Latest Articles

IPC Design Competition: On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

I recently spoke with IPC’s Patrick Crawford, manager of design standards and related industry programs, and Kris Moyer, certified IPC master instructor, about this year’s IPC Design Competition. Now in its third year, the preliminary heat began in January, and the winners will compete in the final heat at IPC APEX EXPO in Anaheim.

Feeling the Magic of a Show Opener at IPC APEX EXPO 2024

As we walked the show floor at IPC APEX EXPO on Tuesday, April 9, we were struck by the subtle differences in the feel of the show floor between Anaheim and the previous home in San Diego. Somehow, the large booths seem less dominant, and the smaller booths seem more prominent here in the shadow of Disneyland where everything feels just a little bit magical.

A Closer Look at Professional Development at IPC APEX EXPO 2024: 3D Printing and AI

While the finishing touches were being made to the show floor at IPC APEX EXPO, just as much activity was happening in the conference rooms of the Anaheim Convention Center on the days before the show officially opened. The hallways and classrooms were filled for standards committee development meetings and Professional Development Courses, and IPC hosted evening receptions for Emerging Engineers, ECWC, and those who are attending for the first time in a special “newcomers” event.

IPC APEX EXPO 2024 Readies for Tomorrow’s Show Opener

IPC APEX EXPO is finally happening in Anaheim this week. As we entered the Anaheim Convention Center this past Friday, the weather was colder than expected, but the sun still shone. Making our way to the entrance doors, the small groups of happy but tired-looking Disneyland goers filled our path, as did hundreds of young, sparkle-clad cheerleaders from across the nation whose competition was taking place in a neighboring hall.

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

Spring has definitely sprung; it was 81 degrees last week in Atlanta, and this week it’s been in the 40s. That’s typical spring weather in Atlanta. My newly cut lawn is looking great, thanks to my “yard guy” Clive. I need to finish packing for IPC APEX EXPO, so without further ado, here’s my must-reads for this week. I hope to see you at APEX next week.

IPC APEX EXPO 2024: There’s an App for That

With so many things to do at a large trade show and conference like IPC APEX EXPO, you cannot possibly take every class, attend every talk, or see every vendor on your list. But you can plan your days and maximize your time with the IPC APEX EXPO mobile app. The app allows you to easily view the show’s daily agenda, keynote speakers, the conference and professional development schedules, and, of course, flag and make notes on exhibitors.

Collaboration and Innovation: Insights from SMTA's First UHDI Symposium

Anaya Vardya provides valuable insights on industry collaboration and innovation at the first SMTA UHDI Symposium, delving into the necessity of collaboration in driving innovation and progress within our industry. He shares his experience in helping put this event together, and pride in being a part of bringing the UHDI test board to life.

Heavy Copper PCBs: Bridging the Gap Between Design and Fabrication, Part 1

They call me Sparky. This is due to my talent for getting shocked by a variety of voltages and because I cannot seem to keep my hands out of power control cabinets. While I do not have the time to throw the knife switch to the off position, that doesn’t stop me from sticking screwdrivers into the fuse boxes. In all honesty, I’m lucky to be alive. Fortunately, I also have a talent for building high-voltage heavy copper circuit boards. Since this is where I spend most of my time, I can guide you through some potential design for manufacturability (DFM) hazards you may encounter with heavy copper design.

PCBflow Helps Designers Choose Best Manufacturer for the Job

I recently spoke with a few technologists who have first-hand experience with PCBflow: Susan Kayesar, technical product manager with Siemens; Evgeny Makhline, CTO of Nistec, a CEM based in Israel; and Peter Tranitz, senior director of technology solutions and leader of the IPC Design Initiative. They explain how PCBflow functions, from the designer’s and manufacturer’s viewpoint, and how this database helps break down the wall between these stakeholders.

The Many Complexities of PFAS

In its simplest definition, PFAS is a group of chemicals used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. Fluoropolymer coatings can be in a variety of products. Though this definition is not inaccurate, it can be misleading. Depending on who you ask, there are upward of 10,000 PFAS chemistries that can meet various definitions.

UHDI Fundamentals: ASC Sponsors Ultra High Density Interconnect Symposium 

American Standard Circuits (ASC) is a major sponsor of an upcoming symposium on one of the most talked about new technologies that has come along in quite a while: ultra high density interconnect (UHDI).

Being the Best Design Engineer

During DesignCon 2024, I met with Bill Hargin, founder and CEO (Chief Everything Officer) of the stackup design software company Z-zero. In this interview, Bill discusses his stackup curriculum, what it takes to become a great design engineer, and why the best designers keep reading and challenging themselves constantly so they can stay on top of their game.

