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10 The PCB Design Magazine • May 2016 strained, overly populated boards. Automation is a big part of the picture in these cases, and the growing complexity of PCB designs begs the question of where we begin to see diminishing returns on these efforts to make design "sim- pler" to accomplish. So often, a software tool promises a miraculous boost in productivity, only to leave users spending the same or more time correcting the automated processes that simply can't complete an area of design that needs fine tuning from an experienced hand. Trends in the Beginning Phases of Design The Automatic Stackup Builder As PCB design software has matured, more and more of the processes outside the actual de- sign have become incorporated into the design cycle. One such error-prone area is the PCB de- signs and the actual substrate onto which they will be manufactured. Basic CAD systems tend to only define the number of routing layers, which The State of the Electronic Design Automation Nation by Abby Monaco INTERCEPT TECHNOLOGY We are the automation nation. We are the high-speed demons, the low-frequency art- ists, the mixed-signal designers that make up the electronic design automation industry. We spend most of our working lives behind soft- ware, delivered to our fingertips with the prom- ise of making things easier, faster, better, and getting us to our deadlines ever faster. As a dedicated software product manager and a hands-on marketing director, I've seen trends in the efforts of software vendors to de- liver automated portions of the design cycle. Some areas have been a great success, some ar- eas have been a partial success, and some have just flopped all together. There is an increase, year-over-year, in re- sources spent on the software vendors' side to help end-users reach success on a per project basis. There is a greater cry for freedom from designers who feel hampered by their very con- FEATURE

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