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PCBD-Nov2015

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8 The PCB Design Magazine • November 2015 by Andy Shaughnessy i-CoNNECT007 THE SHAuGHNESSY REPORT Are You Drowning in Data? column Data management was so much simpler dur- ing the days of Mylar and Bishop Graphics tape. Data was handwritten. All you had to do was keep track of your paperwork and you were golden. Now, you're all much more productive, but you have data coming out of your ears; slow- ly but surely, incrementally, data has become much more complicated. Now, design teams grapple with schematic symbols, CAD com- ponents, footprints, BOM, netlists, simulation models, 3D models, and user-generated and third-party tool-generated data. Not to mention files for Gerbers, ODB++, or IPC-2581, all the way through final data handoff to CAM. And still, more than 30 years after the ad- vent of EDA tools, not much has changed. How do designers and engineers wind up managing all of this data? With kluged-together processes and software tools, and the occasional hand- written notes. It all sounds like a headache waiting to happen. We recently surveyed subscribers about their data and data management processes, and many of you reported that keeping data organized is a constant challenge. Figure 1 shows the break- down of data transfer formats. Gerber is still far and away the No. 1, but over half of respondents used ODB++, meaning that many of you output both sets of files. IDF, AutoCAD and STEP are also popular. Figure 2 is illustrative of what we've heard for years: De- signers want to hear feedback from their fabricators, as- sembly partners, cus- tomers, and elec- trical engineers. Among the "oth- er" answers, popu- lar responses were feedback from QC and EDA tool vendors. When asked about the biggest challenges they faced involving data, respondents ranked accuracy of data No. 1, followed by data man- agement and timeliness of data. Among some of the "other" answers were "verification of data provided to vendors" and "going through all the steps to make sure ODB files generate correctly and completely." We also found that about a third of respon- dents don't use any statistical data, but almost half of respondents said they used limited stat data, and 7% would like to use statistical data, but have no idea where to begin. Asked what data they would like to have, but have trouble acquiring, respondents listed material properties, available thickness of lami- nates and prepregs, PCB vendor data for stack- ups and line widths, exporting Gerber files to a different format, history of material informa- tion, and 3D STEP models. All of this resembles herding cats, doesn't it? To help shine some light on this issue, this month, we have a variety of interviews with technologists who are in the middle of the data management fight. In our cover story, Stephen Garcia and Brian Paper of Bay Area Circuits discuss how auto- mating their data systems has cut overall process time. SnapEDA founder Natasha Baker explains how her startup will serve as a cen- tralized location for CAD components, schematic symbols, PCB footprints— whatever an engineer needs. (When was the last time we saw an EDA startup, much less one founded by a young woman?)

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