Design007 Magazine

PCBD-Apr2015

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44 The PCB Design Magazine • April 2015 to answer his question and with that he resolved his problem. I really didn't do anything too spe- cial for him, but my simple answer opened up for him a whole new direction that he could take, and that got him unstuck. In the same vein, another important tool in your utility belt is a solid understanding of your CAD application. Knowing what you are doing when you hit the keyboard can save you lots of time and frustration, and will make you much more efficient at your job. Read the help manu- als, seek out other users as mentors, spend time with the online tutorials, and even sign up for training if needed. And as you come up to speed on your design tools, be flexible and adapt to the process that your specific CAD application is designed for. Let me tell you from personal experience, it's extremely unproductive to be- rate the support staff because you were expecting the "View All" menu command to be in a different location than where it actually is. Using the excuse "Well, that's the way my old CAD system worked!" isn't very helpful. Instead, get well acquaint- ed with your system and become the super user that others will look up to for help. It's also important to have resources to help you with design questions. Perhaps you're stuck trying to lay out a circuit with unusual require- ments, or you are unfamiliar with a new type of technology. It is always a good idea to have lot of different people available that you can go to for help. Just recently I was trying to come up with a way to help a customer with a library process problem. The answer was right in front of me, but I was so focused on doing it a cer- tain way that I never considered a different ap- proach. A quick conversation with a co-worker turned on the light of inspiration for me that I needed to help this customer. Staying current on design blogs, forums, application FAQs and other Q&A websites is also very helpful. And keeping up with different industry resources and design periodicals like this one is another great tool to have at your fingertips. Here's another good tool to have in your belt: preparation. This may sound pretty basic, but I feel that it is perhaps the most important tool of all for a PCB designer. When I was designing and starting a new project, I took the time to go through the entire design and familiarize my- self thoroughly with it. I researched the parts that I was going to use, I looked at the floor-planning that the engineer was expect- ing, and I prepped the design database with as much up- front information that I pos- sibly could. I have seen many other de- signers just jump in and start throwing things on the screen while I was still going through all the data. Sometimes those designers would pull way ahead of my work and they looked very impressive. But as time went by, those other de- signers would then start to re- work their board because they had made a mistake with library parts, or their rushed placement did not allow enough room for criti- cal routing, or any one of a number of different reasons. I'm not saying that I'm the "be all, end all" of how to design, but I do know that my rate of re-work was much lower than other de- signers because I made sure that I was prepared for the job, up front. Part of being prepared is also being alert so you don't do something that you'll regret later. When I was a kid we had a very underpowered lawn mower, and grass would always get backed up inside it. I would have to shut the mower off and pull the packed grass out of the exit chute every 25 yards or so. This got so annoying that after a while I would just dig the grass out with my hand while the mower was still running. You can see this one coming can't you? Yep. One day I stuck my hand in too far and one of my fingers found the spinning blade. For- tunately the mower was so weak that all it did THE UTILITy BELT continues tim's takeaways It's also important to have resources to help you with design questions. Perhaps you're stuck trying to lay out a circuit with unusual requirements, or you are unfamiliar with a new type of technology. It is always a good idea to have lot of different people available that you can go to for help. " "

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