Design Circuit: An Update on IPC and IPC Design

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While the world seemingly stands still, IPC’s technical standards committees are teeming with activity. I do not track by-the-numbers attendance for all my committee meetings, but I have noticed a sharp uptick in the number of individuals who have attended these virtual meetings in the past couple of months.
In fact, most of the IPC technical liaisons have observed the same thing and have expressed something to the effect of, “Everyone is so willing to voice their opinions and donate their time.” One of my colleagues told us that their committee members have even pleaded for more work. This is a bit of a shock—while we are always proud and appreciative of how our committees contribute their time and talents to produce our standards—this level of engagement is phenomenal.
As this involvement has increased, productivity has naturally increased. In the past few months, the timeline for design standards has accelerated. For example, the IPC 1-14 DFX Subcommittee has made great strides in finishing a working draft of the IPC-2231A DFX Guidelines. I am very proud to announce that the IPC 2-16 DPMX Subcommittee has just finished dispositioning a Final Draft for Industry Review (FDIR) for the IPC-2581C “Generic Requirements for Printed Board Assembly Products Manufacturing Description Data and Transfer Methodology” standard. I will be writing about these committees and their achievements more extensively in future columns. 
Considering the world in which we find ourselves, and after a couple of months’ worth of hard work, the question arises: Why is there such a high level of engagement? We have observed a few reasons. 
First, in a time when many professionals in the electronics industry are surrounded by uncertainty, any opportunity for them to focus on something that is well-understood and productive is welcome. The next reason is a logistic one: Now that many people are working from home, they are using the hours they spent commuting to now help out with industry standards. And finally, we have noticed that folks, for lack of a better term, are bored without their usual outlets and hobbies so they are giving standards development their full attention.
I would like to take a moment and thank all our industry volunteers. Truly, we at IPC are grateful for your efforts in the past few months. We would not be able to produce any of our published work without you. But looking elsewhere, I do not believe that this kind of engagement should stop at standards development. 
Last month, I wrote about the importance of competition for improving the technical skills of printed board design professionals and how competition can be an avenue for technical networking among industry veterans and new professionals alike. (Shameless plug: I am still recruiting design professionals to donate their time to plan and execute the IPC Design Competition.) This was intentionally forward-looking, and it envisioned a future when social distancing rules had relaxed a bit. Hopefully, that future is near.
But right now, the situation is still fluid. Some areas of the world have done well to flatten their curves, yet others are continuing their efforts to turn the tides of infection. While scientists and policymakers are working hard to resolve the myriad economic and sociological issues that come with COVID-19, one fact is true for most areas of the globe: Having large-group gatherings—especially of more than 10 people—might be a long way off. 
I hope you will not mind if I backtrack from the future to the present and discuss how design professionals can become and stay involved with one another from the comfort of their own lockdown, and as the world slowly learns what the “new normal” looks like. I firmly believe in the power of the human spirit; I have been comforted to watch as humans from around the world work through their isolation by connecting more than ever before. In a world of closed doors, we have turned to Windows (or MacOS, or any number of Linux flavors).
This returns us to my introduction. While the world stands still, IPC’s technical standards committees are teeming with activity. However, there are plenty of other ways that printed board professionals can donate their time toward building a stronger community and forging new avenues for their careers. 
Out of an abundance of caution and respect for the gravity of the rapidly developing situation, we decided to temporarily delay the creation of new chapters after the debut of IPC Design at IPC APEX EXPO 2020. However, based on the level of engagement we have seen in our technical standards committees, we now feel comfortable in pursuing these openings. We have started to organize design engineers in Italy, Israel, Salt Lake City, Asia, New England, Texas. Every day, more design engineers are coming together to take part in IPC Design. 
Above all, we want to empower folks to continue to practice distancing hygiene while still enabling them to exercise their creative, social, and technical minds. To that end, we are beginning to develop a new speaker series that combines board design engineering with more general product design in the industry. As an example, a talk might consist of a mechanical engineer discussing the design of a regenerative braking unit in an electric car while a board design engineer discusses how the unit’s control board was designed given the mechanical and electrical constraints of the system.
Another new effort will be the creation of a technical paper library that includes board design engineering and related technologies for all IPC Design affiliates. To build this library, we may choose to embrace our pillar of competition by awarding the best submissions with recognition or prizes at industry events. In any case, we will be accepting submissions from all affiliates. 
Of course, the future of IPC Design is contingent on the future state of the electronics industry and the world at large, but we have hope. If the activity in IPC’s standards committees and the initial response to IPC Design are bellwethers for the future of the printed board design engineering industry, then these first programs will only be the tip of the iceberg insofar as what we can accomplish. 
This column originally appeared in the June 2020 issue of Design007 Magazine.



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