terms G-10, FR-4, and FR-5. “FR” was the NEMA abbreviation for “flame retardant” and materials so classified were marked with a red manufacturer’s logo.

Star Trek: Laying a Path for Technology of Tomorrow, Today

In 1966, when Star Trek first aired, PCBs were in their infancy. A handful of components mounted to a double-sided board with 6-mil traces was on the leading edge of electronics. Since then, much of electronic innovation has been driven by PCB technology. Could the trends in PCB innovation have been predicted at that time? Perhaps through science fiction like Star Trek we can boldly explore our own final frontier.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Optimism is on the rise. This week, we saw signs of increased confidence in the PCB industry, but this was tempered by the realities of supply chain issues and 50-week lead times for some components. We saw some M&A activity and a bit of really interesting news from Stanford University about flex. Cherie Litson brought us a story of her life in PCB design, against a backdrop of Star Trek. IPC also announced an introductory PCB design class. Isn’t it nice to have new designers again?

My Life in PCB Design

In a cold (62°F), semi-dark room, there are banks of mainframe computers along one wall; a soft light glows upward from the table in the corner. I take my kit—a variety of sizes of black, red, and blue tape, decals, and an X-Acto knife—and set it on the side table.


I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

This week, Nolan Johnson's top five includes two popular press releases on equipment purchases, plus a case study that details another company’s ROI from new equipment. We also bring you Pete Starkey’s latest EIPC webinar writeup, and a bit of historical controversy from Clyde Coombs.

Hewlett-Packard’s Adoption—and Controversy—of Plated Through-Holes

I believe that it is instructive to remember just how close Hewlett-Packard—and likely the entire industry—came to adopting eyelets instead of plated through-holes in the early 1960s. That there was ever a controversy over the use of plated through-holes as an acceptable printed circuit interconnection process seems almost impossible to consider, let alone take seriously today. But in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the PTH was not just a controversial idea; serious product designers considered eyelets a preferred technology.

EIPC Technical Snapshot Review: Microvia Reliability Issues

Since the mid-1990s, when they were developed for mass production in the mobile phone industry, microvias have become principal enablers for high-density designs, and have evolved from single-level to complex stacked and staggered structures. They are fundamentally robust interconnects, although some aspects of their reliability are still under investigation.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

It’s summertime here in Atlanta. The masks are gone, and my Hawaiian shirts are back in rotation! It feels like we’re getting back to normal. Speaking of normal, it looks like DesignCon, PCB West, SMTA International, and IPC APEX EXPO are good to go; they’re set to be live, in-person events, just like in the “olden days” of early 2020.

‘The Trouble with Tribbles’

The original Star Trek series came into my life in 1966 as I was entering sixth grade. I was fascinated by the technology being used, such as communicators and phasers, and the crazy assortment of humans and aliens in each episode. My favorite episode is “The Trouble with Tribbles,” an episode combining cute Tribbles, science, and good/bad guys—sprinkled with sarcastic humor.

ICAPE Group Offers Boots on the Ground Support in Asia

Nolan Johnson speaks with Roger Harts about some of the current complications around manufacturing electronics in China and how ICAPE Group works as a vital supplier partner to OEMs and companies hoping to manufacture in Asia.

Words of Advice: Biggest Challenges for Designers

In a recent I-Connect007 survey to designers and design engineers, we asked the following question: What is the biggest PCB design challenge that you or your company deal with regularly? Here are a few of the responses, edited slightly for clarity.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

This week’s can’t miss news items touch all the bases—unlike Pittsburgh Pirates Rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes, who didn’t touch all the bases on Tuesday night’s game, and had his home run revoked.

ExpressPCB Plus 3.0 Adds Functionality, SnapEDA Integration

ExpressPCB has recently released version 3.0 of its ExpressPCB and Express PCB Plus PCB design tools. The I-Connect007 Editorial Team recently spoke with Michael Hebda, product manager for ExpressPCB. He offered a walk-through of the new Plus version 3.0 and explained how the new enhancements enable PCB designers to potentially cut hours or days off their design cycle.

Star Trek, the Original Series: An Homage from a Fan

It’s fun to think back to the days when I first saw Star Trek on TV. In September 1966, I was a sophomore in college in chemical engineering. Being a science fiction fan for many years, I was looking forward to this new show, so I would go over to the student union building early in order to get a seat in the TV room. I got interested in science fiction from a few good movies like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and Forbidden Planet (1956). Then I took up reading the magazine Scientific American at the library.


Catching up With Kusu’s Pascal Delloue

There are other countries in Asia besides China and Pascal Delloue intends to promote them. He has many years of experience in the global marketplace and his new company, Kusu Corporation, is poised to introduce SE Asian companies and the electronics products they can provide for the rest of the world. I have to say this is an interview like no other I have ever conducted. Read on and you’ll see what I mean.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

In case you’ve been on the beach with an umbrella drink in your hand, in industry news we saw the soft opening of a new laminate facility and more M&A activity in the PCB fab segment. And we ran some really great content from our contributors, with articles on how to save your company money and how to save yourself time in the design cycle. Plus, Editor Nolan Johnson channels his inner John Updike with his review of one of the most popular manufacturing strategy books ever, three decades after its publication.

My Ongoing Journey Toward DFM

For the past five years I have spent the first several hours of each working day communicating with a wide variety of offshore manufacturers about customer PCB design issues. I must say, it has been an eye-opening experience. Not only have I learned a lot about PCB manufacturing capabilities and challenges around the world but also about the design for manufacturability (DFM) attitude and aptitude of a wide cross-section of North American PCB designers and design engineers.

