Design007 Magazine

Design007-July2018

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28 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I JULY 2018 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 dis- cussion 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 recog- nize, the PCB design specialist community is aging and many are retiring, leaving a shortage. Many long established com- panies 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 elec- tronics space. Today you have a whole new breed of design engineers who are coming into the workforce, with the expectation and desire to do a lot more of the overall design process. Companies are putting electronics in every- thing these days and many of these companies don't have the resources to hire specialists. As a result, many outsource various parts of the design to service bureaus, or EMS com- panies. They're running into problems doing this because they're trying to integrate these electronics into an intricate electro-mechanical products. It is difficult to completely outsource parts of the design and expect that it will meet all of your electrical and mechanical form, fit, and function requirements. Instead, many com- panies, especially small and medium sized, are counting on their design engineers to do the PCB layout as part of their development. This requires training engineers to develop a deeper understanding of PCB design—beyond just place and route. Unless they have proper training, they will not understand all the manufacturing nuances. Placing components on a board and stitching connections between the pins is only part of the challenge. Understanding how placement is going to impact your overall design and mechanical interde- pendencies, how routing will impact electrical performance, and how decisions on layer materials, stack-up, drills, etc. will impact manufacturing yield and optimization are areas that require experience and training. Another element to this is that they're not doing PCB design all the time. Their skill sets for doing the PCB design are pretty limited since a typical engineer might use the PCB design tools only a couple weeks, or a couple of times, a year. They're not doing it eight hours a day, every day. Their expectations around usability and functionality are different, caus- ing us to re-evaluate our products as well. I often hear that other tools are "good enough." But "good enough" is only good enough for so long. Those tools run out of steam and lack fundamental power to deal with more complex challenges. The goal of our company is to pro- vide the power of our high end solutions in a product offering targeted for the design, or hardware, engineer. Shaughnessy: You look ahead, and you have to keep an eye on who's using the tools. What does this shift mean for Mentor? Paul Musto

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