Features

New (and different) industry programs fill (wide) gaps of academia.

In the 2020s, receiving an undergraduate – or even a graduate – degree in one’s chosen area of expertise is no longer enough to start a career, let alone sustain one. We must all be lifelong learners to keep abreast of new information, technology, and processes to flourish. Continuing education is not an option; it is a must. The PCB design occupation is no exception. Cue scores of passionate subject matter experts, eager to impart decades of knowledge gleaned from on-the-job training, higher education, face-to-face interaction, and teaching in a time when the industry struggles to replace veterans who are retiring at a rapid pace.

In March, PCD&F reached out to the creators of emerging online programs available to those interested in perfecting design and layout of printed circuit boards. First, PCD&F spoke with Michael Creeden, CID+, and Rick Hartley, BSEE, CID, via Zoom about their new self-published manual, Printed Circuit Engineering Professional, and the instructor-led program that accompanies it: Printed Circuit Engineering Designer (PCED), available from a national training center.

Creeden and Hartley, who coauthored the 400+ page A-to-Z reference guide with Gary Ferrari, CID+, Susy Webb, CID, and Stephen Chavez, CID+, are directors of the nascent Printed Circuit Engineering Association. PCEA is offering those who complete the program a new certification, Certified Printed Circuit Designer (CPCD).

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Updates in silicon and electronics technology.

Ed.: This is a special feature courtesy of Binghamton University.

IMEC and Intel researchers develop spintronic logic device. Spintronics is a budding path in the quest for a future beyond CMOS. Devices use much less power than their CMOS counterparts and keep their data unpowered. IMEC and Intel researchers have created a spintronic logic device that can be fully controlled with electric current rather than magnetic fields. An electron’s spin generates a magnetic moment, and when many electrons with identical spins are close together, their magnetic moments can align and join forces to form a larger magnetic field. Such a region is called a magnetic domain, and the boundaries between domains are called domain walls. A material can consist of many such domains and domain walls, assembled like a magnetized mosaic. (IEEC file #12091, Semiconductor Digest, 1/21/21)

Plasmonics: A new way to link processors with light. Plasmonic transceivers transfer large amounts of data between processors. Fiberoptic links are the main method of slinging data between computers in data centers. Silicon photonics components are large in comparison to their electronic counterparts because optical wavelengths are much larger than transistors and copper interconnects. University of Toronto and Arm researchers have developed new silicon transceiver components that rely on plasmonics instead of photonics. The results have transceivers capable of at least double the bandwidth, while consuming 33% of the energy and 20% of the area, and could be built atop the processor. (IEEC file #12097, IEEE Spectrum, 1/21/21)

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Signals and energy move in the spaces, not in the traces.

When a principle of physics is accepted, it explains phenomena everywhere in the universe. The law of gravity works on matter, whether the masses are located on earth, in the sun and or among the stars. The law must transition at the atomic level where the particles must follow the laws of quantum physics. There may also be a transition when dimensions are those of the entire universe. For the world, we can sense there is only one law.

The laws I want to talk about are the basic laws of electricity. I am not referring to circuit theory laws as described by Kirchhoff or Ohm, but to the laws governing the electric and magnetic fields. These fields are fundamental to all electrical activity, whether the phenomenon is lightning, ESD, radar, antennas, sunlight, power generation, analog or digital circuitry. These laws are often called Maxwell’s equations.

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Commonly available tools can determine the relationship between gold thickness and plating time.

Regression analysis utilizes the relationship between quantitative variables to predict one variable from one or more other variables. These relationships are either functional or statistical. Functional relationships have perfect fits. For example, ice cream cones cost $1 each, so one can buy 10 ice cream cones for $10 or 20 ice cream cones for $20. Statistical relationships typically do not have perfect fits. For example, cholesterol levels and body weight have a non-perfect fit. It is commonly accepted that the term “regression” describes the statistical, not the functional, relationship between variables.1

A regression model is a formal means of expressing the general tendency of a dependent variable (Y) to vary with the independent variable (X) systematically. The independent variable (X) is also referred to as the predictor variable. George Box (2007) states, “all models are approximations. Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful. However, the approximate nature of the model must always be borne in mind” (p. 414), implying there are random errors present, hence the nonperfect fit.1,2 The expression of the general tendency of a dependent variable (Y) and an independent variable (X) is potent in many different fields.

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Machine and operational costs have shrunk over the past decade.

For years, the word in the electronics industry has been laser depaneling is expensive. This may have been true for investments in laser machines a decade or more ago, but the situation looks different once operating expenses are accounted for, especially with newer systems. In fact, according to our data, depaneling with laser systems is the most efficient method for a range of applications, and the cutting results are excellent, which means quality standards are also met.

The trend in the price-to-performance ratio for current laser systems, especially with respect to production of rigid PCBs, is obvious: The cost of depaneling based on the effective cutting speed has fallen to approximately one-tenth of what it was a decade ago (FIGURE 1). This dramatic shift is based on three major factors, all based on the rapid advances in laser technology. First, capex cost for laser depaneling systems has decreased to almost 30% of what it used to be a decade ago. Second, overall throughput has improved more than seven times. Finally, the operational costs for energy and maintenance have noticeably decreased.

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What PCB designers need to know to bring AI hardware to the device level.

A few buzzwords dominated headlines in 2020, many centered around Covid-19 and politics. Those who follow trends in technology probably noticed one area saw an explosion of growth: artificial intelligence. Unfortunately for the hardware developer, the tech world’s interest always seems to be drawn to the software side of AI.

The software industry has quickly embraced AI to the point where many software-driven services incorporate some element of AI to provide a meaningful user experience. As of the first quarter of 2021, it’s getting difficult to find a SaaS platform that doesn’t use AI for some specialized task. SaaS-ification is fine, and it’s creating a wealth of productivity tools that businesses can mix and match to make their processes more intelligent. And there are the big players like Facebook, whose AI models run quietly in the background, determining which advertisements and inflammatory memes you’re most likely to click.

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