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12 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I JULY 2018 Shaughnessy: I started asking you about your class years ago, and it was almost all design- ers with the occasional engineer. Tell us how that's changed. Webb: I do think it's been gradual. My honest opinion is that most engineers don't really want to design boards, they just want the designs done right, and the boards to function properly. The technology has changed so much and the vision that engineers and their management still have is of designers being connect-the- dots kind of people. So, that leaves it to engineers to pick up the gauntlet and move forward with it. And that's not a bash on engineers at all; I'm glad they want to know about PCB design. But I don't think they want to be a designer full time. I think they want to be engineers, designing and testing circuits rather than designing boards. Both have equal chal- lenges and both have equal rewards. But if you've been trained in college to be a circuit designer, you don't necessarily want to design the board as well. Designing has gotten so much more complex over last 15–20 years, and perceptions have not kept up. People tend to think that the engi- neers need to do it, but that's not necessarily the case. I believe that the people who have been in the field, or are interested in the field, need to work at getting training and continu- ously learning in order to show managers that they have what it takes. They also need to push their management to pay for the training they need, so that they can deliver the best product. Because it's challenging. You have to under- stand how the signals work within the board structure itself, as opposed to understanding how this signal needs to connect to that part, and everything else that goes with it. Shaughnessy: Do you find that the EEs in your class get any sort of PCB layout experience in college, any sort of education on PCB design? Webb: You're going to pin me against the wall on that issue [laughs]. I understand that many engineers have been taught to design a simple circuit and make it into a simple board, and maybe even have it fabricated and assembled. So they say, "Yeah, I've done a board." But that's not really what board design is all about. So they may have some experience, but it might not be by any stretch of the imagi- nation what will be required on the typical high-speed, controlled impedance board with complex stack-up control, and all the things that requires. None of them are taught how to design for fabrication or assembly, or what might work best for testing. Nor are they taught how the signals might interact with each other, how the return current will work, or what con- stitutes a good fabrication package to send to fab and assembly. Unfortunately I don't think they're taught any of that in college. Shaughnessy: And this last year at PCB West you had 20 attendees, and they were pretty much all engineers, isn't that right? Webb: Yes. It's certainly more engineers, with the occasional newcomer to the field too. But they're more often engineers, and I'm glad to see them. If they are going to design the boards, they need to learn the right way to do it. Because nothing we do as designers is done randomly; it's done because of the domino effect that might be created down the road. What we do affects the assembly, fabrication, the electronics involved, and more. If you put the parts in the wrong position, you're affect- ing how well the electronics will work, so you MUST understand what you're doing, how the parts will work together or the negative impact they might have on each other. Connecting the dots has not been the correct way to design boards, for many years. I see all this as a need for whoever is going to be designing the boards—a newcomer, a person who has been in the field for a while, or Susy Webb

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