The Challenges, Opportunities, and Future Specialties of PCB Design

What were once specialties have become more generalized over time—PCB designers must learn about design automation, signal integrity (SI), electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), complex high-speed design, mechanical design, and manufacturability/producibility. Design engineers must learn about layout, simulation, and supply chains—and in their place new specialties have emerged, like multi-gigabit SerDes channel design, advanced manufacturing, IoT, and multi-physics system verification.

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

It was a busy week in PCB design and manufacturing. This has been a pretty “dense” week, and this week’s Top Five features an article on density equations by Happy Holden, and a news item about the SMTA UHDI symposium in Phoenix. We also have news about our latest podcast, and a Chris Mitchell column about economic security here and abroad. And Todd Kolmodin discusses the ins and out of 4-wire Kelvin testing, and he tells us a little about Lord Kelvin himself. 

OrCADX: High Performance That's Easy to Use

During DesignCon, I spoke with Chris Banton of EMA about the newest developments around OrCADX, which provides PCB designers with more design automation capability across the whole design process in an easy-to-use GUI. As Chris says, this tool is designed for agile design teams, and features an updated PCB UX, an enhanced 3D engine, SolidWorks integration, and AI for a superior user experience.

The Survey Said: What Does It Take to Become a Great Designer?

What does it take to become a great designer? After all, there isn’t exactly a critical path to becoming a great designer. How does a designer qualify as “great” in the first place? We posed that question to our PCB designer readers in a recent survey, and, as usual, the readers did not disappoint.

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

It may not officially be March Madness until March 17, but it feels pretty mad to me. Let’s just say it out loud: We are T-4 weeks to the IPC APEX EXPO. As I reviewed the big news of the week, I noticed quite a bit from mil/aero, and I recommend that you look for those headlines. But for now, I am more interested in the IPC Technical Conference and the ways that one engineer says you can get the most from your time spent at the show; Pete Starkey’s take on the world and European markets through the view of the EIPC keynote presenters; the reported growth in the global PCB market and the European EMS market; and what we are actually doing to remedy our workforce problems.

UHDI Fundamentals: Talking UHDI with John Johnson, Part 3

American Standard Circuits is an early adopter of Averatek’s A-SAP process for its ultra high density interconnect (UHDI) products. In this final part of my interview with industry veteran John Johnson, vice president of business development at American Standard Circuits, we use photos, slides, and materials to discuss what he learned from his previous role at Averatek.

The Survey Said: What’s the Difference Between Good and Great Designers?

With many PCB designers facing retirement, there’s been a lot of discussion about how we’ll replace this “brain drain” and what it means to be great PCB designer. Think about it: What’s the difference between a good designer and a truly great designer? We posed that question to our PCB designer readers in a recent survey.

Reassessing Surface Finish Performance for Next-gen Technology, Part 2

The introduction of 5G/6G has created a growing demand for faster rates of data transfer and operation at higher frequencies, pushing signals to travel toward the outer edges of conductors. As a result, the surface finish applied over the copper circuitry is now gaining more attention.

Book Excerpt: The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to... Thermal Management with Insulated Metal Substrates, Vol. 2, Chapter 3

Chapter 3 of this book is titled Thermal Resistance/Impedance and Measurement. To assess a vendor’s claims about the performance of an IMS, it is important to know the test method that has been applied. Designers may need to rely on empirical data and past experience to develop an IMS specification to meet their needs.

Cadence Continues ‘Left Shift’ of SI Functions 

At DesignCon, the I-Connect007 Editorial Team met with Brad Griffin, product marketing group director for the System Analysis Group at Cadence Design Systems. Brad explains how this analysis tool enables designers to address SI and PI issues early in the design process, before they become costly errors, and why he believes his late co-worker Dennis Nagel would be proud to see his efforts come to fruition. 

Embedded Design: Materials Matter

The rapid advance of mobile technologies has sparked an insatiable demand for radio spectrum bandwidth. The rush to capitalize on wider bandwidths, higher data rates, and lower latency offered by frequency bands like 5G and millimeter wave is evident across industries. Cellular 5G and 6G networks, low-Earth orbit (LEO) and mid-Earth orbit (MEO) satellites, interconnected devices (IoT), autonomous vehicles, and even defense and environmental monitoring systems are driving this paradigm shift.

