Features

A study of nearly 300 companies reveals shifting approaches to hardware and software.

How are companies addressing digital transformation, ever-increasing design complexity and the effects of a post-pandemic world on tech companies amid the so-called “Great Resignation?” This year, our technology-led analyst firm, Lifecycle Insights, conducted an in-depth independent study to learn more about and better understand what the coming years hold for engineering. The survey collected responses from 274 companies that design products across all major industries, with revenues ranging from $1 million to over $5 billion.

To say the Covid-19 pandemic is having lingering effects on how companies are operating in the “new normal” of a post-pandemic world is a tremendous understatement. Technology continues to advance rapidly in a time of historic levels of digital transformation. Evolving markets for electric vehicles, IoT devices, 6G, miniaturization, and more are increasing the need for systems and product design flows and tool capabilities without pause. Digital twins, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) are terms we use daily, and product and systems design flows developed to accelerate first-pass design success are continually evolving.

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A study of the influence of design parameters that impact success.

A microvia is defined in IPC-T-50M as “a blind structure (as plated) with a maximum aspect ratio of 1:1 when measured in accordance with FIGURE 1, terminating on or penetrating a target land, with a total depth (X) of no more than 0.25mm [0.00984 in] measured from the structure’s capture land foil to the target land.”

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Figure 1. Microvia definition per IPC-T-50M. (Note: X/Y = microvia plating aspect ratio, with X < 0.25mm (0.00984") and aspect ratio < 1:1.)

Advantages to using microvias in PCB design include but are not limited to signal integrity, routing real estate, and pin escape. The most common reason that drives designs to use microvias is the need to escape the pins of a fine-pitch part. As pin pitch on an integrated circuit (IC) is reduced, the design starts to approach a threshold where mechanically drilled vias are not possible. When this happens, other routing solutions such as microvias are required. Use of area array components with a pitch of less than 0.8mm will very likely require the use of microvias to escape the pins of the component, and these components are becoming common in high-reliability electronics such as space hardware and military/defense products. Another advantage is microvias can be used to make connections between two adjacent layers, thus saving a significant amount of routing real estate by not requiring a via that spans multiple layers as a mechanically drilled via typically would. And microvias help with signal integrity of high-speed digital or radio frequency (RF) circuits. At higher frequencies designs can be very sensitive to signal reflection caused by via stubs, and microvias may be required to mitigate signal integrity issues.

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Salaries spiked in the past year. Can it last?

 

Inflation is hitting in all corners, but salaries are rising too. That’s according to the latest PCD&F/CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY salary survey of printed circuit designers and design engineers.

About 85% of those responding to the annual survey indicated their wages rose at least 1% in the past year, with more than 22% reporting hikes of seven percent or more. That’s an acceleration from 2021, when 47% of designers indicated their salaries were on the rise.

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The path to digitize a factory is both closer and cheaper than most engineers realize.

Reshoring has been a buzzword for a few years now. But when supply chains are undergoing dramatic disruption and inflation is raging worldwide, what is the reality?

According to research firm IDTechEx, it’s only a matter of time before an array of sensors and cobots spur far greater automation and flexibility. The firm recently published a white paper titled “Factory of the Future” that summarizes the expected advancements. Indeed, some of these changes are both relatively inexpensive and simple in scope yet open a realm of possibilities for greater process control.

IDTechEx senior technology analyst Matthew Dyson, Ph.D., who co-authored the paper, discussed the key trends in industrial manufacturing and the timeline for adoption with PCEA president Mike Buetow in late July. The following is lightly edited.

Mike Buetow: You just co-authored a white paper titled “Factory of the Future.” Lots of people, of course, are considering what that looks like. What spurred your interest?

Matthew Dyson: It’s the combination of technologies that we see being developed. The white paper is a compelling use case for them. It’s about how you can make manufacturing more efficient to address concerns like reshoring, inflation and so on.

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Political and supply-chain issues could not slow printed circuit growth in 2021.

 

The author attended his first IPC meeting in 1966. At that time, the consensus was the world PCB output was $500 million. Some “knowledgeable” experts predicted PCB output would dwindle since semiconductors were rising rapidly and PCBs would not be needed. If that $500 million assessment was correct, in 55 years the PCB market grew 192 times, to $96 billion!

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IPC-2152 is an important baseline for determining current carrying capacity, but further work must be done for individual applications.

In response to recent chatter about IPC-2152 in multiple online articles, I believed it necessary to reiterate the purpose behind the IPC design standard for sizing electrical traces.

IPC 1-10b is a task group of volunteers from several companies in the electronics industry. I was task group chairman from 1999 to 2016. We designed test boards and wrote IPC-2152, Standard for Determining Current-Carrying Capacity in Printed Board Design. The standard is intended to describe the test data used to define trace heating in a specific configuration through conductor sizing design charts. Testing was performed following IPC-TM-650, method 2.5.4.1A, “Conductor Temperature Rise Due to Current Changes in Conductors.” The design charts are only applicable to that configuration. Designs with different board sizes, thicknesses, and materials, including copper planes – when mounted by bolted fasteners or wedgelocks – have different trace temperatures for an applied current. People and corporations have to create their own charts if they want to have an accurate temperature for a given trace size and applied current. The information included in IPC-2152 provides that information. (Accurate temperatures can only occur from a design chart if that chart represents the specific technology.)

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