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Rigid-flex Design Guidelines 

Rigid-flex circuits are unique structures; part rigid board and part flex, they’re increasingly working their way into many of the electronic devices we use every day. There have been many advances in rigid-flex lately as more companies find themselves exploring this technology. So, before I started writing this article about rigid-flex design, I double-checked a few things. Fortunately, there is plenty of rigid-flex information available on a variety of great websites that we all know and trust.

Three Things to Improve High-Speed PCB Signoff, Part 2

Another challenge for SerDes is losses within the channel design. At high speeds, dielectric material can be very lossy, making the appropriate selection of the right material, length, etc., critical for the channel. Many questions about stackup, trace widths, and height from the ground plane need to be defined up front. Simulating a signal with a topology explorer tool extracted from the design can be used to set up and run sweep parameters and push min/max length/spacing values into the Allegro schematic constraint manager (system capture).

PCB West Review: EDA Tool Companies Finally Embrace AI

The weather couldn’t have been better for PCB West, and PCB designers and manufacturers packed the show floor for much of the exhibition on Wednesday, Sept. 20 in Santa Clara, California. The show floor was sold out, and it was great seeing old friends and meeting new ones.

Rigid-flex Stackup: It’s a 3D World

Z-zero founder Bill Hargin has been studying stackup design techniques for years. He developed the company’s PCB stackup planning software, and he wrote an I-Connect007 eBook, The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Stackups: The Design within the Design. In this interview, Bill shares his thoughts on designing rigid-flex stackups, the challenges they bring, and what rigid board designers need to know about designing stackups in 3D. “Flexperts” Mark Finstad of Flexible Circuit Technologies and Nick Koop of TTM Technologies also offer insight into the many tradeoffs that rigid-flex designers face.

Book Excerpt: 'The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... Manufacturing Driven Design,' Chapter 5

In chapter 5 of 'The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... Manufacturing Driven Design', the author, Max Clark, looks at transparent collaboration and examines the adoption of cloud-based platforms. He writes, “If the electronics manufacturing industry focuses on formats alone, they are looking backwards, resolving the problems of yesterday and limiting industry advancement in this fundamental area.”

Rigid-flex DFA

Rigid-flex assembly brings its own set of issues, but designers can do quite a bit to make things easier on their downstream brethren. We asked IPC instructor Kris Moyer to give us the lowdown on DFA for rigid-flex circuitry.

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

We’ve had a hot week in this industry. In my picks for this week, we introduce a new SMT007 columnist, and we have a look at the CHIPS Act one year later. We have a great article about sourcing diversification, and a look at the latest electronics news coming out of India. And columnist Vern Solberg explains DFM best practices for flexible circuits.

An Overview of Rigid-flex Design

For this month’s issue on rigid-flex design, we spoke with instructor Kris Moyer, who teaches the IPC class “PCB Design for Flex and Rigid-Flex Boards.” In this wide-ranging interview, Kris breaks down the hurdles facing rigid-flex designers and offers a variety of solutions for rigid board designers taking on their first rigid-flex circuits. He also provides a few horror stories to illustrate what happens if you don’t follow sound design practices, rules, and standards. And, as Kris points out, “Your fabricator is your friend.”

Sourcing Diversification – Empowering Your Supply Chain for Success

In today's interconnected and rapidly evolving business landscape, sourcing diversification has emerged as a crucial strategy for organizations aiming to stay competitive and thrive in a dynamic marketplace. The traditional approach of relying on a single source for procurement is being replaced by a more sophisticated and strategic mindset that emphasizes the advantages of exploring multiple procurement channels. This approach not only opens doors to a whole different network of suppliers, but also offers numerous benefits, such as navigating sales increases, ensuring smoother deliveries, and promoting innovation within the organization.

Book Excerpt: 'The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... Manufacturing Driven Design,' Chapter 4

In Chapter 4 of 'The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... Manufacturing Driven Design,' the author, Max Clark, explores industry advancements that bridge the gap between concurrent and intelligent DFM. Both systems complement each other within the typical workflow and represent the beginnings of a transition away from a classical DFM, allowing for an improved NPI process.


