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54 The PCB Design Magazine • July 2016 With the changing demographics, the old- timers in our industry—the master PCB design- ers—are about to retire and hand over the exact- ing job of PCB design to the Gen-X and Ys. These generations, shaped by technology, will tackle the most demanding designs without possessing the experience that we veterans benefit from. And to top it off, these up-and-coming de- signers will be degreed engineers who have to cope with both design and layout tasks as the specialized PCB designer's positions are phased out. Apart from a demanding regime of train- ing, what can these guys do to become success- ful independent engineers? The majority of veteran PCB designers be- gan their careers on a drafting table. In the late 1970s, basic PCB design software began to emerge in the mainstream market. The com- puter skills of the PCB designer grew and before you knew it, we were all proficient with the lat- est EDA software tools. Some argue that since the emergence of EDA, the line between layout and engineering has become blurred. Engineers who are proficient with EDA software can pro- duce a complex PCB, eliminating the need for a PCB designer. Similarly, a PCB designer can perform engineering design with the use of so- phisticated analysis software. In theory, this is a good concept but from the engineer's perspec- tive, it runs into practical problems: 1. Engineers must undergo significant train- ing in order to use the software. In many cases, this is simply not feasible and the lost opportu- nity costs are prohibitive. 2. In order to remain proficient, the engi- neer must regularly use the software. This is a problem for busy engineers who have a variety of responsibilities and only work on one or two projects per annum. 3. The engineer must have a thorough un- derstanding of the specific requirements of the by Barry Olney IN-CIRCUIT DESIGN PTY LTD / AUSTRALIA The Rise of the Independent Engineer BEYOND DESIGN Figure 1: Thermal analysis of the PCB and assemblies. (All images courtesy of Mentor Graphics)

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