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Mentor Preparing for Next-Gen PCB DesignersAugust 20, 2018 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
As Bob Dylan once sang, “The times they are a-changin'.” We’ve all seen it: A new generation of young PCB designers is (very) slowly entering the industry, and the designers we’ve known for years are retiring, or at least talking about retiring.
These millennials are going to be the future of our industry. What does this mean for the PCB design community? How do we attract more of these smart young people to the world of PCB design?
I asked Paul Musto, director of marketing for Mentor’s Board Systems Division, a Siemens business, to explain the company’s initiatives aimed at drawing more students into PCB design. We also discussed the recent movement of electrical engineers into PCB layout, the need for a clearly defined path for students seeking to become PCB designers, and some of the ways that young people are already beginning to revolutionize this mature industry.
Paul Musto: Traditionally, as we all know, most companies had functional specialists; PCB designers, electrical, mechanical, software and signal integrity engineers. Many of these companies, if they didn't have that level of skill sets, would go to service bureaus or outside contractors and would contract for those kinds of services.
I'm an EE. I graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. I was hired into Data General, a minicomputer company in Massachusetts, as one of a new team of electrical engineers to layout printed circuit boards. At that point in time, they were transitioning from a traditional PCB layout process (hand and tape) to a new CAD-based flow and wanted to have electrical engineers working on their PCB layouts. They believed that, due to the complexity and high-speed nature of their boards, EEs would have a better understanding of the fundamental electrical performance of what we're designing.
Being a recent EE, I quickly realized that I didn’t want to do PCB design as a full-time profession and only lasted about two years before moving on to a PCB design software company—which I found fascinating. At this time, EDA software was a booming industry and many exciting developments were being made. I have now spent nearly 30 years in the EDA industry, but haven't designed boards since that point. There's always been this discussion that PCB design is going to shift to the EE, because the engineer has more inherent knowledge about the electrical aspects of the design, but we haven't really seen that take place.
Well, I believe this trend is changing due to market and technology dynamics that are changing things up. One is, as we all recognize, the PCB design specialist community is aging and many are retiring, leaving a shortage. Many long-established companies you visit will have PCB designers who you've known for 25 years and are now in their late 50s and 60s.
PCB design is not a skill set that has been developed and nurtured through the years. Twenty years ago, trade schools and community-based schools offered PCB design classes, and many of them referred to it as drafting, and the person a draftsman. There would be all kinds of opportunities in the industry where people could go and learn PCB design, but many of those outlets no longer exist. It's just not a trade or a skill set that's as sought after as it was back then when you had draftsmen, electronics technicians, and mechanical designers moving into the electronics space.
To read this entire interview, which appeared in the July 2018 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.
It was a good week in PCB design and manufacturing. In this week’s wrap-up, we have news about an uptick in EMS shipments in January, a look at the current M&A climate, some guidance on investing in your company in order to stay competitive, a primer on designing with embedded capacitance materials, and a roadmap for the industry to embrace sustainable PCBs in the future.
Inovaxe, a world leader and provider of innovative material handling and inventory control systems, is excited to announce its upcoming live webinar, "What is Smart Material Handling?" scheduled for Thursday, February 29th, 2024 at 11AM EST.
Confidee, a leading PCB Partner, proudly announces their inclusion to Danish Termas list of approved suppliers.
I-Connect007 has just released the latest episode of its podcast series, On the Line with..., which focuses on designing for reality in the electronics industry. In this episode, host Nolan Johnson talks with ASC Sunstone VP/Manager Matt Stevenson about CAD tool features and data formats that help designers make better decisions and transfer better designs to manufacturing.
On the cusp of another IPC APEX EXPO, we focus on how bare board fabricators can maximize their time and investment at the show. We visited with Matt Kelly, IPC chief technologist, and Julia Gumminger, IPC professional development and events manager, as well as Udo Welzel and Stanton Rak, the chairs of the technical program committee, to discuss the technical depth and breadth that the 2024 show will bring to fabricators and professionals all along the supply chain.