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

As I looked over the news and stories of the week, I noticed "firsts" from Insulectro and Lockheed Martin, plus a historic transition in leadership at Foxconn. There’s also financial health from KLA, and upbeat market data from IPC. With the start of a new school year, and often a fiscal year, September brings a sense of newness and change for many of us.

Challenges in Modern PCB Design and Analysis

Zuken recognizes the need to address innovation in all areas of the design process while remaining responsive to customer-driven requirements. While we can make predictions about various challenges, concerns, and requirements, our customers play a vital role in shaping the company’s development direction. They have the benefit of being “in the trenches,” so to speak, on a daily basis, so they are the subject matter experts and can help identify gaps in our tools based on where their processes are heading.

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

As we head into the Labor Day weekend, we have a variety of articles for this week’s editor’s picks. Hannah Nelson discusses the onboarding process she went through when she started a new job. Gaurab Majumdar explains why tech companies should consider hiring workers from India. Happy Holden details the importance of great sensor technology and why sensors are a critical ingredient in Smart manufacturing processes. Mike Brask discusses the new IPS ENIG line installed at the SEL facility in Idaho, and Chris DeMartino explains how Modelithics works to provide simulation models, primarily for the RF/microwave community.

PCB Design, Digital Twin, and Digital Transformation

There’s been a lot of talk lately about digital twin and its use in PCB fabrication and assembly. Manufacturers have been quick to get onboard the digital twin train. But what about PCB designers and design engineers? Can the front-end folks benefit from digital twin? We asked David Wiens, Xpedition product manager for Siemens Digital Industries Software, to weigh in on this topic. He’s been involved with digital twin for years, and he explained what digital twin can potentially offer to PCB design, and why he believes designers have been using digital twin for decades, whether they realize it or not.

Three Ways to Improve High-Speed PCB Signoff, Part 1

Signal integrity (SI) and power integrity (PI) are top priorities for engineers designing today’s high-speed, high-density circuit boards, and faster signoff of designs can be achieved by uncovering SI/PI issues early in the design process, before costly respins are required. Three key issues engineers need to overcome to sign off on high-speed PCB designs include power analysis, serializer/deserializer (SerDes) link compliance, and double data rate (DDR) memory interface compliance.

Book Excerpt: 'The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... Manufacturing Driven Design', Chapter 3

Chapter 3 of 'The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... Manufacturing Driven Design' defines MDD as the method of providing full manufacturing awareness within the design process in a manner that allows designers to optimize a design for manufacturing with the first release. The author explains why a change is needed to what we refer to as DFM and how MDD is different—in a good way.

Model Citizens: Modelithics

We recently asked Chris DeMartino, an applications engineer at Modelithics, to discuss the company’s focus on providing simulation models, primarily for the RF and microwave segments. In this interview, Chris explains the Modelithics business “model” and why the need for good models continues to grow at a rapid pace.

Book Excerpt: 'The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... Manufacturing Driven Design,' Chapter 2

Chapter 2 of 'The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... Manufacturing Driven Design' explores why a change is needed due to increasing complexity in electronics design. The miniaturization and resultant increase in number of design features make it virtually impossible to manually verify a design's manufacturing fit.

3D Electromagnetic Analysis

Data rates in PCB interconnects are increasing in all signaling protocols (PCIe, DDR, GDDR, Ethernet, USB, SAS, InfiniBand, CEI, OIF, 5G). Most of those high-speed signaling standards have one-lane data rates over 6 Gbps (GT/s) and some up to 112 Gbps with signal spectrum in microwave and even millimeter wave bandwidths. Design of compliant interconnects at these data rates cannot simply rely on geometrical rules or rules of thumb. Signal distortion by reflections, dissipation and crosstalk can cause interconnect performance degradation or even failure. To avoid it, signal integrity compliance analysis and possible interconnect optimization is required.

