The Shaughnessy Report: Are You Drowning in Data?


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Data management was so much simpler during the days of Mylar and Bishop Graphics tape. Data was handwritten. All you had to do was keep track of your paperwork and you were golden.

Now, you’re all much more productive, but you have data coming out of your ears; slowly but surely, incrementally, data has become much more complicated. Design teams grapple with schematic symbols, CAD components, footprints, BOM, netlists, simulation models, 3D models, and user-generated and third-party tool-generated data. Not to mention files for Gerbers, ODB++, or IPC-2581, all the way through final data handoff to CAM.

And still, more than 30 years after the advent of EDA tools, not much has changed. How do designers and engineers wind up managing all of this data? With kluged-together processes and software tools, and the occasional handwritten notes.

It all sounds like a headache waiting to happen. 

We recently surveyed subscribers about their data and data management processes, and many of you reported that keeping data organized is a constant challenge. Gerber is still far and away the No. 1, but over half of respondents used ODB++, meaning that many of your output both sets of files. IDF, AutoCAD and STEP are also popular.

Designers want to hear feedback from their fabricators, assembly partners, customers, and electrical engineers. Among the “other” answers, popular responses were feedback from QC and EDA tool vendors.

When asked about the biggest challenges they faced involving data, respondents ranked accuracy of data No. 1, followed by data management and timeliness of data. Among some of the “other” answers were “verification of data provided to vendors” and “going through all the steps to make sure ODB files generate correctly and completely.”

We also found that about a third of respondents don’t use any statistical data, but almost half of respondents said they used limited stat data, and 7% would like to use statistical data, but have no idea where to begin.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the November 2015 issue of The PCB Design Magazine, click here.

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