Embedded Capacitors for PCBs, Chips, and Packages

Package designers and chip designers assist the PCB layout engineer by including embedded capacitors on-chip and in-package to address the entire range of frequencies where decoupling is needed. As more electronics companies take a leading role in chip and package design, there is a need to determine the appropriate amount of capacitance needed to ensure low PDN impedance throughout broad frequency ranges. This article will look at the different types of capacitors that can be used as embedded components in PCBs and in chips/packages.

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

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.

Build Tariff Planning into Product Development Strategy Early 

An attorney at DesignCon? I wasn’t sure I heard that right either, but it’s true. I sat down for an interview with international trade lawyer James Kim of ArentFox Schiff LLP. James was at the show to present a session entitled “Chips, Batteries & Charging Stations,” which highlights the Biden administration’s steps to secure the supply chain for the EV industry. James gave me a quick primer on international tariffs and trade laws, and much more.

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

It’s been another busy week in the industry. We lost another old friend last week. The EIPC show happened, and Pete Starkey provided us with complete and compelling show coverage, from start to finish. Recently, we posed the question, “When is it time to introduce embedded components into your PCB design?” which was asked and answered by design aficionado Kris Moyers in the latest issue of Design007 Magazine. We are proud to be a part of the exciting Global Insights weekly newsletter, which Nolan Johnson and Brian Knier explored in their interview, and we rounded out the week with some big merger news. Here are my picks for the past week’s must-read news items.

Imagineering Driven by Customer Demand

During DesignCon, I met with Amir Roy, vice president of business development for Imagineering. Amir discussed the company’s high-reliability manufacturing and focus on listening to the needs of their customers. Business is booming and Imagineering is adding new lines to increase capacity.

Design Guidelines for Flexible Printed Circuits

An important but sometimes overlooked aspect of flex and rigid-flex fabrication and assembly is the flex circuit tail, which is attached to a rigid PCB with pressure-sensitive conductive adhesives. This sub-assembly is becoming very common. We often see this applied to glass displays and microelectronic applications.

Catching up with BidChip’s Moshe Hezrony

I love talking with start-ups, and I’m always on the lookout for interesting ones to feature. It was with great pleasure that I learned about BidChip, a new company focused on helping companies find the best value in chips and other components, especially ones that are hard to find. I spoke with founder Moshe Hezrony about his novel approach. I learned a lot, and I think you will, too.

EIPC Winter Conference 2024, Day 2: A Closer Look at Global Trends

The opening session of the second day’s conference proceedings focused on global PCB trends and was introduced and moderated by Dr. Michele Stampanoni, vice president of strategic sales and business development at Cicor Group in Switzerland. He opened the session with Dr. Hayao Nakahara’s knowledgeable and enlightening video presentation on the IC substrates industry.

Every Designer Needs to Understand Embedded 

IPC’s Kris Moyer teaches design techniques for embedding components, and he’s noticed an upswing in his students’ interest in embedded component design. We recently spoke with him about embedding component design: best practices, pros and cons, and when it makes sense for designers to start embedding.

Ventec: The Flexibility We Need in Standards-driven Manufacturing

Ventec International COO Mark Goodwin and technology ambassador Alun Morgan had quite a bit to say at productronica 2023 about slash sheets, IPC standards, and how to bring the PCB designer closer to the supplier. As Mark says, what matters to designers, manufacturers, and even consumers, is that the products meet compliance standards, such as REACH. They don’t need to know how something is built. They just want performance and availability.

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

With such an extremely newsy week, it was hard to select just five items you absolutely must read, but here goes. We have advocacy news from PCBAA and IPC, global market data on AI PC and GenAI smartphone hardware, a roundtable discussion on sales and marketing, a bookended pair of international milaero stories emphasizing a healthy aerospace industry, and an industry report on global semiconductor sales. 

The Designer and Manufacturer Must Be in Sync

It’s no industry secret that most PCB data packages sent to fabricators from designers cannot be built as-is. The finished boards often seem to work, despite a factory estimating what the designer wanted vs. what the documentation showed, then jointly rectifying issues through lengthy technical query (TQ) cycles. In general, everyone seems to be satisfied with this process, so why do we need to improve the designer/manufacturer relationship?

A System Designer’s Dream World at DuPont

DesignCon 2024 was held January 30–February 1 in Silicon Valley, and Design007 Editor Andy Shaughnessy and I were there to experience this important show for PCB and system designers. We are always on the lookout for gems that showcase innovation and cutting-edge technology. Such an opportunity arose through a private tour at DuPont’s Silicon Valley Technology Center in Sunnyvale.