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

This week, we have an article about flex-hybrid electronics, which the military and aerospace folks are following closely. We have an article about the digital twin and what it is—and what it’s not. We have 10 outside-the-box ideas for closing the deal—be sure to forward this to your sales team. John Perry brings us an interview with a father/son team of IPC volunteers. (Would you want your children to work in this industry?) Finally, John Watson discusses AI, simulation and SPICE, and what they have to offer for PCB designers.


The Fabric of Our Lives: A Closer Look at Standards for E-Textiles

The e-textiles industry recognizes IPC as a leader in standards development for the greater electronics industry, and in 2017 asked IPC for assistance to develop global standards for materials, design, and manufacture of e-textiles. Volunteers quickly adapted to IPC’s processes by integrating themselves into the fabric (pun intended) of IPC’s global standardization efforts.

How Far Can We Trust AI?

Since the advent of computers, engineers have been trying to create systems that “think” for themselves—making that leap from repeating an algorithm to actually inventing one itself. Sheldon Fernandez, CEO of DarwinAI, discusses the difference between true artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML), and whether we can trust what AI gives us. Is AI only as good as the training it’s given by a human?

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

This week, we have news about APCT’s acquisition of San Diego PCB Design, and PCBAA’s continued push to impress upon Congress the need to support electronics manufacturing in the U.S. Steve Williams breaks down the details behind Lean manufacturing, TQM and Six Sigma. Columnist Tim Haag explains how he learned to design advanced and complex PCBs. And Nolan Johnson has a great interview with Daniel Barish of Celanese, who discusses some of the company’s latest low-temperature co-fired ceramics and their advantages.

Book Excerpt: 'The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... Manufacturing Driven Design'

Chapter 1 of 'The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... Manufacturing Driven Design' revolves around understanding and acknowledging the progression of DFM which will help us discern between those tenets which are core to successful practices, and those which are holding us back. In MDD, manufacturing process requirements drive design decisions prior to and throughout the design layout process.

A Front Row Seat for U.S. Military R&D

It must be fun to work at a job that has a place in the history of the United States. Ryan Lang can tell you all about it. Ryan is a PCB designer at the New Mexico State University’s Physical Science Laboratory, where much of the early research for rocket guidance systems took place. I recently spoke with Ryan about his job, as well as the milaero PCB design class that he took with IPC’s Kris Moyer.

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

Holy mackerel, dear readers, you’ve been reading the good stuff this past week. I won’t need to steer you toward any of the must-read (but sometimes overlooked) content because your collective reading habits (as measured by clicks and reads) gravitated to the same things as I did. This week’s picks include an interview from IPC Community magazine on sustainability, two pieces on space travel technology, a new partnership between two well-known companies in our industry, and the July market report from IPC. Keep reading to see what I’m talking about.

Mil/Aero Design: Not Just Another High-Rel Board

Meijing Liu, CID+, is a senior PCB designer for Microart Services, an EMS company in Markham, Ontario, Canada. She recently took a six-week military/aerospace PCB design class from IPC’s Kris Moyer, and she was surprised at how much content she was able to absorb in such a short time. I spoke with Meijing and we discussed some of her takeaways from the class, and how it has inspired her to pursue more design education in the future.

Book Excerpt: 'The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... Manufacturing Driven Design'

Our latest I-007eBook, brought to you by Siemens, introduces a new process workflow for optimizing your design called Manufacturing Driven Design (MDD) and is a distinct evolution from DFM. When defining Manufacturing Driven Design, it is important to recognize that this is, foremost, an element of the design stage.

Solving the Challenge of the Workforce Pipeline: A New Resource to Careers in Electronics

An aerospace engineer walks onto the job at $72,770 and can double their salary in just a few years. In fact, careers in the electronics industry can provide a sizable salary, but exactly how much will you make? A new resource from the IPC Education Foundation breaks down the most common career paths in electronics manufacturing, from operators to owners. What jobs are available? What does someone in the electronics industry even do?

