When I have a home repair that needs to be done, I often pull out an old adjustable pair of pliers that belonged to my father. It’s not a new tool by any means, nor does it have fancy grips or multiple settings. It has however proven itself over the years in its quality and performance, and I am able to trust it to get the job done. In other words, it’s reliable.
When PCB designers choose components to design with, they need that same level of confidence knowing that those parts will be reliable as I am with my adjustable wrench. How those components are evaluated for use by your designers will fall upon you, the component engineer, as you will be the one that determines if a component can be trusted or not. A circuit board may be planned for a long life-cycle with many builds over the years, and designers can’t afford to choose parts that underperform or even become unavailable forcing a redesign. You have an important job ahead of you, so let’s take a closer look at some of the responsibilities that you will face as a component reliability engineer.
The Basic Responsibilities of a Component Reliability Engineer
As the component reliability engineer for a company that is manufacturing electronic devices, you will be responsible for verifying that the components used are acceptable according to your company’s standards and policies. Depending on the size of your company, you may have other duties with component engineering being part of those, or this may be your full-time job. Either way, your component reliability program will require that you have a high level of expertise on the components that your company is using.
One of your first responsibilities will be to arm yourself with as much information as possible. To do this you will want to start with building relationships with as many component manufacturers, distributors and brokers as possible that provide the parts that your company is using. With these relationships you will not only have the inside track as to what is new or what is changing in the world of components, but you may also be able to leverage better pricing and lead times. You will also be in a position to judge which of these suppliers is doing a better job for your company than others as you continually refine your business partnerships.
Along with knowing your business partners better, you will also want to make sure that you are fully informed on all of the technical data for the components that they provide. This will include their specifications and capabilities, as well as their life-cycle status. You don’t want your design teams to choose components for a new project that are soon to become obsolete, as that could force unexpected redesigns in the future.
You will also be conducting reliability studies and testing on the components that your company currently uses, as well as new components that are being proposed for use. This is a critical part of your job where you will be determining which components best fit the needs of your company based on your testing, and therefore which components that you will recommend for purchase and use.
As you can see, this is a job that will take a lot of skills and qualifications, so let’s take a closer look at what those are.
Making sure that reliable components are used in design is the job of the component engineer
How Your Skills and Qualifications Will Help
More than likely you are already coming from a background of engineering education and experience, and you are already associated or familiar with electronic design. Having direct experience with electronic, mechanical, thermal, or test engineering, will be a real asset as well. You will also find it helpful to have knowledge and experience in semiconductor engineering, and be familiar with component manufacturing methods, materials, and processes.
Some other skills that will be useful to your job as a component reliability engineer, would be an in depth understanding of the industry standards that apply to electronic components. These would include standards such as the JEDEC global standards for the microelectronics industry, as well as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). You would also want to fully understand failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) processes in relationship to testing electronic components, so that you can apply that to your reliability testing.
Working with the parts in your design can be helped with advanced CAD tools like OrCAD
How the Right PCB Design Tools Can Help with Component Selection
Once you’ve vetted which components are acceptable as reliable hardware, the next step is to incorporate them into your company’s PCB designs. Here is where having an advanced set of PCB design tools can help. Many design tools today have online connections to vendor libraries so that engineers can download and use approved component symbols and PCB footprints. This allows for engineers to get the correct parts quickly without spending valuable resources and time creating and verifying them. Having a design system that allows users to easily access these parts is important too, as engineers that are spending their time finding the right parts are not using that time to design circuits.
Fortunately the PCB design tools that can best help you with this are already available for you to use. As part of the Cadence series of high performance EDA tools, OrCAD PCB Designer has the features and functionality that we’ve listed here. And once your designers start using OrCAD to populate their designs with the library parts that you have approved, they can then go on to use the schematic capture, PSpice circuit simulation, PCB layout, and high speed board design tools to complete their designs.
If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to us and our team of experts.