DesignCon: Suzanne Deffree Feeling Positive Energy

On Tuesday, January 30, considered “day zero” of DesignCon 2024, I caught up with Suzanne Deffree, group event director, during the Samtec welcome reception. She gave me an update on the event, particularly the launch of an initiative called 40 Under 40, a years-long effort to enable the next generation of engineers, and their interest in sustainability. We also talked about Drive World, and the important new focus on electric vehicles.

What Designers Should Know About Test

Bert Horner, president of The Test Connection, Inc. (TTCI) in Hunt Valley, Maryland, has been helping PCB designers address design-for-test challenges, as well as the need to consider DFT early in the design cycle. In this conversation, Andy Shaughnessy asked him to discuss some of the DFT issues that PCB designers need to be more aware of, and what designers can do to help PCB manufacturers avoid test problems farther down the line. As Bert says, many DFT snafus could be avoided if designers had a better understanding of the actual testing process.

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

I’m writing this in Santa Clara, California on the last day of DesignCon. It was nice to get out of Atlanta, which was 28 degrees when I left. It’s a little rainy here, but it’s been in the 60s all week, and I’ll take that kind of weather any day. In this week’s must-reads, we have a little bit of everything, including sad news about the passing of our columnist Michael Ford. Everyone who knew him just loved the guy.

Rain or Shine, DesignCon 2024 is Happening

Located in Silicon Valley, DesignCon may not be bulletproof, but it’s pretty close. If you’re an engineer working with chips, packaging, or PCBs, DesignCon is a must-attend show. Attendees and exhibitors said this year’s event seemed to be as busy as the 2019 show, which was a high-water mark for attendance right before the effects of the pandemic.  

BOOK EXCERPT: 'The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to... Stackups—The Design within the Design', Chapter 5

We are sharing this sample of 'The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to... Stackups—The Design within the Design,' by Bill Hargin, to give our readers a glimpse into the important topics that are covered in this book. He writes, "In my work, I deal with impedance and the entire ecosystem surrounding it daily. Whenever I talk to hardware teams, they often ask me the question of how two fabricators can come back with two totally different designs for the same target impedance.

Talking Digital Twin and DFT With Aster

Digital twin is a buzzword, but it’s really just a way to define what everyone has already been aiming for, says Dean Poplett, technical director at Aster Technologies. But how much does a test company need to put into digital twin? Is it all the equipment or just what needs to be tested? Dean lays out the scenarios Aster manages and how they work with companies to help them achieve their goals.

Book Excerpt: 'The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to... Designing for Reality,' Chapter 4

With an understanding of the overall manufacturing process, we can dive into the most important design-for-reality areas. Most front-end CAM tooling departments can do a great deal to help turn a marginal design into a manufacturable product, but even these superheroes have limitations to their powers.

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

It's been a chilly week for most of us in the United States, and whether you’re in the frozen Pacific Northwest (where I live) or the windswept plains of the Midwest and beyond, you were hunkering down and fighting to stay warm. What better way to pass the time than these editorial offerings. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Mya Gatzke: Mapping Out Her Future

I attended PCB Carolina at NC State’s McKimmon Center. This year’s event was the biggest show in its 10-year-plus history, and many engineering students were among the usual veteran PCB technologists. I spoke with several engineering students from the Class of 2027, and their excitement about this industry was contagious. One such freshman, Mya Gatzke, sat down for an interview. As she points out, an electrical engineering degree will come in handy in a wide variety of careers.

Save Your Design by Understanding Fab Processes

At PCB Carolina, I met with Laura Martin, director of applications engineering for Summit Interconnect. Laura has been at Summit for about a year, moving into the role from a similar position at Insulectro. She has now become Summit’s go-to design for manufacturing (DFM) expert, and she’s working to move DFM further up in the design cycle, eliminating unpleasant surprises at CAM.

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

Welcome back, readers! Glad to see you. I hope you had plenty of rest over the holidays and you don’t need a vacation from your vacation. This week, our five must-reads include articles and news items on global fab trends and challenges, a breakdown of M&A activity in 2023, Ventec’s move into the equipment arena, the opportunities that arise from designer-fabricator communication early in the design cycle, and a new kind of AOI that’s driven by an AI neural network.

What Do You Know About PCB Manufacturing?

What manufacturing concepts are designers missing? We posed this question to Tony Bell, division manager of San Diego PCB Design, which was acquired by APCT in April 2023 and continues to operate under its original name, although with plans to transition to its official new name of APCT Design. Tony has experience in PCB design, fab, assembly, and test, so we asked him what PCB designers need to know about manufacturing. He said the need for designers to continue learning about fab and assembly processes throughout their careers, and why asking questions is not bothersome, it’s necessary for the job.