Reduce Board Skyline With Solid Cavity Design

With the increasing shrinkage of modern electronics in both board size and product volume, it’s becoming more difficult to mount components to the PCB surface and still meet volumetric requirements. To avoid chip-on-board (COB) processing, board cavities can help mitigate the Z-axis skyline volumetric issues and allow for components that would otherwise not fit within the skyline to be used.


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

This week’s must-reads follow the trend toward iterative and ongoing improvements and advancements. The must-know news this week includes coverage of SEMICON (based on reader interest), updates on the EU’s Chips Act and ongoing advocacy for the printed circuits sector, design tips from an aerospace engineer, and a PCB fabrication merger.

RF Antenna Design on the Bleeding Edge

At SMTA Atlanta Tech Expo and Forum, I met with PCB designer Albert Gaines, owner of HiGain Design Services. Albert has been working on some really interesting, fragmented aperture antenna designs, and some of this stuff is really pushing the limits. Albert and I discussed his work with RF, the differences between COTS and custom antennas, and his efforts to educate engineers about what they can and can’t do.

Designing Aerospace PCBs: A Galaxy of Challenges

Jeffrey Boye designs aerospace PCBs at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. After a decade or so at the APL, some of his boards are currently floating in space. Jeffrey recently took a class with IPC instructor Kris Moyer titled “PCB Design for Military and Aerospace Applications.” As Jeffrey explains in this interview, this exhaustive class covered everything from high-reliability DFM techniques to Paschen’s curves, which help engineers understand and predict how a high-voltage signal travels in different atmospheres. He also discusses some of the “wacky” projects that he’s worked on at the APL, and the need to communicate with fabricators early on with aerospace applications.

Mark Thompson's Biggest Problems With PCB Designs

What are the top problems I see with PCB design? From where I sit now on the assembly side, one of my biggest concerns related to PCB design is the lack of uniform part markings on the Gerber or ODB++ data, specifically the way customers reference diodes. We would prefer either an “A” depicting the anode side or a “C” or “K” for the cathode side. Many customers simply use either a line or a dot, which requires us to contact them to clarify which side is the cathode and which side is the anode.

Major U.S. Holiday Today: Independence Day

Today marks the 247th Independence Day of the United States of America. Also known as the Fourth of July, this day commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress, as well as the declaration by the Congress that the American colonies are free and independent states.

What Are Hiring Managers Looking For?

Paul Farquhar recently took a few PCB design classes from John Watson, who doubles as a Palomar College professor when he’s not working at Altium. John teaches classes on basic and advanced PCB design, and he works to help students land jobs afterward. I asked Paul to discuss what he learned in John’s classes, as well as where he hopes to work afterward and how John and the college are working with industry to provide trained designers for the many open PCB designer positions.

Design Challenges: From The Assembler’s Viewpoint

Fabricators are fairly vocal about the design issues that they encounter, especially with brand-new customers. They are, after all, the next step in the process. But we don’t hear as much about design issues from EMS providers. This month, we asked experts from the PCB assembly segment to share their thoughts about design challenges that affect technologists on the EMS side.

Are You Still Over-materializing?

During the recent IEEE IMS2023 Exhibition in San Diego, we caught up with James Hofer, general manager of Accurate Circuit Engineering (ACE). The company is a prototype manufacturer of bare printed circuit boards that specializes in high-mix, low volume with an emphasis on RF, microwave, and antennas. A few years ago, we talked to James about the over-materialization of boards. In this recent discussion, we wanted to know if anything has changed regarding materials and approach. James also shares his thoughts on the changes in the design community.

Isola Changing With the Times

Changing market conditions require changes in approach. I-Connect007’s Barry Matties and Nolan Johnson speak with Isola’s Travis Kelly, Sean Mirshafiei, and Kirk Thompson about Isola’s recent responses to market conditions. In this interview, Kelly, Mirshafiei and Thompson outline recent changes to Isola senior leadership, optimizing manufacturing to meet the needs of the global market, and the strategic importance of advanced packaging to the global economy, and to the U.S., in particular.

