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38 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I JULY 2018 cific question. It would be a great thing to make sure that the designers of tomorrow understand what a Gerber file and an aperture list really is. Output files will eventually all morph into the next best file format and processes, but it is still a good idea to know where we have come from and why those files do what they do. We have to help the new designers under- stand the job completely, from design through manufacturing. A lot of new PCB designers know how to design a printed circuit board, but they have very little idea how that PCB will be fabricated and assembled. Because of that, they may not make the best design choices when it comes to layer stackups, clearances, and design rules in general. I think that we have a great responsibility to help new design- ers to fully understand what happens after the Gerber files are created. At the very least, it would be a great start if we could convince some of these beginning designers to give their manufacturer a call just to get acquainted. Same, but Different How will the designers of tomorrow be differ- ent? When I stated in the industry, the design- ers I learned from were the last of designers who had sketched their designs out in col- ored pencils before taping them up for a process cam- era. These guys were artists, but after a while, those of us from the computer gen- eration took over for them. There wasn't much in the way of formal education for a PCB layout designer back then; usually we came from a background of mechani- cal drafting or working as a board technician. Today the requirements of design have changed again. We are seeing more and more PCB designers who are doing the full PCB design, from the schematic all the way through layout. Because of this, designers nant one can easily turn into a death spiral as an organization slowly withers and dies, ulti- mately leaving you looking for work elsewhere (and forcing youself into change). One of those changes will be growing older in our careers, which brings us back to our start- ing point. Where have all the designers gone? As time moves on, we will hand the reins over to the next generation of PCB designers. For- tunately, this next generation won't be going at it alone. They can build their own career paths on a strong foundation of PCB design techniques and methodologies that have been laid down by all the designers preceding them. I am proud of the integrity and work ethic that PCB designers have become known for. PCB designers are the type who will keep work- ing at a task because it isn't the way that they want it, or there's a deadline to hit. I've known designers who have spent the night working out a problem in their layout because the job had to be done by morning. I've also known designers who have refused to sign off on a job to meet a schedule because they knew that something wasn't quite right. It's traits like these that have helped designers to earn their highly regarded reputations of quality, and that is just one of the great things that we will be able to pass on to the next generation of PCB designers. And we have a lot to pass on to the new designers. We must stress the impor- tance of understanding the roots of our industry and why this design knowledge is important. I have worked with many designers who don't understand anything about the output of their design files. They go through a procedure, hit a series of commands, and presto: The design files are all wrapped up in a neat little zip file ready to go out to the manu- facturer. That's all well and good, until something breaks or a manufacturer has a spe- Figure 2: Playing laser tag in 1994. Designers aren't geeks, are we?

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