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January 2017 • The PCB Design Magazine 49 Asfalg: I think we are moving more into this direction where PCB de- sign is not the final phase of the design, but part of the develop- ment process. Designers today, right from the beginning when they have their first idea, are mak- ing refinements to their project throughout the entire design pro- cess. In empowering these refine- ments, it is Altium's responsibility to allow enough space to think, to leave room for the design to take form and evolve. To set up an autorouter, in the past you had to write scripts and handle com- mand codes. We can take this away and give more room for innovative thinking. Matties: That's where the experience comes into play. Anybody can operate the tool, it's that simple, but there's no substitute for real-world experience. Asfalg: Exactly. It's required. Matties: Do you envision a day when you just say, "I want a board that does this, this, and this," and you press a button and it gives you some questions regarding the specs, like a wizard, and then it spits it out? It seems like you're not very far off from that. Asfalg: There are still some obstacles for this. Matties: What do you think is the greatest obsta- cle? Asfalg: The biggest obstacle, and it's true for all EDA companies, is what we do today is more or less documenting what we already know. A re- ally huge step would be to say, "Here's my idea and this is how it should work," then gradually add more IP as it becomes more detailed, com- ing step-by-step down to the level that I can eventually define protocols for my design. The protocol implies certain components, so this could be embedded in the tools. Then it comes down to the point that I have to look for a real component. Is this component in my company library, or do I have to look outside? All this in- formation is there, but then the aspect of me- chanical constraints comes into the game be- cause now we get form factors and other constraints like cost, weight, and reliability. So yes, there is an idea of how this could happen, but it's still a pretty tough job to get there. Matties: I think it is as well, but it seems like software development is advancing at such a rapid pace cur- rently. Do you see that rapid pace combined with the aging population of designers and the lack of youth in design as an issue as well? Who are going to be our designers of the future? Where do they come from? Are there school processes? Asfalg: At least in Europe, universities have increasingly-popular electronics and electronic design programs. Over the years it's always been a little bit up or down, but right now I don't see any drop-off. One of the challenges we have is to develop EDA software for these designers or young professionals who come through univer- sity without necessarily being computer geeks. They're used to tools like a smartphone: simple, easy to use, powerful and productive. I think it's a key challenge for us to respond to this need. Matties: That's a very wise statement right there. Asfalg: If we would like to penetrate the market and sell our tools, we better adjust to the market needs. Matties: I think the interface of the software itself makes a big difference to bring and attract people in. Now it's working with software as opposed to having to write code, so to speak, and that's a big difference. Asfalg: Making the tools easier to use, easier to deploy and easier to handle is a real challenge, because at the same time we have to balance that with adding more and more functionality to address different needs. It's not enough just to have a core PCB design tool. In the past year we released our PDN Analyzer because when we asked our user community, "What are the most pressing issues when you design PCBs?" they THE EVOLUTION OF PCB DESIGN AND DESIGNERS

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