Planning and Communication—Key to Optimizing Your Design Time

How many times in our careers have we been asked, “Can we pull in the schedule?” and we can feel the hair on the back of our neck standing up on end. This type of question can be hard to hear simply because it is the wrong type of question.

Hate PCB Respins? Five Ways to Reduce or Eliminate Respins

Redesigning a printed circuit board is a chore that no one likes. Respins of printed circuit boards cost money, delay the schedule, and just aren’t enjoyable for anyone. Yet, many companies are not taking advantage of available tools that can reduce—and in many cases eliminate—PCB respins.

PCEA Webinar: Tips and Tricks for RF Design

Dan Feinberg recently attended a remarkably interesting presentation on tips and tricks of designing for RF signals, hosted by the Printed Circuit Engineering Association. If you’re not yet familiar with PCEA, it is made up of former members of the IPC Designers Council, and it has become an international network of engineers, designers, fabricators, assemblers, and anyone else related to printed circuit development.

Why You Should Get Involved in IPC Standards Development

From a business perspective, involvement in IPC standards is incredibly important. Usage of IPC’s globally accepted standards creates a level playing field in the electronics supply chain. The playing field, however, is only as level as the participants who are involved in the development of a standard.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Summer is almost upon us. But it doesn’t look like there’s much of a summer vacation afoot for this industry. In the past week, we saw lots of traction with our coverage of everything from M&A activity and the supply chain shortage to challenges facing PCB designers, Spanish language training courses, and designing for semi-additive processes.

Medical, Defense Face Shortage of Multilayer Ceramic Capacitors

Industrial, medical, and military demand for high-quality, high-voltage multilayer ceramic capacitors (MLCCs) has been hit hard by a shift in production by the world’s largest MLCC manufacturers who are focusing on a seemingly insatiable demand for smaller, lower voltage—and in some way—lower-performance MLCCs.

Operational Excellence from a Design Services Manager

Jesse Vaughan discusses the key aspects of continuous improvement he sees in his role as manager of design services at ACDi, and the importance of carving out communication channels—both internally and externally to help build operational excellence.


Meeting the Challenge With Design Reuse

As project schedules get shorter and budgets get squeezed, project managers and small business owners must constantly look at ways to maximize limited funding and resources. But reusable PCB design IP allows us to investigate ways to potentially shorten design cycle time.

The Top Five Reasons Products Fail EMI Testing

The three top product failures that Ken Wyatt sees constantly in his consulting practice are radiated emissions, radiated susceptibility, and electrostatic discharge. After reviewing and testing hundreds of products over the years, he's come to the conclusion that products fail these tests for five common reasons. Read on!

PCB Design Challenges: Designing With DDR

Longtime signal integrity experts Rick Hartley and Barry Olney join the I-Connect007 Editorial Team for a discussion around DDR and the complications board designers inevitably face when they design for DDR. If, as Rick and Barry explain, the DDR design process is not that much more complicated than that of a typical high-speed board, why does DDR cause design engineers so much grief? Much of this comes down to following the process, running simulation, and not relying on reference designs.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

Finally, it’s May. The snow has melted, the flowers are beginning to bloom, and summer is just around the corner. We’re slowly getting back to normal after the craziest year I can remember. And our industry is on the move! This week, we bring you a veritable seafood platter of articles and columns about PCB design, fabrication, and assembly.

Arlon President Discusses Acquisition by EMC

Arlon President Brad Foster updates Nolan Johnson on EMC’s acquisition of Arlon in December 2020. Foster shares the basic structure of the agreement, the long-term stability built into the merger, and outlines how this brings EMC, Arlon and Technica together as a team. Foster also hints at what we can expect to see from Arlon and EMC in the coming months.

A Tribute to Dieter Bergman

In 1962, while at Philco Ford, Dieter became the company’s official representative to the IPC. Dieter tag-teamed with his friend and co-worker Gerald Ginsberg on the development of a prolific run of technical publications including a multilayer design standard and the massive binder known as the IPC-D-330 IPC Design Guide. For his standards contributions, Dieter received the IPC President’s Award in 1968, the same year he assumed chairmanship of the IPC Design Committee.

Show & Tell Magazine Now Available on Demand

IPC APEX EXPO 2021 is in the history books now. But as the paperboys used to say in the 1930s, you can still “read all about it” in Real Time With… IPC APEX EXPO 2021 Show & Tell Magazine! It’s all right here in one convenient publication: interviews with award winners, coverage of keynote speeches, show notes from our technical staff, thoughts from IPC Emerging Engineers, and much more

DFM 101: PCB Materials

One of the biggest challenges facing PCB designers is understanding the cost drivers in the PCB manufacturing process. This article is the first in a series that will discuss these cost drivers (from the PCB manufacturer’s perspective) and the design decisions that will impact product reliability.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

This week’s biggest news came in the form of industry briefings—there were a lot of them and the news was universally positive. The news you need to read for this week includes three reports from IPC detailing: the strength and risks in the global economic recovery; a strong EMS book-to-bill ratio; and strong North American PCB sales. Zeroing in on a single company, Apple reported a significant jump in revenue.

IPC-2581 Revision C: Complete Build Intent for Rigid-Flex

With the current design transfer formats, rigid-flex designers face a hand-off conundrum. You know the situation: My rigid-flex design is done so now it is time to get this built and into the product. Reviewing the documentation reveals that there are tables to define the different stackup definitions used in the design. The cross-references for the different zones to areas of the design are all there, I think. The last time a zone definition was missed, we caused a costly mistake.


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