Beyond Blueprints: Early Involvement Shapes Superior Fab Outcomes

PCB fabrication is the cornerstone of innovation in electronics, transforming intricate circuit designs into crucial PCBs. As technology advances, the demand for reliable PCBs with ever-increasing circuit density surges and highlights the pivotal role of fabrication in shaping the electronics landscape. In this intricate dance between innovation and execution, a symbiotic relationship emerges between designers and fabricators. This forms the core of success.

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

The Christmas and New Year’s holidays made for much-appreciated off-time in the U.S. and Europe, but there was still a lot of good industry reading for all to enjoy. From Happy Holden’s influence on our youngest and brightest to the cost of rework, policy challenges ahead for European PCB and PCBA companies, to new faces in the industry—with some bonus R2-D2 thrown in for good measure—these articles are worth a few minutes of your time. Here are my picks from this past week in industry news and feature articles.

Book Excerpt: 'The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to... Designing for Reality,' Chapter 2

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. Perfection is an unattainable goal. Don’t expect manufacturing to be perfect. There will always be variations from optimum at every step of the manufacturing process. Designers should recognize that variation and physical challenges within the PCB manufacturing process can be exacerbated by their design decisions.

EDA Tools and Unconventional Geometries - Designing Embedded Components

Designing PCBs with embedded components has never been a simple task, and traditional EDA tools required designers to employ a variety of workarounds. Fortunately, the EDA software tools of today are much better equipped to work with embedded components than previous design tools.

Happy New Year 2024 From I-Connect007

As we bid farewell to a remarkable 2023, let's welcome the New Year with renewed hope and endless possibilities. Though we are taking the day off to spend the holiday with our family and friends, the entire staff at I-Connect007 wishes you a happy and prosperous new year.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Most-returned Holiday Gifts

It’s the last Friday of 2023, and a relatively quiet news week here for the industry. Most of our staff has been spending time with family and friends. Still, the news never sleeps, and I encourage you to revisit our websites and see what’s been happening. Now, we all appreciate great gifts, but sometimes they just aren’t what we need—or want. So, in keeping with the holiday spirit, here are the top five most returned gifts.

UHDI Fundamentals: Talking UHDI with John Johnson, Part 2

American Standard Circuits is an early adopter of Averatek’s A-SAP™ process for its ultra-high density interconnect (UHDI) products. I had the opportunity to sit down with industry veteran John Johnson to discuss this. John, who previously worked at Averatek, currently works as vice president of business development at American Standard Circuits where he oversees quality.

Holiday Greetings From the Staff at I-Connect007

The staff at I-Connect007 wishes you and your loved ones a happy holiday season. Today is Christmas Day, and we wish all those celebrating this holiday a merry and carefree time.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week—Holiday Movie Edition

Every year, my friends on social media have a discussion about Christmas movies. It starts with someone asking whether “Die Hard” qualifies as a Christmas movie. Then everyone speculates about which Christmas movies are the best or worst of all time. Here are the top five highest-grossing Christmas movies of all time.

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

Ever notice how the end of the calendar year creates a “tennis spectator” effect in our thinking? Let me explain. We’ve all seen the video of people watching a tennis match, with their gazes moving back and forth, left to right, as the ball moves between the contestants; that lazy head-shake led by the gaze of the eyes, right? Well, as we reach the end of a year, we seem to take stock in what’s happened behind us (reflectively gaze to the left), and what is coming in the future (expectantly gaze to the right.) Our thoughts bounce back and forth as if time were the tennis ball. In this week’s must-reads, however, we keep our gaze firmly affixed to the right, as it were, considering the future. If you only read five pieces of industry news this week, here are my suggestions.

Unconventional Geometry Design Techniques

We survey our readers from time to time, and a number of respondents have mentioned that designing boards with odd geometries can be a real challenge. We asked design instructors Kris Moyer and Kelly Dack to discuss the challenges related to designing odd-shaped PCBs, as well as some solutions for designing today’s boards that are anything but rectangles. What’s the craziest-shaped board you’ve ever worked with?

Engineering Their Future at PCB Carolina

At the PCB Carolina show in Raleigh, North Carolina, I had the opportunity to speak to several engineering students from NC State. I sat down for an interview with Cayden Longwell, a member of the class of ’27 in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at NC State. Even as a freshman, Cayden already has a basic roadmap for his career in electronics.

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