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10 The PCB Design Magazine • May 2014 We also had one brand new newbie, a wide- eyed college-aged kid who described himself as a hobbyist. I wonder if we scared him away from PCB design? So, I put on my imaginary doctor's coat and asked the designers to tell me what was bother- ing them. One designer asked Rick why it was so difficult to get fabricators to build smaller lines and spaces. "Is 4/4 the limit? Have we hit the wall?" he asked. "Come on, it's 2014!" (Remember all of the predictions and road- maps in the late nineties that 3/3 and 2/2 would be routine by now? And HDI and embedded passives would be the norm?) Rick said fabricators would go below 4/4, but it might be expensive, because of the costs the fabricators incur acquiring new, cutting- edge equipment. Rick said his CAM department is happy to consult with the designer, but many times, the OEM is not even aware that his com- pany is fabricating their board. He said he spent years building PCBs for one big OEM, before they even realized he was their fabricator. That got a laugh, and many of the design- ers nodded. One designer pointed out, "We never know which board shop is going to build our boards. They hold an auction every three months!" Does this describe your company? PCB design instructors, columnists and fea- ture writers, here and at other publications, constantly advocate communication between designer and fabricator, but often that's just not possible. Another big punch line: A designer asked, "Whatever happened to loyalty?" The Survey Said One of the best parts of these roundtables is getting to survey the whole group. I asked how many designers routinely used 3/3 spaces and traces, and one hand went up. I asked what types of EDA tools they all used, and it was primarily a Cadence/OrCAD crowd, with one Zuken and one Altium user. There were no Mentor Graphics users in the room. One designer laughed, "If it was 10 years ago, it would have been the other way around." No one seemed truly happy with their design software. They complained that EDA companies pretend to be interested in what the designer needs, but it seems that the EDA company man- agers market the tools to the OEMs' executives. And they believe EDA tool companies continue to add features that designers don't need and will never use, because they look cool during the presentation. When your CFO is about to scratch out a check for six or seven figures, a cool presentation might seal the deal. I asked if anyone supervises foreign PCB design teams, and a few hands went up. One designer said, yes, designers based in "cost-ef- fective" countries can design a board correctly. But it takes a lot of time and effort to get them trained. And sometimes they get really good and quit to go work for a competitor. Then I asked, "What do you wish your EDA tools would do that they don't do now?" Some answers: • "I wish they would stop changing the things I like about the tool." • "I wish my tool was stable." (That was the Altium user.) • "I wish my tool would slap the engineer." No, there wasn't much love for EEs at the Designers' Roundtable, nor for EDA compa- nies, or ignorant customers. One bureau owner said customers often make mutually exclusive demands, such as having boards comply with a certain IPC class, but using vendor-supplied footprints. Fortunately, designers are all about educating the customer. Right? UPMG Marketing Manager Frances Stewart topped it off by bringing us chocolate candy, which is always a great way to bribe designers and journalists. I hope the designers enjoyed "Couch Time" at SMTA Atlanta. See you next year! PCBDESIGN Andy shaughnessy is manag- ing editor of The PCB Design Magazine. he has been cover- ing PCB design for 13 years. he can be reached by clicking here. the shaughnessy report COuCH TIME AT SMTA ATLANTA continues

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