EIPC Summer Conference 2023: Day 1 Review

Mid-morning on June 15 in Munich, after the conclusion of an informative and thought-provoking keynote session, the EIPC Summer Conference got under way with a series of presentations on Smart manufacturing, introduced and moderated by EIPC board member Dr. Michele Stampanoni, vice president strategic sales and business development at Cicor Group.


Altium 365 GovCloud Offers Increased Security

Altium recently launched Altium 365 GovCloud, a dedicated platform accessible only to—and managed solely by—U.S. persons. The company says that GovCloud can help customers to be in compliance with ITAR, EAR, and other requirements. I spoke with Bruno Blasigh, Director of Cloud Security for Altium 365, about the new platform, how it functions, and how GovCloud can help to keep foreign entities from accessing your data.

Reassessing Surface Finish Performance for Next-gen Technology, Part 1

Over the years, various surface finishes have been successfully utilized, namely organic solderability preservative (OSP), immersion silver (ImAg), immersion tin (ImSn), electroless nickel immersion gold (ENIG), and electroless nickel electroless palladium immersion gold (ENEPIG), as solderable finishes for PCB and package substrates. All these surface finishes have their pros and cons, with no single finish being suited to all applications. As system designers continue to respond to new performance demands, it can be noted that ENIG/ENEPIG finishes have endured as a leading choice in many advanced applications where reliability is prioritized over cost.

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

June 21 marked the first official day of summer, and it’s the longest day of the year. I’m wearing by best Hawaiian shirt right now. But we’ve been too busy to hit the beach yet. There’s a lot going on in our industry right now. In this week’s Top 5, we have our coverage of the recent SMTA Oregon Expo & Tech Forum, a show that drew a good crowd of technologists.

Rigid-flex, Rigidized Flex, or Hybrid Flex?

In a recent interview with Design007 Magazine managing editor Andy Shaughnessy, he asked me about rigid-flex and its new popularity. This seems like a perfect opportunity to dig into the topic and discuss the differentiation between rigid-flex, rigidized flex, and what I am calling a hybrid flex.

PCB Design Challenges—From the Fabricator’s Viewpoint

If you’re a fabricator, chances are you have a few things to say about at least a few of the PCB designs that make their way through your shop. I guarantee that you have several well-worn stories about designs that made you scratch your head and think, “Hmmmm.” So, in this section, we asked PCB fabrication experts to share their thoughts about challenges that PCB designers need to more thoroughly understand. Do you see yourself on either side of these issues?

It’s a Team Effort: Final Episode in Sustainability Series Out Now

Available on I-007e and Spotify, Episode 6 of I-Connect007’s podcast, On the Line with… features an interview with Siemens’ Jonathan Fromm, product owner in predictive analytics, who introduces us to the “eight R’s” of sustainability. Fromm also draws parallels between the idea of thinking globally and the act of crafting holistic sustainability initiatives.

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

It’s always interesting to see what themes emerge from reader interest in our news coverage over the past seven days. This week, there are two: making plans and Southeast Asia. Our curated list of must-read content includes planning for the following items: new courses from IPC, a new listing on the NYSE, a new manufacturing facility for materials in Southeast Asia, brand-new inspection equipment solutions for SEMICON West, and new air traffic management systems in Indonesia.

Design Problems: From the Designers’ Viewpoint

It seems like everyone has something to say about PCB designers and the way they do their jobs. Everyone involved in the process likes to chime in with advice for the front-end folks. But what do designers think about their segment of the industry? This month, we asked PCB designers and design engineers to discuss their biggest pain points.

