Rainer Beerhalter is a physicist, and according to his design bureau’s website, “founder, owner, and mastermind” of B GMBH. He specializes in designing large LED displays such as those used in outdoor advertising, which often contain millions of LEDs.
Rainer attended the first AltiumLive in Munich in 2017, and he’s returning to this year’s event in Munich January 15–17. I asked him to tell us about the class he’ll be teaching in Munich, and why he decided to come back for the sophomore AltiumLive show.
Andy Shaughnessy: You attended the first AltiumLive show in Munich in 2017. What made you decide to come back again?
Rainer Beerhalter: The event last year was great fun. There were so many enthusiastic attendees working in many different domains, and it was easy to talk and share experiences and information. The sessions and presenters covered a wide range of PCB design aspects and topics, so even choosing the right tracks for me was an interesting challenge. And again, I have to mention the fun we had at the main evening event.
Shaughnessy: This year, you’re giving a technical talk. What topic are you going to discuss?
Beerhalter: Altium is a powerful tool. In my daily business, I often create systems that contain similar function blocks with slight variations. Is there a way beyond cut and paste for replicating functions or blocks? The answer is yes. Altium’s answer is called multichannel design. Perhaps most of the attendees do not know this feature very well. My approach is to give a feature overview and pump it with many tips and tricks, showing how designers can benefit from time and cost savings with this powerful Altium feature.
Shaughnessy: How is the PCB business doing in Germany? It looks like the automotive sector is doing really well.
Beerhalter: From my perspective running a design service, the business is running at much more than 100% capacity. You could not get free capacity short-term in the market. Experienced designers are booked for months in advance. Automotive and upcoming EV and mobility concepts are some of the key drivers; vision systems and AI for autonomous driving follow that. These markets create a demand for experienced PCB designers (or they help educate them) and PCB products to stand for quality, reliability, and cost efficiency. Standard PCBs are produced in Far East countries, but special products like (semi-)flex, 3D, and high-temperature PCBs will still be the domain of the big EU- and U.S.-based manufacturers.
Shaughnessy: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Beerhalter: In my core domain, LED large format display design, PCB trends will be improving mechanical properties (CTE) by using new materials and processes, and creating better surface flatness and stability. The trend includes chip-on-board (COB) designs where the LED dies are glued and bonded directly to the PCB surface and conductors—not using housed LEDs (like SMD LEDs) or soldered any more. This creates many challenges when you think about how to realize 0.9-mm LED pitch and precision while building up screens of 10–20 m² at such fine resolutions. Market trends and my customers’ product ranges are going in the direction of COB; it is very exciting and will change the way I design a lot. I hope to share my ideas and positive motivation with the audience at AltiumLive. I look forward to seeing new and returning attendees.
Shaughnessy: Thanks for your time, Rainer.
Beerhalter: Thank you for the opportunity.
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