It’s so odd to me these days how schools go about teaching technology to children. I mean, come on — they’ve been flicking tablets and smartphones since before they could walk, and now you’re going to teach them what ‘the internet’ is?
Noting how quickly a child could adapt to technology, I was brought to the fact of how far the job of a PCB designer evolved. While electronics laws never changed, industries have evolved rapidly in recent years. The question is, are you prepared for the increasingly demanding and versatile PCB design environment?
Are PCB Designers Prepared to Meet The Versatility of Today’s Design Requirement?
Being a PCB designer is not for the faint-hearted. While there is much joy in building functional electronics from scratch, it is a profession that demands your full attention on the developments in the industry you’re specializing in.
Blink, and you may have the carpet yanked off your feet.
I started my career more than a decade ago when a particular ‘shift’ was happening. Back then, 5V microcontrollers are being phased out, giving way to their lower voltage 3.3V counterpart. It started a chain reaction that affects almost every aspect of PCB design, as logic ICs, power management modules, and communication ICs scrambled to follow suit.
Adapting to technological change in PCB design is challenging, especially when you are the early adopters of new technologies. While white papers may be available, there are a lack of examples, tutorials, or proven implementations as a guide.
PCB designers who failed to keep up with the punishing demand of technological shift often find opportunities in their career shrinks, while those who adapt thrive.
Emerging Trends That Make PCB Design More Versatile Than Ever
The PCB design industry is often shaken by buzzwords. These buzzwords are often interesting concepts touted to revolutionize the industry. Some sizzle after a while but those that stay influence the requirements of PCB design.
Here are some of the latest buzzword that may put you beyond your comfort zone.
It doesn’t matter if some businesses are still refusing that Industrial 4.0 is more than a marketing buzzword. The fact is, Industry 4.0 is already happening in some manufacturing facilities. It is the integration of the Internet of Things and machine learning to make the current automated machines more intelligent and efficient.
Industrial 4.0 is real and it demands your attention.
Internet Of Things (IoT)
Like Industrial 4.0, the IoT once started as a wishful concept but has now been applied in various industries. While the visual of a self-ordering fridge or a smart TV is often associated with IoT, less-glamorous applications are being implemented in medical, manufacturing, agriculture and, to name a few.
IoT depends on stable internet connection and sensors for data acquisition and transfer. It also challenges the limits of PCB design, as the demand for smaller and faster electronics PCB increases.
3D printers are a hit for both businesses and electronics enthusiasts. It has enabled companies to create drastically reduce the cost and time to create a product prototype. Now, printed electronics is the next big thing that gets PCB designers excited.
It involves the use of electronic ink, to create conductive traces on a substrate with the use of 3D printers. This allows PCB designers to reduce product development time. However, PCB designers need to be aware of the key differences between printed electronics and those fabricated by PCB vendors.
Critical Skills To Take On The Increasing Versatility In PCB Design Engineering
Whether you’re designing the next Fitbit or a machine-learning robotic arm, you’ll need to explore and be adept in certain areas.
Flex-PCB has become increasingly common, especially in consumer electronics. Designing on a flex-PCB requires a new approach. You’ll need to pay more attention to the mechanical aspect of the design. Considerations must be given to the layer stackups and how to prevent mechanical stress from wearing out the traces.
Flex-PCB design is an indispensable skill in IoT.
Not only do PCB get smaller, but the speed they are designed for increased dramatically. While slacking in certain practices may not create problems for low-speed design, you can’t afford to ignore the finer details when designing high-speed PCBs. Issues like propagation delay become pronounced in high-speed design, and PCB designers need to be skilled in impedance control on the PCB.
Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) has always been a culprit for technical issues on prototypes and deployed electronics units. With the demand for IoT in various applications, you’ll need to pay more attention to preventing your design from EMI or be a source of EMI itself. This means you’ll need to start taking care of details like ground planes, return path, and components arrangement in your design.
It’s undeniable that the increasing versatility of PCB design has made a designer’s job tougher but using a feature-packed PCB design software helps. With Cadence SI/PI Analysis Point Tools, you’ll be able to spot signal integrity issues on high-speed signals with high accuracy.
If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to us and our team of experts.