An Exclusive Review of the Institute of Circuit Technology’s Annual Symposium

After a long crawl through heavy traffic on the M42 motorway, it was a great relief to exit at Junction 6 and arrive at the National Conference Centre for the 2023 Annual Symposium of the Institute of Circuit Technology on June 6. The conference center is co-located with the historic National Motorcycle Museum and situated in the heart of the UK midlands, a stone’s throw from Birmingham International Airport. The delegates were welcomed by technical director Bill Wilkie.

IEEE IMS Show: A High-Speed Designer’s Paradise

The IEEE International Microwave Symposium is underway this week at the San Diego Convention Center, and the I-Connect007 team is on site for the opening of the exposition. For a PCB designer or design engineer, virtually all the sources for board raw materials were present on the show floor: semiconductors, board material suppliers, fabricators, design bureaus, design tool vendors, EMS equipment manufacturers, solder, and more.


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

It’s summertime, but the industry is staying pretty busy. This week, we have news about our industry putting pressure on our elected officials to provide funding for U.S. companies under the CHIPS Act, and a counterfeit parts symposium presented by SMTA in Maryland next month. We also bring you articles about ultra HDI design and material selection, and our most recent On the Line with… podcast with Zac Elliott of Siemens.

DFM 101: Cost Driver Summary

One of the biggest challenges facing PCB designers is not understanding the cost drivers in the PCB manufacturing process. We will wrap up this DFM series with a summary of cost drivers that impact delivery, quality and reliability. It is categorized by low-, medium-, and high-cost adders.

Slash Sheets: Don’t Fall Into the Trap

Slash sheets can be confusing, and this is a big topic, so let’s start big and drill down from there. Here’s the big picture regarding slash sheet references: They were designed to provide handy groupings of PCB materials (laminates, polyimides, etc.) that go into a stackup. These groupings are designed around mechanical characteristics to provide insight for PCB fabricators to identify similar laminates with similar properties.

Sustainability in Logistics Discussion Continues

Episode 5 of I-Connect007’s podcast, On the Line with… features an interview with Zac Elliot, Siemens technical marketing engineer, who discusses sustainability in logistics internal to the factory. Listeners will hear how ineffective logistics create wasted effort in the form of ineffective materials transfers, or increasing line down-time when materials are not flowing to the line properly.

Slash Sheets and Material Selection

Doug Sober helped pioneer the development of IPC’s first slash sheets in 1996 for IPC-4101, Specification for Base Materials for Rigid and Multilayer Printed Boards and we asked him to discuss slash sheets—what they are, what they are not, and why PCB designers might benefit from an IPC materials guide developed specifically for designers.

Sustainability in Logistics: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Episode 4 of I-Connect007’s new podcast, On the Line with… features an interview with Christian Wendt, marketing and communications department head at Siemens Digital Logistics. Wendt discusses the most obvious area of concern for logistics sustainability: reduction of the carbon footprint.

Memorial Day: A Time for Remembrance

Today is the Memorial Day federal holiday in the United States. Observed on the last Monday in May, the day is set aside to honor and mourn U.S. military personnel who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The holiday’s roots trace back to remembrance of the soldiers on both sides of the U.S. Civil War.

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

It’s been a busy week here at I-Connect007, an even busier week for PCB designers and manufacturers. This week, we published a variety of articles and news items. In this week’s wrap-up, we have an interview with Rex Rozario that is basically a historical look at the birth of commercial PCB manufacturing, and his involvement with the Rolling Stones in their early days. Then we bring you a look at trends in freight costs, which are—fortunately—heading southward right now.

Knowledge: At the Heart of Great Customer Service

David Thomas, master IPC trainer at EPTAC, says that the more you understand the work and technology that go into your processes and products, the better you can serve your customers. That includes knowing the basics.

Selecting Flex Materials: Do Your Homework

While the layout of the circuit gives us much of the electrical characteristics of the design, your choice of materials can affect the mechanical and electrical characteristics of the circuit. Material choices affect not only the design of the circuit for its environment, but also the manufacturing and assembly processes. While the layout of the circuit gives us much of the electrical characteristics of the design, your choice of materials can affect the mechanical and electrical characteristics of the circuit.


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